Birke Art Gallery takes visitors to ‘Paradise City’

Marshall University’s Birke Art Gallery hosted its opening reception of the “Paradise City: Works by Fountain of Pythons” exhibit Thursday.

“Fountain of Pythons” is a photography collective consisting of Tampa based artists. Current members include Wendy Babcox, Jeremy Chandler, Shawn Cheatham, Becky Flanders, Noelle Mason, Kym O’Donnell, James Reiman and Selina Roman.

They get their name from the invasive species of snake that has taken over parts of Florida. The name also nods to the fabled fountain of youth that promised those who partook of its water eternal youth.

“Their work is specifically made about the environment and the culture of South Florida,” Gallery Director Melissa Yungbluth said. “So it’s bringing to this area a glimpse of what it would be like to live in a place completely different.”

Their mission is to provide a regular forum to incubate, discuss and share new works, knowledge and resources in support of each individual’s studio practice, as well as to build a foundation for collaboration, exhibition and engagement of the public with the fruits of that practice.

Selina Roman and fellow artist Noelle Mason hosted talks at the Visual Arts Center Wednesday evening about their more personal work.

Roman’s work is about people and about the culture. She grew up in the Miami area, so her goal is to preserve what that would have looked like when she was a child — the colors and the art deco feel.

“When we think about Miami, it’s very sparkly and glitzy, but it’s changing a lot and it has been for the last 10 or more years and a lot of thatMiami sparkle is going away, so this is a way for her [Roman] to preserve that,” Yungbluth said.“They’re all trying to preserve Florida, which is always a hot-topic politically.”

Noelle’s work, however, is 100 percent politics-based. She talked mainly about putting the political perspective on her work.

“‘Paradise City’ is a diverse meditation on the spectacle that is Florida,” Roman said. “It’s landscape, people, creatures and traditions. It’s exciting to see the works in Birke Art Gallery become a cohesive show despite us coming from different backgrounds and studio practices.”

Hannah Swartz can be contacted at [email protected]