BY PATRICE SHELKUN
“Human beings are born image-makers and image-enjoyers,” says Dennis Dutton, author of The Art Instinct: Beauty Pleasure, and Human Evolution. In his book, he explores in great depth how and why we make as well as appreciate art, and how human development over the course of history has influenced those concepts. It’s a somewhat esoteric tome, but well worth the read.
I always find it interesting to speak with other artists about the various influences that color and direct their work. We are all so unique that it’s rare to find two people who express precisely the same thoughts about what attracts their attention. Many of our first thoughts about artistic style came through exposure to the work of great master artists in books or museums (and there’s no comparison to seeing a work of art in person!). But we are all certainly influenced in our artmaking by our culture, our geographic location, and the nature around us, by our personal perspectives on politics, faith, social concerns, or current events.
Artist Paula Brody, whose role as president of the Naples Art District has energized this growing artist community over the last few years, shared with me some of her personal influences. “A lot of my metallic work is inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt, and some of my paper collages have been informed by Henri Matisse’s later work,” said Brody. “His palette just totally speaks to me.” It’s no surprise that her studio on Shirley Street is named Inspirations.
Kathleen Moore, who shares studio space with me in Gallery 206, told me that her current work and her previous career as a textile designer are an outgrowth of her early immersion in the world of flowers. Her grandfather was a horticulturist in England. As a child, she and her siblings would play in the English gardens and orchid-filled conservatory at her home. “My mother knew the name of every flower,” Moore said. “So, when I got into textiles, I began by painting flowers.” Today, she experiments with floral motifs in her paintings in various mediums and her painted silk scarves.
Artist Wendy Wagner, who now works and teaches portraiture in a classical realist style at ART2AMAZE, said that she was particularly drawn to the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in her early years as a student, particularly because Kahlo was a relatively rare female artist. Married to muralist Diego Rivera, Kahlo painted in the shadow of his larger reputation, often using herself as a subject, and incorporated a lot of symbolism to express her feelings. “She really put it all out there,” said Wagner. “Talk about being vulnerable!”
This month the Naples Art District, in collaboration with a county-wide celebration of Hispanic arts and culture called ¡ARTE VIVA!, will pay special tribute to Kahlo in a series of special events over a two-week span. Frida Fest will run from January 21 through February 5 and feature large murals and other artist creations honoring the woman who inspired so many.
Find out for yourself what influences each of the over 100 artists in the Naples Art District. Three times each month the district hosts special open studio events where the public can visit with artists in their workplaces—on the first Wednesday early evenings and the first Thursday afternoons, and on the third Saturday afternoons from November to May. Some studios are open additional days every week or by appointment, and many offer classes in various media.
Patrice Schelkun is a contemporary realist painter working in oil and on glass. She and her husband split their time between Naples and Lake George, NY. View her work at www.patriceschelkun.com or @schelkun_studio_arts on Instagram and Facebook.