Good Vibrations: Bubbling glass and vibrant beach scenes at Leslie Curran

The last days of summer pulsate in the work of Richard Seidel and Alison Sigethy at Leslie Curran Gallery.

Who am I kidding? Despite claims of four seasons, living in Florida is an endless summer. And before we can embrace some semblance of fall, Leslie Curran Gallery channels The Beach Boys in this month’s two-person exhibition Good Vibrations, featuring the works of Richard Seidel and Alison Sigethy.

Sigethy’s bubbling kinetic work enlivens the small gallery space. The sound gently bounces off the walls, creating the experience of being inside a fish tank. A sculptural glass artist with a studio in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA, she creates the components of her water-filled Sea Core Bubble Tubes out of specialized art glass, as well as repurposed glass that she manipulates and fuses into new shapes in her kiln. She sources her glass tubes from Germany, made to her specifications, because of the clarity of the glass they make.

Balancing out the bubbling glass, the paintings of St. Pete artist Seidel fill the walls with images inspired by his residencies in Madrid and, most recently, at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia in Italy. Also inspired by water and landscape, Seidel’s busy scenes of beaches and seaside cities come from a land-dwelling perspective.

Scientific core samples taken for data and testing serve as artistic muses for Sigethy’s “Sea Cores.” Replicating nature, her pieces resemble a cross-section of the mystery that lies in our oceans. If Seidel’s beach landscapes freeze a moment in time, the core sample is equivalent to a geological landscape marking the residue of history.

“Quiet Waters Sea Core” stands in the middle of the room, with 360° viewing access. Thin, delicate organic shapes similar to fan corals make up the stacked reef structures, their fragility appropriate considering how easily coral reefs can be damaged. Two flat roundels of glass are suspended in the water, connected to each other with fishing line. They dangle and bob with the assistance of the bubbles, acting as little fish. (The artist doesn’t recommend you put Nemo in her artworks, in case you were wondering.)

Visible through Sigethy’s glass are Seidel’s acrylic pieces, with their playful palettes and overall vibrancy. “Lady in a Blue Dress” is one of the larger paintings in the show — a typical summer day at the beach, jam-packed with bodies looking to cool off along the water.

Despite the painter’s focus on the lady in the blue dress, I found myself more interested in the background characters. The seated man to her right with his puffed-up chest and the woman with mile-long legs catch your attention, but the redheaded sunbather on the red towel to her left steals the show in all of her topless glory. Her comedic, disproportioned body sprawls out like a sea lion’s, propped up with boneless arms that lead into a blocky torso and ending with her legs flowing together like flippers.

The pure amusement of these paintings comes from their improvisations on the human form. Some legs stick out like rectangular planks of pink skin, while others are more toothpick-like. The artist uses ink to quickly delineate a figure’s features, making use of the instantaneous qualities of drawing in his paintings.

Both artists play with light, either bouncing off or passing through a surface, to reveal vibrancy of color. Lit from below, “Sea Pickle Sea Core” has a mix of opaque and translucent glass that either blocks or allows light access, creating visually heavier sections — especially with the mini orange bowls inside a darker blue cup — juxtaposed against the lightness of other glass pieces with only subtle tinges of color.

In the same way that Sigethy contrasts washy, transparent colors with denser hues, Seidel uses a similar tactic with his paintings. In “Retiro Park, Madrid,” the thick application of a solid cerulean blue lake makes the brushstrokes on the numbered rowboats even more noticeable. The sections of watered-down acrylic allow the light to pass through and bounce off the white surface of the canvas for a more ethereal effect, whereas light on the solid sections emphasizes the materiality of paint. Using light to their advantage, both artists expose how flat color can hint at dimension.

Vibrations hint at fluidity and oscillation, but they also denote vibrancy of color and fullness of life. While Seidel’s paintings may not make waves quite like Sigethy’s sculptures, the physical movement in his pieces comes through in his energetic lines and paint strokes. The lightheartedness of Good Vibrations comes through in its play of meanings. It’s not just about the physical vibrations we feel or see, but the intangible good vibes we pick up from one another.

Good Vibrations

Richard Seidel and Alison Sigethy 

Through Sept. 3. Leslie Curran Gallery @ ARTicles, 1431 Central Ave., St. Pete.

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