Hello, I am an artist. No, wait! Stay! Seriously, I’m cool. I’m an artist, and my arty name is Von Simeon. Because that’s what artists do; they give their creative persona a catchy name. Besides the naming convention, I also have arty tendencies to do arty things with other artfolk. We cruise events like we can afford the 26,000$ price tags, we sip pinot grigio by the gallon, and we try to outdo each other in explaining the slashes in our titles. We become fascinated by the works we behold, then turn grey with self-doubt. And we drink some more. Then someone pulls out the weed. And that’s pretty much a night out with the arties.
And so we did, we artists, we slash bearing title holders, we ventured over to Duncan McClellan Glass to enjoy a glassblowing demonstration by Rob Stern, and to marvel at the gallery’s other fine pieces by talented people. I gotta admit, I walked in there having no real knowledge of the art form, but ignorance be damned, I made sure to enjoy myself. And if I didn’t, well, I was surrounded by the coolest arties this side of the Mississippi (not validated, but I just like typing the word Mississippi. Try it. Yeah! Amirite? Mississippi.)
Let’s break down the stars of the evening. Starting with the Man With The Plan, the one who invited us to this event, Stone Handy. Stone’s slashes are poet/spoken word artist/percussionist/potter/designer/writer and Stone knows Duncan from working with him years ago, before the gallery owner even owned a gallery. So for us to be roaming around his friend’s success, it made me think, damn, I’m glad Stone is my friend!
The man I sidled up to most the evening was Johnny Roth. His slashes are musician/guitarist/composer/recording artist and he’s the most laid back dude I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Seriously. You stand in his wake and immediately, life is grand, and you have no earthly idea why.
Then there’s Ian Tracy. Slashes are videographer/editor/director/writer and pretty sure more, that’s just what I’ve experienced thus far. The best part about Ian is he’s WAY taller than me, and can capture better shots than my 62 inches of fury. No, that’s not the best part of him. The best part of Ian is he’s the only guy I’ve met in Florida who doesn’t flinch at my lewd language.
And finally, the sprite of my life, Marie Chapin. Her slashes are chef/children’s book author/writer/wardrobe designer/caterer/comic book artist/painter who also has the glory (misery?) of being my writing partner and recently commissioned cover art designer for I Blew Up Juarez.
And now to the glass…
Rob Stern and his artistic team invited us in the audience to draw something, and they’d in turn make it into glass. Marie and I chomped at the bit for our chance to bring a random vision to life. She held the drawing tablet close as she moved the orange crayon with soft, brisk strokes, creating with minimal effort a Tyrannosaurus Rex. ‘You’re pretty good at that,’ I complimented. ‘Shit, better be. I’m drawing with kids all day!’ Oh yeah, other part of the slashes: nanny. That’s an artform. She passed the tablet to me and I flipped to a fresh page, where I jammed the orange into the sheet and with heavy pressure, ground crayon into the shape of a very volumptous animal. Rubenesque, is how Marie described it, and when everyone remarked I drew a horse, I blew their minds by extending a horn from betwixt its ears. A unicorn, gawddammit! Yes! Rob, make me a glass unicorn. Ian delivered our art to the team, to discover they will likely not be successful in replicating our non-existent creatures. Fooey.
Onward and upward, we enter the main exhibition room of the gallery and find these amazing, HUGE pieces of art. I’m immediately antsy, worried I’m going to knock something over with either my purse or my ass. My anxiety softened at the sight of one particular piece, Insatiable Sassy Gasp, by Stephen Powell. The lighting behind it made the red and magenta and purple of the glass seem to swim, colorful oily bubbles in an organized flow. Each one working alongside the other to embrace the light, to demonstrate the proletarian forces of detail and color and texture unified to be admired. Stone caught me adrift in adoration, making the right comment, ‘It’s alive, isn’t it.’ Yes, yes it’s alive. I was humbled. Glass was taking me to a whole ‘nother place.
We entered a back room with an impressive frosted glass impression of a sun against one wall, and several large pieces leading towards an outdoor deck. As we mingled, Ian noted ‘This is his shower.’ Everyone else figured it to be an artpiece, the design of a shower with glass doors. ‘No. Look, there’s his shampoo. It’s his shower.’ We all looked in, and, yep, this was a fully functioning shower. Duncan McClellan lives in his gallery. Of course! Sign of a dedicated artist. But why not take advantage, right? Be part of his daily living? To which, Marie entered the shower, and gave us a right show:
The arty crew moved outside to the deck, designed with way more phallic pieces than I think the gallery was not aware of. And out came a cat! Fuckers were everywhere. Calm down, I like cats. I just don’t like them all of a sudden being there, in the way only cats and, well I, have mastered. My eyes stopped on this particular piece, because of a very familiar symbol. You 90s kids should notice it immediately:
Stone drummed against a large metalwork as he freestyled words to the beat, until Marie noted there was a suspended round piece inside it on the verge of falling out. Maybe we should keep it moving.
The group splintered into two cells, those who wanted to keep looking and those who wanted to stop moving. My old lady self needed to rest my arthritis, so we chillaxed against turquoise cushions under a blue-black sky. We were lucky that Duncan McClellan walked past us, and Stone asked him about the piece with the symbols on the patio. Duncan explained they were 14th century symbols used in alchemy. Awesome.
I no longer feel ignorant about glassblowing as an artform. I love this gallery, and I encourage anyone visiting Florida to fuck Disneyworld and come over my way. This art district is a-happenin’ and you should experience it for yourself. The whole point of the evening was to eventually hit the Downtown St. Pete ArtWalk, but we never made it. Marie ended up at ARTPool Gallery, while me and the fellas ended up at Everything Dolce, where I sighted this beautiful local artist piece:
What’s interesting about Everything Dolce is that it used to be Cafe Bohemia, which was the first place I visited once I moved to St. Pete to start writing. Now I’m blogging my ass off and you’ll be reading my book in a few months. Talk about full circle!