Island & Gulf 2011
For 2011, I write on "Island & Gulf". The island is Shelter Island in New York where we spend summer and home year round is Clearwater in Florida. Island life is rustic and rural far different from living in our tropical paradise. Each has its own distinctive beauty........................
Photo Susan Frazier
Let us start with sunrise and sunsets seen from our balcony window. At dawn, light from sunrise shades the early morning pink. Sunset turns into a dramatic dusk that seems to last forever. The color of the sky reflects on calm waters in every hue of blue with distant horizon tinged crimson. Lights sparkle orange and yellow on the water, fireflies of fantasy. Clouds are like brush strokes and gestures on canvas; an abstraction of nature's wonders.
My paintings are abstractions of nature, reflecting my ongoing wonderment that occurs throughout the day. Our view is of the causeway, harbor, marina, beach buildings, boats, wildlife and ever-changing waters. "The Gulf of Mexico is a dominant feature for those of us who live on or near its coast. These ever-changing waters are held in awe and apprehension; notably so during hurricane season. Unpredictable and terrifying storms, with gusty gales and tidal flooding, cause devastation and despair. The power of nature is a wonder to behold, as is its beauty. Sunsets are a tableau of color, clouds and contrast; the green flash is legendary. The sky is ever changing from clear blue with cumulus clouds, white and towering, to threatening storms, dark and angry. From calm seas to surging surf, waves move in relentless tides, low and high, day and night. The Gulf is a palette of many colors; with sky and water as the canvas, dramatically different: hour by hour, day by day, month by month, season after season. The unexpected is to be expected, as the Gulf is always moving, magnificent and majestic". (‘Waves of Meaning’ catalog 2008). Hopefully, my paintings reflect those colors and contrasts with that majesty and mystery.
Our condo is on eighth floor of Horizon House; aptly named with view of the horizon. Recently, the tall white building served as a backdrop for many scenes in “Dolphin Tale”. This major movie was filmed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium; we overlooked the filming from our balcony. Paintings, books and objects surround us on the inside while nature envelopes us outside. Our view is magnificent and the beach is a short walk away, along causeway and past bay waters to sparkling white sand with green and turquoise waters; the reason for the name Clearwater. The pier is a popular attraction as is the beach with cabanas, crowds, umbrellas and deck chairs. Early morning walks are best with few people and lots of birds; low tide is a time for shelling. Walk north, past houses hidden behind dunes and sea grass; eventually the shore becomes silent and serene.
The sign reads "Caladesi State Park. Welcome to the Real Florida". Caladesi Island State Park is ranked as one of the top beaches in USA; google and take a virtual tour. Once an island, a hurricane closed the pass linking Caladesi to the mainland; now accessible by walking the beach. Nowadays, Agnes & I go by boat to the marina and enjoy the wonders of Caladesi. At low tide, sand banks and mud flats are visible. During the winter months, the sun shines on tranquil waters and shells are abundant; sand dollars are a favorite find as are shells named alphabet, olive, tulip, conch and angel wings. Birds, horseshoe crabs and sea turtles nest, surrounded by mangroves, palms and sea grass, swaying in the gentle breeze. Tropical waters stretch to the distant horizon with overhead sky clear and blue. At times, clouds scurry by with sun and shadow racing along the sandy beach. Beware darkening sky that can become black and boisterous, a warning to seek shelter from impending storms.
On Caladesi, a three mile trail loops thru the interior, past dunes of sea oats, beach morning glories, live oaks, red bay, cedar, sabal palms and palmettos. The walk winds on white sand, green grass and brown pine needles, by plants and trees, past pond and an unusual twin pine tree, near the cottage of the original homesteader. Hair grass moves gently in the breeze, cactus flowers bloom, wild flowers give color, tree limbs and branches twist and turn, wildlife scurries thru the undergrowth. On our walks, we have spotted tortoise, turtle, armadillo, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel and snakes. Birds abound on shore, in shallows, amongst mangroves: pelicans, gulls, skimmers, ibis, egrets, osprey, buzzards, heron, oyster catchers, humming birds, terns, spoonbills and sandpipers. In silence and shade, here indeed is the ‘real’ Florida of yesteryear.
In 2001, we came by boat, our 40' Jefferson cruiser, and dropped anchor at Clearwater. That summer, after six years of cruising and living aboard, we sold the boat and moved ashore. Nowadays, we have a smaller boat, a 17' Hydra Sports center console with outboard motor, perfect for cruising the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, harbor, channel, inlets and islands. The landscape is flat with shoreline of endless houses, hotels and condos. To cruise past homes with docks, boats, pools and gardens is always fun; near us countless manmade peninsular and inlets offer endless and ever-changing cruising. To the north is Tarpon Springs where the ICW ends and the open waters of the Gulf beckon. Before that the islands of Honeymoon, Three Rooker and Anclote Key offer sheer tranquility and safe anchorage. To walk these sandy beaches, close by yet so remote, isolated and idyllic, is to truly experience our tropical paradise of white sand, turquoise waters, wildlife, palms, mangroves, sun and sky.
RS Photo Skip Hogan
On Shelter Island life is very different. We are fortunate to have a cottage on our son Chuck's farm; in a huge barn is my studio where I paint during summer months. The cottage, unlike our apartment on the Gulf of Mexico, has no view of water yet is on an island surrounded by water. Beaches from sand to pebble are minutes away by car or bike. Our walks are through woods, along country roads, narrow and hilly, to picturesque shoreline. Shelter Island is a quaint and special haven, best seen from the water. We share a 17’ Boston Whaler with our son; Chuck uses the boat to fish while we like to cruise. The waters are picturesque with creeks, cliffs, communities, bays, islands and shorelines of Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound. The coast is hilly, tree covered, with sandy beaches and bays. Towns and harbors from Sag Harbor to Greenport offer places to dock, go ashore and explore. As a guidebook states “Situated snugly between Long Island’s rural North Fork and its posh southern neighbor, the Hamptons, Shelter Island blends a balanced mix of both areas beckoning the rich, the famous and the common man alike. Lulled by the tides of its Peconic, Gardener’s and Shelter Island Bays, this 8,000-acre paradise offers pristine beaches, breathtaking water views, historic homes, hideaway inns and gourmet eateries in a truly unique setting.
” My hammock is a favorite place on the farm; particularly on lazy afternoons. Agnes plays computer solitaire, listens to music and weeds the garden. I laze in hammock that hangs between birch tree and wall of outside shower, another favorite of mine. Leaves, brown and curling, are already falling from tall white birch but enough shade remains. I read, listen to music, doze, look at landscape or watch birds feeding. On the farm, there are cats, deer, birds, squirrel, wild turkey, geese, rabbit and raccoon. Trees, bushes and grass lawn of farm give way to open field of neighboring estate that stretches away into distant woods. No other houses or people are visible just endless greenery with blue sky above. High in that sky, transatlantic planes fly on their way into faraway JFK airport; distinctive and different colors of airline insignia barely visible and a faint drone can be heard far below. Birds are numerous and colorful with finches at the bird feeder hanging close to hammock. I watch glorious gold finch, purple finch and house sparrow fluttering, fussing and feeding. More color comes from red cardinals, blue jays and orange Baltimore orioles. Other birds are many: cooing doves, noisy crows, barn swallows skimming, hawks soaring, Canadian geese, wild turkeys and even an occasional owl. Deer come to feed, pears from the pear tree are a delicacy, and squirrels scurry around. The farm cats are ever watchful; as am I of this languid landscape, passing clouds, faraway airplanes, busy birds, summer storms, sun, shadow and sky.
Family Fun 07/04
Fourth of July with all twelve of our family on the farm was fabulous! Big surprise was early celebration of my birthday with a brownie cake cooked and decorated by granddaughters Catherine 10 & Olivia 15. The girls had come from Southern California with their parents, daughter Anne & husband Randy. On the cake were candles, just two of numbers ‘78’; I could blow those out! The young ones, Charles 5 & Clara 3, loved it all, as did I. The photograph what was left of the cake; decoration was supposed to be a flower but turned into a sewing machine. Catherine said the flower “sort of messed up” and became a sewing machine; she is creative! The youngest and oldest of our family are baby Julian and Grandpa.
Slade School of Art
Of course, a week with our three children, spouses, five grandchildren always lots of fun. With our grandchildren were days of sunshine, play, cartoons, cycling, digging, beach and art classes, even an exhibition and opening with invitation! "You are cordially invited to an art exhibition at the Barn Studio on Shelter Island NY. Art by Olivia & Catherine and Charles & Clara, students of the Slade School of Art." Baby Julian was a little too young to participate but next year......
Island photos/ RS 2011
Shelter Island was threatened in 2011 and affected by three hurricanes: Irene, Lee and Kaita. Ironic for us as hurricanes are a constant summer threat for us on Gulf but now the Northeast was under constant warning. In late August, Hurricane Irene came to our island; next were the heavy rains of Lee; finally, Kaita passed by with dark clouds and heavy surf. Sunday 08/28 With gusty winds and torrential rain, Hurricane Irene hit Shelter Island early hours Sunday morning. Agnes & I moved over to the farmhouse; the electricity went down at 3.20AM. No water as farm has well water but pumps not working; no coffee, lights, TV or refrigeration. Cell phones no service available; our small radio only contact with news. Trees swirl and sway in strong gale gusts; branches down, some big and broken. Heavy downpour and torrential rain made ground sodden and paths under water. Dark, grey and wet; farm, cottage and barn seem fine but not checked structures yet. To risk going outside in storm, with falling branches and wind, is too dangerous. Mid morning and hurricane gusts seem stronger but, by midnight, calm down; electric comes on as we sleep. Monday 08/29 Sunrise and blue skies as hungry farm cats wake us! Hurricane became tropical storm; not as bad as forecast but bad enough! No damage to farm buildings, all is well. “Goodnight Irene! Goodbye Irene!”
Heavy rains and flooding came with Hurricane Lee. New York State, Connecticut and the North East were badly affected with disastrous and damaging floods throughout the region. Friday 09/02 Agnes & I drove to visit our youngest son John and his wife Margo; they had just moved from Manhattan to a farmhouse in Connecticut. The hurricanes downed trees and power lines; for the second time in a few weeks there was no electricity. With three young children, a generator became a necessity. As ever, we had fun with our grandchildren, running free on the farm, their new home. The electricity came back on as did the television and "Square Pants Sponge Bob"; I never can understand that cartoon!
Art Museums During the year, much else happened. I continue to be active with art museums. As advisor to Boca Raton Museum of Art Trustees, I worked on their search for a new director. In early April, after an intensive search of three months, an appointment was made was made, the unanimous choice of Trustees Search Committee; I was delighted with their decision. The process was intense and I did learn that there seem to be few promising candidates out there!
In early June, Agnes & I spent five days in Raleigh NC at the meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). As usual, days full of meetings for directors and tours for spouses; for me, being an Honorary Member is a privilege. Evening parties at art museums were fun; colorful flowers, fine food, great art and many friends. Host museums were The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh; The Nasher Museum at Duke University; and The Ackland Museum at UNC Chapel Hill. We had the opportunity to view collections, exhibitions and new architecture. Contemporary architecture at NCMA Raleigh and Nasher were impressive as were the exhibitions; much to see and enjoy. The art museums and parties seemed far from today's world of unrest, conflict, wild weather and dismal economies. Yet, throughout the turmoil of time, art has survived to give pleasure and hope to us all. To see great art and be with dear friends and former colleagues was meaningful and memorable.
Following the meeting, I was asked to chair AAMD Mentoring Task Force on how to best utilize the vast resource of expertise and learning offered by emeritus members. These retired art museum directors offer much to our profession. The committee soon agreed that rather than "mentor", the word "advisor" was much better and preferable. After discussion, recommendations were made for further consideration by AAMD. These recommendations to AAMD are made so that more directors, particularly new members, can avail themselves of the knowledge and experience of emeriti.
Most emeritus members continue to be actively involved with art museums. In September, the Florida Art Museum Directors Association had a luncheon meeting at the Museum of Fine Arts in St Petersburg. The discussion was "What's Next After You Retire" and twenty directors, active and retired, participated. The retired directors talked of their many activities: as art consultants; working with artists and institutions; teaching art courses; lecturing; jurying and judging art shows; curating exhibitions; writing catalogs; research; serving on boards of art associations and institutions; working with foundations; acting as advisors; and reaccreditation visits. I have been involved with most of these activities over past years.
In early December, we drove to Miami Beach Art Basel where this year painting seemed dominant, whether abstract or realist, with modern masters and emerging artists in endless display. As a painter, I was pleased!
I was Judge for Old Florida Celebration of the Arts in Cedar Key in April. Visiting this remote community, a few hours drive north, is always worthwhile. Cedar Key, in my words, is "remote, quaint, mud flats, creeks, islands, stilt houses, old wooden houses, balconies, trees, Spanish moss, motels, restaurants, gift shops and tourists. The drive of 150 miles took us three hours and is through fields and forests, eventually ending in a long country road going across salt water marshes, bayou, inlets and islands. The small picturesque village is on the water and straggles around a shore of mud and oyster beds, covered at high tide with brackish brown water. A group of beautiful barrier islands are home to birds and fish; we went fishing with a guide and caught flounder and sea trout. Most unusual to catch flounder off those barrier islands, known as fluke on Long Island, tasty wherever! "
Another trip we took was by train across the hinterland of Florida from Atlantic to Gulf: Boca Raton to Tampa, via Okeechobee and Lakeland. The journey took four hours on Amtrak Silver Star; a delightful adventure with lots to see, from towns to wilderness. The train seems to push thru an endless green corridor of shrubs and trees, with glimpses of farms and cattle, lakes and houses; vast views of flat fields that stretch to hazy infinity in a lush landscape. Our seats were spacious and comfortable; the fare was $27 and there was a dining car with maitre d’ and waiter. Woweee, wowwow, wooooo, the whistle echoes even now, memorable!
Also, we spent a wonderful week in Key West and did enjoy our walks along streets of old town lined with homes, hotels, bars, boutiques, gift shops, gardens, courtyards, chickens, plants, palms and porches. The historic seaport is still a favorite with boats of every shape and size from luxury yachts to ancient sailboats to enormous cruise ships. 'Margaritaville' is forever colorful and crowded, fun and funky.
During any year, there is sickness, death and birth; life goes on or ends. I will not dwell on aches, pains and indignities of old age. Neither have I made mention of our many friends in this update; rather than people, I have written of place and painting. However, family and friends give us much comfort and joy; thank you. Let me close with a joyful occasion: The Royal Wedding! What a happy day! The Royal Wedding had spectacular television coverage from parades to wedding ceremony, a pageantry of pomp and circumstance. God Bless The Queen! Long Live Katherine & William!
Photographs are of us at home in Clearwater. Agnes and I had come home for my birthday July 14, the reason for birthday card and red suitcase; we flew back to Shelter Island early August. Sharron and Lawrny Steiner were with us for Florida celebration of my seventy eighth birthday. The sea shells are part of a comprehensive collection that Agnes gathered on our beach walks. Finally, Agnes and I on our balcony, January 2012. Every picture tells a story; enjoy! photos/ Lawrny Steiner
Thanks as ever to Lawrny Steiner for his update of my website that he originally designed. Susan Frazier ('SF') took photographs of our condo and paintings; do appreciate her vision and images. As ever, Agnes gave much encouragement! RS 01/07/12.