Artist Sandy Winters brings ‘Creation and Destruction’ to the Museum of Art – DeLand

March 1st, 2019
Artist Sandy Winters brings ‘Creation and Destruction’ to the Museum of Art – DeLand

Sandy Winters, Seven Deadly Sins, 2010, Oil on wood, 72 x 96 inches

In the early 1980s, artist Sandy Winters would “sit in gardens because I didn’t have any other subject matter, and I started to see how plants are relating to each other as if they are poking each other or pinching each other.”

Over time the plants in Winters’ paintings, drawings and block prints became more anthropomorphic, mechanical, robotic and even “more bomb-like,” she says. And she realized she was “really interested in the nature-culture clash.”

That clash can be witnessed in the exhibition “Sandy Winters – Creation and Destruction,” on display

through March 24, 2019, at the Downtown Gallery of the Museum of Art – DeLand. The exhibit features 46 fantastical works in which Winters morphs mechanical objects with strange plants and bodily organ-like objects and casts them in vast, detailed, busy scenarios that sometimes include, say, a line of tiny marching elephants, toy army tanks or a cityscape in the background.

Winters’ mediums include oil, acrylics, graphite, collage and block prints, and one of her favorite techniques is taking a small block print or graphite drawing and extending its boundaries on a canvas in every direction to create a new, huge painting.

The results can seem like a cross between a Rube Goldberg machine, Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” and the flamboyant, playful visions of Dali, Joan Miro, Max Ernst and other Surrealists.

During and after obtaining her M.F.A. from Cornell University in 1977, Winters spent time working in a nursing home where she drew portraits of the elderly residents, and later she created portraits when she worked at a reform school “locked up in a room with kids who were there from stealing hub cabs to homicide.”

Despite being “very good at portrait drawing,” those times spent in gardens changed the direction of her art.

“I started to see how plants are so anthropomorphic,” she says. “Vegetables at the markets started to look like masks, and that was when I was listening to mythology, women’s roles in mythology, the Dionysian myth, so all of these plants started taking on this kind of primordial, mask-like imagery.”

Over time, her plants “became more bomb-like, more torpedo-like,” Winters says. “Then they started to get feet. Now they’re starting to look like robots, so they’re half human, half vegetation.”

Meanwhile, she began to see the linear forms in her collage works as “representing architecture – humans’ attempts to structure nature, so then you’ve got nature and culture talking to each other. I’m really interested in the nature-culture clash. I lived through Hurricane Andrew in Miami. So sometimes nature and plants are winning out, and sometimes humans are being destructive and the cubist collage is winning out, the architectural form.”

However, Winters insists her art is not overly grim. She sees dark humor and even whimsy at play in her bizarre scenarios.

“I depict an environment of largely abstracted organic and mechanical forms, which, if I have succeeded, are forbidding and yet playful, inexplicable and yet evocative, indeterminate and yet on a subliminal level intimately familiar,” she says.

That play between the ominous and the playful is evident in her oil painting “Seven Deadly Sins” with its tiny, alien, bug-like creatures marching beneath a strange tree that’s sprouted human arms, while the work’s centerpiece depicts a robotic contraption that’s either devouring, or perhaps generating or creating, what looks to be human brains.

“I do believe that the poignancy of life is because we have it juxtaposed to death,” Winters says. “That’s why I’ve always been interested in my work to have opposites rubbing up against each other. Nothing is ever one or the other.

“Death makes life more poignant, and it makes life a little scarier as we get older,” she says with a sardonic laugh. “But the urgency is not there if you live forever.”

* “Sandy Winters – Creation and Destruction” will be on exhibit  through March 24, 2019, at the Downtown Gallery of the Museum of Art – DeLand, 100 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

Special exhibition gallery admission is $10, free for museum members and children 12 and younger. Information: 386-734-4371 or moartdeland.org.