Deerfield Beach Festival of the Arts
The 2018 Deerfield Beach Festival of the Arts welcomes some incredible talent this year, including a worldly gemologist who travels far and wide to create his jewelry, a determined graphic designer and painter who draws inspiration from Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali, a photographer whose work recently appeared in the Smithsonian and a mixed-media artist who focuses on empowered women.
BY COLTON WOOTEN
The Deerfield Beach Festival of the Arts will assemble again this January 27 and 28 along the strip of shops that line 21st Avenue by the International Fishing Pier, where an order of approximately 125 artisans — chosen for their excellence by the the Deerfield Cultural Committee — will peddle their wares. There will be live musical performances, a food court and an exhibit of artwork by local students.
Because death by starvation does not a prolific artist make, artists must support themselves somehow — and venturing to the beach to proffer one’s goods by the shore is a romantic notion not only; it is also an opportunity for artists to profit from their work, to paper the gaps between their talents and their toil with hard-earned capital, usually with an end toward funding future projects.
Douglas Brandow is a part-time resident of South Florida who divides his time between two states — Florida and New York — three continents, and six countries. Brandow is a gemologist and one of this year’s festival winners under the rubric of jewelry.
Brandow, 61, an archaeologist who graduated from Norwich University 1978, fabricates jewelry from gems that he mines from rock formations all over West Africa: Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria, and Ghana — where he once owned a home. A few years ago, however, he sold his house in Ghana, and prefers now to live among the natives on his expeditions to the continent, within their villages, whom he claims are happy to accommodate Western guests. After a few months of digging, and having excavated what he will use for his work, he takes what he has found and travels home to America.
“I bring [the gems] back and cut them, a process that opens a great deal of the dynamics of that specimen — and I internalize that, basically, into my soul,” he said of his lapidary work with stones, a tentative process of bringing a gem’s particularity to the surface to shine more brilliantly with the light. As an archaeologist and artist, Brandow speaks elliptically, idiomatically, in the shorthand common to craftsmen of a certain expertise: “All is ordained around the diction of the stone,” he said.
“In the end, a huge composite of my energy has been applied to it,” he further noted, of the process of procuring beauty from raw material. “From extraction to cutting to design, universal energy has been applied to it, to that piece, any piece I make, which has to co-exist with it or [the piece] is not going to work.”
A lot of the jewelry has about it a near-Precambrian quality, invoking distances and histories traversed to reveal something earthy and ancient. Much of modern design tends toward quiet restraint. But looking at Brandow’s work — in which there are references also to the old Baroque style — one begins to appreciate the point at which that quiet modern center tilts. The impression is that of an intimate collaboration between man and nature, of lovely remembered things constructed out of some shattered sense of time.
Tiffany Beasi works as a graphic designer by day for Slim Fast and its partner companies, on a freelance basis, and paints pictures of landscapes by night in utter hues of yellow, red, orange, and brown. Her painting of a tree won this year’s poster contest for the Festival of the Arts, and winning poster contest was for several years a goal of Beasi’s. She spoke of submitting her work consistently and meeting only rejection. After Beasi funneled her skills as a graphic designer into her contest submissions, using her command of market forces to appeal to a larger audience, to paint the kinds of images that other people might want to see, she won.
“I had to create a barrier between my creative life and my work life,” she said. “I used the same approach to win the poster contest that I use when I’m designing graphics for a company; I realized that I can paint one way, creatively, for myself and in another way for the public. I had applied to the poster contest for years, and they kept rejecting me, but when I studied the winning submissions from the previous years and toned down my style, and made the colors less bright, I won.”
Hanging on the walls of the Sugar Sand Park Community Center are canvases of her most recent work: in strokes of blue across a night sky, a moon with a face blows wind across the stars — a nod to van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” There is one painting in which a blue owl looks out at the viewer from a pair of yellow eyes; and in another variation on the blue theme, a darkened silhouette of a girl is holding up an umbrella as she darts beneath a barrage of feeling-oriented words such as “anger” and “depression,” which Beasi describes as a sort of self-portrait.
Beasi says that the style of art with which she identifies most is Fauvism — a period which began in 1905 and whose notable artists include Matisse, Vlaminick, Derain and Braque — but she admires the work of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali as well. A piece entitled “Mona Lisa Goes on a Date” depicts a skeptical Mona Lisa lounging over wine, wings and burgers with Edvard Munch’s howling man from “The Scream,” which she painted for the Roadhouse Grill in 2010.
Florencia Clement de Grandprey
Taking the crown this year for painting and mixed media, Florencia Clement de Grandprey’s painted portraits of empowered women are tributes to strong, complicated women “who could be anyone and at the same time have definite personalities,” she said. “I invite the audience to imagine the stories of these ladies and [to] explore the feelings they evoke.” Also a professional makeup artist, Grendprey says that her skills in makeup artistry are “interchangeable” with and supplementary to her technique as a painter of realistic portraits of women. Some of her accolades over the last few years include first place awards for mixed media in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — for a contest called “Art by Design,” hosted by the Florida chapter of the International Interior Design Association. Her work has also been shown at Art Basel, as part of the “Artisan Series” sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.
This year’s winning photographer is Ben Hicks, whose recent exhibit with the Smithsonian ran from September through November at the Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai, China. That Hicks is a Florida native is evident in his images, which depict seascapes and marine life with brilliance and clarity. In September, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center honored Hicks with the CRESTT award for his effort with environmental “conservation, research, education, and stewardship for today and tomorrow.”
Hicks proclaims himself an “adventure boy” and purveyor of beachscapes along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Especially captivated by sea turtles, which serve as his muse, Hicks aims to use photography as a medium for communicating the ecological imperative of conserving the marine wildlife and coastal ecosystems.
As a member of the Sea Turtle Conservatory, Hicks believes that “whether sea turtles ultimately vanish from the planet or whether they remain a wild and thriving part of the natural world, will speak volumes about both the general health of the planet and the ability of humans to sustainably coexist with the diversity of life on Earth.”
Other winners include Donna Elias for her watercolors; Susan Allen for ceramics; and Ellen Sullivan for her copper sculptures of eccentric ladies.