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By Robert Bullock
Staff Writer 

Two Artists Juxtapose Fantasy and Imagination

Next Melange Exhibit Opens March 21


Last updated 3/26/2019 at 3:31pm

Marilyn Rackelman

For its third exhibit since opening in October 2018, the Gallery at Melange is bringing together two artists who have never met, but have a great deal in common.

Both majored in the arts in college, and both have enjoyed long careers as teachers. Both have simultaneously created art for most of their adult lives, and have each chosen a similar approach to blending reality and fantasy with an emphasis on re-imagining and intertwining the flora, fauna and common elements of the natural world.

As nearly alike as their respective creative visions, these two artists and retired educators, Nancy Dillen and Marilyn Rackelman, work in entirely different media and dimensions. Dillen's two-dimensional works with oils on canvas range from stylized hyper-realism to fabulous, flagrant fantasy and whimsy. Rackelman's three dimensional totems are a mix of animal, plant and found materials configured into elegant, anthropomorphized figurines.

The Gallery at Melange at 250 East Park Avenue in Lake Wales is part of Melange Antiques & Art Gallery which, in addition to combining fine antiques from two previous Melange locations and the Sugar Magnolia collection, offers vintage vinyl records, art, gifts, CDs and books.

The Gallery at Melange is committed to bringing new and local artists together in a comfortable, salon-style setting conducive to social gathering and meaningful conversation. Beyond the exhibits of fine art, the gallery also provides cultural and community events to engage the neighborhood in creative activity.

The exhibit will be open to the public beginning at Thursday, March 21 for the gallery's fourth meeting of the Living Out Loud Poet's and Writer's Society, with special guest speaker - poet, filmmaker, and screen writer Will Berry. The Society meeting starts at 7 p.m. and at 8 p.m. there will also be a screening of one his short films, based on an original poem, at 8 p.m.

The opening reception for the exhibit, entitled Menagerie Re-Imagined, will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, March 29. Both artists will be in attendance with complimentary wine, snacks and hors d'oeuvres.


Artist and art educator, Nancy Baur Dillen is Art Professor Emeritus at Brevard Community College (BCC). She was born and raised in Quincy, a small town in rural north Florida, and currently lives in Melbourne. She graduated in 1971 from Florida State University with a master's in Art Education and Constructive Design. For most of her professional career, she was Program Coordinator and Art Professor at Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) in Melbourne.

As a painter, Dillen's landscapes reflect the two worlds in which she lives . . . the real and imaginary. Her current series of magically realistic oil paintings treats these concerns by placing symbols found in the local environment, along with fruit, vegetables, animals and/or invented characters that inhabit her whimsical world of make believe.

Like the artists of previous centuries, Dillen makes her own paint, mixing dry pigment with burnt plate oil. This medium must be applied in thin, glazed layers of color, allowing her to model form with color and tonal values and create unique compositional relationships.

The intensity of color and contrast found in Dillen's work reflects her single-mindedness, while her vocabulary of symbols makes a statement on contemporary society. To Dillen, art and teaching are one. Each challenges the other to see the world in a new light.

After 35 years of teaching, Dillen retired in May 2006. She is now painting on a full-time basis, creating art for public places, exhibiting and conducting painting and drawing workshops locally and nationally.

Dillen's paintings are exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and Canada. They are also in the permanent collections of the City of Melbourne and the City of Orlando. Corporate Collectors include the Marriott HOST International at Orlando International Airport; Orlando Utilities, Price Waterhouse, Administrative Arts, and Hubbard Construction Company, all in Orlando FL; the Southeast Bank in Miami, the Maitland Art Center, and the Vero Art Museum at Vero Beach.


Marilyn Rackelman graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in Visual Arts Education. She worked as sculptor for the Epcot theme park in the famous Walt Disney World Resort, before embarking upon a 30-year teaching career in public high schools, including classes in Art-AP, drawing, painting, photography, and three dimensional art.

In addition to her teaching career, Rackelman has been a working artist for most of her adult life. She has participated in numerous gallery shows and outdoor art festivals throughout Florida, winning many awards; she is currently represented by the Florida Craft Art Gallery in St. Petersburg.

Nancy Dillen

Rackelman's unique medium and vision give her an opportunity to reflect on the beauty, colors, texture and mystery of the natural world around us, the interconnections between us, and the need to appreciate and respect our environment. Her work often combines aspects of human, animal and plant forms, perhaps as her way of staying connected to nature and demonstrating our dependence upon it.

Rackelman's process involves hand-building each piece using stoneware clay, wood, copper, and often found materials. Her colors are a combination of glazes and acrylic stains. Texture also plays an important role in the artist's creations, often using natural items to create textural interest.

Since retiring from teaching, Rackelman is delighted to be able to devote more time to constructing new sculptures and exploring new venues for her artwork. With regard to her many years in teaching, Rackelman has this to say, "Being an artist made me a better teacher and being a teacher made me a better artist."


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