Guests at Selva Grill's new location at the Mall at University Town Center will see some familiar art—in the form of Douglas Higgins' 7-foot-tall, 28-foot-wide Starry Night-inspired canvas, a riff on the well-known version hanging at Selva's Main Street location in downtown Sarasota.
If the hostess seats you at one of tables 31 through 37, you can touch the swirling peaks of paint jutting from the canvas—but it's best viewed from the furthest vantage point of the restaurant—its granite-topped bar.
Higgins, who is also a professor of design at Ringling College of Art and Design, first created his massive canvas for Sarasota's short-lived Main Street Bistro in 2002. But it's best known as the backdrop to the modern Peruvian dishes Selva is known for.
So there was no question that the new University Town Center location, slated to open in early May, should have one, too.
“Since we have an all-new build-out for the new location, we wanted to bring some familiarity to it. Doug’s mural has become synonymous with the Selva brand,” says Jeremy Osment, CEO of Selva Grill.
Higgins’ cites early Cubism as his favorite form of art, and turn-of-the-century pieces inspire him. “I've seen Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art in New York many times," he says. "I'm familiar with Van Gogh's motifs and his brushstroke. This isn't trying to imitate it, but to reach the spirit of a thickly painted expression."
It took roughly three months to finish the piece, and lots of layered acrylic paint to achieve a version of Van Gogh’s masterpiece. The University Town Center version isn't an exact copy of the first one hanging at Selva’s Main Street location, but it is roughly the same size, lit the same way, with a rainbow of changing green, pink, blue and purple LED lights.
Higgins—who's soft-spoken and humble, a contrast to his larger-than-life creations—also has art hanging in the Art Ovation hotel and the Ringling College president’s office. And he doesn't just paint commercial projects: a California couple relocating to the Ritz-Carlton Residences has commissioned him to do something similar to Selva's Starry Night-inspired piece for their new home.