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Wednesday October 22nd 2014

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‘A Glimpse into a Different World’

By Jennifer Leigh

For anyone who’s been having a little cosplay withdraw, Blue Morning Gallery is featuring some of your favorite pop culture characters in its new exhibition, “The Art of Pensacon.”

Since the first convention took over Pensacola with costumes and comics last February, it seems that Pensacon has made a lasting effect on the arts and entertainment community.

“We were having such a good time during Pensacon weekend seeing all of the costumes during Gallery Night that one of our artists, Jim Sweida, decided to contact Pensacon staff and see about doing a show,” said Connie Wendleton, president of Blue Morning Gallery.

“The Art of Pensacon” is a different type of art exhibition for Blue Morning Gallery—or any gallery for that matter—as it presents convention culture in a downtown art gallery.

A fan of Wonder Woman for years, Wendleton said she’s excited to see some comic book art, as well as introduce the gallery to a whole new set of artists and viewers.

“We’ve had guest artists before, but never had this kind of show before,” she said. “It’s a real breakout. I’m excited. I’ve been reading comics since I was old enough to know what those little bubbles said. I still have some of my ‘Wonder Woman’ comics.”

“The Art of Pensacon” will feature four artists: two visiting comic book artists and two local painters.

John Dell, based in Louisiana and from the Escambia County area, has been working in the comic book industry since 1986 working with smaller, independent companies and then transitioning to Marvel and DC Comics. He’s worked on well-known titles such as “Superman,” “Batman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Mitch Byrd, from Mississippi, has lent his distinct style to titles such as “Green Lantern,” “Spawn” and more. He currently works for 3 Alarm Comics and was the selected artist for the Pensacon 2015 logo.

Pensacola-based painters Johnny MacPhail and Ashley Waner were both volunteers during Pensacon weekend.

The convention was an inspiration for Waner’s art, which is typically nature-based.

“It made me feel empowered to do what I wanted to do,” she said. “All of the different types of art I saw were inspiring.”

When she was contacted for the show, Waner immediately went to work on several paintings including Jack Nicholson as The Joker from the 1989 movie “Batman” and Kit Harington in his famous role of Jon Snow from the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Those two paintings will likely be her picks to show.

MacPhail will have two oil-based paintings in the show—portraits of the popular “X-Men” character Wolverine and of everyone’s favorite meth-dealing teacher, Walter White, from “Breaking Bad.”

“It should be a pretty interesting exhibit,” he said. “I hope it shows that there are other artists in Pensacola that don’t just do beach paintings.”

While comic books can easily be disregarded as a form of art, Waner said comics are just as much a medium as painting or sculpting. In fact, they’re referred to as the ninth art in France.

“There are a lot of world problems reflected in comics, which make them relatable,” Waner said. “In a way, the artist is saying how they want the world to be through their comic.”

The artist said she hopes that visitors to the show will view comic book and comic book-inspired art differently. As a fan of comic book culture, Waner said she already has notes and sketches done for future comic-book inspired pieces.

“I hope that they find an image they relate to—take that image, take it home—and bridge that gap between comic books and art,” she said.

As comics are re-imagined through reboots, movies and TV shows, “The Art of Pensacon” also introduces timeless characters through a different outlet.

“The exhibit gives the characters a fresh, new take for younger generations to reach back into the past,” she said. “It’s a glimpse into a different world.”

The art also gives a fresh, new take for gallery viewers.

“I would hope that we see new faces,” Wendleton said. “The idea of any art gallery can seem so stodgy, but we are one of the friendliest.”

But a different kind of art on the guest artist wall could be just the thing to invite kids of all ages into the gallery.

“Comic art speaks to the child in all of us and makes us feel young,” Wendleton added. “You see and think of things differently.”

This won’t be the last collaboration between Blue Morning Gallery and Pensacon. Wendleton hinted about another event scheduled for the fall.

During the next Gallery Night on Aug. 15, you can expect the kind of fanfare that Pensacon does best, with some costumed characters and a lot of fun. All of the involved artists will be at the gallery for the event.

But outside of the convention world, would the artists be willing to show their true nerd status in cosplay?

“In a heartbeat,” Waner said. “Wouldn’t be a question.”

THE ART OF PENSACON
WHEN: Now—Aug. 23
WHERE: Blue Morning Gallery, 21 S. Palafox
COST: Free
DETAILS: 429-9100 or bluemorninggallery.com