Hello West Palm Beach from the top of the historic 1927 Harvey Building. The view from here is endless and sunny. At 14 stories, The Harvey was the tallest building in town by a good 7 floors when it was built 88 years ago.
Times – and heights – have certainly changed. I can see the ocean, the bay, the downtown arts district, the Kravis center, Trump’s 32-story condos, tents for festivals and swaying palm trees everywhere. As a former arts writer for the Sun-Sentinel, I covered events in West Palm Beach at SunFest, the now defunct Carefree Theatre, the milder Norton Museum and the still going strong Respectable Street Café. I’ve loved watching the city grow and evolve into a world class destination. The history combined with “the new” here make for a fascinating time and place. I’m happy to be living here again and writing about some of the wondrous current as well as historic happenings.
Trippy Airstreams and Landscape Legends
The most beautiful, weird, shiny new thing happening now is at the Norton Museum of Art. “The Triumph of Love: Beth Rudin DeWoody Collects” is the best show of the season, filled with the eye-popping, wild, very personal collection of West Palm Beach resident DeWoody’s stunning art pieces. The room filling show is just a fraction of her collection, with sculptures arrayed on pyramid shaped white platforms and paintings hung salon style floor to ceiling on the surrounding walls. A gilded shopping cart – the art of consumerism – revolves on a pedestal atop it all, reminding us of Andy Warhol and to exit through the gift shop.
DeWoody collects what amuses her with a sharp eye for quality, up and comers, history and art that references other art. With a background in film production, her art reflects interest in pop culture, shiny surface, black humor and art with just a flat out wow factor. Her collection is so large – over 10,000 pieces – that it could fill the entire Norton, but was culled to just over 200 pieces for this show.
The gracious Norton Communications honcho Scott Benarde gave us a grand tour on opening day, introducing us to curator Cheryl Brutvan and getting us seated for the marvelous talk with DeWoody in the auditorium. DeWoody spoke of her love of not only collecting but sharing what she collects. She has been at it since the 1970s and says great art can still be had at all price levels. She doesn’t buy with an eye towards reselling, and makes frequent visits to studios, art fairs, galleries and museums.
The biggest wow worthy piece of DeWoody’s is at the front entrance to the Norton just outside the main doors. Randy Palumbo’s “Love Stream #2” is an actual mobile Airstream retrofitted with his trademark glass blown far out erotic flora, in sweet candy colors that glow from within with LED lights. Silver floors, walls, ceilings and curvaceous silver couches shine up the inside. The Love Stream usually parks at DeWoody’s waterfront yard.
Polumbo says “This piece is rather the culmination of a number of longstanding obsessions and also the seed at the beginning of it all depending from which angle one considers her. I was making glass flowers and small groupings and I became obsessed with a walk in version that can do it all, maybe a kaleidescope combined with Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Box. Beth saw some of my much rougher work… She is great at inspiring artists to reach higher and solve problems. In this case she and I threw the ball around a bit and she also agreed to commission what I dreamt up in response to a series of conversations we had over a year. I had seen her do this for many artists or causes she believes in, but you can imagine when she agreed to pull the trigger on making this for her collection, I just about swooned. We were already great friends and she had a fair amount of work from several years of steady support, but this mission changed everything. It came out so well it went straight to a Chelsea solo show and then to the Bass Museum, a lot of action in one fell swoop!”
Polumbo posed inside the Love Stream in his spiffy tuxedo at the opening gala that was attended by groovy local luminaries Baby Jane Holzer, Gallerist with the mostest Sarah Gavlak, DeWoody’s husband Vanity Fair photographer Firooz Zahedi and over 350 more.
I first met Randy in Joshua Tree, California where he owns a compound of vintage trailers, a restored drive thru Photo-Mat both and warehouses called the Art Queen. The space has gallery shows and live music. He is based mostly out of New York and has an obsession with sensuality and male eroticism but makes the most delicate feminine objects, often using solar panels to light them up. The art can be seen as a garden, a reflecting pool on LSD, a 60s psychedelic movie turned 3D.
The Love Stream and the rest of DeWoody’s show will be on view at the Norton until May 3rd.
If Polumbo’s airstream had been tooling around Florida’s roads in the 1950s, it might have passed by the Highwaymen along the way. An exhibit last weekend at the new 501 Fern Gallery honored the living Highwaymen artists who sold their often still wet paintings out of their car trunks on the side of the roads for decades. Kept out of the gallery system by racism, these artists just took it to the streets after painting the backyard landscape.
Their realistic takes on the natural beauty of Florida’s beaches, swamps and landscapes often veered on being so real it was surreal. Intense colors of orange sunsets, violet skies, fiery red Poinciana trees and black silhouetted palms became the way tourists wanted to remember their trip.
A few of the original 26 are still working, and by now have been collected by major museums, presidents, and shown in galleries. Michelle Obama is a fan. The work back then often sold for under $100, now it goes for thousands. It was great to see the artists and their families getting their due.[fruitful_sep]
Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet.
Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trippy Airstreams and Landscape Legends. Reviews about “The Triumph of Love: Beth Rudin DeWoody Collects”, Exhibiting at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach