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An unconventional use of film

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:01 PM

Gulfport artist Nancy Cervenka creates some pretty unusual sculptures.

They are completely made out of movie film that has been twisted, folded, bent, pulled or otherwise manipulated.

People will get a chance to see the results of her more than 25 years of using this art form at the exhibit "Film on Film" opening Thursday at Gallery 221 on the Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry Campus.

Some of Cervenka's creations are spiky and scary; others smooth and sensual. Some seem to slither across the floor, while others hover like aliens, their tentacles barely touching the earth. They can evoke a myriad of reactions, from shock to delight.

But whatever their final form takes, each is a sculpture made entirely from film.

"The only other medium is a material that might be incorporated — like copper elbows, or wire to hold the piece together," said the artist in a telephone interview. "But it's primarily 8-, 16-, and 35-mm film."

Cervenka explained how film came to be her medium of choice.

"I went to USF for fine arts and after I took all the different classes like painting and drawing and sculpture, I took a film class," she said.

She must have liked it, because she went on to pursue a masters degree in cinematography, where the whole purpose was to produce an image or images on the screen. That is when Cervenka also became fascinated with the feel of the film itself.

"I was studying cinematography as an art form," she said. "I tended to go more toward animation, so that meant I would handle film more than normal, and I realized that I could create something from the film, that I could work with it sculpturally."

Often in the finished piece it is possible to see the images that are embedded in the celluloid. For this purpose, a magnifying glass will be provided by the gallery.

"I'm still appreciative of what film is, but I'm looking at the physical aspects of it," Cervenka said. "They (the finished pieces) still contain the time and place and memory of what films carry."

Her sculpture called "Wearable Art" won her the 2009 best of show award at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. Shiny and fluid, from a distance, you never would know it was made of celluloid.

"It's very colorful. It looks like tortoise shell," Cervenka said "It ends up looking like some other medium, until you're close up. It's very typical that as you're walking up to it (one of her sculptures), you're not quite sure what it is. It's not until you see the sprocket holes that you know."

The dress will be in the HCC exhibit, along with other individual pieces and installation works. When this column went to press, the number of works was uncertain.

"That's part of the joy of it," said gallery Director Katherine Gibson. "She's going to bring over a lot of her work and we are going to look at it and look at the space and see how we can best use it, because each space is different."

"I'm sure we'll have things hanging, things dangling, and things on pedestals — it will be kind of a forest of film," she said.

Gibson is eager for HCC students and gallery patrons to see the Cervenka exhibit.

"Her work is very hard to describe because it's so different; no normal words apply," Gibson said. "You have to experience it."

Meet the artist and hear her speak about her work at a free opening reception for the exhibit from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Gallery 221, in the middle of the Dale Mabry campus on the second floor of the library of the Learning Resources Center.

For information, call Gibson at (813) 253-7386

To see Cervenka's work, visit www.web.me .com/nancycervenka.

Correspondent Esther Hammer ehammer@tampatrib.com
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