The Quiet Zen of the Orlando Museum of Art

Winfield Pearson
John J Muth Panda Art

Even though the sunshine and warmth of Central Florida is one of our state's main draws, sometimes it can get a Walking and biking is a great way to expend some of that energy that makes you feel alive and connected with your city. But when you’ve decided that you want to keep some of your oomph for other things in your life, or that you don’t want to drive home with a sweat-drenched tee shirt that day, you might look for indoor activities that stimulate the senses in a different way. With this in mind, I chose to spend my afternoon at the ever changing, always intriguing (and air conditioned) Orlando Museum of Art.


The enormous, though inviting, windows of the columnal, colosseum-like exterior of the museum reminded me of the nearby, Orlando Science Center from my childhood. Instead of walking headlong into a stream of running children, I found a quiet, contemplative, and comfortably cool interior. The pristine white and ever-so-tall foyer was adorned with hanging Chinese lanterns. It was a long stretch before hitting the glass doors, so my girlfriend and I visited the quaint gift shop first. Umbrellas which were customized with famous works of art covered the ceiling like a tiled ode to both dryness and genius. Books which featured some of the works to be seen were propped up to prep the senses for the exhibits ahead. Soap-like paper weights of goats and other animals carried the air of eccentricity which would also be a hallmark of our visit. After perusing, we wandered out of the shop and through the glass doors. Here one of several half dozing security guards was blithely leaning back in his high chair before sitting up to greet us.

Nick Cave Glass Tower

The principal piece of that entrance, and the largest piece in the museum was a 30 foot, glass blown sculpture made of a thousand green, blue, and sometimes clear, snake-like appendages. The closest analogue I could think of was Gaudi’s towering, termite mound-like "La Sagrada Familia" church in Barcelona. This fragile, medusa-esque piece was the work of Nick Cave, the featured artist at OMA during my visit. As a featured artist, he was given the main gallery space in the center of the roughly six main sections of the museum. We quickly noticed how different from each other the pieces in his showcase were. In addition to differing colors, several different modes were on display.

Nick Cave Mannequin Art

Roughly half-dozen mannequins, as well as lounge settees and wall installations were given new shape, texture, and meaning after being adorned by pieces which appeared to have come from local thrift stores. On the wall installations, several buckets of glue seemed to have been used in thousands of tiny drops to adhere the tens of thousands of beaded strands which laid across their surfaces.

Nick Cave Wall Piece

One interesting piece was a series of childhood globes which were attached to a mannequin facade. Bull-like horns also adorned the figure, as if the form of a most dreaded geography teacher from Cave’s childhood was being portrayed

Nick Cave Globe Art

Behind this piece was an ever changing sound and visual collage that reformed itself every second, making a series of rorschach tests for night terror sufferers.

Solitary pieces by a slew of different artists surrounded the central Nick Cave section. Just adjacent was an eclectic array of items on a dinner table that had been drowned in pink paint. It was as an Alice in Wonderland piece produced by the Pepto-Bismol company, and endlessly ponderous to digest.

Pink, Painted Table

In another section, other physical pieces accompanied painted wall pieces to allow two and three dimensional viewing. A reformed blend of bended steel sat in the middle of the room. Its colors, shapes, and forms showed a different piece, depending on which side you were viewing. Blacks and purples and oranges made the panels of salvaged yard refuse turn into the aftermath of a birthday party present opening.

Found sheet metal pieceThe transformative nature of urban environments was also portrayed in a reformed rendition of a car crash. Metal was covered over in paint as an impression of the event which had occurred.

Car Crash Painting Urban environments transitioned into challenges of Americana dreams as seen in this portrayal of pop culture from the homeland. 

American Flag Criticism of American Culture Piece

The piece's intriguing use of color use was an invitation to the eye, inviting introspection.

In the same hall, a painting of rowboats accompanied by physical models of the boats in the painting provided a visual challenge to awareness and perspective.

Boat Painting and Boat Pieces

Twisted Metal Piece

In another corner, a twisted mass of metal wiring guided the way to a room dedicated to Miami artist, Purvis Young. His distinct depictions of humanity on found, wooden objects was today accompanied by a performance of young ballet students.

Ballet amidst Purvis Young Art

Examples and depictions of native art and clothing were also featured prominently. Ornamental dress and other items had representatives from Africa, Asia, and Central America.

Native Art

African Art

Central American Native Art

Sculptures depicting native North Americans also had their spot.

Native American Hunter Statue

John J Muth’s series of zen infused tales depicting the panda Stillwater and his friends received its own section of the OMA. 

John J Muth Stillwater

A reading room accompanied the Muth section. Plush pillows invited children to have the artist's book read to them by their parents. 

John J Muth Trick or TreatingChildhood revelry and mischief on Halloween night is depicted with such nostalgia and affection by Muth here, as an artist who clearly remembers these times fondly.

Its a place so calm that children can come to rest beside their parents in perusal of art on cool, plush pillows.

Eventually we exited this space to be welcomed back by the humidity. I carried with me my gift from the OMA shop, a cat bookmark with a yarn-like, blue tassel. This would be the remnant of my cool afternoon which would sit in my hand on those perspiring afternoons, where I read on my porch waiting for the cool to come back.

Photo Credits
Haley Holding