“Is A Painting Ever Done?” by Pamela Beck

How does an artist know when a work is done? There are many ways to keep this ball in the air. Sometimes a final signature is added only when a painting is sold rather than completed. Join Pamela Beck in her newest installment of ArtDart as she comments on “Is a Painting Ever Done?”

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

Recently, an artist friend told me that he loves to shop online. “I make a decision; I click a button; I’m asked if my selection is final; and then I get to say ‘yes’.”

Following this announcement, he pumped his clenched fist triumphantly in the air before my blank expression. He then realized that I wasn’t quite sure where victory fit into his recent purchase of a Chicago Cubs Crystal Freezer Mug from Amazon.com, so he added, “I love that moment of satisfaction when I get to confirm that my action is complete and done. It’s not a feeling I have very much when I paint.”

My friend had better put his credit card under lock and key because, from what others artists have told me, many a good painting has been ruined by sentences that begin with “It’s almost done but needs a little more …..”

Knowing when a painting is finished can be challenging for artists. As difficult as that can be to understand for the task-driven among us, an artist will often overwork, overanalyze or even destroy paintings that to others appear not only done, but perfect. The artist’s self-questioning can take on the obsessive zeal of an eyebrow-plucker who winds up hairless after return trips to the mirror.

But it’s not an uncommon state of mind for an artist:

When something is finished, that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I believe in everlastingness. I never finish a painting – I just stop working on it for a while.
Arshile Gorky

The Artist and His Mother (ca. 1926-1936) by Arshile Gorky
The Artist and His Mother (ca. 1926-1936) by Arshile Gorky

How does an artist know when a work is done? There are many ways to keep this ball in the air. Sometimes a final signature is added only when a painting is sold rather than completed. This leaves the door open for the artist to continually return to a painting before it leaves the nest; at which point the artist may declare it finally “done.” But even after a painting has been sold, artists often wish they could get back into that canvas and give it a little tweak.

Some artists never feel their paintings are finished. Although they usually want and/or need to sell their work, they’re also quite content to keep their paintings around to dip back into. They feel that later on, something might come to them that enhances the work or better expresses their intentions. Or perhaps, for whatever personal reasons, the artist isn’t ready to let go of it.

No painting stops with itself, is complete of itself. It is a continuation of previous paintings and is renewed in successive ones…
Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still, 1957-D No. 1, 1957, oil on canvas, 113 x 159 in
Clyfford Still, 1957-D No. 1, 1957, oil on canvas, 113 x 159 in

Often you can see specific “periods” in artists’ work—where it’s clear that personally compelling ideas and techniques are being explored in one painting after another. Even for the viewer, let alone for the artist, it can feel like these paintings are extensions of the same themes, as the artist explores his/her own reactions. At these times in particular, the distinction between where one painting ends and another begins can become blurry.

Pablo Picasso, Ma Jolie, oil on canvas, 39 3:8 x 25 3:4, Acquired through the Lille P. Bliss Bequest, collection Modern Museum of Art 176.1945
Pablo Picasso, Ma Jolie, oil on canvas, 39 3:8 x 25 3:4, Acquired through the Lille P. Bliss Bequest, collection Modern Museum of Art 176.1945

Pablo Picasso, Accordionist, 1911, oil on canvas, 51 1:4 x 35 1:4 in. (130 x 89.5 cm.) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Pablo Picasso, Accordionist, 1911, oil on canvas, 51 1:4 x 35 1:4 in. (130 x 89.5 cm.) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

To this point, I knew a painter who, in the midst of what subsequently became a series, didn’t want to sell her work until she “got it out of her system.” She needed to refer back to those she’d just painted to see how she should proceed with her new ones. She was able to let go of her work, consider it done, and sell it, once she felt she’d answered the questions her work posed; at which point she wanted to move on to a new approach to keep her curiosity fresh.

The painting is finished when the idea has disappeared.
Georges Braque

Shopping online may just have to do for those painters who yearn for the satisfaction derived from a singular act of unequivocal completion. But there are other painters who have come up with their own fail proof solutions to determine when to finally put that paintbrush down:

I never think I have finished a nude until I think I could pinch it.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Seated Nude, 1913, oil on canvas, private collection
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Seated Nude, 1913, oil on canvas, private collection

Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee & Acquisitions Committee and Institute for the Ages Volunteer.

Craig Rubadoux Interview by Pamela Beck

Craig Rubadoux has participated in over seventy exhibitions. Solo exhibitions have included the Ringling Museum of Art, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Lowe Museum of Art, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. His art is included in many public and private collections including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale; the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; and the State of Florida. He is currently represented by Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota, Florida.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

Craig Rubadoux has participated in over seventy exhibitions.  Solo exhibitions have included the Ringling Museum of Art, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Lowe Museum of Art, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.  His art is included in many public and private collections including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale; the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; and the State of Florida. He is currently represented by Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota, Florida.

In the mid-twentieth century there was an active group of artists and illustrators including Craig Rubadoux, Ben Stahl and Syd Solomon among others, who lived and worked in Sarasota. They garnered both local and national attention and furthered Sarasota’s reputation as a thriving art community.

Craig Rubadoux still lives in this area and also has a seasonal studio in Nova Scotia. His home here is hidden away at the end of a dirt road. It’s nestled in the trees overlooking a bay. Inside, the walls are completely covered with art made by himself, his friends and other artists he admires. Fascinating books, adorable pets and music fill the house. His studio, surrounded by private land and fronted by the bay, is a huge screen porch that opens to the breeze on three sides.

In this setting, Pamela Beck talked with Craig Rubadoux about his early Sarasota days and what’s on his mind today.

Photo of Syd Solomon teaching art at The Ringling. Craig Rubadoux back row, third one from left
Photo of Syd Solomon teaching art at The Ringling. Craig Rubadoux back row, third one from left

 

PB: What was Sarasota like when you first moved here?

CR: I came to Sarasota in 1945 with my family, when I was seven or eight. Only 45,000 people lived here then. I joined the Sarasota Art association (now Art Center Sarasota) on Palm Avenue. They let me have a one-person show in their storefront when I was twelve.

At that time in Sarasota, there were Beaux Art balls and dances, but I didn’t go to things like that. When I was around thirteen, I took an art class that Syd Solomon taught at the Ringling Museum. I still remember how I spilled a bottle of india ink on the outside loggia floor at the museum during one of his classes. The stain stayed there for years until it came out. I liked watching it fade.

The Ringling School of Art, as Ringling College of Art and Design was formerly called, was only two or three buildings. There was a greater sense of camaraderie between everyone back then there is now. Activities and people from The Ringling School, The Ringling Museum and the Sarasota Art Association all were actively involved with each other.

I took a lot of high school art classes. My art teacher, Mrs. Clements, thought I was promising and took me to meet Ben Stahl at Hilton Leech’s studio. I was a senior in high school and Stahl asked me to be his apprentice. I thought I might be an illustrator like he was, so I could help support my family. But when I saw the hoops you had to jump through—well, let’s just say that I don’t like people telling me what to do or how to paint.

Apres Rodin, 2011, oil on canvas, 40" x 48"
Apres Rodin, 2011, oil on canvas, 40″ x 48″

Then I got a scholarship to Ringling for one year through the Scholastic Art Award. I enjoyed the life classes the best. They had those figure drawing classes three times a week. There was a nice group of teachers at the school, but I couldn’t afford tuition to finish studying there.

When Stahl and his family were getting ready to travel abroad, I was asked to go along as his children’s tutor (although I didn’t do any tutoring…).  We drove through Holland, France and Spain, stopping at museums. We saw a lot of great paintings and it was the first time I saw the Louvre and the Prado. When I saw the Goya paintings at the Prado, they knocked my socks off.

We went to Torremolinos on Mackinlay Kantor’s (the writer) suggestion. Ben Stahl completed his “14 Stations of the Cross” paintings and then he and his family left. I stayed and rented a room. Everything was cheap there. I put out a sign that said ‘Art Gallery,’ on the building where I lived, and had an opening in an unused upstairs space there. The landlady was sympathetic.

I stayed there about eight more months, teaching watercolor and designs for pottery to make money. You didn’t need much money to live. I got another room in the building and had an opening there every Sunday because it was very touristy and new people came to see my work every week. Hotels were just starting to be built.

I painted the fishermen who slept on the beach and the people who traveled by donkey.  At night, I went to the local cafes and had a cognac and sketched the flamenco dancers.

PB: Looking around your house filled with art from many cultures, there’s hardly an empty spot on the walls. What influences are important to you?

CR: Besides much of the art I’ve seen in museums and friends’ work, I also like masks, outsider art and primitive art. I have a lot from Mexico, Africa, New Guinea and Costa Rica and some local Florida work too.  It resonates with me and so I’m overrun with stuff that you see all around my home. I find this kind of art inspirational.

PB: What do you think of the current climate for visual arts in our community?

CR: I don’t get out that much although recently I went to St. Pete. I saw “Post Coital,” a show at Mindy Solomon Gallery I liked, and also the Philip Pearlstein show at the Museum of Fine Arts. But I find that I just have enough time to do my stuff and do my thing. I don’t know what’s happening in places like New York either, and I’m not sure if it would help or hinder my work if I did. But I do get together with painter friends of mine occasionally.

PB: Lately, you’re doing abstract rather than figurative work. Any particular reason?

CR:  I just suddenly felt drawn to explore abstraction again. I’d worked with abstraction in the 80’s. I might go back to figurative.  For now I like working on something I don’t have the answers to; I like the excitement that comes from not knowing how things will turn out.

PB: What’s your first memory of being a painter, even if you didn’t know you were one- as a child?

CG: I always drew, ever since I was a young child. My mother saved drawings of mine from when I was five yrs old. They were from my school class when we lived in Rochester, N.Y. before moving down here.  I remember one—it was of people on horseback seen from a window.

My mother and grandmother both drew and were very supportive of my interest in art. There were those “Learn How to Draw” Walter Foster books all around my house and when my family decided to move, they purposely picked Sarasota because it was known as an arts colony. They thought it would be good for me.

PB: Describe the feeling that makes you want to pick up a brush.

CR: It’s innate; I just have to do it, I have to make some marks in some manner. At this stage in my life, it’s a compulsion. I need to do it, but I like to know that at least one or two people respond to what I do.

PB: What are you thinking about as you paint?

CR: Depends on the mood I’m in or sometimes it’s something trying to get out, it has to get out. They’re not intellectual thoughts I’m having, but rather, how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing in my life or with the animals or a walk along the beach or river. I think it’s like a diary.

Some of these thoughts could become something I will work on. Or not. It doesn’t matter; I just start sketching. I keep sketchbooks. For example, here’s a sketch I did that got me thinking about the painting next to it.

 

 

Rubadoux's notebook with sketch resulting in "Aurora" (Notebook is oriented correctly)
Rubadoux’s notebook with sketch resulting in “Aurora” (Notebook is oriented correctly)

 

PB: Which artists locally and abroad, dead/alive resonate with you?

Aurora, 2013, oil on canvas, 54" x 72"
Aurora, 2013, oil on canvas, 54″ x 72″

CR: Of people I personally knew, the painter Frank Rampolla was the biggest influence on me. People thought he was my teacher but we were really friends.  After I returned from Spain I took some life classes at Ringling School of Art, where I met Frank. He had a place in Sarasota where we could work. So we hired models and often drew and painted together. Then we would regularly discuss our work and for about ten years, even showed at the same gallery in Coral Gables, the Sindelir gallery. We helped put together a show in that gallery, “The 7 Deadly Sins.”

Eventually he went to USF/Tampa and taught printmaking there.  In fact, he got me a job at USF for a semester or two, but working in that setting wasn’t for me. Sadly, Frank had a heart problem and died at 40 in Tampa.

I like the work of my friends, the people I hang out with like Beatrice del Perrugia, Robert Baxter, Richard Mueller, Joyce Ely Walker, R.O. Woody—I really like so many artists; the list is endless. Of artists I’ve never met, here are some off the top of my head: Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pieter Bruegel (“Hunters in the Snow” in particular), Edgar Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Odilon Redon, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Hokusai, Balthus, Egon Schiele. I just thrill when I look at the work of these artists. Standing in front of a Botticelli, you almost want to cry.

PB: Your art clearly resonates with a Michigan collector, whom I’ve heard has purchased many pieces from you. Could you please talk about that?

CR: They’re a couple that has bought 160 works from me. They are in the process of publishing a book about me based on their personal collection, which should come out within the next year.

PB: You’re a shy person. How does this quality affect your work?

CR: It gives me more time to paint because I don’t go out to see many people. I have good friends but I enjoy spending a lot of time alone. I find that I can often express through painting what I find difficult to say.

PB: Please give an example of a work you find satisfying and discuss why.

Finn, 2012, oil on canvas, 24" x 24"
Finn, 2012, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″

CR:  “Finn.”  It sings. I can’t go beyond that. Every stroke seems to fit and help the other one along. Music and dance do that too, when they work. I listen to classical music when I’m painting.

This past year I’ve gone to and enjoyed Momix, the Itzhak Perlman concerts and the opera.

PB: Do you have a conflict between living in world of creative ideas/feelings and living in the practical world?   How do you straddle it?

CR: My kids say not very well. I’d like to approach life the way my high school art teacher told us to: never hurry, never worry, never procrastinate. That’s a good maxim, so I’m trying to live by it more and more. Thing is, I’m having trouble with the ‘never procrastinate’ part.


Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee & Acquisitions Committee and Institute for the Ages Volunteer.

The Ringling Unveils New Brand Identity by Pamela Beck

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University just launched its new brand identity with corresponding graphics and unveiled a secondary name: The Ringling.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University just launched its new brand identity with corresponding graphics and unveiled a secondary name: The Ringling. The formal name of the museum will remain the same, although you can see why- The Ringling -is so much more appealing: it’s concise, user-friendly and has a jaunty contemporary punch to it.

Over the last several years, it’s been clear that The Ringling is intent on breaking the dusty stereotype of a museum as simply a passive viewing experience. Programs such as the Art of our Time initiative launched in 2009 with the inaugural Ringling International Arts Festival and series like New Stages: Narrative in Motion have engaged viewers with unique, powerful and unforgettable offerings of the visual and performing arts.

In addition, Ringling By the Bay at Ca’d’ Zan features music and dancing on Art After 5 Thursday evenings; yoga is available on the terrace of Ca’ d’ Zan on the third Saturday of each month; sunsets can be experienced in the James Turrell Skyspace, “Joseph’s Coat”; and the Ringling Underground, “a series of events with live music, art and pop culture in a block-party atmosphere” takes place in the museum’s dreamy courtyard on select nights.

 

2013-04-16_08-55-09_304-1

These options, among many more museum activities not mentioned, illustrate The Ringling’s devotion to serve as an integral and relevant part of the Sarasota community. The launch builds upon this momentum. It reinforces the awareness that the museum is a go-to destination for a variety of cultural, educational and entertainment experiences for all ages.  At the official announcement, Steven High, the museum’s executive director, said that he would like the museum to be known as “visitor friendly and accessible.” He added that he hopes visitors will feel that “this museum is their museum.”

An extensive research process about the museum’s brand identity began in July 2012, with key stakeholders, staff, membership, board members community leaders and patrons of the arts. For outside perspective, the museum also consulted with World Studio, a New York firm specializing in brand design. The new integrated brand platform was then collectively developed.

To assist and clarify The Ringling’s new goals, the six museum venues have each been assigned a descriptive name, color and beautiful, easily identifiable icon that will appear in signage and way-finding, store merchandise, labels, banners, visitor materials, annual reports and other publications. The six venues include: The Ringling Museum of Art; The Ringling Circus Museum; The Ringling Ca’d’ Zan; The Ringling Historic Asolo Theater; The Ringling Education Center and The Ringling Bayfront Gardens.  A new interactive website that encourages visitor participation is slated for the near future.

The “new umbrella identity platform” clarifies the connection between the diverse venues, collections and programs at The Ringling. This consolidation, with its new eye-catching graphic counterpart, signals both a real and perceptual shift for the museum. The Ringling has added to the legacy of John and Mable Ringling by inviting visitors to view themselves as part of the museum’s cultural, creative and innovative present and future development.

 


Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee; Sarasota-Manatee Dance Alliance, Advisory Board Committee

R.O. Woody Interview by Pamela Beck

When you look at an object you don’t just take a split second snapshot image of what you are seeing, you see the subject and everything that surrounds it. There is the changing light, the movement, the relationship to the surrounding elements, the changing color relationships, the atmosphere, even the smell of it all. You have a very complex, encompassing impression of what you are seeing.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

Mr. Woody received his BA at University of Miami and MFA at Mexico City College. He has been a consultant and technical advisor to Binney and Smith, Inc. (Liquitex), Grumbacher, Inc., and LeFranc and Bourgeois, Inc. He has lectured on materials and color theory at over 450 colleges, universities and art schools throughout the United States, Canada and Europe including the Alberta College of Art, Boston University, University of California/Berkley, Carnegie Institution, Corcoran School of Art, New York University, Ringling School of Art and Design, Yale University, etc.

Mr. Woody has served as Visiting Professor of Art, Illinois State University, Normal, IL and Visiting Professor of Art, St. Cloud State College, St. Cloud, MN. He has authored two books: “Painting With Synthetic Media,” Van Nostrand Reinhold and “Polymer Painting and Related Techniques,” Van Nostrand Reinhold. He is represented by the Dabbert Gallery, Sarasota.

WIMS - TORN COOL TO WARM   110" X 90"   acrylic on torn 5 ply drawing board on free formed wood support
WIMS – TORN COOL TO WARM 110″ X 90″ acrylic on torn 5 ply drawing board on free formed wood support

PB: Your work spans from 1955 to now and changes considerably. What was behind your thinking/ feeling as you changed from your earlier techniques to your current ones?

ROW: I started as a realist — a super realist. At first it was gratifying. But after doing this for a few years, not only did it become technically boring, I realized that people viewing my work were not getting what I wanted them to feel—except on a shallow, superficial level. I was trying to paint more than a face or a tree. I was trying to get to the essence of the subject.

When you look at an object you don’t just take a split second snapshot image of what you are seeing, you see the subject and everything that surrounds it. There is the changing light, the movement, the relationship to the surrounding elements, the changing color relationships, the atmosphere, even the smell of it all. You have a very complex, encompassing impression of what you are seeing.

That’s what I wanted to convey. And the viewers were counting details, counting the leaves, estimating how long it took to complete the painting. So I decided to try and convey the other elements, which led me more and more to abstract the subject. It also led to fewer sales. But at least I had caused the viewer to respond more to the overall concept –even if they did not like it and had to think and contribute something of themselves to the experience. And still today I start quite realistically and then abstract the subject to get the total concept.

WIMS - DANCE PARTNER   88" X 90"  acrylic on torn canvas with faux fur on free formed wood support
WIMS – DANCE PARTNER 88″ X 90″ acrylic on torn canvas with faux fur on free formed wood support

PB: I see you have several paintings that are totally black. Considering most of your work has extensive, saturated color, what are those black ones about? And please talk about your double-sided paintings.

ROW: Initially this started as an exercise. I taught and lectured on color theory. And at one point I realized that when I came upon a problem in a painting I knew I could easily fake my way out of it with color manipulation. So I decided to limit myself to black on black so I could not use color as a crutch.

A short time after I started this, there came many “black” events, outside of, as well as in, my life. There was the shooting of Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the prolonged dissolution of a twenty-year marriage. I continued this, not as an exercise, but as a valid statement of expression. And I cut holes in the canvas projected sculptural images from the canvas, stuffed and abraded the canvas.

Then a few years later I was worn out, drained, and decided there were two sides to this. At that point I literally made two sides to the painting. I double stretched the canvas, hung if from the ceiling and painted both sides, still cutting holes and stuffing it. I was dealing with the yin/yang concept of opposites, including the concept that within the opposite is a piece of the opposite.

The other side of the black paintings became a strong color statement — with a piece of black in it. Eventually the double-sided paintings became a riot of color and life. But they still contained a bit of the opposite, which, I found, became something different when viewed, or experienced, from the other side. This expressed through design and color interaction –but no less true in philosophical concept.

I was living in New York’s SoHo at that time and Pop Art was what was selling. These large, abstract, conceptual paintings didn’t have a chance. Besides, they took up actual space; hard to ask that in a home.

However I lived in a 3,600 square foot loft at the time, with 14 foot ceilings, and they made great room dividers. I still work on double-sided paintings, but mainly have gone back to wall hanging works. (Although some of the double sided work can be hung on the wall and flipped.) I work in several series concepts: music, especially jazz; dance and the female nude: children on swings and jumping rope, etc.; the Everglades (with both its beauty and uneasy edge), birds.

PB: What were your days in New York like? You lived/worked there during a particularly rich time for artists.

ROW: I loved living in New York! I met many artists such as Bill and Elaine deKooning, James Brooks, Adolph Gottlieb, Milton Resnik, Idelle Weber, Nicholas Krushenick, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler. I was able to use most of these artists in my books on materials. They were very gracious and giving people.

I really miss all the museums and galleries and good music and food. And the activity and stimulation. I moved into SoHo at the very beginning of its development as an art center. My loft was formerly a manufacturing loft for tennis wear. They left the cutting tables, which were great drawing and working spaces. There were three galleries, several bars, a great bread company and a restaurant call Food. Later Dean and Deluca moved in just around the corner. But, as I mentioned, I was working against the art wave of the time, which I have seemed to do most of my life.

YELLOW BACKED CROW   24" X 30"   acrylic on canvas
YELLOW BACKED CROW 24″ X 30″ acrylic on canvas

PB: I’ve never seen an artist with so many brushes. Can you tell us about this? Do you use many of them or which in particular?

ROW: You probably have never seen an artist with as much paint as well. When I was studying for my MFA in Mexico I started to paint with automotive lacquer because many of the Mexican muralists, such as Siqueiros, used it as a medium at the time. However, I did not realize how toxic it was. After using lacquer in a small, enclosed studio for the better part of a year (and becoming a very happy artist) I became quite ill and was diagnosed as having leukemia and given about three months to live.

Luckily, a French doctor, who worked with industrial product workers, stepped in and diagnosed me with chemical poisoning. I was treated and recovered, but as a result I did my Master’s thesis on paints — primarily synthetic paints. This later was published as one of the first books on synthetic media. As a result, much to my surprise, I became an expert.

Art supply companies ask me to work with them establishing properties and color positions for the, then, very new acrylics. I was supplied with as much paint as I asked for to do testing and for my own use. (Fantastic, as I was painting large, very heavily impastoed paintings at the time.)

Later on I was also asked to develop brush lines. Especially blends of synthetic and natural hair. All the brushes and paint you saw was the result of years of consultant work and testing of materials.

These companies also hired me to visit colleges and universities and lecture on materials, techniques and color theory. I have lectured at over 450 colleges, art schools and universities all over the United States and Europe.

And yes, I use almost all the brushes depending on the work. I designed brushes for a particular use and each has its place. The same is true of the paints, their working properties and color positions.

PB: You worked with several companies — Liquitex, Grumbacher, LeFranc and Bourgeois — and have great knowledge about materials and color theory. Does your professional knowledge about paint inhibit or help your creative use of it?

ROW: The more you know about materials, techniques and color theory the freer you are to create. You don’t have to stop and think about how to do something; you concentrate on the creativity, not the process.

RED BACKED CROW   24" X 30"   acrylic on canvas
RED BACKED CROW 24″ X 30″ acrylic on canvas

PB: You display your collections of, Inuit art, African art, Pre Colombian Art, Borucan masks and Dominican Republic folk art all over your home. Please describe what draws you to these in particular and if they influence your art. In particular, why are you so drawn to masks?

ROW: We all wear a mask. I am very interested in why. What does it symbolize? What is its purpose? The Inuit works I have are mostly of the raven. I have an affinity with the image as well as the legends surrounding this figure. The raven wears a mask, or rather, has the ability to change into other forms.

I was very influenced by Pre Colombian art in my early work, and still am to a certain extent. I had visual interests in the Aztec masks and especially the Chacmool figure. Others, such as Henry Moore, were similarly influenced. The Chacmool figure has a gory past as an alter figure that holds on its belly a bowl to receive the beating heart cut out of a sacrificial victim, but this figure also is a study in tense visual movement.

In the Mayan culture the sacrifice was an act of rejuvenation, insurance for fertility and continuance of humanity. An artist is always influenced by other artists and concepts, not to imitate, but to understand and expand visually (i.e.: Picasso, etc., and African masks). Henry Moore took the Chacmool figure, a man, and turned it into a woman, in the same contorted position, possibly to emphasize the concept of birth and fertility.

MIDNIGHT LIGHT - MYAKKA   22" X 30"   acrylic on canvas
MIDNIGHT LIGHT – MYAKKA 22″ X 30″ acrylic on canvas

PB: You have lived here twenty years. How does this lifestyle impact your work?

ROW: I visited Florida when I was twelve years old and said: “This is where I will live.” I have always loved the light, the flora and the water here. I received a degree from The University of Miami and worked in South Florida. Then went on to Mexico, New Jersey and New York. My life long friends lived here. So when SoHo became a very expensive zoo, I returned.

Unfortunately I have out lived all my life long friends. The first ten years after my return to Florida I still worked as an artist consultant and traveled almost half of the time. My painting centered on the themes established in New York, with some forays into more water-centered paintings.

When I finally stopped consultant work I centered more on Florida elements. One in particular set me off into a new theme: the Everglades. I took several of the “swamp walks” offered by the photographer Clyde Butcher during Labor Day each year, as well as spending weeks in the Everglades National Park. The “swamp walks” changed my visual perspective as sometimes you wade in water up to your chest. As well as being in close proximity to snakes and alligators and literally being stuck in the mud of the swamp. I wanted to express that point of view.

But it is the light and feeling of Florida that gives me great joy.

PB: What are your painting rituals to get going?

ROW: No set rituals. I go the studio and clean up the place. Or I sit outside the studio and listen to the water in the Koi pond and the wind in the trees. Or I read or listen to music. Or I do random sketches or color studies. But much of the time I look at photographs. I take hundreds and hundreds of photographs. I used to sketch extensively but now I use photos — much of them timed photos and blurred or out of focus (on purpose) photos.

BLUES DANCE   42" X 72"   acrylic on canvas
BLUES DANCE 42″ X 72″ acrylic on canvas

PB: Since music and dance are subjects of yours, what are your favorite types of music and dance?

ROW: Classical Jazz is my first choice, with Classical music a very close second. For contemplation: something like Bill Evans or solo Bach guitar by Segovia or John Williams. For mood: something like Duke Ellington’s “Anatomy of a Murder” or Vivaldi or Phillip Glass. I have music playing all the time I am painting.

I have two very good friends, C.J. and Marilynn Shelley. Both are accomplished drummers and Marilynn is a belly dancer. I have used them as subjects of my work. And I have painted drums for them. I use the dancers at the drum circle as subjects.

And I have used ballet dancers, starting with my children in ballet class as well as professional dancers. I very much like the combination of drums, dance and didgeridoo and try to capture that visually. It’s all as varied as my painting.

PB: What are the changes in the visual arts that you’ve seen over the twenty years you’ve lived here?

ROW: As stated, when I first moved here, I traveled, lecturing at least half of my time. I tried to integrate into the Sarasota art society, but it was not easy. Most galleries had a full “stable” and I was told that most collectors and buyers did not want “local” artists. The collectors went to New York or Palm Beach or galleries that handled these artists.

I finally joined a gallery that succumbed to the recession a year later, as did other galleries at the time. Sarasota was, and is, a center for the arts. But the visual arts were not as supported, in my opinion, twenty years ago. This is amazing, considering the history of Sarasota and all of the very prominent artists that worked and prospered here thirty to forty years ago. The attitude here, as well as in other areas, had changed from open, cooperative and embracing, to one of “self protection”. But maybe this is just a personal reaction as an artist, not an objective observer.

Just like the flow of the arts overall, Sarasota visual arts continue to meld and change. In the past few years the arts scene has changed radically and is much more active and motivated by younger artists and galleries focusing on their work. The Two Columns Gallery, the Willis Smith Galleries and the Crossley Gallery, all at the Ringling School of Art and Design, support and encourage young artists. In the Rosemarie District several galleries exhibit emerging artists. But the most active is the Clothesline Gallery with the creative force of its staff, and especially that of the artist and manager, Van Jazmin. Clothesline was voted Best Gallery of 2013 by Sarasota Magazine. The more traditional galleries also seem more positive and active and in some cases have expanded.

PB: Do you feel like a different person in your home than in your studio?

ROW: Absolutely. The short walk through trees and vine covered arbor past the pond to the studio creates a different mind set. My home is full of other people’s work, collections, as well as my work and my office. The studio, built to the dimensions of the workspace of my SoHo loft, is a place of creativity and reflection–and a place full of materials with which to work.


Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck
Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.

Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee; Institute for the Ages, Volunteer

Art: Sarasota Season Style by Pamela Beck

Join Pamela Beck in the first installment of SeeSaw to her current column, ARTdart, as she observes and explores various visual art exhibitions and happenings in the Gulf Coast area.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in the first installment of, SeeSaw, to her current column, ARTdart, as she observes and explores various visual art exhibitions and happenings in the Gulf Coast area.

No, it’s not your imagination. It really does take an extra twenty minutes to get wherever you’re going these days.For art fans, there’s a flip side to not being able to find a parking spot this time of year: More crowds=More exhibitions.

Here, below, are some eyecatchers I’ve seen while gallery hopping on a recent, sunny afternoon. They’re just a small taste of visual treats currently on exhibit in Sarasota.

For a larger picture of shows in town, click “Exhibition” found on the Sarasota Visual Art masthead.

1. Abstract, adj.: Expressing a quality apart from an object, Group Exhibition curated by Kevin Dean, Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art, till April 3rd

Peter Plagens, Get In There Fast, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 54” x 52”
Peter Plagens, Get In There Fast, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 54” x 52”

The resurgence of Abstract Painting in contemporary art provides this opportunity to explore current trends in relation to the historic movement through the exhibition of eight working painters ranging in age from their thirties’ to their eighties’ who are inspired by nature, music, mathematics, the spiritual and new media.

Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design,
2700 N. Tamiami Trail
941.359.7563

2. Child’s Play, Group Exhibition curated by Mindy Solomon of the Mindy Solomon Gallery, St. Petersburg, till April 26th

Second-Hand Childhood, by Don Florence Photo, partial view of children's chairs in a circle
Second-Hand Childhood, by Don Florence Photo, partial view of children’s chairs in a circle

Mindy Solomon Gallery
124 2nd Ave NE  St Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 502.0852

3. iConcept Retrospective, group exhibition curated by Lisa Berger and Eric Cross, Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota, FL, till April 26th

Observer, by Eric Cross, (made from recycled Longboat Key Observer Newspapers). Artists from around Sarasota produce pieces of fashion from avant-garde materials that walk the runway.
Paper Dress, by Eric Cross
Paper Dress, by Eric Cross

Art Center Sarasota
707 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
941.365.2032

4. Following Ovid’s Metamorphoses: From Cosmogony to Chaos and back to the Rhizome, curated by Anne-Marie Melster, Two Columns Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design, till April 14th

Installation View
Installation View

Two Columns Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Desing
1947 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota FL 34236

4. If the Sun was Square, curated by David and Tre Steiner, State of the Arts Gallery, Sarasota, FL, till May 1

Jim Keaton, Machine 4, 26 "x 33" .
Jim Keaton, Machine 4, 26 “x 33”

State of the Arts Gallery
1525 State Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
941.955-2787

5. Ongoing, Nikitas Kavoukles, Stakenborg Fine Art, Sarasota, FL

Sitting by Nikitas Kavoukles, oil on canvas, 26" x 30"
Sitting by Nikitas Kavoukles, oil on canvas, 26″ x 30″

Stakenborg Fine Art
1545 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
941.487.8001

6. Let it Float, Matt Combs, till March 30th, Clothesline Gallery, Sarasota, FL

Matt Coombs, SRSc12 Collage on Paper, 11" x 9.25", 2013
Matt Coombs, SRSc12
Collage on Paper, 11″ x 9.25″, 2013

Clothesline Gallery
529 S. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236
941.366.5222

Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee; Sarasota-Manatee Dance Alliance, Advisory Board Committee