St. Pete gallery highlighting Latin American art
ST. PETERSBURG - Near the entrance of the Feathered Serpent Gallery, a vivid painting of blue and green fish in a treetop sits on an easel. To Delmer Mejia, who painted the piece, the fish signify a political issue plaguing Honduras, where he lives. “The theme that I’m dealing with … is about immigrants. The immigrants are represented by the fish,” he said through a translator. “There aren’t conditions good in the country for them to work, and that’s why they have to leave to look for other opportunities.” One of several artists in town from Honduras this week, Mejia hopes showcasing his work and that of his colleagues will get them exposure and, ultimately, sales something that’s hard to come by in the impoverished Central American country.To the gallery, which is at 1018 Central Ave., bringing in the artists was an exercise in promoting its role as St. Petersburg’s only outlet specializing solely in the work of Latin American artists. The exhibit was enough of a departure from the country’s political and economic strife to attract the Honduran ambassador, who honored the group last weekend during a reception at the gallery. Linda Ramirez opened Feathered Serpent Gallery last June. The former criminal defense lawyer, whose clients included immigrants and foreign nationals, said she became interested in Honduran culture through working with people from the country. When she opened the gallery, she connected with the Honduran Association of Visual Artists, a national artists’ network, through the Honduran consulate in Miami. “You don’t see much Central American art, generally,” she said. “I thought, ‘This could be interesting.’
Getting here wasn’t easy for the artists.
They had to roll up their painted canvasses rather than ship them. They drove the three or so hours from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, where most of them live, to San Pedro Sula, which recently topped Juarez, Mexico, as the murder capital of the world. From there they flew to Miami and then to Tampa.
“We all want other people to see our art and have the opportunity to exhibit it in other places,” Mejia said. “The problem is that there really aren’t opportunities, so we need to take our work to other countries.”
That journey has taken him to Europe, South America and the United States.
Few other galleries in the Tampa Bay region focus on the work of artists from a specific geographic region. St. Petersburg has in the past been home to a Croatian art gallery, while a couple of boutiques around town specialize in wares from Russia, Morocco and Mexico.
Some see the Feathered Serpent’s opening as a sign St. Petersburg is evolving.
“It’s becoming a lot more multicultural,” said Wayne Atherholt, the interim executive director of the Morean Arts Center, down the street. “Art is going to be a part of this.”
The artists will be in town through Friday, and some of their work will remain in the gallery through the month. Tonight the gallery will hold a discussion on the Copan, a well known Mayan ruins site in Honduras.