OCALA, Fla. — More color is coming to Ocala courtesy of several artists with exhibits for the Art in City Spaces Program.
The program consists of six exhibits at various Ocala administrative buildings. The work of several artists will rotate to a different building every six months. According to Leslie Nottingham, Ocala’s cultural arts supervisor, officials created the program to give the average visitor an art experience.
“The average person who might not feel completely 100% comfortable going to what would be considered a fancy gallery can experience art and get a sort of a taste of what it’s like,” she said, “and maybe see if it’s for them.”
Jennifer Weigel, Rose Derkay and Ingrid Humphrey are presenting curated exhibits to expand Ocala’s art scene.
Weigel, a Kansas native and conceptual artist, curated her exhibit based on Florida’s natural beauty and vibrant tropical colors. The exhibit consists of Weigel’s bright marker drawings on photo paper.
She said her exhibit, “Looking on the Brighter Side,” celebrates Florida’s environmental and social diversity.
“After the last three years, I feel like everybody really needs to just try to find joy and celebrate those moments in life where there’s something bright to look forward to,” Weigel said.
Weigel’s exhibit debuted Sept. 16 at the Recreation and Parks Administration building and the Eighth Avenue Adult Activity Center. This exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Jan. 11, 2023.
Her pieces range from bright orange seahorses to multicolored neon flip-flops to deep green tropical plants; each embraces the Sunshine State’s lifestyle, she said.
“I just loved the idea of using those bright, vivid colors just to celebrate Florida because it’s just so lush and vibrant there,” she said.
Weigel said she was fascinated with Florida’s natural life and colorful charm. She noticed it when visiting her mother, who lives in Florida.
The seniors at the adult activity center said they appreciated having different art exhibits throughout the building. They said they enjoy admiring the work by different artists since they don’t have the means to see art elsewhere.
Yvette Wallace, a regular at the senior center, said the art throughout the building is beautiful.
“We thought if no one was looking, we would take a couple of paintings,” Wallace said jokingly.
“Speak for yourself,” said Sharon Johnson, Wallace’s friend and bingo enthusiast.
Following Weigel’s display, photographer Derkay will exhibit her floral photographs at the same locations from Jan. 12, 2023, to June 13, 2023.
Derkay said she considers herself somewhat of a newbie in professional photography. She previously owned Ocala’s Family Times Magazine for 13 years before delving into photography. Her experience with travel photography inspired her to explore macro floral photography during her retirement.
According to Adobe, macro photography captures extreme close-ups of a small subject like a flower, insect, water droplet or blueberry.
“Every flower is just like a different person; it has its own personality,” Derkay said.
She said she is fascinated with the infinite closeness of the lens that exposes the flower’s architecture. Derkay does not have a favorite flower, but she prefers dahlias or daisies because she said they have more lines and depth.
Her photographs are highly detailed shots of vibrant yet delicate flowers. Derkay said she often experiments with lighting for each flower and observes how each one absorbs light uniquely.
Derkay takes photographs in natural environments, like Gainesville’s Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, and sometimes even at her home.
“I like to call it an outdoor studio, which is mostly my patio,” she said.
Humphrey, a cloth doll artist, also works from her home art studio. She constructs Sister Dolls, handmade cloth dolls that pay homage to her younger self.
Humphrey’s grandmother was a professional seamstress who taught her how to sew when she was 9. While scanning a bookstore’s art section, Humphrey discovered a book on art dolls, which sparked her passion.
“Growing up, I didn’t have any Black dolls,” she said. “I noticed that African American dolls, especially cloth dolls, were very limited in availability.”
Her exhibit will debut at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center from November to May 2023. The exhibit will consist of Humphrey’s mixed collection of handcrafted cloth dolls and her textile doll-inspired wall hangings. The dolls will sit on mini rustic swings alongside the textile tapestries.
The Sister Dolls are composed of mostly authentic African and Indian cotton fabrics, beads, trinkets, trimmings and recycled silk. The sculptures and delicate tapestries have bold primary colors and symmetric patterns emphasizing a tribal essence and dynamic. Humphrey said she relies on spontaneous imagination to assemble each doll and credits her friend for teaching her how to spin and dye the wool she uses for the dolls’ hair.
“It’s just to expose more of the beauty of Black culture and to expand one’s imagination and creativity,” she said. “I never imagined that one day I would become a cloth doll artist.”
For more information about Ocala’s Art in City Spaces program, click here to view the current and upcoming art exhibits beautifying the city.