Highlights from the Collection

Gift of Michael A. Mennello in memory of the Honorable Marilyn L. Mennello, Collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art.

Museum Founder Michael Mennello shares over 20 examples of early 20th Century painting and seminal works from his American Impressionist Collection.  Masterpieces include work by renowned artists: Guy Carlton Wiggins, Lilla Cabot Perry, Pauline Lennards Palmer, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Henry Salem Hubbell, Louis Ritman, among others.  One special highlight: three Henry Salem Hubbell paintings, including his famous work Building of the House (1930), was featured at City Hall’s Rotunda for years This gift, presented to the museum on May 1, 2018, is valued at more than $8.75 million and appraised by Debra Force Fine Art, LLC, New York.

This is my dream come true, one 20 years in the making.  I am grateful for the visionary Mayor Buddy Dyer for helping me fulfill my dear Marilyn’s dream of a creating a museum with our treasured art collection and share it in perpetuity with the City of Orlando.  The greatest joy of my life was assembling this fine collection of American art with Marilyn – and now I entrust it to the museum for generations to come.

–Michael Mennello



Barbara Sorensen
(b. Racine, WI 1945)
Siren I, 2003, bronze, Gift of the artist.
Collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art, 2017.03.01

Barbara Sorensen’s exploration of the landscape as inspiration in her sculptural practice has been described by renowned art historian Eleanor Heartney as “poetic images drawn from nature.” Sorensen’s Siren I is, in essence, an extension of her ceramic chalices, twisted and formed, brought to staggering heights, transformed from sacred container to a realized figural form, a personal and methodological testimony to formation. For Heartney, the Goddesses in Sorensen’s work specifically express “an ideal of life as a process of continual transformation…Blending the vessel and the female body, these embody a feminine spirit celebrating the generative processes of woman and artist.”

I instinctively respond to the form, surface and texture of the Earth, echoing them in my work. I look at the landscape, interpret and reinterpret it, processing it within, and give it back, transformed.
—Barbara Sorensen


Barbara Sorensen
(b. Racine, WI 1945)
Hanging Boats, 2007, stoneware, stones, and paint.

Collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art, Gift of Barbara Sorensen, 2016.

Inspired by the fjords of Milford Sound, New Zealand, Sorensen’s Boats intersect at the realms of light and dark, sacred and profane—where heavy, ceramic vessels float effortlessly between disparate borders and into gradations of gray.

As is true in the Chalice series, Sorensen’s Boats create a metaphorical space to be filled or occupied and then emptied or left. The viewer is placed nearly eye level with the boats, able to see the undulations and changes of layers on the surface as well as the immensity, which would normally be hidden below in shadowy waters. The roughened outer surface, bulges and displays signs of weathering leaving behind only traces of a harsh, uncontrollable environment of water and wind. The rocks, pebbles, and incisions remind the viewer of a sea vessel, which has in its past hit a jagged shoreline and built up a protective outer shell of barnacles over time. The inside remains smooth and organic, but also molded by the journey. We are left with the trace of natural forces beyond human control, left in the space of stillness, quietude, and somber waters after the rough passing of storms.


Barbara Sorensen
(b. Racine, WI 1945)
Chalice Forest, 1999 – 2014, stoneware, stones, gold and silver leaf.

Collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art, Gift of Michael A. Mennello, 2016.

The Chalice Forest rises fatefully upward from the dark toward the sky, revealing the artist’s stratigraphic layers of production highlighted and shadowed dramatically in hints of light. The hand of the artist is evident, fingerprints build these mounting structures, emulating epic geological formations of the earth’s visible crust, which simultaneously collide, rise, and pull apart at their seams. For Sorensen, the malleable quality of clay as a medium pushes her to mold and modify the earth, just as natural forces shape the world we see.

These vessels, which allude to monumental structures of the earth turned upside down as ritual goblets are destined to be filled with offerings. While the chalices are empty, they burst with a golden glow and the implication of an invisible, spiritual gift. Sorensen exploits the immense visual weight of the minutely tapered chalice suggesting a gift that will also extend beyond the walls of the sculptural form.

Everything drew me to it: the touching; the feeling; the making of something from absolutely nothing. I loved the tactile quality of the clay; the pushing and pulling of the earth; I loved physically moving the clay and building it; I fell in love with clay.

—Barbara Sorensen