picturing florida

by erin thursby
Looking for a coffee table book with style, local history and art? Then lay your hands on a copy of Picturing Florida. It is an exquisite portrait of Florida with dazzling lithographs.
The book starts on a historical note, about some of Florida’s earliest artists such as Jacques Le Moyne, whose work was reproduced in engravings during the 1500s. These early works depict Native Americans and the exotic landscape of Florida. Later artists were attracted by everything from the weather to the fishing. A number of stunning depictions of the St. Johns River and classic Florida vistas are included. The growth of Florida art is traced through Flagler’s development in the late 1800s, the opening of several Universities and art museums such as the Cummer.
Choosing which artists to feature from our landscape of visual artists had to have been difficult, but the book does present a great visual cross-section of Florida artists from Orlando to the Panhandle. The largest color plates in the book are mostly reserved for these contemporary artists. Art lovers can rediscover artists they already know and experience art they’ve never seen. I enjoyed seeing stuff from Sydney McKenna, who paints some awesome Florida skyscapes, but I also got to discover a whole cadre of Florida artists I hadn’t seen before. I loved the vibrant and practically gaudy work of Steve Lotz, the pop art inspired flamingo of John Wilton and the retro hand-colored gelatin silver prints of Jane Lester. The book just has so much to offer to every eye and every taste.
Although the focus is on the nature of Florida, not everything in the book is nature oriented and landscape based. Deland artist Gary Bolding caught my eye with his meticulously realistic but surreal oils that are part portrait, part metal conversation. Styles and mediums vary, with a few 3-D artists thrown into the mix such as Gretchen Lotz, who does bronze and marble garden sculptures.
While these artists all live in northeast or central Florida, most of them aren’t natives. They love the land and the culture in ways that natives might not fathom simply because it’s newer to them and they can look at it in a fresh way. The artists who are natives are immersed in the culture of Florida and wield a homegrown love and a closer perspective of the terrain.
According to their introduction: “Of these artists, all of whom now reside in northeast or central Florida, less than a third began here. Some were attracted to the area by the artistic possibilities inherent in the local topography, others by the idea of joining established art communities. Many more, however, were lured by job opportunities and the promise of permanently getting out of the cold. But whatever brought them to the state; these Florida artists are the product of educational and artistic influences garnered from throughout the country, and even throughout the world. Once established in Florida, these painters, sculptors, printmakers, and photographers grafted their styles onto the local topography to create art that captures and defines this small slice of paradise.” 
Picturing Florida will be available at Fogle Fine Art & Accessories (3312 Beach Boulevard, 904 296-1414) from the opening of the exhibition on September 4-October 11.