Harbor Style Harbor Style Oct 2017 : Page 65

Story by Carol Bruyere Photography by Steve Donaldson hat is art? Like, beauty, it’s something “in the eye of the beholder.” E.A. Bucchianari adds to that, “everyone will have their own interpretation.” Especially the artists. All artists use natural talents or learned skills to create their objects of beauty. They also rely on inspiration from another artist, a teacher, a scene, a story or a color to start their process. But the most important element in their creations is imagination. Imagination guarantees that no two pieces are alike. Over the following pages, three local artists are share their different talents with us – abstract painter Beverly Yankwitt, sculptor Diane Davidson and potter Marlene Jones. Enjoy their unique creations… ³ W HARBOR STYLE | 65

Inspiration + Imagination = Art

Carol Bruyere

What is art? Like, beauty, it’s something “in the eye of the beholder.” E.A. Bucchianari adds to that, “everyone will have their own interpretation.” Especially the artists.

All artists use natural talents or learned skills to create their objects of beauty. They also rely on inspiration from another artist, a teacher, a scene, a story or a color to start their process. But the most important element in their creations is imagination. Imagination guarantees that no two pieces are alike.

Over the following pages, three local artists are share their different talents with us – abstract painter Beverly Yankwitt, sculptor Diane Davidson and potter Marlene Jones. Enjoy their unique creations…

Beverly Yankwitt


It’s been said that, when it comes to art, “reality is interesting, but in the end it’s boring.” That’s why artist Beverly Yankwitt said she enjoys painting colorful abstract pieces, a style that has been described as a “visual language” of shapes, colors and lines, mimicking an idea, feeling or quality rather than an actual object.

“Although I also do representational pieces, my real love is abstract art,” Yankwitt said. “I believe it is the most unique expression an artist can render. To take a quote from Forrest Gump, ‘You never know what you’re going to get.’”

Yankwitt has enjoyed painting as long as she can remember. After moving to Charlotte County in 1985 with her husband Ralph and two children, she pursued a medical career before joining Ralph at Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor. When she retired in 2012, she was able to devote her time to perfecting her artistic talents, taking classes at the Visual Arts Center and Red Hat Studio, both in Punta Gorda.

Yankwitt’s family is involved in the arts, too. Her husband is “a very talented actor” with the Charlotte Players. Their daughter is a singer and actress. Their son plays percussion instruments. And her great uncle Lou is a commercial artist. “Maybe it’s in the genes,” she quipped.

Yankwitt uses several different mediums and techniques to make her paintings unique. She started with oil paints, which she still occasionally uses, and has some intriguing oil paintings, featuring bright, multi-colored pears, hanging in her studio.

While taking watercolor classes at the VAC, Yankwitt was introduced to abstract art. “My teacher said, ‘Let’s do something different.’ I liked it.”

Watercolor, however, is unforgiving. Once you’ve painted it, you cannot make changes. And Yankwitt likes to have the ability to change her mind, so she’s “mostly gotten away from watercolor.”

Acrylic paints, Yankwitt said, are easier to work with and are much more flexible. “All abstract art is experimental. You’re just playing around in your head,” she commented. “I don’t have a plan. I just start and play with it until I like it.”

Yankwitt’s inspiration, she said, comes from two artists she admires – Kathryn Chang Liu and Elaine Vielnam Daily – as well as from designs and textures found in nature. She’s learned to look at things that surround her with “an abstract eye.” Color combinations, texture and interesting shapes – that’s what her abstract art is all about.

Acrylics have become her favorite medium, but she has incorporated many additional elements to make her art pieces even more unique.

One of the “mixed-media” styles Yankwitt has perfected is adding texture to the canvas by creating cardboard and paper collages, then applying colorful acrylic paint. Don’t be surprised if you see metallic elements, sparkling glitter or other dynamic finishes.

Another way of making her canvasses slightly textured is by applying paint with a palette knife or creating a base with gesso, a white, chalky primer can be mixed with acrylic paints to create a more matte or satin finish.

Yankwitt said she does a lot of “layering” with transparent paint. “That gives it more depth,” she explained. If she’s not completely satisfied with a painting, or it doesn’t sell, she paints over it with a whole new concept and new colors.

Clearly a fan, our very own photographer Steve Donaldson said, “Her paintings bring out her emotion. That’s the fun of it.” He added, “I adore abstract. It has thousands of different meanings to a thousand different people.”

Yankwitt’s most unusual style of art is not well known, but is becoming more popular. It’s called Encaustic. This ancient form of art is accomplished by layering hot wax mixed with dammar resin.

Yankwitt has a dedicated encaustic art table in her studio, where she keeps an electric skillet that melts the wax. Colored pigments, kept warm and malleable in small metal condiment cups on a hot plate, are added to produce her desired color palette. She uses a set of dedicated brushes (which can only be used once, since wax builds up and hardens the hairs) to apply the wax to wood boards. A solid surface is best for adequate support for the wax painting. Yankwitt then uses a heat gun to fuse the wax to the layer below and keep it from falling off.

Several of her encaustic pieces are on display through September 30th at the “All Fired Up” show at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, which features a variety of “heated” art. She will also have some encaustic pieces on display at Sea Grape Gallery locally.

Yankwitt’s friend, Jo Moorer, displays three of Yankwitt’s art pieces in her home. She really enjoys looking at them. “She’s a very creative person. There’s that creative spark she has.”

Yankwitt is active in several local, state and international artist groups, including Punta Gorda’s Sea Grape Gallery, the VAC, the Arts and Humanities Council of Charlotte County, Naples Von Liebig Art Center, Fort Myers Alliance for the Arts, the Florida Watercolor Society and the International Society of Experimental Artists, of which she is a “signature member,” having exhibited at least three art pieces in their nationwide shows.

She and Ralph were honored by the Arts and Humanities Council with the prestigious Charlie Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in 2014 for their leadership roles in several county-wide arts organizations.

In addition to exhibiting locally at Sea Grape Gallery and the VAC, Yankwitt will take part in ISEA’s 2017 annual art show in Sanibel (October 23-29 at Big Arts Art Center), which features primarily abstract plus some 3-D pieces. She also earned her first “difficult to come by” entry into the Florida Watercolor Annual Convention Show, which was held in Coral Springs in September.

Yankwitt has exhibited in numerous prestigious juried shows and earned numerous awards for her art, including a First Merit Award for her acrylic gesso “Transmissions” at the VAC’s “Mayhem, Chaos and Confusion” show in July.

Yankwitt now also shares her knowledge of painting techniques with students at the VAC and the Cultural Center of Charlotte County. “I enjoy making my own art, but it’s fun to see what some of my students come up with,” she said. “They inspire me.” She’s very proud that some of her students have become award-winning artists.

“Her classes are educational and fun,” said one of her students, another well-known local artist, Dedo.

“Her critiques are always insightful.”

Another way Yankwitt shares her talents is by assisting with regular special events and charity fundraisers, like Canvas for a Cause, a collaborative fundraiser between the VAC and Crossroads Hope Academy, or a Sip and Paint event at Brookdale Assisted Living Facility in Punta Gorda. “This may be my third career. I’m now pursuing my true love…art.”

As previously noted, Yankwitt’s work can be seen at any time at Sea Grape Gallery and is often on display at the Visual Arts Center. You may contact the artist personally at (941) 276-9022.

Diane Davidson


Diane Davidson was raised in East Aurora, N.Y., where she was exposed to the world of art. The area was home to one of the first artist communes in the US, the Roycroft Arts and Crafts Movement, which housed many different craftsmen, like potters, writers, metal workers and furniture makers. While part of her interest and inspiration for art came from that historic example, she has said that most of her 3-D creations are based on nature’s most majestic surroundings, complexity and powerful, tactile, raw elements. “I follow things that move me and make me happy.”

Four of her latest sculptures, the “Atomic Flowers” series, are currently on display at the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay at 452 West Dearborn Street in Olde Englewood Village.

Crafted primarily from what Davidson calls “durable and pliable metal tubing,” beads and wire, some have wood bases, some metal “root” bases and one even grows from a large black pumice-stone base.

“They’re a spinoff from all organic issues and what’s going on in the world,” Davidson said. She knows we have a need to understand, embrace and find a way to balance within. She’s just starting the series. “There are probably 10 more in my head,” she said, adding, “I just start one and another spins off. I can’t wait to get the first done because the second is right there.”

Davidson explained, “My love of sculpture or 3-D art comes from many loves – the thrill of watching a sculpture become part of its environment, casting shadows large and small, becoming a spot for a curious bird or simply just something that makes you look.

“The building process is complex – choosing the right materials to portray my thought as well as providing a structurally sound work; the challenge of creating something in the round, the need to compose from every angle.”

While most well known for her stunning sculptures, Davidson is actually an extremely versatile multi-medium artist. She’s a talented muralist and specialty painter, bringing dramatic textures and “functional and fanciful” scenes into many homes. Her faux-painting assistant Stephanie said, “People (always seem to) want (something) flat. Diane takes their thoughts and brings them to life. Her mind just goes ‘pop’!”

Davidson has painted many artistic banners for Pioneer Days parade floats and, in 2012, won first place at the inaugural Sea Wall Art Contest at the Royal Palm Marina, a competition designed to not only benefit artists but create a venue for their work and advertise supporting businesses.

“Winning was great,” she said. “But meeting other artists was better.” They have remained friends and some are now AALB board members.

When asked about her favorite art medium, Davidson replied, “Every one is my favorite when I’m in it. I stay with it until I feel I need a break or come to fruition with a piece or series, and there’s something working on my mind.”

Is there anything she can’t do? “I’m not a good swimmer,” she quipped. Melanie Chadwick calls her living room “The Diane Davidson Gallery” since she owns quite a bit of her work. “She’s very talented,” Chadwick said. “Her work is so unique. That’s what I like about it.”

When Davidson was just a child, she cleared out a small “musty” space in her parents’ basement and started painting popular little animals with big eyes on barn wood. She would sell them at local farmers’ markets. She’s always worked with her hands, she said, whether it’s gardening, art or sculpture.

Mostly self-taught, Davidson did attend art school in New York, studying architecture and developing a love and admiration for clean lines and simplicity.

Davidson said she has had the good fortune to live and travel extensively in the US and abroad, receiving additional inspiration from what she has seen. When she lived in Colorado, she crafted many large sculptures reflecting what she calls the “simple beauty” of “monolithic” mountains and cliffs “sustaining themselves.” A lot of those pieces, she said, were made with an “intertwining” between stone (marble and granite) and wood. “They were very moving and humbling,” she added.

Her largest sculptural creations have been 10-15 feet high. She’s always dreamed of having a big barn (with a tiny house!) that she could build even bigger things in.

Davidson fell in love with the warm weather and simple life in Englewood, moving here in 2002. She believes a healthy community needs businesses working together with artists. That’s why she’s so active in bringing more of the arts into Englewood.

And boy has she ever played a role in the local arts scene growing…back in 2004, Davidson and a small group of local artists got together to discuss their crafts and decided they wanted a community base for all types of artists and craftsman to learn, display and enjoy art. And that is how the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay came to be. Now a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable and educational organization, she and other artists opened the AALB, originally displaying art on card tables and folding trays. Nowadays, you can view and purchase everything from paintings to sculptures, jewelry to fiber art, and even colorful canvas floor mats. Members and volunteers operate the gallery and teach classes in a dedicated space to help artists of all levels, even beginners, expand their areas of expertise.

Davidson also worked with Debbie Marks, manager of the Englewood Community Redevelopment Area for Sarasota County, to initiate the enchanting Englewood Sculpture Garden along a walkway that connects Dearborn Street to the boating and fishing piers at Cherokee Park. Six local sculptors are selected to display their work in this “Artscape” for three years.

Davidson has two pieces currently featured in the garden. She crafted “Sunset People” to honor everyone who comes here to watch the sunsets, as well as those senior citizens who are “in the sunset of their lives.” The colorful glass mosaic tiles mimic the tones of a setting sun.

“Windswept” uses a stacked thick glass blue-toned base to add the dimension of close-by waters, as well as the metal elements she said show the action of birds “just gliding with the wind across the bay.”

Another arts project that Marks and Davidson collaborated on was placing a series of outdoor benches throughout Olde Englewood Village. Davidson designed the sturdy, comfortable benches to be functional, but visual. Painted by local Alliance artists, they include literary quotes on the ends.

One artistic bench, located in front of the Arts Alliance, quotes American filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille – “Creation is a drug I can’t do without.” Davidson apparently is hooked, too.

You may contact Davidson personally at (941) 474-4653.

Marlene Jones


It’s said that archaeologists have uncovered the oldest fired clay figurines, dating back to 29,000 B.C. That’s some old pottery!

Not that old, but still historic and unique, “horsehair pottery” is attributed to Native American Navajo tribes. This ancient and distinctively fascinating pottery style involves a complex method of dropping strings of horsehair onto a very hot, recently kiln-fired piece of pottery. The horsehair burns off and leaves distinctive dark squiggly lines and unique smoky shading on the glazed piece.

Punta Gorda pottery artist Marlene Jones has developed a passion for creating this unusual pottery.

Jones grew up in Annapolis, Md., and moved to Baltimore in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s, she was inspired by other pottery artists and started creating her own artistic pieces while studying at Towson University. Her family moved to Italy, where she studied various pottery techniques for four years. When she returned to the US, she studied marketing and public relations, worked for a hospice facility, retired and became a consultant.

Jones’ husband, Bert, was a native Floridian and always wanted to come back to Florida to live. They purchased a home here in 2003 and visited regularly before moving here permanently in 2011. Now that she’s fully retired, Jones spends a great deal of her time crafting special pottery pieces, including some more functional stoneware pieces and a few colorful raku pottery creations in addition to her horsehair designs.

“When we came here I always knew I had to keep busy because I always was…I met some artists at the Visual Arts Center and got involved.”

Jones attended classes at the VAC and studied with instructors Howard Hartke and Jack Vartanian (who have both been featured in HARBOR STYLE in prior years). She saw horsehair pottery while visiting Phoenix, Ariz., and fell in love with it. “Howard [Hartke] would occasionally do it,” she said.

“I looked up the history,” Jones commented. Folklore has it that a Pueblo artisan discovered this art form when her long tresses accidentally blew against a hot piece of pottery she was removing from her kiln. The hair stuck and carbonized quickly, creating a unique impression she liked. She decided to copy the effect using hair from a horse’s tail.

“I’ve always loved horses, even though I never had one, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” Jones said. “There’s so much to learn about it.” So she made a decision to go to Asheville, N.C., to study with a “phenomenal” instructor.

This craft is somewhat complex and, at times, even dangerous.

“The process is a lot of hands-on,” Jones explained, adding, “That’s what I like about it.”

It begins with a ball of clay on her potter’s wheel; then she puts on some “slip” (a wet clay finish to make the piece soft white). The next step is using a chamois cloth to burnish it (“rub it to death all over.”) When it’s dry, it goes into the kiln for its first firing (bisque) at 1,880 degrees. Each piece then cools and sits on a shelf until ready for the horsehair to be added.

Jones usually completes about six pieces at each firing. Each session usually includes two to three firings, completing 12- 18 pieces. Jones is “more comfy with 12”, she said.

Her husband Bert is her “main gas kiln guru” and “hero.” He fires up the kiln that he re-built to 1,350 degrees to reheat the pottery before carrying the pieces with a large pair of tongs to Jones so she can add the horsehair. The temperature, she said, must be precise. “If (the pottery) cools to less than 1,200 degrees, the hair won’t stick.” She then sprays the pieces with clear gloss sealer to make them easier to clean.

Since they normally do firing sessions outdoors, weather is a factor. Pots do occasionally break due to thermal difference, and rain can cause problems.

Horse tail hairs make thicker, stronger lines since it’s more coarse, while mane hair is finer and makes more subtle lines. Friends donate all different kinds of hair, and some frequently come to her with their own horsehair to have what Jones calls “legacy” pots made to honor the delivery of a foal or the existence or memory of an honored or beloved horse.

Jones’ friend Dorrit Tompkins said she was allowed to assist in making a memorial gift pot with Foxy’s hair as a gift for her daughter. “It’s a long and precarious procedure to get to the finalized piece, and it takes a lot of persistence to create such a beautiful piece of art!” she said, adding, “Marlene’s enthusiasm and love she puts into making the pieces is remarkable!”

Liz Whalen of Punta Gorda brought 31-year-old therapy horse Cloud Nine’s hair to the studio to make a special pot as a gift for her daughter. She “twirled” the entire strands around the pot and lid. “It’s a big deal,” she said, “Something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s very exciting to have something that will last forever.”

“There’s nothing more rewarding than taking a ball of clay and forming it into something beautiful that memorializes the life of a horse,” Jones said.

While she uses whatever hair people ask her to use, she prefers the longer tail hairs. Some other types of animal hair may be used, though results may be mixed. Jones recently created a piece of art using the hair of the “king of beasts,” deceased lion Dexter from the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary.

Ashle Steffenhagen’s grandmother, Patricia, had a vase made for Ashle’s birthday using her beloved horse Bobby’s tail hair. Fifteenyear- old Bobby is a competitive show horse and Ashle’s entire family feels he is very special. “I am grateful to have such a beautiful and unique piece of art in my house to represent him,” she said. Her comment to Jones? “The work you do is stunning!”

When Jones isn’t busy at the wheel or the kiln working on her creations, you may find her at Sea Grape Gallery in Punta Gorda, one of several venues where she displays her art for sale. “I’m thrilled to be there,” she said. “The other artists inspire me.” Though her work is available for purchase there and in two Maryland galleries and a horse feed store, Jones is happy to take on special order commissions. Contact her at marlenejones22@gmail.com or (410) 703-2252.

Jones does tend to get very attached to her pottery pieces, she said. “I have some displayed on glass shelves in the living room.”

“Working with clay is one of the most rewarding experiences,” she said. “Essentially I take what is considered mud and form it into something…beautiful. It is my personal passion.”

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Inspiration+%2B+Imagination+%3D+Art/2878135/437192/article.html.

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