Since the Polk Museum of Art (PMA) and Florida Southern’s partnership began, programming and FSC student and professor involvement at the PMA has increased dramatically, allowing for less-seen works to become centerpieces of one-night events.
One event series that the PMA puts on is the Collection In Focus series. Dr. Jennifer Moffitt, the newest member of the English Department faculty at FSC, spoke about four artistic works on Feb. 12 under the title “Female Artists in the Permanent Collection.” Moffitt has spoken at the PMA before; she gave a gallery walk of the Romaine Brooks exhibit last fall.
On the night of Moffitt’s talk, another event was going on as well. About 30 chairs were set up inside the main exhibit room, which for now holds a huge collection of Edgar Degas’s work, as well as some of his contemporaries’, for context. The work that Moffitt had selected was, as the title suggests, from the PMA’s permanent collection, 85 percent of which is not publicly accessible.
The four works that Moffitt chose were from Lorna Simpson, Graciela Iturbide, Miriam Schapiro and Faith Ringgold, respectively. All four women were from North America (Schapiro was Canadian and Iturbide is Mexican), and the four works were recent (from the last 25 years).
Simpson’s Two Pairs, Iturbide’s Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, Schapiro’s Against All Odds and Ringgold’s The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 1922 each spurred discussion about the depictions and place of women and people of color in the art community in the 20th and 21st Centuries.
Moffitt provided substantial background information regarding each of the artists and for some of the works. She then invited audience participation to describe and flesh out the visual elements in each image and interjected to clarify the works.
The audience, made up of both FSC faculty and students as well as members of the Lakeland community at large, was rigorous in its discussion of each of the works, which varied from the overt to the implicit and symbolic. Sunflowers, quilts, binoculars, iguanas and Frida Kahlo all became subjects of inquiry during the discussion.
The Collection in Focus series is a way for attendees to be able to interact almost directly with art, spend more than an hour analyzing it in close proximity and make judgments that were compared with the impressions of others. After the event had closed, visitors examined the works even more closely and asked follow-up questions of Moffitt.
Many PMA events are free for students; the PMA releases newsletters to alert people to upcoming events at the museum.