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Peeks and Piques!

FLORIDA

By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES March/ April 2011

I AM NOT an avid ‘snowbird’ — back in my early twenties, I lived and worked in West Palm Beach for a couple of years (back when Military Trail was a two-lane, crushed-shell road) but, over the years, have avoided the annual winter migration to the Sunshine State. My Swiss roots tend to languish in flatlands bereft of mountains—and not moved to capture any of Florida’s repetitious images on paper or canvas, I sit, I think, I am led into mind areas that are often better left avoided. My smoking-damaged lungs abhor the salty miasma and yearn for clear, mountain air. So—I sits and I thinks…not on the beach as so many of those eager Northerners outside my windows…but rather in my rented room, content to avoid early morning slogs along crashing waves, content to loll and read — while my watercolor kit lies abandoned somewhere, still tucked away in my suitcase. After two weeks of solitary musing, I finally gave in and joined Cornelia for dinner with a few defectors that we knew back in New York, but who have now become permanent residents. Artists all, they are like converts to a new cult or recently reformed smokers — avid in their proselytizing, but all in vain to this old curmudgeon. One, Lorrie Turner, indignantly says: “What do you mean there’s ‘nothing to paint’ in Florida!” A multi-medium painter and teacher, Lorrie very nearly convinces me when I check out her website the next day. Lush image after image assails my eyes — florals, landscapes, still-lifes, cityscapes, ocean views — pastels, acrylics, oils — all succumbing to her vigorous, no-frill, earthy approach, all enticing the eye to “come, look—come, enjoy!” (www.lorriebturner.com) The other two artists, Teresa and John Frazee, are long-time friends of ours who moved down some six years ago. Teresa, a keen-eyed, world-class draftsman, paints elegantly breathtaking florals and landscapes that entice and seduce the eye; John, a sculptor (I own one of his pieces, “Civilization”, that graces my living room) and a painter less inclined toward figurative imagery, works in large format, his abstracts intellectual and thought-provoking that speak to the inner soul. (www.frazeefinearts.com) All three are exquisite and sensitive colorists and members of the Boca Raton Museum of Art Artist’s Guild (http://www.bocaguild.com), all three firmly established on the greater Florida artscene (John and Teresa even branching out to writing, both already published poets) and all three award-winning collectible artists with extensive solo and group exhibition résumés. Assuredly none of them have experienced any curtailment of creative activity, none of them giving in to my inbred churlish negativity concerning Floridian “flatscape”. Lorrie gets more exuberant, Teresa more graceful, John more introspective. All in all, our dinner at Mamma Mia’s Italian restaurant (as good as any found in NYC) in Boynton Beach was a pleasant evening well-spent (in spite of my grousing), capped by a visit to the studios of Teresa and John where I could see both finished and work-in-progress pieces at first hand. Then, as if this was not enough of an assault on my hide-bound, Swiss-mountain roots, we finished our sunny sojourn at Elaine Jaffe’s on Florida’s west coast. Elaine, a Woodstock friend of Cornelia’s (and only part-time defector to this land of leisure), graciously invited us to wind up our vacation with a week-long stay at her elegant home in Venice— where I am presently ensconced on her patio while writing this. Oh, my! How am I to maintain my rigid stance against all things Floridian? (For more of my pithy comments (no, I don’t lisp) on Florida visit my blog, rjsteiner.wordpress.com)