SECAC 2014

By Deb Bouchette, Cohort 12

“Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico”

There’s something to be said for an art conference that comes with warm and sandy beaches–SECAC 2014 just concluded in sunny Sarasota, Florida. The organization is not a chapter of the College Art Association, but is its own entity, having been founded a month after the U.S. entered World War II. That’s nearly 72 years ago! Thank goodness farsighted individuals believed in the power of the communion of art at such a time. IDSVA was well represented with seven papers, and our own Dr. Michael Smith chaired a session.

SECAC’s “Nexus: From Handmade to High Tech” was three days completely packed with presentations, plus a grand opening-night reception a juried art exhibition, and even a members’ breakfast. The conference hotel’s waterfall-graced swimming pool was an elegant place to shake hands with new people and rub shoulders with old friends. The last day’s sessions were held at the Ringling College of Art + Design, just a few blocks north by shuttle—a stunning campus with fabulous facilities. As usual for this type of conference, though, overlapping sessions meant that hard choices had to be made.

Even being on a student budget, I sprang for seeing James Turrell’s installation at the Ringling Museum, “Joseph’s Coat Skyspace.” (The Ringling Museum is, somewhat confusingly, part of the University of South Florida. The story is that John Ringling at a certain point found himself on a budget, too.) The installation is a theatrical event in the evenings during sunset. A grand, square room ringed inside with an interior decorative colonnade opened to a symmetrically square roof cutout high above. Hidden lights projected onto the ceiling, changing the color of the plaster very, very slowly to start, taking advantage of the optical effects of how the eyes perceive neighboring colors. The hour-long event ended with the sky appearing as a big, black square framed in a white square. I got lost in the faces in the clouds, the dragonflies, and the birds that passed overhead. Just taking time out to observe a slice of sky for that long was good for my kharma.