Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous- Part II at Art Center Sarasota

October 18 –December 7, 2013
Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota FL

On view will be a retrospective of artists in Sarasota who rose to prominence beginning in the 1960’s and continuing on to those who are still actively creating new works today.

October 18 –December 7, 2013
Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota FL

Art Center Sarasota is opening three new exhibitions on Thursday, October 18, 2012.

In Galleries One and Two, “Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous- Part II”, will showcase the second half of an exhibition of Sarasota Artists in the galleries earlier this year. The exhibition is curated by Dave and Patricia Dabbert of the Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota.

“The Rehersal” by William Jerdon, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

On view will be a retrospective of artists in Sarasota who rose to prominence beginning in the 1960’s and continuing on to those who are still actively creating new works today. All of these artists have been part of keeping Sarasota noted as a destination for arts and culture. Their work is found in important collections locally, nationally and internationally. This exhibition is important not only visually but historically as a chronicle of visual arts in the community.

“Encounter and Remy” by Craig Rubadoux, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

Complete list of artists in the exhibition:
Joan Altabe, Jean Blackburn, Jorge Blanco, David Budd, Clyde Butcher, Jack Cartlidge, John Chamberlain, Robert Chase, Frank Colson, Jeff Cornell, Kevin Costello, Kevin Dean, Julee Docking, Jack Dowd, Frank Eliscu, Jerry Farnsworth, Patrick Fiore, Larry Forgard, Gale Fulton Ross, Tim Jaeger, William Jerdon, Steven Katzman, Dennis Kowal, Jill Hoffman-Kowal, Nat Krate, Leslie Lerner, Barbara Mc Cann, Joseph Melancon, Moe Mitchel, Florence Putterman, Vicky Randall, Dasha Reich, Anthony Rice, Craig Rubadoux, Helen Sawyer, Syd Solomon, Ben Stahl, David Steiner, Julie Trigg, Thorton Utz and Susan Zukowsky

“Coast” by Barbara McCann, Acrylic/Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

Featured in the Main Galleries is the open, all media, juried show “It’s Political” which was timed to coincide with this year’s election. This juried exhibition invites artists to challenge themselves and create a special politically themed piece. Artists have always been the ones to hold a mirror up to society in an effort to bring about change and this exhibition is sure to hold true to that tradition. Jurors for this exhibition are Marty Fugate, Arts Writer for the Herald Tribune & Kim Russo Working Artist and Former Head of the Ringling College Fine Arts Department. Art Center Sarasota has invited politicians running in the current election to greet guests at the opening reception on October 18, which is free and open to the public from 5-7pm. Lite bites will be provided by Jimmy Johns and the DeSoto Beach Club. Confirmed politicians who will be attending the opening include: Liz Alpert, John Torraco, Ed Brodsky, Greg Steube, Adam Tebrugge, Doug Holder and a representative for Ray Pilon.

In Gallery 3 is an exhibition by the Sarasota, Florida Chapter of the Sumi-é Society of America. This exhibit runs from October 18 – November 9, 2012.

(A new Exhibition, “The Curated Unknowns” will be in this gallery from November 14 – December 7, 2012)
The Sumi-é (or “ink painting” in Japanese) Society of America’s mission is to foster and encourage an appreciation of East Asian brush painting techniques and serve as a cultural bridge between East and West. This exhibition showcases the talents of Sarasota’s Sumi-é Society. As a part of the exhibition, artists involved in this show will also be hosting a special lecture about Sumi-é painting and its history, as well as a demonstration on November 2 at 2pm. http://www.sarasotasumi-e.org/

These exhibitions were paid for in part by the Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Revenues
Art Center Sarasota | 707 N. Tamiami Trail | Sarasota 34236 | 941-365-2032 | www.artsarasota.org


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Sarasota has an art history, how about a future?

The likes of Sawyer, Farnsworth, Hartman and Solomon put Sarasota on the art world map, and both art makers and art lovers have been colonizing here ever since. The Sarasota County Arts Council has reported a data base of 3,000 people who define themselves as artists and live and work in Sarasota today.

by Joan Altabe

In the beginning… Soldiers returning from WWII came to town to make art their life. One of those soldiers was Syd Solomon, whose legs were frostbitten during the Battle of the Bulge. He was told to live in a warm climate and came to Sarasota on the first day of 1946. Solomon stayed on into old age to become an internationally recognized painter known for his abstract renditions of the area’s light and land. “When I landed in Sarasota, it was the high point of my life,” he told me in an interview in 1988.

Solomon knew at once that the town was for him because its art scene was already active and well-known. And throughout the years, artists have been drawn to Sarasota for its natural beauty and for the attention paid to art making.

Syd Solomon Dabbert Gallery
"Joust" by Syd Solomon 1951– Gouache (Dabbert Gallery, Sarasota)

You might say our art history began in 1931, when art lover John Ringling, whose circus wintered in Sarasota, founded his museum, along with the School of Fine and Applied Arts of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – known today as the Ringling School of Art and Design. Staffed by 15 faculty members, the school attracted landscape and marine painters from the North.

But even before Ringling’s school began to draw World War II veterans intent on studying art under the G.I. Bill of Rights, the Farnsworth School of Art opened in Sarasota in 1941, attracting students from the United States and Canada and from as far away as the Dutch East Indies.

The Farnsworth School was founded by the husband and wife team of Helen Sawyer and Jerry Farnsworth, two New York City artists with established reputations.

Helen Sawyer Dabbert Gallery
"Soriee" by Helen Sawyer – Oil on Board (Dabbert Gallery, Sarasota)

Sawyer’s New York exhibit credits included the Whitney Museum of American Art, which acquired her work. Many of her paintings have been reprinted for greeting cards by the American Artists Group. Farnsworth’s work also is in the collections of the Whitney, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His portrait paintings – 23 of which were reprinted for Fortune Magazine and 10 for Time Magazine – included likenesses of three presidents: Truman, Roosevelt and Harding.

The couple opened their school in a leaky, made-over cleaning and pressing shop, later they moved it over a garage and then into the original post office in the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. Students flocked to the school, and over the next 30 years, more than 5,000 came – ultimately to a location on Higel Avenue on Siesta Key. By 1970, classes had to be limited to about 35 students with tuition costs beginning at $60 for a two-week period.

Farnsworth students were so serious about their work, Sawyer told the Herald-Tribune in 1970, “If anyone would ever hum or whistle while they worked, they would be hissed.” Many of these students liked Sarasota so much, they made it their home, and in the process, made the town’s reputation as an art center.

Jerry Farnsworth Dabbert Gallery
"Pony Tail" by Jerry Farnsworth – Oil on Canvas (Dabbert Gallery, Sarasota)

One of these was the late William Hartman, the first artist in his home state of Michigan hired under the Federal WPA Program of the Arts. He came to Sarasota in 1946 to study art under the G.I. Bill at the Farnsworth School, the Ringling School and the Hilton Leech Studio, begun by noted landscape watercolorist and teacher for which the school was named.

Leech, a nationally known artist and long-time member of the celebrated American Watercolor Society, came to Sarasota in 1931 and helped organize Ringling’s school. His own school thrives to this day as Friends of the Arts and Sciences.

“Many good artists were already in Sarasota, then,” Hartman told the Herald-Tribune in 1986. He met his future wife, Martha, when both were art students at the Ringling School; they opened their own gallery and school in Sarasota in 1952.

Hilton Leech Dabbert Gallery
"Hidden Lake" by Hilton Leech– Watercolor & Mixed Media (Lee Corbino Galleries, Sarasota)

The couple was so popular that a Herald-Tribune article in the `50s commented: “If there were an election to select royalty in the Sarasota art field, it is safe to say that most people would vote for Sawyer-Farnsworth.”

Speaking about why they chose Sarasota in which to live and work, Sawyer has said, because, “Here we find congenial friends, indoor activities in the fields of music, art, theater; outdoor activities; sailing, fishing, swimming. And such a variety of subject-matter for painting! The swamps and forests of the back country for landscapes and the shores and waters of the Gulf; tropical fruits, flowers, vegetables and sea things, as well as fisher-folk and circus folk. So here we find the spice and substance of the good life.”

The good life in Sarasota inspired paintings that earned Sawyer raves from noted critics. Ernest W. Watson, early editor of American Artist magazine, wrote of Sawyer’s depictions of Siesta Key beaches in 1949: “Always she paints to express a mood rather than to record a particular scene – the threat and fury of seas and sky rather than a particular place in time of storm.” Elizabeth Luther Cary, writing for The New York Times at the time, compared Sawyer’s thunderclouds to Francisco Goya’s and found the 19th-century Spanish master’s wanting. Lauding Sawyer’s skies, she said, “We may think of Goya’s carnival scenes under stormy skies, but I cannot recall any by Goya in which the battle of the two extremes plays such a passionate part.”

Always, though, the good life for Sawyer included teaching, she said. “Teaching never became hum-drum. I fed my students my eyes, my heart. They all swallowed them whole and did the most marvelous things.”
Inspiration for local artists also came from the presence of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which wintered in Sarasota.

Ringling Poster
Circus Poster

“One of the great things we used to do was put on a circus art show. Only circus subjects. It was great,” said Solomon, who studied with the Farnsworths, in a newspaper article. “Jurors invariably included someone from the circus – one of the great performers or one of the great entrepreneurs like Buddy North. It was a very important theme show, and perfectly natural for Sarasota.”

The likes of Sawyer, Farnsworth, Hartman and Solomon put Sarasota on the art world map, and both art makers and art lovers have been colonizing here ever since. The Sarasota County Arts Council has reported a data base of 3,000 people who define themselves as artists and live and work in Sarasota today.

Yet, something is missing. We boast the birth of an arts community. The question is, have we grown? With all the boutique-y galleries, tourist art and match-the-slipcover decorator stuff, not to mention Sarasota signal monument on our bay front – the monstrous “Unconditional Surrender” – it feels as if fine art has moved to another town.


Joan Altabe

Former visual arts critic for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Bradenton Herald, former New York City art teacher and longtime award-winning art and architecture critic for U.S. and overseas publications, is referenced in “Who’s Who in American Art” and “Who’s Who of American Women” and currently writes as the St. Petersburg art Examiner and National art Examiner. Altabe has written several books including “Art Behind the Scenes” (100 painters in and out of their studio) and “Sculpture off the Pedestal” (25 sculptors in and out of their studio). Both available at Amazon.com.

Open letter to the Downtown Merchants Alliance

Miami Beach gets the Basel Art Fair and we get Sarasota Master Art Festival. Classing a street fair as a “Sarasota Master Art Festival” and touting unnamed vendors as “the nation’s finest artists” prompts the question, have you no sense of place, of history?

Fury sits beneath these words.

Miami Beach gets the Basel Art Fair and we get Sarasota Masters Art Festival. Classing a street fair as a “Sarasota Masters Art Festival” and touting unnamed vendors as “the nation’s finest artists” prompts the question, have you no sense of place, of history?

Sarasota Masters Art Festival

You want to talk “Sarasota Master Art”? Let’s name names that come with bona fides. There’s no need to look very far. The “Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous” show now on view at Art Center Sarasota tells the story.

More than 60 years ago, the town boasted art luminaries like Helen Sawyer, who New York Times writer Elizabeth Luther Cary compared to Francisco Goya. In the comparison, Cary found Goya’s wanting when it came to skies. “We may think of Goya’s carnival scenes under stormy skies,” Cary wrote, “but I cannot recall any by Goya in which the battle of the two extremes plays such a passionate part.”

And after Life Magazine tagged Jon Corbino “the Rubens of New England” and he got two Guggenheim Fellowships, was elected a member of the National Academy of Design, and received the first grant awarded to a visual artist from the prestigious National Institute of Art and Letters, he, too, joined the Sarasota art community.

Then there are the latter-day “masters” like sculptor John Chamberlain. In the early ‘80s, he moved to an 18,000-square-foot warehouse studio on Cocoanut Avenue to make the grand scale work for which he’s celebrated. The Guggenheim Museum is mounting a retro beginning next month.

There’s no point going on with this list. If “master art” has to be explained to you at this point, it’s too late. Your effort to edify a patently obvious marketing strategy under the banner “Sarasota Masters Art” disserves the town, vulgarizes it and makes it some Anywhere, U.S.A. out to drum up business.

Check your press releases for hype, DMA. From where I sit, it’s just gray scud on the page.

Signed,
Joan Altabe

P.S. Are the lights fading on fine art in Sarasota? Given what you’re doing, like a setting sun – slowly but inexorably.


Joan Altabe

Joan Altabe, former visual arts critic for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Bradenton Herald, former New York City art teacher and longtime award-winning art and architecture critic for U.S. and overseas publications, is referenced in “Who’s Who in American Art” and “Who’s Who of American Women” and currently writes as the St. Petersburg art Examiner and National art Examiner.

Altabe has written several books including “Art Behind the Scenes” (100 painters in and out of their studio) and “Sculpture off the Pedestal” (25 sculptors in and out of their studio). Both available at Amazon.com.