Never in my wildest dreams would I consider myself a fan of contemporary art.
Like my mother, I usually prefer the darker oil paintings from centuries ago. I like the color palette, the lighting, the subjects (still lifes, profiles of people I don't know). I might even admit to French impressionism and its more realistic use of light.
But never, ever contemporary art. (My mom instilled a love of art in us kids, but my exposure to contemporary art has been limited.) . Until now.
Two recent outings have been eye-opening. On a recent staycation I explored the contemporary art collection at The Alfond Inn in Winter Park. During the one-hour guided tour (offered at 1 p.m. Sundays), I was captivated by the diverse subject matter, materials and scope. The Alfond is at 300 E. New England Ave. Details: 407-998-8090, thealfondinn.com.
This past Sunday I saw the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art exhibit at Orlando Museum of Art. Talk about jaw-dropping. There's Carlos Betancourt's "Let Them Feel Pink," a 26-foot-long pink banquet table topped with a smorgasbord of objects including a giant pelican. I stopped and stared. Walked around the museum, came back and stared some more. I couldn't eat off the table, but I'd be glad to have a seat and stare some more.
Around the corner was a lamp sculpture (for lack of a better word, and my favorite) by Kerry Phillips and "The Seeds of Decadence" by Gonzalo Fuenmayor. The charcoal work depicts the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace in London, only with darks and lights reversed. A large chandelier rendered in black dominates the room. It drew me in like Betancourt's table: I came back for a second and third look.
There are so many other displays of interest - a collection of used solar eclipse viewers, works made from automobile sun shades and the winning piece from Kenya (Robinson) - but instead of reading about them here, you should really go see them.
"There's a lot of variety in this exhibition," curator Hansen Mulford told my colleague Patrick Connolly. "Audiences will come in and find something that they're interested in, something they'll be curious about, or something they might not like but they'll learn more about."
The Florida Prize, now in its fifth year, is an invitational exhibition recognizing 10 progressive artists working in the Sunshine State. It continues through Aug. 19 at the museum, 2416 N. Mills Ave., Orlando. Details: 407-896-4231, omart.org