Friday, December 18, 2009

Warning! Gypsies!

Oh man what a goofy world. I received an email from the Venice Golf & Country Club Master Association where I own a rental home warning me there were Gypsies in the neighborhood breaking into houses. I kid you not: they actually said "Gypsies". And when I asked them what they possibly meant since I was a bit incredulous that there were genuine Romas rummaging around the Venice Golf and Country Club (Although, admittedly Venice is where the 9/11 terrorists learned to fly & home to many a crystal meth dealer), the reply I received from the Master Association was less than cordial. Now, I don't know if any of you have ever been accosted in Europe by a band of true Roma Gypsies, but had you ever had that happen you would have a great deal of trouble imagining them sauntering past the guard gate at good old VG&CC. I mean it is hard to image them blending in with all that bad plaid and being mistaken for one of the ancient geezers careening around in his golf cart thoroughly inebriated by 6 pm after a rousing game of canasta at the club. Gypsies indeed. The best part was the Association said they were pretending to represent a church, knocking on doors, asking for donations, & when finding no one home, going round the back, breaking & entering and robbing the joint. Well, I would maybe believe Gypsies would lure some of the old ladies at bridge into a tarot reading in which their dearly departed came back and apologized for all the times they actually had the temerity to ask for affection or to be cooked a meal (these ladies not only don't kiss anybody, all they know how to make is reservations) but representing a church? No Roma I ever encountered would stoop that low. Whew. It is a good thing Clayton Beck painted this adorable painting so I can send it off to the guard house as a reference next time the Bible beating robbers swing by so they realize A. they are not Gypsies and B. to call the cops. I mean really. This is a crazy world. And, the week before Christmas....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Molly's Roses

When we lived in our previous house down in Venice the woman who lived behind us went a bit batty and one day snapped all the heads of my roses as she walked by as my recompense for talking out side during the day in my lanai on my cell phone. I think she must have had her hearing aid turned way too loud, for she lived quite a distance across a pond and I am not all that loud. Nonetheless it made her mad and in a fit of pique she shuffled over in her walker and beheaded my roses, just like the unhappy Queen in Alice in Wonderland. It apparently took the stuffing right out of her and not to long after she was packed off to a “residential treatment facility”, (what as kids we called the looney bin). One thing is clear is that the roses’ beauty was not to be tolerated in her increasingly ugly world, any more than my happy prattling to friends, family & co-workers. Molly Schmid’s roses, laid so casually with their ribbon are like my happy conversations on the lanai…without consciousness and seeming eternal, certainly fresh and happy. When the ugly demons possessed my neighbor’s brain, they would have none of either, snapping off any head daring to smile out of its fox hole. When I look at Molly’s roses I find them quite enchanting and the buds, as they unfold very charming. I think of my neighbor, wonder if she is still alive, hoping, if she is, that her tolerance for grace & beauty has returned. Molly’s Roses are on the wall at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do you ever have those days where you feel perhaps you arrived in the wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, thinking the wrong thoughts, having the wrong assumptions and it all turned out to be ridiculously right? Or at least perfect for the occasion? I have those days fairly often...It is as if the universe is telling my children "chillax". When I look at Oleg Radnov's Lady Plumber I am reminded of those times in my life - oh so wrong yet - oh so right. She is hanging at M Gallery of Fine Art along with several other of his magnificent paintings...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Russel Gordon's St Sebastian Mannequin is the original don't ask don't tell military man. An officer in the Roman Army Sebastian was found to be a practising Christian and was ordered executed by arrows...After his execution proved less than fatal, was healed back to health by St. Irene who rescued him by torch light from a cave and stitched him back together. He is a patron saint for soldiers, policemen, athletes & gay men. All of Gordon's work like any competent renaissance era painter is filled with symbolism & irony. He is having a wonderful one man show this Friday at M Gallery and bringing a number of new works. I can't wait. Maggie

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Salt Marsh in Fall

Today was spent on the salt marsh south of Portsmouth. The delicate estuaries that make up our coastal landscapes are truly miraculous. Deborah Paris’ painting of the salt marsh moonrise captures the wonderful sense of mystery and constant change in these habitats. I have been very home sick for Florida the last few weeks, but today’s afternoon in the burnt sienna grasses and tidal water seemed to suspend all longing and bring me to the peaceful present. It was as if nothing mattered but the tide surging up the mud flat bringing little fishes and wheeling birds. The great brackish smells, clean air…so salty it abrades your skin, wonderful autumn color made it completely absorbing. When I look at Deborah’s painting time suspends in the same way. The moon rises, the water carries us through…

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Jeff Cornell’s drawing of this rather ample Ringling model always gets interesting reactions at the gallery. Jeff obviously loves women of all shapes & sizes and when he renders them to his paper the result is stunning. I am intrigued by the acceptance of this particular Cornell piece, how many women find it very lovely…yet those same women would never grant themselves the same graciousness. Many men stare at the drawing obviously enjoying her wonderful curves. Too often, we often hold our image of beauty to a standard defined by outsiders. And, many of those outsiders have a vested interest in selling us things: weight loss products, badly designed clothes, etc. We all know the disastrous effects obesity has on our health. I see women desperately trying weight loss products which damage their livers, yo-yo dieting until their metabolism shudders into uselessness. Many of us live in shame over pounds we can’t shed, imaginary character faults, silly standards our shapes & DNA can never achieve. I find the kindness proffered by Cornell, the illumination of beauty in this woman’s shape and regal presence an important lesson in self acceptance and understanding. Jeff found this woman beautiful. I hope this woman, if she has any sense at all, finds herself beautiful. Visitors to M Gallery certainly have. It is my wish that the women & men looking at her shapely form will also find themselves beautiful: whatever their form. Jeff Cornell paints out of his studio in Venice Flroida and his works can be seen at M Gallery of Fine Art, 16 S. Palm Avenue Sarasota FL

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Soul filling

One for the fondest memories from my childhood is my Grandma Rose. She was my anchor and often my care giver, always had time for me and taught me most of my life skills. She had large work worn hands and was simply one of the best cooks I ever have known…and I have had the luxury of many fine meals prepared by great chefs, famous cooks, in famous restaurants. She had a limited education, a limited circumstances and a limitless life force that continues long after her death. I miss her terribly. One of her prize possessions was an odd assortment of Nippon Lusterware from Japan which she kept above kitchen cupboards with all the odds & ends of vases and treasures given her by countless grandchildren, adoring children, families she cleaned and kept house for, neighbors, etc. She had a renown garden, vegetables (part of why her food was so good) and amazing flowers. Almost every inch of her Southern Minnesota yard was in some sort of flower bed, She created micro climates by manipulating cold frames, straw bales, wind breaks, burlap, any thing she could come up with to tame the -30 degree wind chills that were far too frequent in Minnesota and spring times far too reticent to coax delicate blooms from the frost encrusted ground. Sue Foster’s snow drops in the grey Noritake Lusterware vase returned me to my grandmother's swimming pool aqua kitchen: wooden table spread with a well ironed, well worn cloth, snow drops perched triumphantly in their delicate Nippon (the earlier name for Noritake) Lusterware vase. Her specialty was apricot kolatchies and although in late winter when the snow drops peeked out, we would have never had fresh apricots, the dried ones would have summoned these plumps fruits of Sue's like ghosts, to the table. Rose had found a theoretically hearty variety for her garden and although it never bore much fruit, they were considered a miracle for the Gurney Seed Catalog to have produced such a thing for her to coax into surviving the Arctic blasts which descended every winter. Sue’s painting evokes the smells of Rose's kitchen, the kolatchies fresh from the oven, apricot syrup bubbly and caramelized, snow drops nodding, silver glaze's soft grey reflections of my grandmother beaming as she watched us wolf down the still warm pastries, big glasses of fresh milk, re-energizing our lanky frames as we unbundled from the raw Minnesota spring air, ravenous from barn chores. I miss my grandmother, but when I gaze at Sue’s painting, she is back, larger than life, tucking a stray errant curl behind my ear, reminding me I had homework before bed. It is through Sue’s painting, the ravenous hunger in my soul's memory is filled, no longer empty from life’s barn of endless chores.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dominic Avant painted our resident Homeless Man "Mikie" as he lounged under a shade tree this summer. Mikie suffers from fairly severe mental illness and has been a fixture downtown for many years. Urban legend is he was a boxer and is punch drunk; alternately he was brain injured by too many drugs; that he was abandoned by a well off father; etc. It is almost impossible to tell what the circumstances leading to Mikie's street based life are; he is usually not clear enough to tell you and when he does the story always changes. What is clear is he could be any one of us given the right circumstances. He is harmless to others, many of the downtown merchants feed him, give him cast off clothes, blankets, etc. More than once any one of us has dragged him out of the street, calmed him down, led him to a safe location. He continues to use and abuse substances as a way to self medicate his raging mind. As a society we do so badly by men like Mikie. He deserves a warm bed, medical care, a bath, clean clothes. He lives in a city where the amount of wealth is staggering. I have no answers for the Mikie's of our world. He would rage at any forced half way house residency...he is simply too crazy. So when I pass by him, I try and make eye contact, say hello, bring him lunch. He smells so bad it is hard to get too close. We can't invite him into the gallery, the body odor lingers for days after. In Dominic's painting Mikie appears blissful; and often he is very happy, chattering away, smiling. I am sure he will not live a long life based on the statistics for men in his circumstance. When I look at Dominic's painting of him it appears as if he has almost transitioned; as Dominic puts it "Almost Home". I am so delighted Dominic chose to paint him, commit him to our collective memory.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Maquereaux aux Petits Pois

Russell Gordon's magnificent painting of fish inspired me to cook the following recipe from Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Food published in 1950:

3 or 4 Mackerel fillets cut into serving size chunks
1 Chopped Onion
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Tomato Puree
2 Minced Cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
A Mix of Chopped Fennel Tops,Thyme& Parsley
Pinch of Saffron
2 lbs. Peas (Frozen or Fresh)
2.5 cups Boiling Water
Salt & Pepper
Fat slices of Artisan bread

Saute onion in olive oil until golden, add tomato puree, stir, toss in garlic and herbs. Pour in boiling water, salt, pepper, saffron & peas if they are fresh. Allow to simmer until peas are cooked (if required) or simply until the flavors meld if using frozen peas (about 5 minutes). Add the mackerel and if using the frozen peas. Simmer until fish is firm & white. Place bread slice in the bottom of shallow soup bowls. Ladle fish, peas & broth. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Gift of Low Tide

Katie Cundiff has been painting Sarasota and her surrounding landscape for 30 years. She epitomizes the best in plein aire landscape painters and has become an icon in the Sarasota Art Scene. Katie often paints from her kayak (scares the begeesus out of me) in gator infested waters or wiley salt marshes. She ventures solo to remote locales (we still have them here) and encounters manatees nursing their pups, rays of all description, old fishermen, giant turtles. We have had many years of vanishing wilderness here, caused by rampant careless development in a state with no income tax and a government tied economically to the development madness. The greed and self interest by all involved in the bubble had little regard for the reason people came in the first place: Sarasota is truly a Paradise with great natural beauty, abundant wild life both on land and at sea, clean air, sunshine, the ability to have a safe active lifestyle. The kool-aid we all drank was that the development provided prosperity and economic possiblities for all. Of course we all know that was nonsense. If you take a drive around the neighborhood, you see stretches of failed developments, stripped of their natural beauty, devasted by the bulldozers. The good news is Florida vegetation grows really quickly and already the traces of the mess are beginning to be vine covered. Florida also had negative population growth for the first time since the 30's. Instead of adding 1,100 people a day, the population actually declined by 1%. Our gallery depends on a robust economy. Katie, in order to sell her work and keep painting, depends on a robust economy. But the beauty Katie depicts is destoyed by the endless tracts of housing erected without regard or respect for the natural order of the lanscape or needs of the population of Florida. Typical development in Florida rips out all the trees, destroys the natural flow of water, installs great swaths of "nice grass" which require huge amounts of herbicide and pesticide in order to survive. Although the economic costs to many (including our family) have been mind numbingly hard there is a real opportunity to look at what has occurred, what drove the bus off the cliff and become more responsible stewards of our resources, both natural and economic. Low tides clean out, give pause, allow us to look at what lies beneath. As we begin our economic recovery, we should perhaps take time to insist on responsible growth, protect the pristine beauty which is our divine resource. Personally I want Katie to be able to paint for many more decades. I want her to have a wild Florida to capture and a stable economy with a responsible government without economic ties to special interest groups that destoyed our local economy and its natural resources. Katie's painting captures that moment of reflection: the boat is stranded, the sea floor exposed, the figure searching for options...and of course the tide about to return, start the process over again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Russell Gordon's Message in a bottle stopped me dead in my tracks this morning when I arrived at the gallery. I had spent the entire flight back from Portsmouth reading Mark Helprin's new book, Digital Barbarians, which deals with copyright law and the hijacking of reason via rampant viral misrepresentation of facts and disregard for the rule of law. In Helprin's book, he talks about cherishing paper and pen & the tactile luxury of slower non-digital communication. I had viewed Russell Gordon's painting via electronic jpeg in very fine resolution on a good monitor. Nothing prepared me for how exquisite the original work is; the poetic symbolism of the paper rolled in the bottle, glowing back at me. I smiled as I realized the meaning behind the centuries old masterful technique employed by Russell, and how much joy it brought me. Then as I wandered about the gallery, I understood the meaning behind many of the works, the message in the bottle as it were, layers and layers of knowledge giving us the whole body of their learning through today's modern masters' employment of the techniques and understanding gleaned from thousands of years of art. I found it so ironic that the medium I share this with you is digital, the way I learned about Russell Gordon is digital, but the sheer joy of experiencing the painting in person, live, looking at all the layers of glaze refracting light and luminosity is the polar opposite of virtual. It is so real it makes you ache and lingers in your mind's eye for days. Come in and visit us soon if you can, enjoy these master works for your self. We are fortunate enough to have four of his wonderful paintings and a fifth on the way.