southXeast at FAU

Published on February 7th, 2018

Picture the art world as a vast, wind-swept desert with continuously shifting dunes, its incessant nature — a “Perpetuum” mobile — producing two distinct but related climates: good and bad. Constantly refreshing the art pool is good. Populating it indiscriminately is bad. Witness the progression of Art Basel Miami Beach and note its (d)evolution since 2002. Quantity over quality is never a good idea.

Though the fair has boosted the arts, and art appreciation, in South Florida, it has also created an unmanageable scene, a mad chase fueled by visions of the riches the art market generates for a few. Note, also, how many local galleries have come and gone since 2002.

Situated near, but not under, all this dealmaking we find William “Rod” Faulds, an art world professional for more than 35 years, avid surfer, and co-curator of southXeast, which is in its fifth year as a regional art exhibition — emphasis on “regional.”

“We are not so interested in presenting Miami in Boca or duplicating what is presented in Miami, rather through this project (and others) we attempt to make some kind of contribution to the larger picture,” Faulds tells PureHoney in an email interview.

The exhibition he is curating this year with FAU fine arts graduate Cynthia Stucki is an expanding showcase of artists living in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee as well as Florida.

Rotherin Ratliff

Director of the University Galleries at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton since 1997, Faulds says that he locates himself and the Galleries in greater South Florida as “an alternative to what I have called the ‘Miami-New York-the World axis.’ ”

Faulds also has guided the University Galleries with an understanding of FAU’s role in the state university system, employing the school’s visual arts resources to serve academic aims. Working in tandem with faculty and an ever-changing roster of humanities scholars-in-residence, Faulds has created a strong program of exhibits aimed first at what he calls the “captive audience of students” and then at South Floridians generally.

As it has in its previous editions, southXeast embraces an open format tied to geography but not bound by theme.

“Many supposed thematic exhibitions use themes that are subject to such wide interpretation or poetic license that they often present and re-present the ‘it’ or obvious artists of the day rather than elucidating thematics,” says Faulds. “We have thought about doing one of these southXeast shows more in a way that we would more consciously attempt to represent southeastern themes, but we have not succumbed!”

Douglas Baulos

The school’s Ritter and Schmidt Center galleries are given over to an impressive southXeast collection, from the exhibit-anchoring, site-specific installation by sculptor Robert Aiosa in the Schmidt’s public space to works of photography, digital media, sculpture, painting and more from artists whose names also bear mentioning: Rontherin Ratliff, AnnieLaurie Erickson, Maysey Craddock, John Powers and Kathleen Thum.

Surveying them all, a through line appears. Not something dragging what Faulds calls “thematic ballast,” but for these artists residing and working in southeastern states, a shared concern for humanity within the context of environment. Whether it’s environment as nature or as constructed space, the concern is there. Through Douglas Baulos’ found objects, Rob Duarte’s use of southern yellow pine and Katie Hargrave’s reimagining of everyday objects, the viewer feels invited to place herself within the larger physical and spatial context of the works.

It won’t be a crime against art if some of these creators and their works find their way someday to South Beach’s annual Basel bacchanal. People have to make a living. What Faulds is doing through University Galleries, southXeast, and the interaction of those entities with FAU academic life, is creating a durable, credible regional aesthetic that derives its value from the quality of the work and the aptness of its presentation and curation, not its proximity to cash and flash.

“Another important aspect of what we do at the Galleries is provide what I sometimes refer to as a ‘vocational education’ in exhibition administration and arts education,” Faulds explains, “that is hands-on training that incorporates classroom lessons but more importantly gives students and recently graduated students experience they can take out to the competitive arts job market.”

By championing what’s regional and involving all strata of the community they serve, Faulds and FAU are revitalizing the academic component of art and rescuing all of South Florida art from one overblown, saturated corner of it.

Exhibition Opening: 6:30pm, Schmidt Center Gallery
Artist Panel Discussion: 7pm, Schmidt Center Gallery
Opening Reception: 8pm, Ritter Art Gallery
On display through March 3 at Ritter Gallery and March 24 at Schmidt Center Gallery at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. ~ Abel Folgar