4 artists who had one helluva year

The achievements of Bask, Katherine Pill, Calan Ree and Carlton Ward Jr. reach beyond Tampa Bay.

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click to enlarge CURATORIAL GENIUS: Toronto native Katherine Pill earned Best New Curator in CL’s Best of the Bay. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
CURATORIAL GENIUS: Toronto native Katherine Pill earned Best New Curator in CL’s Best of the Bay.

These four visual arts folks had a really amazing 2013 — and that’s good news not only for them but for the arts in Tampa Bay …

St. Pete artist Bask gets the best bragging rights for 2013 — in May, his art hit the big screen in Iron Man 3, the metal-clad hero flick starring Robert Downey Jr. Before the movie premiered, Bask shared how a decade-old connection from Detroit had resurfaced and invited him to try out for the gig, which led to Downey handpicking his politically-motivated, graffiti-esque paintings to decorate the lair of the film’s evil mastermind, the Mandarin. In all, Bask prepared 14 paintings for the film and sold another one, a collaborative piece with Tes One, to the actor. Not too shabby for someone who makes no bones about the fact that his adolescent exposure to “high art” came from being forced to do community service at the Dalí Museum after getting caught tagging.
Last week, Bask was closing out 2013 by painting a new commissioned mural on the side of Foolish Pride Tattoo on St. Pete’s 600 Block.

Katherine Pill stepped into a new role as assistant curator of art since 1950 at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and into life as a resident of the ’Burg. The Toronto native moved from Kansas City to join the staff of the MFA, where her duties include proposing works of contemporary art for acquisition into the museum’s collection. On the heels of a December visit to Art Basel Miami Beach with museum donors, she’ll shepherd artist Siebren Versteeg’s 2008 video “Inevitable” into the MFA’s new media gallery, which also got a boost in April when Pill promoted the purchase of Michael Bell-Smith’s “Waves Clock” (2012).
Pill’s first exhibition for the MFA, Color Acting: Abstraction Since 1950, which opened in July, was a fine debut, smartly mixing modern and contemporary paintings and prints under the at-once accessible and sophisticated umbrella of color. Next year will find her working on a collection-based show of images related to childhood, as well as assisting on My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, the Tampa Museum of Art exhibition that the MFA will co-host, and looking ahead to a 2015 exhibition of prints by American women that will mark the culmination of a donation by Jim and Martha Sweeny.

Artist Calan Ree, whose GingerDead web comic earned her a cult following before she stopped it in 2011, had her first ever solo exhibition at Bluelucy in October. Crafting a trove of new work, she put 41 clay sculptures on view — each based on a character from a spine-tingling folktale about shrieking banshees or malicious fairies — and sold 36 of them. That makes Ree a living contradiction of the cliché that people in Tampa Bay just don’t buy art. Having hardly any work left to sell has delayed Ree’s plans to spend 2014 marketing her art at outdoor fairs, so for now her goal is to get back into the studio now that the Bluelucy exhibition has helped her turn a page.
“It was a ‘here I am, no turning back’ kind of moment and something I’ve been gearing up for for quite some time,” Ree says.

Photographer Carlton Ward Jr. closed out 2013 by becoming a parent to daughter Eldridge, now 3-and-a-half months, with wife Suzie. Among other changes, the new addition to his family meant that Ward needed to relocate his home office, so he opened a storefront gallery in Hyde Park Village (at the corner of Swann and Dakota) in October. Now visitors can walk in and acquire a print of his award-winning conservation photography and — depending on his travel schedule — chat with Ward. His career reached new heights this year when the Florida Wildlife Corridor project captivated audiences through an exhibition of Ward’s photography at the Tampa Bay History Center and a video documentary, produced by filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus, that aired on public television stations throughout the state.
The exhibition brought into focus the 2012 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a 100-day journey that Ward undertook with Stoltzfus, biologist Joe Guthrie and Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, executive director of LINC, a nonprofit founded by Ward to promote Florida conservation. Their efforts to raise awareness about protecting the state’s wildlife inspired Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet to issue a resolution recognizing the project in June. Ward plans to devote 2014 to a new-but-related photojournalistic project — documenting people and places along a different Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition route from Kissimmee into the Panhandle, which he and his team plan to traverse starting in September.

“To truly reach the full public audience that I hope to reach, I need to keep that journalism front and center,” Ward says.

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