Studio Portraits

By staff November 1, 2002

Art of Palms

He may be French Canadian, but David Landry's medium-and work environment-is pure Florida. Crepe myrtles and oaks shade the sprawling garden and Cracker cottages he shares with his girlfriend and manager, Germaine Delaney, a parrot named Tango and eight cats. It's Landry's "Imagination Zone," the Nokomis studio and home where he transforms sabal palm trees razed by developers into stylized animal sculptures in his outdoor garden studio.

Batik sheets and bead curtains hang from branches, creating intimate outdoor rooms where art lovers congregate during open house Saturdays to see Landry's pieces: lions, leopards, antelopes and birds brought to life under his chainsaw. There's a four-poster bed in the shade and a piano by a thicket of banana trees. Neighborhood kids often stop by to explore, and on Saturday nights, friends gather around a bonfire near the makeshift stage for impromptu drum sessions amidst Landry's creations.

"Again they stand," Landry gestures at the rejuvenated stumps. "It's their best revenge against man's insatiable appetite for growth."

You can see an exhibition of Landry's work at an exhibition at the Katharine Butler Gallery in Towles Court through Nov. 23.

Molten Magic

In a stifling garage outside a modest Englewood ranch house, surrounded by bulky electric furnaces that glow to temperatures higher than 2,300 degrees, Kellmis Fernandez blows molten glass into graceful, ethereal goddess statues.

It's an art that Fernandez, who came to America from Venezuela to study microbiology, fell in love with as a student after watching glassblowers in action. He signed up for a summer class in the art, and was soon hooked; now his work is exhibited in museums and private collections worldwide.

After teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston for years, Fernandez decided to move to Florida and create full-time. Providentially, he found this house with a garage that the previous owner had already converted to a glass studio, and moved in four years ago. Though it's small, there's room for the tools of his trade: furnace, glory hole, annealer and his bench, where with the help of his wife, Maria, he heats, shapes and cools his glass sculptures with the split second timing of nearly 20 years of experience.

"I call it the perfect medium," Fernandez says about his exacting material. "It combines painting and sculpture, and it can last forever."


Simple Pleasures?

With 14-foot sloping ceilings and clerestory windows, painter Steve McCallum's studio is spacious and unpretentious. "I like my environment to reflect the kind of lifestyle I appreciate, which is low-key," McCallum says.

An Ohio native, McCallum worked in New York for years (he's still represented by a gallery there) before moving to Florida, attracted by the light, the weather and the diving and boating. He bought a house here in 1999 and tore down the carport to build his 56-foot-long studio, transforming an outdoor porch into an enclosed walkway connecting the house to his studio.

Rolling tables covered in paint and brushes stand on the concrete floor, and nooks house office and paint storage areas. A device McCallum contrived-which works like a giant toilet paper spindle-unrolls canvas across a massive spread of sheetrock upon which McCallum creates his huge, brilliant abstract paintings. Like their creator, the works are often ironic and allusive-spinning off from The Adoration of the Magi, he named one Aberration of a Mad Guy.

In a chair with a tropical motif, McCallum's Doberman puppy, Antonio (named for Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi) hangs out and listens to jazz with his master.

Blackburn's Barn

For fourth-generation Floridian Jean Hartley Blackburn, home is 14 lush acres east of the interstate. It's also where she pours her passions into intimate, evocative paintings: The Farm Series, life with her menagerie of animals; and the Myakka Series, portraits of the river.

From her studio above the barn, Blackburn works to the sound of horses whinnying below and live oak and tangelo trees rustling in the breeze. Windows flood the wood walls and tin ceiling with light and endless views of pastures, ponds and gardens. Paintbrushes stand in old coffee cans. Fly, a border collie, waits in a patch of sunshine by the etching press for Blackburn to throw him a toy, and Nathan-the 13-year-old feline subject of an eponymous piece displayed in the FSU Museum in Tallahassee-snoozes amidst sketches under a drafting table.

An artist since childhood, Blackburn grew up on Anna Maria Island and has lived in Florida all her life except for graduate school in Oregon and seven years spent sailing around the Caribbean and Central America on a sailboat.

"It's something I know so well," she says about the property where she's lived for 10 years. "It's art with a truer meaning to me. A lot of this beauty around here is disappearing."

Industrial Strength

For 30 years, Tennessee native Vicky Randall has created bold and sinuous stainless steel sculptures that adorn public parks and museums and private collections around the country. Eight of those years have been spent in this two-story loft studio in an old lumberyard in Sarasota's industrial district.

With a ceiling raised by a former owner who fixed up his boat there, Randall found a space large enough for her massive equipment and the soaring dimensions of her work. Her personality is peppered throughout: in the collection of hands and gloves that hang from the black spiral staircase balustrades and white walls; in the life-size James Dean cutout upstairs in her drawing area; in the century-old oak drugstore counter she picked up from the tiny Kansas town where she was an undergraduate art student. Other than the machinery, which she navigates with the fluid ease of experience, Randall made almost all the other equipment in the studio by hand.

"When you talk about an artist's studio, you talk about their life," says Randall. "This is where my heart beats. This is where my brain cells work. Everything else is peripheral."

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