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Cool art, warm artists

At the Cool Art Show this weekend, chat with congenial artists in the comfort of an air-conditioned venue.

By MARY ANN MARGER, Times Art Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000

Christel Hunsicker, Tulips, silk, 36 by 41 inches.
That annual outside-in display known as the Cool Art Show returns to the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus Saturday and Sunday. And as usual, it will be:

Cool. It's an outdoor, booth-type show moved indoors to the spacious student activity center to escape the summer heat.

Warm. This is a show where the congeniality of the artists is almost as much an attraction as the art. These are people who like people. They've chosen to join the Professional Association of Visual Artists, where they can meet each other, discuss challenges and successes, and network. And many of them make their art in an environment that includes other artists, at home or in rented studio space.

Untitled poster by Richard Ayre for the Cool Art Show. The Sarasota artist will be on hand to sign copies.
Each year since 1988, they've held the Cool Art Show, their main event.

On view are works by 50 of the approximately 200 PAVA members. In addition to the artists pictured here, you'll find Judi Dazzio (watercolor), Denis Gaston (abstract portraits), Melissa Miller Nece (colored pencil), James Michaels (mixed media paintings), Yvette Galliher (oils), Steve Littlefield (graphics), Bill and Linda Renc (paintings, drawings, calligraphy), and others worth checking out.

Like the full scale counterpart shows held from October through May, the artists will be there, and they look forward to telling visitors about their work.

To help you ease into the atmosphere, we've talked to five exhibitors for some conversation starters. But don't stop there. Wander over to the artists and get acquainted with what they do and who they are.

[Times photos: Bill Serne]
Elizabeth Mitchell creates fine art on silk in the sun room/studio at her home in Tampa.

Elizabeth Mitchell

  • City: Tampa
  • How long exhibiting in Cool Art Show: About five years.
  • What I do: Fiber-reactive, hand-painted dyes on silk.
  • Why I do it: "It is a joyous medium; it's a freeing medium. There's no going back. You have to have a clear idea in your head and just go for it."
  • Thoughts on PAVA: "The show is great. The magazine (PAVA newsletter) is a forum for ideas."
  • How I know good art when I see it: "I have a pretty good idea. But how to define it? I like work to be strong and clear. I think I like some level of thought, but it has to be congenial to me."
  • Conversation starter: "People ask how (silk painting is) done. It's not tie dye. It's not silk screen. The education process is an enjoyable part of doing the show."

Loyd Jones works on a copper sculpture in his home studio in Oldsmar. His sculptures of birds and mangroves are usually used as bases for tables.

Loyd Jones

  • City: Oldsmar
  • How long exhibiting in Cool Art Show: Every year except one.
  • All in the family: Exhibiting with wife Diane Borden Jones, papermaker, and Lee Jones, their son and Loyd's assistant.
  • What I do: Copper sculpture of mangroves and birds, usually as bases for tables. "I've always made birds. I needed bases for the birds. One day Diane said, "Why don't you make a table?' and it just took off from there."
  • Why I do it: "It gives me a chance to be creative and work with my hands. The hard part is selling the stuff. The easy part is making it."
  • Thoughts on PAVA: "Primarily networking for me."
  • How I know good art when I see it: "I look for originality and craftsmanship. Those are the only things that are worthwhile. You have to be a really good craftsman to please me."
  • Gratifying moment: "The thing that thrills me the most is when someone stops by and breaks into a big grin."

Lisa Glaser sculpts humorous ceramics, mostly animals in human situations. Here she’s working on holiday ornaments in her home studio in St. Petersburg.

Lisa Glaser

  • City: St. Petersburg
  • How long exhibiting in Cool Art Show: Every year except one.
  • What I do: Humorous ceramic sculpture, mostly animals in human situations. Currently birds predominate. "I try to do something different every year 'cause I get bored."
  • Why I do it: "I enjoy doing it. I just have a good time."
  • How I know good art when I see it: "I look for quality and originality. I look for things I've never seen before."
  • Conversation starter: She and longtime boyfriend Jack Breit, also exhibiting, are working on a Web site to show off their work, but it's not up and running yet. "We're still learning how to do it," Breit says.

Davida Alexandria Milne of Clearwater makes alternative photography art, like the print behind her, using a Polaroid camera bought at a flea market.

Davida Alexandria Milne

  • City: Clearwater
  • First-time exhibitor
  • What I do: Alternative photography using an SX 70, a Polaroid camera bought at a flea market. "I alter the image so it looks like something between a photograph and an impressionist painting."
  • Why I do it: "I love working in color. I love the spontaneity of this medium."
  • Recently joined PAVA because: "I know members and I heard good things about it. I want to get involved in the community, and I thought this would be a good way."
  • How I know good art when I see it: "I think that's something that resonates within your heart, within your soul. I don't care what medium it is, that's what matters. If it's something that speaks to you, that's what's important."
  • Conversation starter: "Sometimes people just standing and observing is a communication. But I do like talking to people."

Bill Scott of Clearwater cuts mats for his wildlife watercolors at his studio in St. Petersburg.

Bill Scott

  • City: Clearwater; studio: St. Petersburg
  • How long exhibiting in Cool Art Show: Five or six years; coordinating show this year.
  • What I do: Transparent watercolor of wildlife subjects, mostly birds.
  • How I do it: "I've painted it so much now, I do it from memory. I'm really after ideas, something different from the norm (such as unusual lighting)."
  • How I can support myself on my art: "I'm the true prostitute. If it's fine art and I can fold it into my art, I'll do it."
  • How I know good art when I see it: "I don't think there's any bad art. It makes no difference if the artist is naive or has had 10 years of academic training."
  • Conversation starter: "People that come into my booth are usually wanting to discuss one of the following: wildlife preservation, Everglades preservation, my painting method. Each of these subjects are of special interest to me and elicit a litany of my thoughts concerning the question."

At a glance

The 13th annual Cool Art Show is at the Campus Activity Center, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Second Street and Sixth Avenue S, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking (in USF lots) are free. For information, call (727) 553-1596.

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