From Superman to Marilyn Monroe, American pop icons get a critical close-up in Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) exhibition Cult of Personality – featuring the work of mixed-media artist Christian Holstad. Now on view in the Adolfo and Marisela Cotilla Gallery at the Alvin Sherman Library, curated from the renowned de la Cruz collection, the exhibition opened with an intimate discussion between the artist and collector/philanthropist Rosa de la Cruz, moderated by NSU Art Museum’s Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater.
Ranging from tongue-in-cheek collages to large-scale textile sculptures, it’s the power of transformation that most defines Holstad’s eclectic work, particularly when exploring how images manipulate identity. In the “Eraserhead Series,” newspaper photographs are partially erased and redrawn to tell new stories, while in “Slumber Party,” Marilyn Monroe’s glam portrait is simplified into emojis, devoid of all flesh and superimposed over a coffin.
“Party Favors (Snakes and Champagne),” a textile gas mask sculpture with the eyes of Superman actor Christopher Reeve loomed over the discussion panel.
“I find that Americans are really into saving the day,” noted Holsted about the piece, citing America’s lengthy history of superheroes. “For me, I saw in particular with Christopher Reeve that he could, by getting out of one outfit and into another, become another person.”
The discussion quickly turned to the dramatic transformation of South Florida’s own art scene, now rising further north of Miami, thanks to organizations like the NSU Art Museum and the de la Cruz Collection.
“What I see happening now for Broward is what happened in Miami in the early ’90s,” says Clearwater. “There is this groundswell of opportunities, giving us the chance to connect with the international art world.”
Much credit is due to both organizations’ commitment to art education. While the Cotilla Gallery shows are always free and open to the public, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale also offers its “Museum on the Move” program, providing free tours to Broward County’s 6th graders. Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz also privately fund their many educational programs, from workshops to student art trips to New York and Europe.
“We’re not really only collectors, we’re more activists,” says Rosa de la Cruz of the collection’s commitment to education. “So many students come and tell me, you know Mrs. de la Cruz, we’ve never left this area. We need to expose them to more. That’s why collaborating with the library is important and we hope to continue doing this.”
These collective efforts seek to empower young local artists in their own image-making – hopefully creating new, more dynamic stories and icons about South Florida on the global stage.
Cult of Personality runs until May 28. Visit here for more information on NSU Library events.