Our Orlando: Making Sense of Our World & American Youth: Our Future

August 24 – October 7, 2018

Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World features 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.

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.

Join us for the opening reception on August 24. More information.

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

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.

Opening Reception

Join us for the opening reception! More information.

Opening Reception
Friday, August 24, 2018
Catered by Runway Catering

Members-only Preview
5:30–6:30 p.m.

Public Reception
6:30–8:30 pm

American Youth Winners Announcement
6:30 pm

$10 for Non-Members  |  Free for Mennello Museum Members

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 creativity in practice, inspiration, and the stories yet to tell. Join Sarah M. Bender, Peterson Guerrier, Boy Kong and Kelly Joy Ladd as they discuss their experiences in the art world.

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