Monday, March 31, 2014

Creators & Collectors Studio Tour

While I always enjoy going to a gallery or a museum, there's something special about visiting artists in their studios and having the chance to talk with them about their creative process.  That's what the annual Creators & Collectors Studio Tour in Sarasota is all about.  Having been on a similar studio tour in Fort Myers a couple of years back, Dorrit and I were keen to check it out.

There were seven stops on the tour -- five artist homes/studios, the mysterious HuB building, and the Galleria Exhibit at The Ringling College of Art + Design.  In total, we saw the work of 18 artists along the way.  (Sadly, we missed one studio in our rush to get to the Asolo for the Conservatory students' mime performance.  Sometimes you have to make choices!)

Pamela Sumner with her ink paintings
Pamela Sumner's ink paintings were my favorite discovery of the day.  She characterizes her work as "combining Asian materials and influences with a background in Abstract Expressionism."  Sumner shared that she starts each day in the studio with a standing meditation while she grinds her ink.  (She showed us the process, and it's quite interesting.)  Her collection of brushes, which varied in size and were made from materials ranging from horse to leopard hair, was something to behold.   Some of her works were multiple layers of diaphanous fabric, and they were stunning.  Sumner said that to create them she repeats the "choreography" of her strokes on the first piece of fabric.  Very cool.

Linda Heath with her fish rubs
Dorrit and I were practically sprinting through the Galleria when I came upon Linda Heath and her gyataku fish rubs.  While Heath's process is considerably more delicate and complicated, at its heart, the concept of a fish rub is not so different from the crayon rubbings of leaves you probably made as a kid.  And though Heath's work is lovely -- I particularly liked the prints of the skate -- it was her story of creating "sustainable art" that really caught my interest.

In addition to being an artist, Heath is an expert fisherwoman and diver.  So, in most instances, she personally catches the subject matter of her work (often in the Manatee River). Once the fish is ashore, she inks it and makes a print.  If the fish is a tasty species, Heath then cleans the ink off and the fish becomes dinner, with the bones going back into the river in the crab pot.  Her unique approach to the time-honored medium of gyataku has resulted in her work being written about in publications like "edible Sarasota."  (Click here to read the story, complete with Heath's signature Hogfish with Key Lime Aioli recipe.)

Brian Braun demonstrating his craft
Brian Braun is a photographer whose works were on display at the HuB Building (a space that houses more than 80 artists and entrepreneurs and proclaims itself the "center of innovation and creativity in the region").   The first thing Dorrit and I noticed when we walked in was a table overflowing with old cameras.  The cameras weren't there just as an homage to the history of his medium.  Braun uses them in his work, attaching an antique camera to a digital camera to create atmospheric images that are evocative of days past.  (Apparently this isn't a unique concept, but I thought it was pretty innovative.)   I was a bit surprised when Dorrit started talking with Braun about lenses and other photography "stuff" that was over my head.  Apparently, she is actually listening to what hubby Bruce tells her about his new hobby/obsession!

If your schedule permits, I definitely recommend making the effort to get to next year's Creators & Collectors' Studio Tour. I understand that the name of the event comes from Sarasota art collectors opening their homes to share their collections with the public in prior years.   Wouldn't THAT be interesting???  In the meantime, I've heard some rumblings about trying to get together a similar tour in Punta Gorda.  Fingers crossed on that!

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