A few months ago I met Donald Neal. I was at the “Laurence E. Will Museum of the Glades” in Belle Glade. I saw him first from afar, and I knew, even though I did not know who he was, that he was someone special, someone I wanted to meet. His graying hair in dreads ….donning a carelessly worn paint be-speckled dress shirt and trousers looked so stylish a New York fashion designer would have certainly found a “new look.” His eyes seemed to contain generations of local history: drainage, planting, harvesting, deathly hurricanes, flooding, backbreaking work, destruction of the environment, the good and evil of money, prejudice, love, hate, sugarcane, water, and hope.
Today I will share some of his paintings that are on display at the Museum of the Glades and I encourage you to make the drive yourself. After years in the spotlight and then in the darkness, Donald is making a comeback. I think he’s going to make it big again as the time for Donald’s message seems just about right…
These photos are from a recent trip to Clewiston taken at the historic Clewiston Inn. The Everglades Lounge is an inspiration. May we think about more than ourselves in our decisions. A drink may help.
Today I am sharing a beautiful work of art that is connected to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon by the late, famous, and long time resident, Frances Langford. She resided most of her life along both rivers’ shores.
Kimberly Falconer is a friend of mine that I grew up with here in Martin County. Kim now lives in Miami as owner of “Ocean Adventures.” After reading my blog post a few weeks back about the famed Gruppe collection of Frances Langford, she wrote:
“—-thought I would share a few images with you. This one is of artist Emile Gruppe’s painting entitled“Clam Diggers Gloucester, MA.” It was reproduced as a Christmas card by Frances. Feel free to use it however you wish. Credit for sharing should go to my mother, Gloria Cabre Fike.” (Kim’s family was great friends with the late Mrs. Langford.)
Today is supposed to bring heavy rains again due to the El Nino conditions. Our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon will continue to be destroyed by releases from Lake Okeechobee and the area canals. I though this image might be of interest and inspiration and a break from the aerial photos. Think of it as an early Christmas card from Frances Langford.
I think the image says a lot about the intricate relationship between man and water whether it be in Massachusetts or Florida.
Art has always been political. It is by nature. It makes us think. It makes us feel—whether we want to or not. Our reaction to art is ancient and deeply programmed into our innermost being….
Today, I say “Kudos!” to 10-year-old Aiden Serafica, a student at Lynn Barletta’s “Visionary School of the Arts,” in Stuart. As you probably know, the school is doing a wide range of amazing things with area youth. (http://www.visionaryschoolof-arts.org)
So this past Sunday, I was at Carson’s Tavern having dinner with my husband, Ed, and friends Anne and Peter Schmidt, when an adorable ten-year old boy walks up to me and says: “My grandmother told me I should show you this…”—he was smiling from ear to ear! He reaches out and shows me a phone, and this is what I saw:
“Aiden Serafica age 10 is in Miss Robyn’s Thursday class. Aiden was commissioned to paint a toilet seat in a “SAVE OUR RIVER” theme by local business owner Susan of Palm City Farms. Aiden received $100.00 for his beautiful rendition in acrylics. In addition this piece won first place in a contest at Martin County Fairgrounds as part of the best booth of the fairgrounds! Congratulations to Aiden on acompletely unique and daring project of creativity. Art is indeed everywhere!”
I was so excited by what I saw and read, and that this young man, Aiden, would share this with me.
“This is wonderful Aiden! Congratulations! Very powerful! So proud of your artwork and expression. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! ” Aiden and I shook hands. He was beaming; he even winked…
I think the Army Corp, the South Florida Water Management District, the state legislature and the Governor’s office are going to have to have a lot of pressure from future generations to “get the water right….” —-perhaps they too, if they see Aiden’s toilet art, will come up with some daring and creative ways to speed up fixing our rivers.
Recently at my parents’ home, I noticed a piece of artwork hanging the wall. I had seen it many times, but somehow this time, it looked different. Upon inspecting the title written at the bottom, I noticed that it read: “Indian River Reflections,” Vera Zimmerman, 1987.
The painting shows a menagerie of people standing by the river, their reflection shining in the shallow waters…
“Mom, tell me about this please. Who are these people?”
“Well these are the many people of the Indian River Lagoon. There are Native Americans, African-Americans, the Spanish, Jonathan Dickinson, the cattlemen, the “pioneers…”
My eye kept going to the little girl and the dog…
“Things are different but the same,” I thought.
“Who is Vera Zimmerman, the artist, again? I know you have told me about her before.”
“She is an artist and an archeologist up in Brevard County…”
My mother left to clear the table and I stood there looking at the sketch…thinking about all of the people who have gone before us…
We too stand on the edge of the Indian River Lagoon, our reflections staring back. I wonder how one day, we will be painted?
Associations of Vera Zimmerman:
As a kid, I spent numerous hours at the Women’s Club of Stuart. What made the biggest impression on me was a beautiful mural featuring birds of the Everglades— of which Stuart is part through the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This mural has resided on the back wall of the Women’s Club since 1962.
My fondest memories of the building itself where when my parents enrolled me in cotillion classes in 1974. I can still see all of us kids in the metal folding chairs, dressed up to the hilt. Girls with hats and gloves, and boys in suits! Awkwardly dancing the fox-trot, the Cha-Cha-Cha, and the waltz while slipping on the terrazzo floors. I remember Dave Harman, and how cute he was and how I wished he’d ask me to dance….I remember there were rumors that Tracy Chase and Cabot Lord kissed on the porch! We were in 5th grade! Hysterical!
So anyway, there is this wonderful mural at the back of the women’s club and all my life really, I have wondered about it and finally I have learned. My mother shared a 2009 “Reflections” magazine, a publication for members of the Historical Society of Central Florida. In this magazine, there is an article about artist, Joy Postle. Joy Postle is the artist who created the mural at the back of the Stuart Women’s Club, and in many other famous places across our state and our nation. She is so cool I want to share her story.
She must have been an iconoclast of her era. Way ahead of her time. She was not only an artist but dancer as well. Today I believe we would call her a “performance artist. According to the article written by Denise Hall:
“Postle combined her artistic abilities, her musical talents, and her love for Florida bird life in performances she called “Glamour Birds of the Americas.” She would describe the birds she loved and paint them in the presence of an audience, with her husband, Bob, accompanying her with music and recordings of bird calls he had recorded himself…She would even mimic the fascinating mating dances the egrets and herons would perform for each other. Even in old age, Joy could still mime these dances…”
Mrs Postle performed for adults and well as for school children and well into “advanced age.” Apparently the children absolutely loved her!
“By reinterpreting nature with her own artistic flair. Postle turned a spotlight on the natural Florida that was carelessly threatened and destroyed during her life time.”
Although I never saw Joy Postle perform, she was an inspiration to me. She helped me appreciate Stuart for what it really is, part of the Everglades…
If you get a chance while driving along East Ocean Boulevard, stick your head inside the Women’s Club, or take a closer look at the mural if you are a regular there. You just may see the ghost of Joy Postle dancing and be inspired!
Recently, Kevin Powers, vice-chair of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, called me asking about the “solidarity fish,” so I went even a little further and arranged for a meeting with Kevin, his wife, (Martin County School Board Member), Marsha Powers, and artist/writer extraordinaire, —Janeen Mason.
Sometimes in my world, it is best not to ask questions. It is best just to “do.” Knowing this timing and following my intuition is an important part of my mission in trying to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Janeen Mason was a sport, and we met with my giving her little notice— she brought some of her beautiful, colorful, skeleton fish that have come to symbolize the river movement along the Indian River Lagoon. In fact, her idea is spreading across the state as she is called by others seeking advice on how to start such a “school,” (http://www.solidarityarts.com) as so many others across Florida have water issues too.
When Janeen met the Powers at their home, it was a wonderful thing for me, as I was able to learn her story which I had never really heard. (http://www.janeenmason.com)
Janeen told of being a young person, seeing the tropical fish in the Florida Keys for the very first time, and the powerful impression they made upon her young mind. She has carried this image with her through out her life, and most recently transposed it into the river movement in response to our “Lost Summer” of 2013 when the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) dumped polluted Lake Okeechobee water for five months (on top of area canal runoff) into the St Lucie River, causing horrific, toxic conditions in our and the Calooshatchee estuary.
Since this era, the solidarity fish have been associated with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon “river movement,” the River Warriors, and many others. Even Martin County used the symbol to decorate their holiday tree. There are bumper stickers and T-shirts you will see just about everywhere displaying the fish, colorful on one side, and a skeleton on the other….
These fish, you see in the photos on the Capitol steps, have been hand painted by hundreds of children and concerned adults; displayed at the Elliott Museum; on the River Warriors’ Christmas/Holiday float in the City of Stuart parade; and even last year Washington DC!
The fish are art in its purest form: “transformative and inspirational…”
So when Kevin Powers asked about the fish, I asked no questions. I saw an opportunity to help the District “catch a fish,” our fish, the solidity fish of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I believe, soon they will be swimming their way into some very powerful waters….. 🙂
River Kidz-St Lucie County member, Adian Lewy, 10, speaks at the Clean Water Rally in Tallahassee 2-18-14 as Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, proudly looks on…
River Kidz, a program that was started by two Sewall’s Point fifth grade girls in 2011, now has hundreds of members, has a workbook, is taught in many private and public schools, and has divisions in St Lucie and Lee counties. Kids have been taught about the environment for years, so why is River Kidz different?
River Kidz is different because it teaches kids how to advocate. River Kidz’ mission is to “speak out, get involved and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
All the River Kidz do includes “art, action, and advocacy.” Kids create art in the classroom and in public about the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie River, focusing on its animals, seagrasses, as well as the damaging discharges from the canals and especially releases from Lake Okeechobee. This artwork is compiled by teachers and parents along with letters the children write and sent, or personally given, to local commissioners, mayors, policy makers, congressmen and women, state representatives, senators and even the president of the United States.
Kidz learn to speak in public. Last summer in 2013, 11 year old Veronica Dalton, ask if she could speak at the River Rally at the St Lucie Locks. She delivered her own speech in front of 5000 people.
When I was a kid they taught us about sea grasses and seahorses and it was fun; I learned to love the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon but today’s children, if they are going to have the river for their children, have to learn early about its wonders and its issues, environmental and political, so they are prepared to protect and creatively save it in the future.
As a former teacher I know, a child likes nothing more than to have a purpose, responsibility, to be trusted. These kids are rising to the occasion and learning at a young age, to write letters to politicians, to speak out in public, “to do” by deploying oysters and reef balls and to create art to get their message across. If this is what they are accomplishing at ten, what will they do in the future?