300 Words by Joan Altabe, a second part to a previous entry.

300 Words by Joan Altabe

First, to clear up any confusion, the proposed garage murals will be painted inside, not outside. No matter. Painting within is no less objectionable than barging in on the sail forms without. Only the reason is different. Commissioning art for spaces where cars are housed is an effrontery to art, not to mention artists.

Not that parking garage paintings are new for Sarasota. In 2001, murals appeared in the deep bowels of One Sarasota Tower’s garage. They were so unexpected that I likened them to discovering the caves of Altamira in northern Spain; except instead of bison and reindeer, the walls – from basement to first floor – were covered with geometric abstractions that came off more like festooning than fine art.

When I think of murals as art, I think of Sarasota’s Skip Dyrda, who has been hired to paint in the Palm Avenue garage top floor. He deserves better – my complaint, not his. In these hard times, an artist is glad to get work.

You may remember Dyrda’s work on the east wall of the Mediterraneio restaurant on Main Street – a 60-foot-high, 90-foot-long mural painting so photo-real that you thought what you saw was actual. The illusion included make-believe balustrades and two towering archways through which you could see Sarasota’s lost treasures — the John Ringling Towers and the Bickel House.

The see-through arches were reminiscent of Richard Haas’ landmark mural on Miami Beach’s Fontainebleu Hotel. Like the hotel mural, the one on the restaurant building transformed a blank wall into a field of vision full with icons of Sarasota arts and circus history. Dyrda’s painting was so skillfully rendered, I remember mistaking a worker he pictured on a scaffold for a real person and parked my car to go talk to him.

Now consider Dyda’s aim for the Palm Avenue garage. His assigned theme is theater, but rather than imaging some generic image, he plans to showcase The Players Theater, owing to its history as the oldest community theater in Sarasota (and the 2nd oldest in Florida). And he will note on the marquee a play that showed in the theater’s early days – “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

Wait there’s more. (There’s always more with Dyrda’s work): old play posters and a ticket window complete with ticket taker.

Are you getting this, Sarasota? We call ourselves an art town. Yet, while blank walls abound in our streets, we’re willing to stuff such thoughtfulness and talent in a garage.

Heck, even Punta Gorda, which has no illusion about being an art mecca, boasts a mural society that paints the town with its history.

Photo Credit: Skip Dyrda

To view Part 1, click here.

Don’t do it, Sarasota!

300 Words By Joan Altabe

300 Words By Joan Altabe

You’re not going to believe this, coming from me. You don’t always need
public art.

I know, I know: For years, I’ve railed that there’s not enough of it around
here. But I learned something a while back. I got the lesson from a
North Port ordinance that says 1 percent of the cost of construction for
government buildings goes for public art.

Northport also rules that its government buildings be designed in Old
Florida Frame Vernacular. That’s the style with the pioneer homestead
look, the one that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived in at Cross Creek –
unadorned, with steep roof and deep, overhanging eaves – a style that has
everything to do with fresh air and nothing to do with embellishment.

The lesson of North Port teaches that art in architecture is not always a
good idea. It can detract. It can be overkill.

Enter the new Park Avenue Parking Garage and the notion to paint murals
on it. The building doesn’t need art. It already is art. With its aluminum
sails attached to the exterior, the garage is sculpture the way the Sunshine
Skyways is with its triangular-shaped cable stays that also suggest sails.

Sarasota City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo had it right at first when he
nixed the murals, saying, “I’m a huge fan of this building.” I took that to
mean he liked it the way it was. He changed his mind when the garage
designer pushed for the murals. Caragiulo said, “I was going against what
two designers of this building saw as something that makes their building
complete. I’m not an artist. Who am I to say it doesn’t work?”

But the garage architect IS and his blindness to his artful garage is
inexplicable. Even despite likening his building to a cruise ship Jonathan
Parks told the commission his garage is an unfinished piece. “You trusted
me to get it this far,” he argued, “I can present a canvas for the artists to
make it successful … The artwork will say, ‘This is Sarasota.’ After we get
this done, it will be a finished piece.”

What, sails don’t say Sarasota?

Mayor Suzanne Atwell makes no sense, either in her zeal for the murals,
saying, “I think this will breathe life into this gorgeous building.” If it’s
gorgeous, why not leave it be gorgeous? Why laden it with, count them,
FIVE murals, each on a different subject and all on the same building.

Photo credit: Jonathan Parks Architect

Welcome to Paradise

300 words by Regan Stacey – A new resident artist’s observation and quick summary analysis of Sarasota.

300 words by Regan Stacey

I moved to Sarasota about a month ago, a transplant from the shores of
southeastern Connecticut. In all twelve states I have lived, never have I been
greeted with the phrase “Welcome to Paradise.” I politely smiled the first time,
but the second time gave me pause. Looking around, I asked myself: “Did I die
and miss the Pearly Gates on the way in?” Having lived along a rural coastline
for the past seven years, I could not imagine that this dizzying array of stores
and strip malls and bright sunny days was Paradise. I am experiencing an
intoxicating level of sensory overload that often has me longing for a darker
shade of sunglasses.

This observation, of course, comes from an artist who tends to work in minimally
abstract ways, one who is quick to quell her senses with subdued imagery and
forms. Less is more, and Paradise is lush.

“Paradise.” I pulled into Paradise Plaza the other day. How many other
businesses or areas of commerce claim “Paradise”? I checked. A Yellow Pages
search revealed sixty-nine “Sarasota Paradise” results. Apparently, in addition to
sixty-six other things, I can get my nails done, pick up a pizza, and go to therapy,
as if one would need therapy in Paradise.

I noticed my songbirds have largely been replaced with four-foot birds in ten-
foot trees. This is a perspective shift I am working on. The quality of light here is
beautiful and lends itself to a brighter and more vibrant color palette.

If art is observation, then my process here has just begun. If Paradise is truly
a state-of-mind, then I am looking forward to making art inspired by this self-
proclaimed Paradise; I just hope it doesn’t flap its giant wings with over-elated

Brushing Up on the iPad

300 Words by Kevin Costello
This electronic world we share is an inheritance of the Industrial Revolution with its specializations, standardizations, and synchronizations; itself a consequence of the Rationalism of the Enlightenment and the empathetic musings of (humanistic) Renaissance mathematicians – a world codified in our own time in emails, websites, and the mobile GPS.

300 Words by Kevin Costello

This electronic world we share is an inheritance of the Industrial Revolution with its specializations, standardizations, and synchronizations; itself a consequence of the Rationalism of the Enlightenment and the empathetic musings of (humanistic) Renaissance mathematicians – a world codified in our own time in emails, websites, and the mobile GPS. It took the Geeks 500 years to deliver the mail. Now we are sharing where we are on-line in a nanosecond and encounters are left less and less to chance. Forget Bogart and Bacall. Romantic meetings in the rain are so yesterday. Besides, water could screw up your cell in a moment of inspirational sexting. Also, on-line video contests on YouTube (with their Leviathan imaginary audience) are far more visceral to a teen than a family argument. Facebook et al has brought us to self-validation as a life style and there is no going back from this technological fulcrum of cultural self examination, or lack thereof. On-line self portraiture is the personification of our icon driven age.

What all this means to artists is important because the speed by which a culture moves its population and information is in direct relation to how we conceptualize our art. The psychological speed of our design sense is determined by these two factors: The massive scale of available on-line information (not ideas which are different) has made the artist a sort or Harlequin. In order to be relevant and strong intellectually, the artist must be both solipsist and clown with tambourine in hand beating the pulse of the information age even if its medium of expression is unplugged.

David Hockney's iphone flowers

The British artist David Hockney drew the June 13 and 20, 2011, covers of The New Yorker on his iPad. Previously, he drew two covers on his iPhone. Today Hockney says his iPad is “my sketchbook at the moment.” Hockney will be exhibiting new work at London’s Royal Academy in 2012. The exhibition will consist of approximately 70 of his iPad drawings depicting “winter slowly turning into spring.” Now that the Geeks have got us here after all this (with the pace and pulse faster than a speeding server), are we right to assume art will not only change its significance and appearance it may change the inner lives of the children of the computer screen in ways beyond anything known before to the paint brush pushers?