Monday, April 23, 2012

Noah's Evening at the Artist's Reception

Noah with S. Betz Gallagher's painting of Roscoe
This chilly Saturday evening in late March of 2012, while doing double-duty as babysitting grandmother and artist, and the hand of my seven-year-old grandson, Noah in mine, we enter Cobenick Studios/CS Gallery in Olde
Towne East, a historical inner-city neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, and only two blocks from the city’s prestigious, Columbus College of Art and Design.  As part of the artist’s reception, artists and visitors will chit-chat and munch from large plates of veggies, fruits, and cheeses, and sip beverages while viewing paintings and photographs adorning the walls of the place.  While four
of the paintings are mine, the others are the creations of some of my fellow members of the Grove City Arts Council, a body of work that is evocative of the far-reaching artistic talent to be found in the vibrant arts community of Central Ohio.
               Aware that the little one will become restless long before the official hour of closing, a circumstance that will lead to our early departure, I make a point of arriving just as the doors of the establishment are opened.  My hope is that it will also give me an opportunity to talk privately with Daniel Colvin (WWW.COBENICKSTUDIOS.COM), the owner of the studio/gallery for the purpose gaining more information about him to include in this commentary.  I load up a plate of munchies for Noah, find an out-of-the-way place for him to sit, and keep my fingers crossed that
he will remain content while I speak with Daniel.
               I am always impressed with how much Daniel Colvin reminds me of a young Peter Sellers, but unlike the actor, Daniel sports pitch-black hair bundled into a ponytail beneath a canny Fedora.  Tonight, as always, his goateed face is open and welcoming, his manner friendly and effusive.  An artist in his own right, a small corner of his gallery is reserved for his handmade paper creations, the impressive collection separated from the larger gallery by a screen of his own making, a screen with an Oriental flavor fashioned from his handmade papers and painted black wood.  Son of a
local musician, Daniel’s love of all things creative began with that influence from his father, and as a young boy, Daniel loudly demonstrated his characteristic enthusiasm for the aesthetic side of existence on a set of drums.  As maturity wrought a subtle quieting of his nature, he chose to pursue fine art instead of music.  A graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design, he is now a substitute art teacher in the Columbus Public School System.  He also teaches ballroom dancing among the artwork in his studio/gallery, having honed his chops on the dance floor at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.
               Daniel’s artistic flare is evident in the manner in which the artwork is displayed on the four walls of his studio/gallery—they are hung asymmetrically and carefully grouped with compatible pieces.  Displayed all alone on the wall at twelve o’clock high as you enter the place, a perfectly lit space that harkens, “Hey!  Look at me!” is a fantastic pastel.  My chat with Daniel concluded, I quickly look over my shoulder to make sure that Noah is alright and I approach the piece.  A shining rendition, it is a flawless blend of warm and cool tones on a slope of a mountain reflected
in a body of water drawn by Edith Dinger Wadkins (  After a perusal of the other pieces, I cast my vote for Edith’s pastel as the Best of Show, but at the end of the evening when all of the votes are counted, my acrylic painting of a restaurant scene in New Orleans will win the prize.
               Seldom am I presented with a clear-cut choice as to the best piece of art, and this night is no exception.  The paintings executed by Mary Ann Riggle and Rose Motsch always capture my
eye and vie for my vote.  Biological sisters, as well as sisters of the soul, they also share an artistic sensibility—both of them are accomplished interpretive/abstract artists whose vividly colored canvasses fairly jump from their respective places on the walls and dazzle you.
               Septuagenarian, Betty Dingledine, the perpetual correspondence secretary of our organization, as well as a young-at-heart artist, takes continual art classes and paints at a feverish pace, exhibiting works of art that sometimes almost blow my mind.  This night an abstract of geometric shapes that is a departure for her, I find particularly appealing.
              Husband and wife team, European-born Hans and American-born Kathy Pearce-Mueller,
his descriptive Old World photographs and her sensitive watercolors, are a perfect amalgamation
of this good-natured and talented couple.  It is my first time to view their work, and I hope not the last.
               Botanicals are the theme of the watercolors submitted by Sommer House Gallery owner, Rebecca Sommer (, each painting so delicately and precisely rendered by her steady hand that they appear three-dimensional, deceiving your eye into
believing you can reach into them and pluck their petals.  Rebecca and I stop to chat although by now Noah is tugging on my jacket and asking what it is we are doing here.  The introductions accomplished, Rebecca inquires of my grandson, “Which piece is your favorite, Noah?”  He looks
at her as if she has just sprouted two heads, his quizzical eyes darting to mine.  I realize some interpretation is in order here.  “Which picture do you like best?” I add.  A shrug of his shoulders is his only reply.  “I think I’d better get him another plate of food, Rebecca.  Hopefully it will occupy him for a few more minutes.”   
                The pictures submitted by four brilliant photographers make a dynamic showing on this festive evening, the style of each one as distinctive as if they had been rendered line-by-line by precise hands of fine artists rather than captured in the lenses of cameras.  Dreaming Tree Galleries owner, Rebecca Cummings ( portrays symbols of life in her work:  dreamy interiors, quick or tucked-away or secretive glimpses of cultural artifacts of humankind made immortal by her Canon.  Long and color-saturated views of spare landscapes against
dramatic skies fill the acid-on-metal photographs by Randy Vermillion (,
his larger-than-life images mirroring his towering and lean persona.  A more traditional approach
is taken by Mark Marshall ( whose photos of
rugged old mills and peaceful country lanes are the type of images people like to hang on their
walls to evoke pleasant childhood memories.  Lenny Gerstein (find him on Facebook under Picture-It-Through-Windows) seals his photos of lighthouses and other structures, as well as landscapes,
in salvaged window frames, some of them still adorned with original hardware—a unique and ingenious display.
               Young Austin McClellan, a recent honors graduate from the Columbus College of Art and Design, is represented by an artful quadtych—this submission is just one more example of her clever artistic eye.  One of the four small canvasses is of a little bird.  “Look, Noah!  It’s a cute little bird.”  “Oh yeah.  It is a cute little bird.  But Grandma…what’s that?” he inquires, pointing a grubby finger toward Betty’s neighboring abstract.  I hurry him to the restroom and wash his sticky fingers and crusty mouth, feeling remorseful over the strawberries I had piled on his latest plate.      
S. Betz Gallagher, Suzanne to us, ( is a full time artist specializing in portraiture and figurative paintings in oil (of humans and of animals), although she excels in any genre that she tackles.  Early in May opening her own studio/gallery two doors north of here on the corner of Oak Street and Parsons Avenue, this is a fulfillment of her lifelong dream.  Stay tuned for my official announcement of the opening.  This night, however, Suzanne still occupies a small studio/gallery that is an anteroom to Daniel’s.  Recalling Suzanne’s several paintings of dogs and cats adorning the walls of her space, I hurry Noah to the back of the building where Suzanne, in her characteristically charming and gracious manner, is holding court.
I am so relieved to see that Suzanne’s space also features a wicker settee decked out with copious decorative pillows, the perfect spot in which to ensconce my grandson for a few minutes.  Within arm’s reach of the settee are three more platters of finger-foods:  nuts, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, little cookies and cakes.  Noah’s pristine fingers immediately begin to probe their contents.  “Okay, honey.  Grandma will make a plate for you in a minute,” I tell him, pushing his fingers away from the juicy little tidbits of gastronomic delight.  “But first, let’s look at the pictures of the little doggies and kitties.  And look at that great big one over there!” 
OH…MY…GOD!” Noah yells, the heel of his hand slapping his forehead.  “I’ve never
seen anything like this in my whole life!”
he declares, his arms thrusting into the air.  He rushes to Suzanne’s huge installation piece, a torso of her dog, Rosco, a work of art executed on forty-two
12” x 12” canvasses.  Again, Noah’s fingers begin to probe…he needs to touch this piece of art.  “Don’t touch the art, please, Noah,” I instruct him as I snap a photograph of him with Rosco.             
Noah’s third plate of food consumed to the smallest crumb, and his voice beginning to whine with his entreaties to go home, it is apparent that it is time to depart this artist’s reception.  We say our goodbyes and as we emerge onto the sidewalk of the street, I say to Noah, “It’s a good thing they had all of that food to eat or else you wouldn’t have been able to get through this evening, isn’t it?”  “Yeah, it’s a good thing, or I would have been bored out of my mind, Grandma!” 
Worried about his consumption of so much food, I inquire, “How does your tummy feel?”  “It’s okay,” he replies off-handedly.  He climbs onto a three foot high wall of brick and concrete that borders the parking lot and scoots along the top of it on his backside.  “Maybe a little hungry,” he adds as if he’d given the matter serious consideration.  “A little hungry?” I retort in disbelief.  “Yeah…a little hungry.  I’m just a growing boy, Grandma.  I just don’t ever stop eating, almost,” he explains as he jumps from the wall to the pavement.  I hold my breath as I always do when
witness to his daredevil pursuits. 
The moment we arrive home, he heads for my refrigerator.
All of the above-mentioned artists and photographers can be reached through the Grove City Arts Council (   
To view the online gallery of Linda’s artwork, log onto
Linda’s next novel, Guardians and Other Angels is almost ready to print.  Stay tuned for the date
of its launching.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Honored Author


Author, Patrick D. Smith

Five or so years ago, as if to entice me to peruse its pages, it called to me from its prominent position in a book shelf in my father’s home in Northcentral Florida, the place, ironically, that is the setting of much of the novel, A Land Remembered, written by Patrick D. Smith, and published by Pineapple Press in 1984 has been dubbed the quintessential Florida story. 
Passed down to my father by one of his sisters, and to her by someone else, it is a book that passes from hand to hand, a book as immortal as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie; as masterful as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; as truthful as Marjorie Rawlings’ The Yearling—all of that as well as introductory pages as good as any that I have ever read, a chapter that has it all:  a synopsis of the entire story; full-bodied characterizations; accurate depiction of its natural settings; thoroughly researched history; intriguing plot.  It is the envy of writers everywhere. 
              That long ago visit to my father was occasioned by way of a road trip from my home in Columbus, Ohio to his in Interlachen, Florida, that time a journey shared by just my sister Sherri and me, the two of us taking turns at the wheel, and on the way home, also taking turns turning the pages of A Land Remembered.  It was the quietest road trip of my life, one of us at the wheel, the other with her face buried in the book, we spoke barely a word to each other during all of those long hours.  Having had a jump start on Sherri since I had begun the book prior to our leaving our father’s home, I finished it—I don’t know if Sherri ever did.  It ended up in my possession, however, and there it will stay—a treasured compliment to my home library, as are all of his books currently in print.
This best-selling historical novel follows three generations of the MacIvey family, like the book’s author, transplants from Georgia to Florida, pioneering people in Florida’s hardscrabble interior who scratch a living from the unforgiving land and conquer it, and emerge as pre-eminent real estate tycoons of the state.  A must-read for lovers of history, A Land Remembered is also available in a two-volume young reader’s version accompanied by a teacher’s manual, a necessity since it is taught in many schools in Florida.  Spanning the years of 1858 to 1968, in words alive with the wild beauty and challenge of that bygone era of Florida, it portrays a life and a landscape unknown to most people of today. 
                Although A Land Remembered is his most popular work, Smith has written other novels, a book of nonfiction, and a collection of short stories.  The River is Home, his first, chronicles a poor Mississippi family’s struggles against encroachment on their beloved rural land.  Adapted into a motion picture, the powerful and moving Angel City is an exposé on migrant workers in Florida during the 1970s.  Currently the two novels are printed in one volume.  Forever Island and Allapattah (Seminole for “crocodile”) tell stories of one of Smith’s favorite subjects, Florida’s Seminole Indians, the former, known as the classic novel of the Everglades, its protagonist, Seminole Indian Charlie Jumper clings to the traditions of his people and passes them down to his grandson; the latter, a story of a young Seminole at odds with the world of the whites.  These two novels are also available in one volume. 
A southerner, Mississippi-born, -bred, and -educated, as a young man Smith emigrated to Florida by way of Georgia, and in Florida he has stayed.  In 1988 retiring from Brevard Community College in Cocoa where he had worked as the director of college relations, his retirement years have been hectic with speaking engagements, his topic centered on how literature can better the world, he inspires audiences of all ages. 
                Recently, I read A Land Remembered again, my interest aroused this time by an article in the March 3rd edition of the Tampa Bay Times that I came across during a visit with my sister Susan in Crystal Beach, Florida on the Gulf Coast of the state, a piece titled, For ‘A Land Remembered’ and more, author honored.  Penned by Times Book Editor, Colette Bancroft, the opening paragraph of the piece states:  Novelist Patrick D. Smith is the winner of the 2012 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing.
                The award presented on March 21st at a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, Smith was unable to attend, the 84 year old writer having been homebound for a while due to injuries sustained in a fall three years ago.  By telephone from his home in Merritt Island that he shares with his wife, Smith said, I’m real thrilled.  This is a real nice award.
                Patrick D. Smith is no stranger to winning awards for his writing.  In addition to having been selected in 1996 by the Southern Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences for its highest literary award, and having been inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1999, Florida’s most esteemed cultural award, A Land Remembered has been designated as Florida’s most outstanding historical novel, winning the Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Prize.  The organization in 2002 also gave Smith its one-time-only Fay Schweim award for Greatest Living Floridian.
                Books by Patrick D. Smith, published by Pineapple Press can be obtained by mail at P. O. Box 3889, Sarasota, Florida 34230; by telephone at 1-800-746-3275; or online at

An award-winning artist, Linda’s artwork can be viewed at

A best-selling author, Linda’s next novel, Guardians and Other Angels, will be available in the near future at and at Barnes &