One look at the latest public art installation by two Lakeland artists may prompt you to change the words to Jimmy Cliff’s popular song to something along these lines: “I can see clearly now, the frame is gone…”
That’s because “Clearly People: Exoskeleton Encounters” features clear shapes of people- with no obstacles in your way, if you will.
David Collins and Meredith Pope are the artists behind the exhibition, which debuts Jan. 20 in locations around Munn Park and Kentucky Avenue. A free reception will be held that night, 7-9 p.m. at LKLD TV, located at 202 N. Massachusetts Ave.
The reception features a photography exhibit by David Dickey Jr., which contains about 30 photographs of the sculptures, as well as a lecture by Collins at 7:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer period with Collins, Pope, Dickey and the models who were cast to create the sculptures.
“Clearly People” depicts figures made from multiple coats of packaging tape to create clear exoskeletons. The figures and scenes are designed to entertain, cause interaction and provoke thought, said art activist Collins. It includes 22 scenes containing 28 adult figures, seven swans, two fairies, two unborn babies, a mermaid, an alien and an 8 ft. tube of paint.
“My inspiration for the show is my continuing fascination for ways to engage the people of Lakeland and public art,” Collins said.
The pathway to having public art exhibitions such as this began on rocky terrain that has since been smoothed thanks to a partnership with the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.
Collins began creating public art without permission from the city, and often saw his work promptly removed. Chalk art he painted on city sidewalks was pressure washed away.
Then he painted the light poles wrapped in plastic throughout downtown Lakeland.
When the city cut down several diseased palm trees along South Kentucky Avenue and left the stumps behind, Collins and another artist painted scenes on the stumps.
LDDA Executive Director Julie Townsend approached Collins about continuing these projects in a way that wouldn’t anger city officials.
“David liked the idea of his art being unsanctioned, unregulated. The angst it caused was part of the experience,” Townsend says. “I liked the attention Downtown received when his art ‘popped up.’ So David and I made a deal that was blessed by the LDDA board. He could do his spontaneous art projects and we’d provide the cover.”
“The Leaning Tower of Pizza” in 2014 was the first LDDA-sponsored art activity. Collins partnered with All Saints Academy engineering students to erect a 15-foot Leaning Tower of Pisa replica made from recycled pizza boxes from Palace Pizza.
The LDDA ensured proper insurance was in place, as well as arrangements to remove it when the time came.
The most popular art installation done in collaboration with the LDDA was the giraffe in Munn Park in January 2016. LDDA sponsored the scaffolding required to create the art piece, and helped market and promote the project. It received regional media attention and visitors came from all over to see it and get a picture. Even “Weird Al” Yankovic posted a picture of the giraffe to Instagram while he was in town for a performance at The Lakeland Center.
“(The giraffe) helped keep Downtown Lakeland in the news in a positive way,” Townsend says. “City leaders were on board and were very supportive of this art project.”
LDDA is among the financial sponsors for “Clearly People” because the organization sees it as a wise marketing investment.
“The press received from these projects is better than any ad we could run,” Townsend says. “Each project is out of the ordinary and appeals to all ages and levels of art appreciation.”
“Clearly People” will remain on exhibit through July 21. A Google walking map of the installations is available.
Other sponsors of the exhibition are:
About David Collins
Collins is a self-taught artist who started his art education in 2005. He calls Lakeland home and spends his winters here. He spends summers in Black Mountain, North Carolina where he works on plein air painting.
About Meredith Pope
Pope is from Lakeland and studied art at Harrison School for the Arts, Polk State College and the University of South Florida, where she majored in sculpture. Her work has won awards from the Ridge Art Association in Winter Haven, and Arts on the Park in Lakeland. She has painted and/or refurbished swan statues that are part of the city’s “Swansation” exhibition. For the past several years, she has focused her creative efforts on making costumes for local events.
About David Dickey Jr.
Dickey is a freelance photographer born and raised in Lakeland. He’s known for documenting local public events, but professionally leans toward architectural photography and portraiture.