For the past two years I checking into the Aqua Art fair rather than visiting it. Prior to that, Aqua attemped to settle in Wynwood but I always found them to be a better fit on Miami Beach. And being a hop skip and a jump away from Art Basel Miami Beach it was a match made in heaven. Especially if your the kind of art enthusiast who would be interested in a smaller emerging venue. The set up had always been nifty, its was basically a small Deco Style Hotel where each of the rooms was gallery. They used the space as a booth where visitors would walk into each suite to look at what was on display.
Standing in the Froelick Gallery room, I found myself intrigued with the paintings of Stephen O’Donnell. He was the recipient of the “The Power of Self” Competition from Artists Wanted in SCOPE/ New York this year. He had developed a series of paintings in the style of the old Dutch masters of the seventeenth and eighteenth century as a way in expressing his identity. His baroque style work was flamboyant as the time he was depicting. It was delightfully insightful; defiant in their expressions of grandeur. After all if one is going to be overtly confident then baroque is the perfect style. O’Donnell has stated that he has “always been fascinated by history and period fashion, the trappings of mythology, and grand, overblown portraiture.”
I also had an opportunity to speak with Alfred Harris who studies shapes and color in his work. With great enthusiasm he explained the process of deciding which shapes and color to use to compose each piece with the use of Rice Paper and Resin. His work was included in numerous public and private collections including the Seattle Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Safeco Corporation, and the Microsoft Collection.
The composition was slightly askew, the colors were odd, and the technique was unorthodox. Overall it had a folksy quality in it. These were my thoughts when observing the domestic paintings of Jesse Thomas at the Eleanor Harwood Gallery room. His pallet was the first thing to catch my eye as I took a couple of steps closer to the work. His “Bentbrook Farms” was a charming piece that held my attention as I contemplated the figures, characters, and the space they inhabited. He stated that “these domestic interiors, populated by small groups of uniformed conspirators, provide an arena in which I explore the arc of western pictorial form and thought.” At the very least they do seem to be conspiring and for me that was enough to cause me to pause.