TARPON SPRINGS — Two new exhibitions — “Deborah Masters: Spirits” and “ALTARed STATES: From the Collection” — will open Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 E. Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs. The new exhibitions will continue through Sunday, Jan. 5. For details, call 727-712-5762 or visit www.leeparattner.org.
These two new exhibitions are inspired by the spiritual realm and fit perfectly with the season.
First, New York-based artist Deborah Masters celebrates another dimension in “Deborah Masters: Spirits.” The exhibition will feature a dramatic display of sculptural heads, which measure 3 to 5 feet in height and are suspended from the ceiling. Created over a span of three decades, these striking and stoic Spirits are an expression of Masters’ vision of humans and animals in their social, existential, and spiritual dimensions, evoking the essence of people that have been a significant presence in the artist’s life. Among them are Dionysus, represented as the artist’s Greek father who died before she was born, and Frida Kahlo, distinguished by her facial features, flowered wedding veil, and distinctive necklace. John Mendelsohn has written that, “They are like icons, figures of our world and at the same time elevated into another realm by the human act of veneration.”
Interpretations of humans and animals that Masters has encountered are also included in the exhibition as Little Spirits made of clay. The Little Spirits are quirky individuals, some grave, others humorous or winsome, with sheath-like garments in a variety of colors.
In her mixed media works and drawings, Masters finds inspiration from medieval art and her time spent in Italy, New Mexico, and Mexico. Her series of painted wooden crosses depict biblical iconography and narratives of global crises including tsunamis and the plight of refugees in the Middle East. Together, the crosses bear witness to a troubled world of beauty and spiritual promise. A series of Masters’ figurative drawings captures the strength and solemnity of her large-scale sculptures. Rendered with a graphic energy, her subjects transform into archetypal presences.
Masters earned her BFA in 1973 from Bryn Mawr College and studied at The New York Studio School. An early formative influence was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she studied Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Etruscan, and African art.
At artist Philip Guston’s advice and encouragement, she departed for Italy in 1997 to learn about the transformative effects of light and she published a book of her drawings. Masters’ notable public projects include “Walking New York,” 28 painted reliefs at John F. Kennedy Airport, Terminal Four, Immigration Hall; and “Coney Island Reliefs,” on the Ocean Parkway Viaduct, for the MTA, Brooklyn, New York. Other installations include the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris, New York; Three Sisters, CSU Chico, California; and Travelers at Audubon Park, New Orleans. Masters has had solo exhibitions at Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York; Long Island University, Brooklyn; and Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
“Deborah Masters: Spirits” is organized through Katharine T. Carter & Associates.
The second exhibition, “ALTARed STATES,” draws inspiration from sacred artifacts and altar pieces to offer other-worldly perspectives by contemporary artists from LRMA’s permanent collection.
“ALTARed STATES” explores the spiritual realm through sculpture, painting, photography and mixed-media works from the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Contemporary artists offer other-worldly perspectives on ceremony, ritual and spirituality.
Ghostly images of saints, angels and cosmic beings are conjured from the depths of memory and divine inspiration in prints by Leonard Baskin and Odilon Redon, drawings by Abraham Rattner and photographs by Melanie Walker, Robert von Sternberg and Sheila Pinkel.
Contemporary artists including Jack King, Peter Lenzo, Virginia Scotchie, Mitchell Gaudet, Maria Emilia, David McCarthy and Jack Breit, among others, pay homage to sacred artifacts and altar pieces through mixed-media sculpture. Made of clay, glass, wood and found objects, many of these mysterious sculptural works reference religious iconography or ritualistic narratives. Reimagined as reliquaries and altars, they contemplate personal devotion and connect us to a world beyond the physical realm.
A number of related programs and events have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibitions.
An Artist’s Talk with Deborah Masters will be presented Sunday, Oct. 6, 3 to 5 p.m. Masters will give an in-depth look into her sculpture and mixed media work in Deborah Masters: Spirits. This event is included with museum admission.
The museum will host a Night of Surrealist Games Thursday, Oct. 24, 6 to 9 p.m.
The event will feature a number of Surrealist game stations such as Automatic Writing, Ghosts of My Friends, Exquisite Corpse and Word Spinner. Other activities include a Rattner and Surrealism talk by curator Christine Renc-Carter at 7 p.m., beer and wine by donation, hors d’oeuvres and music. Surrealist-style costumes are welcome. This event is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors 62 and older, and $5 for children 17 and younger.
Spirits of Tarpon Springs will be presented Thursday, Oct. 31, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Brandy Stark, co-founder of SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, will present Spirits of Tarpon Springs. This is a student-centered event but is also open to the public and is included with museum admission. Halloween refreshments will be served and costumes are welcome.
Spiritualism Around the World, a talk by LRMA director Dr. Teresa Wilkins, will be offered Sunday, Nov. 3, 3 to 5 p.m.
Wilkins will invite attendees to “travel around with world” and learn about the cultures that influence Deborah Masters’ work. Some of the places to be discussed include Indonesia, Nigeria and Mexico. This event is included with museum admission.
Opened to the public in 2002, LRMA is a modern and contemporary art museum with a collection of more than 6,000 works of 20th and 21st century art. The nucleus of the museum’s permanent collection includes works by Abraham Rattner, a renowned figurative expressionist; Esther Gentle, Rattner’s second wife and a printmaker, sculptor and painter; Allen Leepa, Rattner’s stepson and an abstract expressionist artist; and an extensive collection of works by notable 20th century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger and Henry Moore. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction held by only 6% of all U.S. museums.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and free to children, students and active military with ID. On Sundays, docent tours are offered at 2 p.m.