Feb 6, 2017

Playa Coronado Shells

36 x 48 Acrylic on Panel 

A few months ago I ran into this painting by Robert Stebleton at an art gallery in St. Augustine, Florida.  I love everything about the painting, the color, shapes, repetition, the intricacy of detail, the composition, the light, the celebration of nature, nature associated with the sea. 

I walked out of the gallery thinking, thinking, considering, remembering the shells from Playa Coronado that I'd collected with my DAD on an unusual walk on the beach on the Pacific Coast of Panama in 2001, or 2002.  

I say unusual because my DAD did not like the sun, he did not care to be on a beach, unless he was sitting comfortably under an umbrella or bohio.  I say unusual because the day we walked on the beach, he was not well. His cancer had advanced, or "metastasized" , he walked slow, a bit unbalanced, yet he made the effort.  He held onto me as much as he could, he even brought along his cane. I knew he was going to be warm, he had on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes.  Thank goodness for the onshore breeze. 

I know it was a significant effort for him to be with me on the beach that day. We purposely walked very slow, each of his steps, calculated, deliberate. I savored each moment, each minute with him on this walk, a gift, a memory that I've deeply held in my heart for many many years.  And the shells, that we collected that day, simple, some perfect, some chipped, each one a tiny treasure. 

Dad spotted and pointed out a few, I would bend over, pick it up and then we would look at the shell together, like we'd found a ancient treasure. I gathered them in a plastic bag from the Riba Smith grocery story and eventually they made their way back to the US with me. For all these years, the shells from Playa Coronado have been in a clear glass vase, resting, gathered, a memory, a collection of a tiny tiny fraction of my life that I cherish dearly.  

Playa Coronado, an hour drive from Panama City 

Fast forward to my transition and move to Jacksonville. The weekend in October of last year that the moving truck brought my household goods, my dear friend, Debbie Hornbeak, came to visit, to help me unpack and get a bit settled.  During one of our outings, we visited Neptune Beach and walked into the First Street Gallery where we met local artists, Susan Fitzgerald.  

I took immediate notice that she painted fish, turtles, jelly fish, I liked her style, her medium acrylic on canvas. We asked her a few questions about Jacksonville, what she would recommend to a newcomer, she was very nice. I made sure to get one of her cards and thought maybe one day I will have one of her paintings on my walls. 

I called her on Saturday and shared the story with her about the Playa Coronado shells, I conveyed how much these shells meant to me, I told her about my DAD, the walk on the beach that day in Panama, I asked if she would be interested in a commission to paint the shells, much like the painting I'd seen in the gallery in St. Augustine.  

 She said "YES". 

We agreed on a price, the size of the canvas, and on Sunday I met wit her and handed her the shell collection, the shells in the photo below.  She said she was "honored" that I'd entrusted her with this commission, knowing the context of the story, the emotions of the memories, the love I have for my Dad. 

I have the perfect wall space for the painting, I look forward to the call 2 or 3 weeks from now when Susan lets me know the painting is completed.

I will for sure post a picture.