The Victorious Christ by Albin Polasek

Albin Polasek (1879-1965) retreated to Winter Park from Chicago in 1950 to enjoy the lakes and the climate. What is now the museum had been the retirement home of this acclaimed mid-20th century sculptor.

Approximately 200 of the 400 works attributed to the Czech-born artist are on the museum property, including his signature, award-winning sculpture, Man Carving His Own Destiny.

After his death in 1965,Polasek’s studio, home and galleries were opened to the public and the museum was created. This understated but elegant property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the museum is recognized as a public not-for-profit organization (501 c 3).

From the water, on the right is The Risen Christ. The original was carved in 1939 and cast in bronze. The figure in the garden was recast in 1963 in fiberglass. The original was the first of nearly 40 works Albin Polasek created for St. Cecilia’s Cathedral and the Nash Chapel in Omaha, Nebraska. The large scale of the cathederal called for a crucifix adorned with a seven-foot figure on a 15-foot cross to be placed on the high altar. The figure of Christ, shown with his faced looking upward, symbolizes his triumph over death passing into immortality.

Up the hill and to the right from that, surrounded by a tabernacle, is the bronze and marble, Pilgrim at the Eternal Gate. Done in 1924 for a patron’s grave site, it suggests the subject is passing from this world to the next through the carved portal.

For a lighter subject, the smaller work, seen from the not unattractive rear, is the lyrical Maiden of the Roman Campagna, bronze, 1911. The word Campagna refers to the countryside around Rome. This figure was done when the artist was 32 years of age and in residence at the Academy of France in Rome.

There are other works close to shore but they are obscured by shore plantings. There are also many more works to be found in the collection. For more information, please visit polasek.org

Dwellings by Barbara Sorensen

As you follow the shoreline north and then east you come to home and studio of Winter Park’s most prominent living sculptor, Barbara Sorensen, an artist who is held in high regard throughout the southeast and beyond. Her work is widely exhibited in public museums as well as juried exhibitions. In order to meet the demands of exhibition schedules, specific pieces are cycled into and out of the yard. Consequently any titles cited at press time might not be the same as the ones you see in the yard on your tour.

The artist currently works in clay and enameled metal piping. Her tall, vertically-oriented pieces make references to the Colorado peaks that surround her second home and studio in that state. The smaller ones refer to the cypress knees that we see near shorlines in Florida. Recently she has worked on a series of abstracted female figures she calls Caryatids—the name refers to female figures used to support cornices on the porches of ancient Greek temples.

The armatures, painted in primary colors, are called “dwellings” by the artist. These are shaped like cocoons and were inspired by aboriginal fish weirs seen by the artist in New Zealand. The artist in inspired by her environment and her travels, transforming evocative shapes to themes which are both abstract and primitive.
Sorensen’s work has been exhibited in many galleries and museums throughout the U.S. She recently had a one-person show in Deland, Fla., at the museum of Florida Art. To see more of her work, please visit barbarasorensen.com

Dancing Hares by Barry Flanagan

In the east cove of Lake Osceola you will find two Dancing Hares by Barry Flannagan (1941- 2009) that were purchased by the owners from a bankrupt billionaire on the Gold Coast here in Florida.

The artist’s reputation is more widespread in Europe than in the U.S. He was the one artist who represented his homeland of Wales in the prestigious global art exhibit, the Venice Biennale in 1982. The artist was also appointed to the Royal Academy of Arts and Letters in the U.K., an honor conferred on artists, writers and scholars in Great Britain.

Flanagan assessed his life’s work with the following statement. While his life was peripatetic, “I have never travelled far, in the sense thatI have never been a voice of my generation’s aspirations and being a happy man at work and liking things to do, never strayed far from the practical confines of my occupation.”

In the early years of his career, the artist used abstract forms made of humble materials—found objects such as sacks, ropes and other everyday cast-off objects. In the mid 1970s he began to produce animal forms that were inspired by a 1972 book entitled The Leaping Hare (still in print) by George Evans and David Thompson. The book explores various legends associated with the wild hare found in folk art and folk stories – consider the human traits found in our parable of The Tortoise and the Hare. Flanagan’s hares are intended to express a broad range of human emotions. Some are seated and bored. Some are leaping. Others are dancing or running. They project feelings of boredom, irony, humor, enthusiasm and a variety of other hominoid attitudes.

Success came slowly to Flanagan, but it finally allowed him to move from the United Kingdom to the idyllic Spanish island of Ibiza where he set up his home and workshop.

His work can be found in majors museums throughout the world: Osaka, Japan, Pompidou Center in Paris, Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the National Gallery of Art in Washington. One can see a nine-foot hare, a leaping hare on a crescent and bell in Broadgate, London. For further information on the artist, please visit barryflanagan.com

Puff the Magic Dragon By UnknownA little more than halfway through the Venetian Canal, Puff the Magic Dragon by an unknown artist is found hanging in a tree on your right side.

The source is from a 1960s song by Peter, Paul and Mary for those of you of a certain age. The song was really about the loss of innocence, not the chemical experimentation on American campuses in the late sixties as some would believe.

Excedra by Bertram A. WeberTurning to your right, you first come to Kraft Azalea Gardens. This attractive green area is a rookery for egrets and herons as well as a recreational spot for families.

One of the most popular venues for weddings in Winter Park is the colonnade with a seating area – technically called an Excedra, a classical architectural device favored in the Italian Renaissance. It was inspired by the donor’s many trips to Italy and designed by a famous architect from the first half of the 20th century named Bertram A. Weber (1898-1989). Weber was a close friend of Kenneth Kraft, Sr. who commissioned the work. Kraft and Weber had studied together at Yale University, and later they traveled to Italy together on several occasions.

The Excedra is made of Indiana limestone, cut in Texas, shipped to Winter Park and erected in 1969. The sculptural classical form stands in contrast to the wild flora and fauna of the park. Each element serves to complement the other by contrasting physical traits.

If you wish to see more of the architect’s work locally, visit the Kraft mausoleum in Palm Cemetery at the corner of Webster and New York avenues.

For more information on the designer, please visit The Art Institute of Chicago website

The Beginning of the End by Jason MiddlebrookThe first sculpture just south of New York Avenue we find the Robert Indiana’s (b. 1928) Love, a pop-icon-derived form by Jason Middlebrook (b, 1966), made in 2002 from fiberglass, auto paint and silk flowers.

Middlebrook’s artwork has been shown or is in permanent collections in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Rome and London among other places. His studio is in Hudson, NY. Middlebrook appropriated the image from Robert Indiana, but modified the form that portrays a decayed and faded image, suggesting that this icon of the Pop Art movement stands for the waning vitality of a style much loved by much of the art public. In the 1960s Indiana created this image, LOVE.

For additional information on Middlebrook, visit jasonmiddlebrook.com

Untitled by Nancy RubinsNancy Rubins’ (b. 1952) great pile of recycled parts. Rubins uses old metal pieces from airplanes to cast-off water heaters, to create explosive, dramatic images.

Rubins lives in L.A. and is married to another famous artist, Chris Burden. Her works has been exhibited in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Lincoln Center plaza. Other exhibitions have been held in France and Italy, including the prestigous Venice Biennale.

The armature is steel and stainless-steel wire. Then she anchors the reclaimed airplane parts to that base. Most of her materials have come from junk dealers in the Mohave Desert.

Appearances can fool you – despite its fragile appearance, the work withstood the ravages of hurricane Charley.

To find out more about Rubens, visit gagosian.com

Blocks on Blocks by Fletcher BentonOn the south side of this same point we find a vertical, geometric work of corten steel, which was intended to take on a rusty patina. This work is by Fletcher Benton (b. 1931), from a series of works from the late 1990s called Block on Blocks study.

Benton has been honored with the International Sculpture Center’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and is in the company of some of the best sculptors in world who have received that award.

Benton’s work is found in the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn in Washington, the Whitney in New York, as well as many collections in Germany, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands.

His art represents the attempt to suggest movement using solid geometric forms that appear to be unstable in combination.

For more information, please visit fletcherbenton.com

Leaping Frog by UnknownAfter we return to Lake Osceola and follow the western shore line, just after we clear the two points that protrude into the lake, we come to Leaping Frog. A large-scale frog suggesting motion arrested. Information about the artist was not available. From the lake it appears to be about seven feet in length and to be cast from bronze.

Chimp on a trapeze by UnknownFinally, before we backtrack through the Venetian Canal, on your right you will see a whimsical chimp on a trapeze by an unknown artist.

Periodically, his costume changes. We don’t know who his wardrobe mistress is, but we will let you know when we can.

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