Museum of Art
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Two Narratives: Paintings by Peter Olsen and Rebecca "Betty" Pinkey
Peter Olsen, The Birds of the Apocalypse, 1996, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches
From April 25 to July 5, 1998, the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, will present Two Narratives: Paintings by Peter Olsen and Rebecca "Petty" Pinkney. This exhibition features more than twenty canvases by two of South Florida's best narrative artists, or artists whose work tells or suggests a story.
Since 1974, Peter Olsen's large visionary paintings have featured images inspired by specific chapters and verses in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Relying on his own interpretation of the ancient enigmatic text, Olsen fills his pristinely painted canvases with brilliantly colored angels, vast and surreal museum-like spaces, and popular icons such as Popeye and Marilyn Monroe. Thus, his paintings update and broaden the apocalyptic themes of Revelation , providing contemporary viewers with a fresh presentation of the book's evocative discourse on the end of the world. So far, he has completed more than sixty paintings in his Revelation series, and currently he shows no signs of ending it.
"I must be the most stupid artist in the whole wide world," Olsen jokes. "l'm painting the end of the world, which isn't the most popular subject I could have picked.
Like Olsen, Rebecca "Betty" Pinkney has painted canvases with biblical subjects, but for the last several years she has focused on imagery reflecting her experiences -- sometimes poignant, sometimes harrowing -- as an African American growing up in rural Florida. Her paintings, for example, chronicle the day her grandmother's house caught fire, the unexpected arrival of an alligator at the local swimming hole, and the tragic accident that killed her mother and other migrant workers when the bus they were riding in was run off the road into a river. Despite her limited art training, Pinkney vividly renders autobiographical scenes with a freshness of vision and an enchantingly direct manner that makes them instantly accessible and memorable.
"Both Olsen and Pinkney tell fascinating stories," Curator of Exhibitions Laurence Pamer comments. "Narrative art has been around for a long time, but it hasn't always been popular. Its history can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, and certainly during the Renaissance it was held in high esteem, especially scenes depicting stories from the Bible and Greek mythology. And of course here in the United States, narrative painting flourished during the 1800s. But in this century -- I guess because modern artists wanted to remove story-telling elements from art -- it was neglected or fell out of favor. It really wasn't until the 70s and '80s that it reappeared, when contemporary artists looked back at their predecessors for inspiration. I think Olsen and Pinkney are part of this revival of narrative work, and their images couldn't be more provocative. It's great that they both live here in Fort Lauderdale and are good friends.
This exhibition is sponsored by the Museum of Art's Exhibition Fellows. Funding for this organization is provided in part by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners, the Broward Cultural Affairs Council, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council.
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