Sunday, June 27, 2010

Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL

"Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land, but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Louvre, the Hermitage, the Tate, the Prado, the Getty, the Uffizi, the Polk... OK, so it doesn't quite roll off the tongue. But there's nothing more satisfying than discovering a new treasure in your own backyard! Lagniappe, encore une fois.

After living in Polk County for nearly four years, it's inexcusable to have taken this long to get acquainted with what I'd heard was an excellent museum. Adding to the enticement is their free Saturday morning admission. Sometimes the best things in life are free!

The Polk has several rooms on the main level full of Pre-Columbian art reflecting highly developed empires from the Mexican desert down through the Andean rain forest. Works dating back to 600 BC with astounding sophistication and ornamentation. It struck me that, with all my focus on late medieval Gothic architecture, these figures and utensils would have seemed ancient to the people of the late Middle Ages! And many of them enjoyed a standard of living well above that of our European ancestors who came along centuries later.

The museum also proudly displays the best in children's art from this part of central Florida. I would give anything to be able to create like these 5 year-olds!

The museum also features a good selection of contemporary art, including a few pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamps. But the highlight this particular Saturday was a temporary exhibit of early to mid-20th century textiles from Japan (picture exquisite kimonos hung the length of the exhibit hall, like a forest of brightly colored, intricately embroidered silk trees.) With the textiles was a collection of 32 woodblock prints by 19th century Japanese artist Tsiuioka Yoshitoshi -- "32 Aspects of Women." Portraits of women from all classes of Japanese society, they were a lesson in the feminine esthetics and fashion of the day. For example, did you know that a green-painted lower lip and black teeth were considered the height of style for upper class women? A peek of red undergarment hinted at a "lady's" lack of virtue? That you can tell about a woman's station in life by translating the various twists and bobs of her hair? Fascinating! The final print in the series showed a traditional Japanese maiden wearing a western-style Victorian suit -- disconcerting to say the least!

In July, this exhibit will be replaced by a temporary show of work by Lois Mailou Jones, considered one of the Harlem Renaissance painters of the 20th century. Rejected early in her career because of her race and gender, she fled to Europe where she developed her talent. Her paintings show the influence of early 20th century Impressionism. So the Polk is another return visit to put on my calendar!


  1. Very cool! I have only been to the Dali in St. Petersburg and the Orlando Science Museum since moving here in 2006. Gonna have to check out Polk now!

  2. Julie! I had noticed your comment earlier and was wondering how you're doing. Let me know if you make to Polk (free entrance to the PMOA on Saturdays from 10:00 - noon, otherwise it's $8) and I could meet you there, if you want. I was pleasantly surprised by museum and want to return soon to see the Jones exhibition.

    Hope you're doint well. -- Jan