Locals Only

August 21, 2012
7 mins read

The varied beauty of the flora and fauna that exists in Northeast Florida’s landscape is rivaled only by the equally diverse images by local artists. After issuing an open call for the second Folio Weekly Artist Invitational, the jury had the unenviable task of reviewing 700 entries, which were painstakingly narrowed down to the final 50 that best represented the diversity in vision, media and personal backgrounds. To highlight some of the imaginative talents that call this area home, here are six of those finalists.

Brianna Angelak



Birthplace: Beverly, Mass.

Education: Currently attending Flagler College for a Bachelor of Art in fine arts and a Bachelor of Art in English, illustration

Romanticism hits the beach in the dream-like imagery of Brianna Angelakis. Currently a senior at Flagler College, the 21-year-old Angelakis has been painting in oils for only a year, yet “Neurasthenia” is an impressive work that blends haunting self-portraiture, an almost gothic-like sense of Americana and sensibility born from her love of 19th-century authors.

Angelakis cites the sublime influence of nature as another key element that helps translate her equal love of poetry and paint. “Many times I use a variation of the same person in my work, yet surround them with mountains and mist to really try to create a surreal moment.” The figures in Angelakis’ work seem to exist in a ghost-like state, many of them defying the viewer to meet their gaze. Though this young artist already has a strong sense of narrative ideas and composition, she is still respectful of the creative experience. “There are few things I find more intimidating than a blank canvas. It gives me this godlike opportunity to create a leader, a follower or a dud — and that terrifies me.”

Angelakis has been featured at some St. Augustine Art Association shows. This fall, she travels to England as part of a group show seemingly designed with her in mind. “Wildness Between the Lines” is an invitation-only exhibit, hosted at Leeds College of Art and Design, that celebrates the lives and literary works of the Brontë sisters. “It is an absolute dream for me, and I am still kind of shocked that all of this is happening.”

Denise L



Birthplace: S

Education: Bachelor of Art in graphic design and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Flagler C

Liberi’s inspiration sources are decidedly impersonal, if not arcane. Her winning submission, “Maggie and Bess in Their Best Llama Hats,” shows two women laughing as they wear two over-sized llama-shaped headpieces that seem simultaneously playful and cryptic. “I find old photographs to be enchanting,” Liberi says of the images she discovered from such places as websites for Florida and California historical societies. The piece is part of a larger series which Liberi says taps into a collective sense of poignancy and nostalgia, while exploring her own identity culled from remembrances of her childhood in Sarasota. “Growing up surrounded by souvenirs and seeing these weird postcards is funny, but some of the imagery was just incredibly odd.” Yet rather than her work being oblique and distant, Liberi says she hopes her celebration of the “peculiar things in life” will provoke viewers into drawing their own conclusions. “I have always been attracted to making paintings that describe everything — yet explain nothing.”

While the 23-year-old Liberi understands the technological tools available to 21st-century artists, her devotion to the tactile experience of painting is resolute. “I love every single thing about painting, the smell of the paint, getting it on my clothes,” she says. “And being on the computer is like the death of me.”

David Dollarhid



Birthplace: M

Education: Bachelor of Science in Management from Florida State University

At first glance, David Dollarhide’s sculpture “Childhood” seems like it was manufactured in the same bizarre toy-inhabited universe that spawned similar works by painter Sarah Graham or the recently deceased sculptor-installation artist Mike Kelley. Yet the 41-year-old Dollarhide’s influence and inspiration is generated by a sincerity that’s refreshingly immune from the influence of any contemporary art doctrine. “I always did drawings when I was a kind, and I was 6 years old when ‘Star Wars’ came out,” he explains of his sculpture that uses the actual toys from his childhood. How did he sacrifice these relics from his youth for the sake of fine art? “Well, I did have two of the Princess Leia action figures, so that softened the blow of using one.”

Composed of familiar icons like action figures, Legos and racecars, “Childhood” is a memory caught frozen in time, pouring out of (or returning to) a child’s Charlie Brown thermos. The core is created with a clothes hanger Dollarhide shaped with an acetylene torch; he then attached the materials with a silicone adhesive. “It actually only took two days to finish, but I spent another month trying to find a way to attach the thermos.”

Dollarhide says he’s thrilled to be included in the Cummer exhibit, but he admits he is happiest to win the praise of a particular circle of critics. “I know it’s a cliché, but now I’m a dad and I have two boys. So I am glad that I get to relive my childhood alongside them.”

Dustin Harewood



Birthplace: New York City

Education: Bachelor of Arts from North

Carolina Central University, Master of Fine Art from University of North Carolina at G

Harewood cites his ultimate influence as the “magical” childhood experience spent on the streets of New York City. Moments like eating candy purchased from an ice cream truck and the taste and the graphics on the box resonated decades later in his art. “The images and the sweetness, the euphoric sensations were all one. I’ll never forget that,” Harewood explains. “Memories like that always give me a rush and fuel my work on a visceral level.”

In his signature “Fat Belly” paintings, including the submitted work, “Seeds,” Harewood combines those reveries with a current approach to color and composition the artist describes as “visually aggressive,” with the “belly” of the piece literally reaching out from the wall toward the audience. “If most painters are always trying to be so original,” Harewood says, “why have we all conceded to working in a square/rectangular format?” While he admits that creating these pieces can be challenging, the result delivers his desired effect. “They come at you more like African sculpture rather than operate as traditional European illusionistic windows into other worlds that you are supposed to enter into.”

Harewood has been an instructor at Florida State College of Jacksonville’s Kent Campus since 2004. “Teaching brought me back to the roots of it all,” he says. After experiencing the highs and lows of the study and teaching of his craft, the 34-year-old Harewood says he feels an obligation to convince the families of hisstudents that art is a valid, if not always lucrative, career choice. “I have to confront many concerned parents and assure them that I’m not leading their children down a path to suffering and starvation.”




Birthplace: M

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of North Florid

The photographic work of the mysteriously named Laird finds secret faces in the quiet backdrop of the natural world. Using infrared cameras and digital mirroring techniques in his ongoing “cphace” series (as in “see face”), Laird bends, folds and manipulates landscape images originally captured in exotic locations like the swamps of the Everglades and the rain forests of Costa Rica. “I have always been influenced by Salvador Dali’s ‘multiple interpretations’ of things,” he explains, “but as a photographer, if you simply experiment, you can discover all types of things.”

Started in 2007, the 350-plus works in “cphace” are beautiful hybrids of color, nature and mutated symmetrical forms that blend traditional still life with an almost futuristic sense of surrealism. Tapping into the optical phenomenon of the eye and mind, somehow seeing things that aren’t really there, Laird’s work allows the viewer entry into worlds of color and form that are as ghostly as they are beautiful.

Laird, 56, has been a commercial and fine arts photographer for three decades. He has learned to adapt and evolve with the advancements in technology, while maintaining a philosophy that pays the bills and satisfies his continually developing visions. “I try to consider myself the ultimate ‘client’ of my work, and if that client is pleased, then it seems like everything always turns out just fine.”

Lily K



Birthplace: On a pull-out couch in the kitchen of her parents’ house in Sherwood, Ark.

Education: Master of Fine Arts in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from University of Central Arkansas

Kuonen explores what she calls the sometimes questionable beliefs in “hierarchies, power structures, dominance and intricacies” that seem to exist in all relationships. An evolved form of her lifelong discipline of painting, Kuonen’s “Playntings” are based on familiar ideas of content, form and structure that result in radically different outcomes. “Originally, I did figurative paintings, but I think now that my work really addresses ‘the body’ in its broadest sense of the term, and even the life processes we all go through.” Her use of human, flesh-like colors of pinks and tans, raw canvas and unadorned wood keep her pieces from becoming impersonal objects or gestures of clinical pretention.

Kuonen’s down-to-earth demeanor and sincere excitement for what she does help demystify what is truly cutting-edge work. “At one point, I was just looking around my studio and realized I had to strip my ideas down because I was just getting too complicated and way too heady.” The “Playntings” are an ongoing celebration of Kuonen obsessing on the journey rather than the destination of art. “I’m still very enamored with the idea of painting; I just want to really reassess the actual process and experience more and more.”

Since August 2011, the 28-year-old Kuonen has been assistant professor of foundations at Jacksonville University. “I teach primarily entry-level classes, and I am really influenced by the actual population of students that I encounter. On any given day, even though I am teaching the same exact course, the dynamics and attitudes inside the classroom are constantly changing, and I think that same sense of flux keeps me discovering new ideas that are revealed in all of these forces.”

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