Best of Show ‘Owls Head’ Gives Viewers Respite from Confrontational World:

By Thomas Hall,

On view now through August 2 at the Alliance for the Arts is the 27th Annual All Florida Juried Show. Judged by new Baker Museum Curator Frank Verpoorten, Best of Show honors went to Tampa artist Laura Waller for her oil on canvas titled Owls Head.

The painting is awash in subtle, soothing earth tones: umbers and ochres, cadmium and veridian greens, and soft cerulean blues that contain a tantalizing hint of violet contrasted with puffy wisps of cirrus clouds reflected in the foreground water, which also mirrors grass covered spine of land crowned by a white clapboard bed and breakfast shimmering in the late afternoon Maine sun. The depiction is as relaxed, cozy and, yes, romantic as the red chimneyed inn peeking at the viewer through a haze of shrubs and trees. And this is precisely the feel that Waller seeks to evoke in her viewer.

“I’m exploring softness in this painting,” Waller divulged at the opening night reception for the All Florida show. “Our world is so confrontational right now. I want collectors to be able to come home, turn off the televisions, tune out the world and find their balance, their equilibrium within the four corners of my paintings.”

Waller knows first hand the rigors, stress and hard-boiled reality of the financial, business, and political world. Her highly successful career as a financial planner spanned more than three decades. But at the end of 2011, she decided to focus full time on her career as an oil and watercolor painter. As evidenced by her Best of Show, she’s now enjoying critical acclaim in her new avocation.

Waller describes her seaside landscapes as a cross between realism and impressionism, and there are definitely elements of both genres in Owls Head, which mariners named as such because they thought the shape of the promontory resembles the head of an owl. But the chief characteristic of the painting is its softness. Waller applies paint to canvas so sparingly, it’s as if she were trying squeeze the last bit of pigment from her tubes of paint rather than making a run to the art supply store. But Baker Museum Curator Frank Verpoorten noted in his Gallery Talk that Waller intentionally allows “portions of the linen [to] show through so that her colors vibrate.”

This intelligently translucent quality is just one of “many features that make it a beautiful work” in Verpoorten’s cultured opinion. Drawing on his 15-year career at various museums and cultural institutions in New York and Brussels (which include stints at such venerable places as the MoMA, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, and the Dahesh Museum of Art, and as Cultural Attache’ for the Representation of the Government of Flanders), Verpoorten knows good art when he sees it, and he not only awarded Waller Best of Show for Owls Head, he accepted two of Laura’s other submissions into the exhibition as well.

What turned out to be one of the most memorable nights in Waller’s life almost didn’t happen though. She wasn’t planning to enter her work in the Alliance’s All Florida show, but then good friend Barbara Hill talked her into applying and the rest is history, which makes the experience supremely satisfying for both the artist and the Fort Myers Public Art Committee’s seasoned art consultant, who has an unerring eye for good contemporary artwork herself.

The 27th Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition hangs in the main gallery of the Alliance for the Arts through August 2. Drop in and take a look. The show contains 52 strong compositions by some of the most talented emerging and mid-career artists creating works today in the State of Florida.

The Alliance for the Arts proudly supports artists and arts organizations in our area as the state designated Local Arts Agency for Lee County. The Alliance for the Arts galleries and gift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1:00 on Saturdays.

The Alliance is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard, just south of Colonial Boulevard. To become a member, please visit or telephone 239-939-2787.

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