The first time I saw Theo Wujick was around 1977 or 1978. He was dancing alone at punk bar, the Miss Lucky Club on Nebraska Avenue. He wore gold spray painted boots. The rumor was he slept in his office and showered at a USF pool facility. I followed his work at a respectful distance until we became friends years later after many mutual lunches (separate tables) at our favorite lunch spot, Trang Viet. He was warm, talented and knew how to enjoy himself while carving out the solitary time he needed to focus on his work.
After Theo left us behind on earth, I had the incredible fortune to be invited to a private visit to his studio. Thank you Susan! The sheer quantity of work was numbing. There were huge, beautiful works, which must have taken months to conceive and complete. There were intimate paper cutouts of horses with articulated arms and legs. There were bits and pieces of his thoughts. Composites of his life painted to abstraction. I was moved by his focus. He knew how to play but he also knew how to work.
You can see a collection of his work at the St. Petersburg Museum of Art (MFA).
“You live till you die, and that’s the end of it. What good is your legacy when you are dead? I worry about being alive, selling work, having fun, moving and doing things when I am alive.”
I met James Rosenquist during Theo Wujick’s memorial May 10th, 2014 at the Contemporary Art Museum – USF. He shared something I will never forget, his reason for transplanting to Florida was to eliminate distraction. I lived in Manhattan in the mid-eighties, I know what he means. The constant draw of the city called me from my tiny ground floor brownstone to a world that served up some of the best cinema I’ve ever seen – and that was just experiencing life while walking down the street.
Rosenquist utilized his commercial art experience to create fine art. He was one of several at the time to explore the role of advertising and consumer culture in art and society. Today, his images seem almost “everyday” as the line between art and advertising are blurring almost beyond recognition. We are no longer told what we need to buy. The spokesperson in the latest form of advertising is you. It’s as if there are different “yous”, the one who believes a successful life is a collection of things that fill the hole created by the distractions in life. Then there is the “you” who given the chance, dreams to take a minute to experience the exceptional parts of life you traded for working most of your waking hours. You make excuses for not living. You delay life until you discover you delayed life.
This new story-based ad is an example of how far into our psyche contemporary advertising is willing to go:
All it takes is a $50,000 investment in a luxury car to make your hamster wheel misery take a back seat.
I used to be paid handsomely to maneuver consumers in one direction or another. One day as I was racing to “another appointment” when I caught myself driving down the highway with the urgency of a life or death mission, hands gripping the wheel, zooming around obstacles that prevented me from my goals. I spent so much time distracted from life, I forgot to listen to birds, to see the bark on trees.
I asked myself how many more pairs of shoes should I own?
Terry Klaaren Painting Women Artists and Musicians Mural in Channelside
A Love Story
My wonderful friends Terry and Dori Klaaren were together for over 45 years when complications from a relatively simple surgery took Dori’s life unexpectedly on New Years day this year.
Terry and Dori Love at first sight
They fell in love at first sight almost a half century ago and traveled the world together painting, drawing and experiencing life at ground level.
Terry and Dori recent travel photo
My contribution to one of their treks was a box of old letters I inherited from an antique embroidery case left behind in a storage room of a printshop my father purchased in the 70’s. The room held fascinating paintings and drawings by a woman commercial artist who was married to the previous owner. The woman’s art work was amazing, covering everything from coloring book illustrations to odd story-telling paintings showing the darker side of Ybor City in it’s heyday. I had no idea what to do with the letters. They were brittle and yellow and accompanied newspapers from the 1800’s. I showed them to Terry and Dori and they became the new owners.
Terry and Dori’s book of travels
Documentation of a Full Circle
Dori researched the letters and transcribed them. Turns out they were letters from a Confederate officer, Belton Mickle, to his wife Lucy, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Terry and Dori decided to incorporate visits to places named in the letters on their next journey together. Terry would paint the views plein air as Dori recorded the trip in their journal. The book created from their drawings, photographs and thoughts is rich in history.
The letters found their new and final home with Dr. Jennifer Ford at the University of Mississippi Library Special Collections. Jennifer was ecstatic and fully aware of the Mickles. She filled in all of the missing details. Terry and Dori continued their trip with the next stop: Graceland.
How We Met
Terry and I met while working on a creative team for an audio visual training and safety company in the early 80’s. There were no graphics computers, so Terry created intricate schematics from border tape on shiny black backgrounds. It was a nightmare. We spent weeks in the dark, making slides of the powerplant schematics on a copystand. As I wiped the dust from the black paper, the tape would lift and had to be repaired on the spot before I clicked the shutter. Eight hours a day in total darkness soon turned boredom into Terry recanting chapters from the book Aztec as we worked. An odd and memorable experience that would stay with me through my travels to the Yucatan years later.
Although Terry lost the most important figure in his life, he is celebrating Dori and other women artists and musicians by painting a mural on the side of The Dance Project building in Channelside.
I meanwhile celebrate a beautiful long friendship with two amazing artists who still send the muses my way!
Paul Wilborn’s new book, Cigar City, fictionalizes Ybor in the 80’s.
Saint Petersburg Art Scene is the New Ybor
My love affair with old Ybor started as a child when my family’s “Big Outing” was a visit to the Silver Ring Sandwich Shop for two “Specials” which my Mom, Dad and Sister happily shared on Bayshore or at University of Tampa’s Plant Park by the river. We didn’t have much money, but we had more love than money could buy and the absolute best sandwhiches anywhere on the planet.
As Ybor grew seedier and I turned 18, I was drawn to the secret art scene and delicious darkness of the forbidden streets. What I found was a core of artists and writers who worked, lived and played very hard in a non-gentrified glory of architecture and Cuban/Italian history. The drinking age had just been lowered to 18 and the music scene was thriving. Somehow, I stayed out of serious trouble but gained many stories including all the ways my friends and I were able to get into the Artist and Writers balls without paying at the door.
Paul Wilborn’s new book, even though fictionalized, brings back many memories sparked by the incredible photos of David Audet and Bud Lee. It was a magical time. It shaped me and gave my art structure.
Paul Wilborn reads from his new book at Mirror Lake Library
David Audet discusses his photographs in Wilborn’s book Cigar City
Pinellas is Teeming with Talent, Art and Opportunity to Make Aesthetic History
Within blocks of my Gulfport cottage, I can visit more excellent artists than I have fingers to count. At the Creative Pinellas meetup this week hosted by Gulfport’s Golden Dinosaur, I met several new movers and shakers from artists and writers to those who produce shows and events. These meetups are so important to local artists; we meet others who can affect our own work through collaboration and the creative spark of their muses.
Akiko Kotani with Babs Reingold
Visibility is key in our community
Art lovers love our company. Let’s face it, we live charmed lives. That’s not to say our lives are easy, but those who have chosen to balance their lives in a different way want to be around our energy. My doctors spend an equal amount of time asking about my current projects as they do checking my health. It’s important to share our creative wealth!
I try to attend many community events whether or not they are cultural. Political and business events provide windows for new thoughts which can yield timely ideas and content. Much art (especially writing) requires a solitary environment. It’s good to get out, see the world outside the studio.
My introduction to independent film came in my senior year of collage. A year before graduation, I realized I had completed all of my core studies to obtain a degree in Creative Writing and decided to “punish myself” by taking a course in the Fine Arts Department. My ability to draw was right up there with the tidiness of my handwriting. My Visual Concepts 101 professor showed the film Un Chien Andalou within the first week of class. I was mesmerized. “What is this? I want to do this!” She laughed a little and sent me to the head of the Cinematography department. He laughed as well. “The current classes are advanced and you are taking your first introductory level art class.” I shifted in my chair and announced that I would not leave until he let me take film classes. He was amused and gave in.
I made three films that first year with the help of my new friend and mentor, a man who studied Cinematography in the navy and was there to complete his Masters degree. He brought me up to the level of the rest of the students quickly by showing me how to shoot, edit and use what now seems primitive contact and optical printing equipment.
A Real Job
A safety and training company hired me the following year and I saved as much as I could until I was able to purchase my own camera, rewinds, synchronizer and viewer. Daily commercial work bogged me down and soon, the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was to make movies.
Fast forward several years, I registered for a screenwriting class and wrote my first few pages. I had never written in this genre before; dialogue came surprisingly easy. I wrote a feature length screenplay and sent it off to Gotham Writers Workshop in NYC. I was selected as one of 20 screenwriters from across the country to attend a week long intensive class reviewing my and other participants’ screenplays with New York and LA professionals at Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. I’ve been making movies ever since.
But video had evolved. What I learned by working with film gave me the basic technical abilities I needed, but the equipment was different. I had to start over. Over the next decade, I learned from others and from my mistakes. I attended Berlin and Toronto film festivals regularly, established partnerships with people who were strong where I was not and offered my time and talent to others who were creating films, installations and public performances.
Independent film is not really independent. In order to create a story on a moving timeline you generally need cast and crew to make that happen. It may be one actor and one camera, but you still need a script, a director and hopefully someone to help you move lights around and record acceptable sound. Throughout the years, I have been blessed with creative, brilliant, passionate partners, mentors and mentees who have been a huge part of my success. I don’t forget to pay that forward!
Eugenie Bondurant as Martha Gelhorn in Tiny Bacteria with DP Charles Bregg
Producer/Director Victoria Jorgensen with Writer Marina Shemwell and Actor Eugenie Bondurant at Cannes Film Festival
DP Stan Kozma with Mary Rachel Quinn and Victoria Jorgensen
Don Cesar, RNC shoot with Arias Stanley Distasio and Victoria Jorgensen
Paul Anderson Port Director with Victoria Jorgensen
Mayor Bob Buckhorn discusses the future of Tampa Bay
Between the gorgeous weather and the many Spring events, it’s hard to stay home! We are so fortunate to live in an area with fertile minds and talent to match. I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 80’s and would be hard-pressed to recall events, artists and writers more vibrant than we enjoy in our area right now!
Parties, Panels,Films and Radio Theatre
This past week I attended panels, films and parties at the Gasparilla International Film Festival, meeting new, exceptional contacts from around the country. I also enjoyed my first visit to Live Radio Theatre at The Studio@620 where I experienced several radio plays including Horace House Haunting, written by Eva C. Schegulla, directed by Bonnie Agan and featuring Robin O’Dell, Dean Wick, Rich Rice, Bob Heitman and Eugenie Bondurant. I have to say one of my favorite parts was watching Foley Artist Matt Cowley add a third dimension with his unique sound effects. It would be hard to throw a stone in this building and not target amazing multi-talented entertainers.
Live Music to the Tune of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel
Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing Florida Bjorkestra at the Palladium. Where else can you find a 20 piece orchestra complete with strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion and top level lead and backup singers performing Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush music? Oh yeah, the audience also celebrated Paul Wilborn’s Birthday singing Happy Birthday in unison! Thank you Paul for all you do for the creative community! Keep your eyes out for Paul’s new book coming very soon!
Pride Tampa Bay was huge this year! It is touching to experience the warmth of families, children and people of all persuasions embracing diversity. Love is in the air!
Coming up this month:
Short and Sweet Theatre Week at USF St. Petersburg (http://www.usfsp.edu/home/2019/03/27/short-sweet-theater-week-brings-professional-thespians-to-campus/)
SunLit Festival (https://keepstpetelit.org/sunlit-festival/)
Sunscreen International Film Festival (http://sunscreenfilmfestival.com/festival-2019/schedule/?utm_content=b78659eac3fb877a25d2819e5378a8f1&utm_campaign=Official%20Schedule%20for%20the%2014th%20Annual%20Sunscreen%20Film%20Fest!&utm_source=Robly.com&utm_medium=email)
See you there!
Women In Film and Television sponsored Industry Panel at Gasparilla International Film Festival
The Radio Theatre Project at The Studio@620
Two of my favorite Berg Actresses:Eugenie Bondurant and Mary Rachel Quinn at the Side Door
Organizing eight creative women for a celebration at the same place and time was like herding cats but with only one missing, we did it!
The Magic Hour, a documentary about aging in place, created with assistance from Creative Pinellas and Pinellas Community Foundation: Act II, stars Maria Emilia (Artist and Writer), Janet Roberts (Traveling Activist/Speaker), Angie Knowles (Fabric Designer), Neverne Covington (Artist Extraordinaire), Paula Kramer (Choreographer/Dancer) and Inge Mooney (Worldwide Traveler and Troublemaker) met with Assistant Director/Editor Alexandra Gamache and me for a tasty dinner to celebrate our journey on the film The Magic Hour. We sorely missed amazing artist and writer Maria Emilia at the celebration, but look forward to our next meetup.
My experience creating this unique documentary was long and fruitful. I personally spent well over two hundred hours on the project. Although there were frustrating moments (as there are in every film) I cannot describe the pure joy I inherited by working with and learning from all involved.
The production schedule was tighter than the budget. Alex and I shot two cameras on three production days. There were six four-hour interviews at six different locations. Our interviewees treated us to perks including beautifully prepared snacks, dinner and even a Moscow Mule or two!
Each of the women dug far into their archives to provide us with photos and background information from the histories of their rich lives for the film. I am amazed at their incredible attitudes, ability to overcome obstacles and unwillingness to rest on their laurels. It’s safe to say, I fell in love with all of them!
Keep abreast of my blog to learn more about the life of this film and new projects coming soon!