Monday, July 7, 2008


I confess to a kind of obsession with storms, especially hurricanes. I love painting storms...all those dark clouds look so ominous and threatening. I have been in many hurricanes, living along the shoreline of Connecticut introduced to me to some very scary times starting in 1954 when Carol did a huge amount of damage to the island where I lived and wrecked my boat which was my pride and joy at the time. We thought it was over when the eye passed over us and we all went out to investigate and got caught out in it when the eye ended and we were nearly swept away trying to get back to the house. Memories like that never fade!

One of the big advantages of the Elmira College Show is that 48 of my paintings are out of Florida at least for part of the hurricane season and this is a big plus. I keep most of them in a steel and cinder block storage building during most of the year, as it is impractical to have them in my small house. Our "manufactured home" (Florida vernacular for mobile home) is very vulnerable and for half the year I am constantly conscious that any one of those tropical messes is a potential disaster for us, or at least a major inconvenience due mandatory evacuation which for us, is to a special needs shelter that provides electricity for oxygen machines.

In 2004 we had to evacuate 3 times for Charley, Frances and Jeanne. Charley was forecast to track straight up Tampa Bay and head directly for us, so we decided to leave for safer parts and went to visit friends in the middle of the state. (This was prior to the oxygen machines). Sebring is quite a distance from either coast, and about two hours from where we live, and we figured we would be safe as well as have some fun visiting with old friends. Before we left I quickly assembled all the photograph albums, my computer and enough art supplies to work on a watercolor of a hastily chosen sunset photograph I took shortly after we moved here.

The irony of that trip was that Charley took a left turn well south of Tampa Bay and headed directly across Florida and we were right in the path of this very intense but quite small hurricane. It left a path of destruction from Port Charlotte through Sebring, and on to Lake Wales, Orlando and Daytona and on out into the Atlantic where it finally blew itself out.

While Charley was tearing up the state I calmed my nerves by working on my little watercolor which I entitled "Wildsky". The title fit very well both the painting and the situation! A few weeks later the next storm started tracking toward us and so I gathered up a new sky photograph and the art supplies and headed for a brick home of a friend in Dade City, about 10 miles from us. It was too exhausting trying to deal with a two hour trek to Sebring and deal with a terrible trip home which was anything but fun! So the next two hurricanes, Jeanne and Frances were spent closer to home and produced "Wildsky II" and "Wildsky III". I sold the series at my retrospective the following September.

For those two evacuations I had gained some experience and fitted myself out with a light that was mounted on a headband so I could have hands free and light for my painting. I also found a nifty battery powered small fan which not only kept me cool but helped dry the watercolor. This high tech portable studio was invaluable in keeping me emotionally intact during these storms which were not quite hurricane force by the time they reached us.

I wonder if I can produce a painting at the special needs shelter if we have to depart hastily for such an unpleasant occurance.

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