As the quartet ended its opening dance score, birdsong called the audience to follow the dancers into the gallery. Against the backdrop of artist Trevor Bell’s “Southern Light,” Florida State University School of Dance students Ryan McMullen, Gianna Mercandetti, Maximo Oliveira, Sydney Parker and Stephanie Rivas led guests on a moving tour of the “Bell & Belman” exhibit at the FSU Museum of Fine Arts.
The Oct. 20 performance was a tribute to Rodger Belman, their beloved professor and mentor, who passed away on Oct. 11. Bell and Belman had discussed for some time the connection between color and motion, movement through art – the motion of brush on canvas and dancer on stage. “Southern Light,” Belman’s multi-panel 125-foot painting, is rich with vibrant color and the dancers completed the installation as Bell and Belman envisioned.
As I followed the dancers into the next part of the exhibit, the paintings’ colors conjured for me a place of nature and the four seasons. Hung in sequence were the yellow of spring, red of summer, orange of autumn and the thick sky blue of winter. I could almost feel the cold I grew up with in North Dakota.
Contemporary art calls to me more than classical art, and while Bell’s work is abstract, I appreciated his layers of color that built deep texture. As the dance went on, my connection with the dancers’ performances and the paintings as a single art installation grew. In my imagined place of nature, I interpreted the dance to reflect wind’s movement, forest animals and even lovers in a forest interlude.
Dancers’ artistic athleticism always impresses me and these five were no exception. Their well-defined muscles gave them strength to lift or hold one another. Their endurance capacity kept them in motion for lengthy scores.
MoFA’s lower level exhibit showcased the works of Aubrey Beardsley. Beardsley died in 1898 from tuberculosis at the young age of 26. He worked in linear designs and block prints, and it’s reported he had a quirky sense of humor. Within his short life, and in the mere seven years that he wrote and drew, he produced an enormous body of work. Admirable and inspirational for anyone who believes they don’t have enough time to do what they want to do.
Beardsley’s style still seems relevant to me today. Among publications and books with his illustrations, was “A Book of Bargains.” While today we might share bargains by tweet or post rather than book, our love of a good bargain seems to be timeless.
The contrast of color and size between the two exhibits creates a satisfying juxtaposition. This was my first experience with a dance installation. Bell’s work stands on its own because of his dramatic use of color and size. Dance complemented the work in a theatrical yet simplistic way that left me feeling I had witnessed something grand, and the entire installation allowed me to enjoy it through my lens.
“Bell & Belman” runs through Nov. 19, and “Aubrey Beardsley” runs through Nov. 12 during the hours of 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is free.