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…
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!