By Jan Sjostrom
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The Armory Art Center is a visual arts school, which makes it a natural venue for an exhibition featuring art teachers. In fact, the center is hosting two such shows, one showcasing the work of its faculty and the other art by members of the Palm Beach County Art Teachers Association.
The annual faculty exhibition allows the Armory to show off the expertise of its faculty and the range of its courses.
“Faculty members bring in what they would like shown,” Armory spokeswoman Kati Erickson said. “Obviously, they want their best pieces to be shown. Many are brand new pieces of art that have never been shown before.”
About 36 of the Armory’s 55 active faculty are represented in the exhibition.
The art teachers association holds about three or four exhibitions a year at various places.
“It’s good for the community to see what we are capable of as educators, because we are with your children every day,” said Britt Feingold, president of the association and an art teacher at Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Riviera Beach. “The shows promote us as teachers, artists and mentors.”
About 200 art teachers work in the county’s public and charter schools. The association has 116 members, which include public, private and charter school art teachers, as well as retirees, museum educators and other arts professionals. The show features 50 works by 21 artists.
The exhibitions cover a range of media, including jewelry, metal work, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photographs, ink painting, glass, fiber art, prints, drawings and mixed media constructions.
American Suzanne Scherer and Russian Pavel Ouporov have been making art together since they met at the Moscow Surikov State Academy Art Institute 22 years ago and used painting to bridge the language barrier. Now teachers at the Armory, the husband-and-wife team submitted an egg tempera and gold leaf on poplar painting titled The Peacock Room, which demonstrates their method of blending ancient Russian techniques used in icon painting with traditional Western art practices.
The painting of a young woman in a flowing white dress seated in front of a wall embellished with stylized gold peacocks was inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s room installation at Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Jewelry artist Joe Korth is an artist in residence at the Armory this season. His entries include a sterling-silver necklace made up of three tiers of hinged wedges set with amethyst, serpentine and yellow beryl.
He’s been experimenting with repetitive elements in a series of jewelry pieces. “The necklace is the culmination of that series,” Korth said. “It’s the biggest and most involved piece I’ve done in that line.”
Public school art teachers have less time than Korth, whose residency encourages studio time, to focus on their own work.
Feingold took advantage of a trip to China last summer to shoot photographs of the Great Wall, including Looking Through, which is in the show.
The large-scale black and white pastel drawings Gwenn Seuling submitted to the exhibition can take her as many as 100 hours to complete. They’re meticulous renderings of isolated forms, such as the roots of a banyan tree near the Armory or the hands of a violist.
Seuling has taught art for 16 years, but it’s getting harder to support herself in her profession, she said. Currently, she has three teaching jobs, including one at Seminole Ridge Community High School in Loxahatchee, and will start a fourth in January.
Paula Rakszawski, a 22-year veteran art teacher, works at U.B. Kinsey/Palmview Elementary School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.
For the past several years, she’s crafted fused glass beads to make jewelry. A couple of her jewelry sets are in the show.
Recently, she started using the beads in wall pieces, such as the one in the Armory, where she builds a composition around a bead set in swirls of copper wire, colored pencil and permanent marker.
Like her colleagues, she finds it difficult to make time for her own work. But “putting together something for the Armory was a good incentive” for her to complete the new wall piece, she said.