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.

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