Local Orlando Artist Exhibitions “Our Orlando” and “American Youth” Return For a Second Year at the Mennello Museum

Orlando, FL — July 19, 2018

The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to announce two returning exhibitions, Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World and American Youth: Our Future. Both exhibitions will be on view at the Mennello Museum­ from August 24 through October 7.

Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World

Opening August 24, 2018, Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World will feature the work of four rising local artists: Sarah M. Bender, Peterson Guerrier, Boy Kong, and Kelly Joy Ladd.  These four artists conceptualize a multitude of relationships within our shared world – ranging from the personal and familiar to the mysterious and universal. In this exhibition, human experience is depicted, varied as it is in its accounts, through figuration and form, in two and three dimensions. The voices and visions of the artists presented here can be seen in a consideration of how we, as humans, relate to one another and our time on earth by reflecting upon their representations of individuality and imagination.

Executive Director, Shannon Fitzgerald, states, “It is rewarding to present our second iteration of Our Orlando and American Youth exhibitions in a celebration of the diverse talents and artistic richness found in our community, by professional artists and our teens.  Building on the success our inaugural local exhibitions in 2017, these exhibitions are smartly curated and provide access to creative ambitions, across media, reflecting what artists are thinking about today and their interest in what our future may yield.”

Bender uses humor and the figure to explore both personal and prevailing experiences of womanhood as an artist and mother in compositions that meld time. Guerrier realizes large-scale portraits that are at once penetrating but deny intimacy through mark making to cover. Kong creates contemporary mythologies that function to enliven our notion of seeing and storytelling. Ladd forms the imperceptible, making visible and tactile visions of introspection and our connection to the universe.

Sarah M. Bender
(b. Orlando, FL 1989)
Sarah M. Bender’s compositions reference specific people or are often autobiographical and employ art historical nods and themes, which demonstrate intersections of herself and her indifference towards needing to ask permission for societal acceptance of personal choices as a woman and mother. She often uses hens or chickens as stand-ins or masks as a commentary of concealment and stereotypes linked to women.

Bender graduated with a BFA in Studio Art from Florida State University in 2010. Born and raised in the tourism capital of Florida, she gained both an appreciation for cultural diversity and a longing for a cultural identity removed of mouse ears. Bender works primarily in oils, but has begun to incorporate ceramic sculpture and mixed media into pieces.

There is a Rockwellian sense of nostalgia and sentimentality in my imagery, but surrealist elements create an unsettling feeling. I draw my inspiration from childhood memories and photographs, as well as pop culture and books.

—Sarah M. Bender

Peterson Guerrier
(b. Miami, FL 1983)
Peterson Guerrier paints in a powerful and ambitious style wherein the viewer is seemingly given primacy to the sitter. Yet through this image – its composition and details chosen and structured by Guerrier – the artist has denied revealing what he has seen, the soul and familiarity of a relationship that he holds close.

Guerrier grew up in Miami and attended Design and Architecture Senior High thereafter securing a Fine Arts degree from College of Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. He works in both painting and photography– interested primarily in extremes, juxtapositions, and duality. His approach to mark making is instinctual and creates figures through the transformation of layers of color and multiplying shapes. Guerrier’s layers employ strokes of bright colors, softer deposits of color, and drips, which may all combine and saturate the surface fusing into a whole. Drawing from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, for Guerrier, his brushstrokes create a description, a statement, which on its own is powerful, but when related to additional movements and statements, coincidentally build an image- “every physical description resolves itself into a number of statements, each of which refers to the space-time coincidence of two events A and B.”

Beauty is only the beginning of a conversation.

—Peterson Guerrier

Boy Kong
(b. Orlando, FL 1993)
Boy Kong is interested in creating stories — a new folklore of unbelievable lions and tigers described as though they have just been discovered, reported, and then depicted only as delighted and tense storytelling can convey. His works on paper, canvas, and wood all twist with energy where neon or pastel colors serve to enliven or sustain, respectively, that strength and awe. Animals take on human traits and supplementary eyes, symbols that create myth and metaphor.

Kong is a self-taught painter, illustrator, muralist, and collage artist. Inspired by a mixture of Ukiyo-e, Surrealism, Graffiti art, and animal folklore, Kong’s visual style connects elements of these styles with a mastery of color and rhythmic application. In a short time his body of work has become immediately identifiable throughout the media he works in without succumbing to a singular aesthetic. Kong divides his time between Orlando and NYC.

Color, lines, movement and impact. Those are the main points that itch my mind and beat me up when I think about (my inspiration).

—Boy Kong

Kelly Joy Ladd
(b. Tallahassee, FL 1977)
Kelly Joy Ladd responds to themes of light and darkness, cycles that are intended to be introspective and celestial at the same moment. In her assemblages of torn or cut paper on canvas, the artist takes a therapeutic approach to the repetitiveness of her process. Perfect circles are bent or cut to form texture and tone within the works that build up from the canvas. Her intention is to leave viewers awe inspired by the potential of self and the universe.

Ladd is a self-taught artist who grew up in Orlando and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Liberal Studies degree with a focus in astronomy and creative writing. While she has never been formally trained in the arts, throughout her life, Ladd has always painted or created art on her own terms as well as through creative ventures performing at Disney or writing and editing with Hardrock.com, Garden Design, Florida Travel + Life, and Parenting magazines. When her husband became ill and severely allergic to paints and various chemicals, Ladd had to channel her practice in a new direction. Choosing paper, Ladd now rips, cuts, and folds paper into visions of her meditations, connecting these internal pieces to the great wonders of the astronomical universe through name and form.

Color excites me, but I also honor the sleek simplicity of black and white. Even more, I’m enthusiastic about texture and dimension…I love the playful, unexpected and dimensional element that textured paper brings to canvas.

—Kelly Joy Ladd

It is our honor to bring these artists to the Mennello Museum, not only to highlight their work, but to consider their voices in the wider art of contemporary America. Each presents a passionate view of the world and creates images meant to inspire thought and discussion.


American Youth: Our Future

American Youth: Our Future is an exhibition to support and foster the creativity of Orlando’s talented teen artists. In this exhibition’s second year, the Mennello Museum of American Art will hold a juried art show for which a Call for Art was open to all Orange and Seminole County high school students as part of our increasingly expansive, diverse, and inclusive exhibition program.  American Youth: Our Future aspires to empower rising artists and give them a space to engage in conversations through their art with our community. This year’s artists chosen to be included in the exhibition are Manuel Delgado Ordaz, Miller Georgoudiou, Zoe McDonagh-English, Maria McKenna, Paula Meja, Shannon Song, and Valentyna Willard.

OUR ORLANDO and AMERICAN YOUTH are curated by Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education and is organized by the Mennello Museum of American Art.

Please save the date for the opening reception of Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World and American Youth: Our Future:

Opening Reception
Friday, August 24, 2018

Members-only Preview
5:30–6:30 p.m.

Public Reception
6:30–8:30 pm

American Youth Winners Announcement
6:30 pm

Free for members | $10 for Guests
Tickets can be purchased at http://bit.ly/ourorlando2018


Our Orlando Artists Panel

Saturday, September 15
1 – 2 pm

Curator Katherine Navarro will moderate a panel discussion with the artists from  OUR ORLANDO as they consider issues of space, outlets for exhibition, and the traditional/non-traditional roles of artists in our society. Join Sarah M. Bender, Peterson Guerrier, Boy Kong and Kelly Joy Ladd as they discuss what it’s like to live, work, and get paid as artists in Orlando.

Hi-res images: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d0limlw4txul6cd/AADOhXiNOshRsSwWZCmhOtSPa?dl=0



Kelly Joy Ladd, Gravitational Waves, 2018, acid-free paper on canvas, Private Collection


Peterson Guerrier, Ignoring the Obvious, 2018, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist


Boy Kong, A Prayer, 2017, acrylic, oil and horse hair on wood. Courtesy of the artist and Gitler &_____ gallery


Sarah M Bender, Guerilla Hen, 2014, oil on canvas, courtesy of artist

Mission, Vision and Values

The Mennello Museum of American Art endeavors to preserve, exhibit, and interpret our outstanding permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham. The Mennello Museum of American Art also seeks to enrich the public through temporary exhibitions, programs, educational initiatives, and publications that celebrate other outstanding traditional and contemporary American art and artists across a broad range of disciplines to reflect the rich diversity of American art, while making it accessible to all. The Museum also shares extraordinary works of American art donated by our founders, the Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello and Michael A. Mennello.

The vision of the Mennello Museum of American Art to be a distinguished and thriving institution that will build on its City of Orlando base of support through strong board and community relationships resulting in an improved operating environment and a reputation for being a local and national treasure.

Quality. We believe the City of Orlando deserves only the best; we aim to excel at everything we do.

Accessibility. We believe in creating a welcoming space and experience for all; we are friendly, welcome diversity, and are inclusive of all.

Curiosity. We never stop learning or thinking; we continually push boundaries and explore new ideas and strive to remain relevant and provide meaningful experiences.

Collaboration. We believe community partners are essential to mutual success; we work to build relationships and co-create with individuals and organizations.

Stewardship. The Museum will serve in perpetuity; to ensure this, we build and care for our collections, make smart use of our financial resources, and continually invest in our future.

Accountability. We exist to benefit the community; we demonstrate our success and value to the residents of Orlando and our visitors.

About the Museum

The Mennello Museum of American Art, owned and operated by the City of Orlando, is located on the beautiful shore of Lake Formosa in Orlando’s Loch Haven Cultural Park. The museum provides residents and visitors welcoming opportunities to understand and value creativity through innovative experiences with art further connecting it to nature and communal gathering. Our goal is to encourage creative and diverse experiences with art that nurtures audiences while reflecting the dynamic relationship between art and society.  In addition to housing the permanent collection of folk modernist Earl Cunningham, the museum presents temporary exhibitions that feature a broad range of American art from traditional to contemporary practices.

On view through August 12, 2018, Jiha Moon: Double Welcome, Most Everyone’s Mad Here

View all of our upcoming events: www.mennellomuseum.org/events

The Mennello Museum is located at 900 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803.

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The exhibitions and the Mennello Museum of American Art are generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida. Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

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Francesca Ascione
Marketing & Graphic Design Coordinator
The Mennello Museum of American Art and Public Art, City of Orlando