Massari art show tells the tale of her survival
By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000
It is possible both to come home again and to move on, as artist Allison Massari has demonstrated. The opening reception for her one-woman show at Ambiance Galleries was the first since her near-fatal car accident two years ago. She has healed physically and, probably more important, emotionally, moving on from those debilitating years and spending most of her time in Colorado, where she began painting again.
Now she has come back to tell the tale of her survival, the 20 or so works she created in a scant three months like a storyboard of her recent life. About half of them are paintings in her recognizable style: visceral portraits with strong colors and clean, bold lines. To them she has added collages that glow like jeweled mosaics, accompanying studies, and still lifes of apples that put me in mind of Cezanne.
By the time several hundred guests arrived for the opening reception Thursday, about half of these new works had red dots on them, indications that they were sold both to local collectors and to as far away as Arizona. One woman saw a work in progress in Massai's studio and, being told by the artist it was promised for this show, waited until the opening to buy it over the telephone.
Gallery owners Susanne Williams and Mona Pain said they had never had a show open with such success. Massari and her significant other, Tom Egle, welcomed friends who poured through the rooms of the converted house, including Harry and Jackie Piper and Hal and Holly Piper; Murray Beairsto, who tells me that the new Great Explorations Guild has grown to 80 members; Donna and Robert Berman; Andy and Madge McFall; Charlie and Peggy Weninger; Sarah Lonquist; Carol Russell; Evan and Diana Whittle; and Ed and Mary Maloof.
I had to miss Mike and Jennifer Reilly's party on Nov. 4, but he told me about its dramatic finale. Every year, he gets an oldy-goldy act such as Three Dog Night or the Association for the hundreds of fellow boomers he invites. This year, as B.J. Thomas launched into his closing number, "all the lights in the neighborhood went out," Dr. Reilly said. "I thought, "We blew a transformer.' Florida Power told me that it wasn't the party; it was an old transformer they'd been having problems with. I called all my neighbors to explain. And B.J. Thomas finished the song."
Jan Knowlton was one of the many women there in possession of an Allison Massari necklace. Silver pendants like tiny picture frames hold miniature original portraits with funny names such as Casually holding in my stomach and Guiseppe, before the linguini incident. Several dozen women wore them for the occasion, "like being in a special club," said Mrs. Knowlton. The newest member of that club was Marissa Williams, 16-year-old daughter of gallery co-owner Mrs. Williams, who received hers as a birthday present.
Another birthday celebration transpired that evening. After the show, Massari's sister and brother-in-law, Stephanie and Kevin Dyer, whisked Massari and Egle out to dinner. Thursday was also Allison Massari's birthday. A happy one it must have been.
In true show-must-go-on spirit, Dr. Jim and Donna Nagelsen forged ahead with the plan to hold the ASAP Holiday Hope party at their home, even though he was hospitalized for emergency hip surgery a few days before the event (and the good news is he's back home recuperating now "and going to be fine," says his wife). But go on it did, in fine style, on a lovely Friday evening that generated a soft breeze on the terrace where the buffet was set up, which was pretty much gone by the time I arrived late -- a good sign for the quality of the meal.
ASAP is a program that provides emergency help and shelter for the homeless, which Myrtle Hall talked about in her remarks to the group. Now a caseworker with the agency, the college-educated woman found herself, through a series of bad breaks, in an ASAP shelter a few years ago. She was able to pull her life together and now "sits on the other side of the desk," but her experience is a reminder of how close to the edge so many live.
In the group welcomed by chairwoman Colleen Crutchfield and ASAP president Ann Myers were Joe Myers; George Crutchfield; Joy Parrish, who got off a plane from Japan and came straight to the party; Troy and Judy Holland; Jeff Person; David and Helen Feinberg; Pam Colvin, who won the grand raffle prize -- a stuffed picnic basket, hammock and gift certificate to Mazarro's; Darryl and Melissa LeClair; Ray and Kathy Arsenault; Fred and Bobby Ann Tarcza and Dr. Joe and Shirley Insoft.
"We're not one of the powerhouse fundraisers," Mrs. Crutchfield said of the party, which does not draw the hundreds some galas do. Still, the event was a big success, netting $28,000, a gain of $8,000 over last year.
A LATIN NIGHT UNDER THE STARS: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, south Pinellas County, hosts a dinner, dance and auction with music by Suzette Jennings and the Mood Swings. Honorary chairman is Bishop Robert Lynch. 6:30 p.m. Renaissance Vinoy Resort, 501 Fifth Ave. NE. $75. 823-2516.
MONTE CARLO MADNESS: Fundraiser for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast with hors d'oeuvres buffet, dancing, casino games and auction featuring an original piece of jewelry designed by Evander Preston. 7 p.m. St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. $40. Cash bar. 867-5567.
SATURDAY AT THE SEASHORE: Florida Blood Services' 14th annual breakfast at the Clearwater Beach home of Phil and Michele Eaton for cocktails, followed by brunch at the Carlouel Yacht Club, raises money for a five-bed bloodmobile. 10:30 a.m. $75. 568-2231.
HAVE A BALL ON THE BAYOU: Tampa Bay Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar and wife Cheryl open their home for an evening of Cajun food and music to benefit the Suncoast Family YMCA's scholarship program. Casual. 6:30 p.m. 2250 Kent Place, Clearwater. $100. 467-9622.
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