Two exhibits currently at the Pensacola Museum of Art highlight the beauty and diversity of landscapes on the Gulf Coast. Artists Margaret Biggs & Richard Sexton are both going to be speaking to the public about their work this week.
Margaret Biggs is a Pensacola native who returned to her beloved Gulf Coast after being away for more than 30 years.
She explains, “I paint oil on canvas and oil on linen, larger format. It’s modern realism that depicts the coastal south in a very calming and surrealistic, dreamlike manner.”
That surrealistic quality is the result of a lifetime of appreciating the beauty of her subject and her time spent within the world of advertising, which lends art a more pictorial quality.
“A lot of my work has a very graphic quality, I pay a lot of attention to balance and composition. I simplify my subject matter to more of its essential elements, so my pine trees are simplified so i can accentuate the beautiful lines and negative space between the branches and the color. When you simplify a composition you have the ability to accentuate that which most moves you, and then I’ll stylize them oftentimes to further draw out that which captures my attention and that I see when I am there and I have been told many times that people now see things the way I see them and that’s a great compliment to me because I feel like I’m doing my job, I’m spreading a little beauty.”
Also on display at the PMA is Richard Sexton’s exhibit “Terra Incognita: Photographs of America’s Third Coast.” While Biggs pieces are surrealist and sometimes abstract Sexton’s photographs are stark, shot in black and white, mostly in winter on the Gulf Coast. Putting the artists alongside each other gives visitors a
breadth of appreciation for the coastal landscapes.
Biggs praised Sexton's work saying, “[his] photography is some of the best I’ve seen of this coast. The fact that he is using black and white photography so successfully, I believe adds a mystical quality to his work. When you get to that level of photography or the way I know my art moves people, it almost has to have a spiritual element to that, to see it and communicate it. I think, although people are not always aware of it, that’s one of the reasons it resonates with them. So just the simple fact that we are talking about two completely different mediums and yet our subject matter is the same, I think is both a wonderful complement and juxtaposition at the same time.”
Richard Sexton agrees.
“I discovered [Margaret Biggs'] work and realized that we’re sort of fellow searchers out there and we’re drawn to the same subject matter and her interpretation of it is quite different, it’s a different medium of course, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of that juxtaposition myself, later this week,” he said.
This week is when Sexton will be at the museum for a walk through along with Richard McCabe who is Curator of Photographs at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans which is the home of this exhibit. His exhibit is called Terra Incognita: Photographs of America’s Third Coast and it is comprised of nearly 60 photographs capturing moments along the Gulf Coast.
“I started photographing in a small little state park in Florida:Eden State Park,off of hwy 98 on Choctawhatchee Bay, but it has all these beautiful oaks that are several hundred years old. And photographing there along the bay, in a very undeveloped marshy area, sort of the back coast, as it were. I realized how strikingly beautiful the landscape was. And then, several years later, in the winter, you know when the water and the air temperature are about the same and every morning you wake up and it’s foggy: the fog has rolled in off the Gulf. And walking along the coast, in the fog, in the cold, it was at that point that you realize how mercurial the landscape is, how different it is, from day to day.”
Sexton wanted to capture the Florida beyond the sunny white beaches that most of us think of when we think of the Gulf Coast. For Sexton these landscapes were precious and under threat: from commercial development and also from environmental damage. And, as any Floridian knows, out of doors any moment of weather is fleeting. Terra Incognita grapples with all of these conditions: built environments, natural weathering, and time.
“The dedication for Terra Incognita, this is how it reads:
‘For the ephemeral things in life, so defined because are aware that they cannot last. The irony, of course, is that nothing is truly permanent. In the end it is all a matter of degree. The beauty of photography is that it allows the ephemeral to linger, longer.’”
Richard Sexton and Richard McCabe will be giving an artist talk and walk through of Terra Incognita this Thursday at the Pensacola Museum of Art at 6 pm. The exhibit runs through October 17.
Margaret Bigg’s show “Visions: Through Paintings, Poetry and Prose” opens this Friday with a reception which will have hors d'oeuvres and the chance to speak with the artist about her work. On October 16, which is gallery night, she will also be presenting an artist’s talk on her work along with readings from her book of poetry “Visions II” which is available at the museum and online.