Party arty: Small local shows make buying, browsing more fun

Naples resident June Sochen, left, and Jane Wahl select a ceramic fish wall piece with at the 7th annual '5 Painters and a Potter' event at the Clay Place on Sunday, Mar. 1, 2009, in Naples. The event gathers six longtime artists in Naples, Jerry Vallez, Phil Fisher, Jim Rice, Paul Arsenault, Natalie Guess and Jeff Fessenden, for an afternoon of sharing their work, local music and socializing. David Albers/ Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Daily News

Naples resident June Sochen, left, and Jane Wahl select a ceramic fish wall piece with at the 7th annual "5 Painters and a Potter" event at the Clay Place on Sunday, Mar. 1, 2009, in Naples. The event gathers six longtime artists in Naples, Jerry Vallez, Phil Fisher, Jim Rice, Paul Arsenault, Natalie Guess and Jeff Fessenden, for an afternoon of sharing their work, local music and socializing. David Albers/ Staff

Heidi Saletko pulls down a piece of art she has created from palm frond husks during the 53rd annual Art in the Park in downtown Naples near the von Liebig Art Center. The event is Naples' oldest outdoor art festival and showcases artwork from Naples Art Association members. The juried festival, held the first Saturday of the month from November through April. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

Heidi Saletko pulls down a piece of art she has created from palm frond husks during the 53rd annual Art in the Park in downtown Naples near the von Liebig Art Center. The event is Naples' oldest outdoor art festival and showcases artwork from Naples Art Association members. The juried festival, held the first Saturday of the month from November through April. Lexey Swall/Staff

For artists in Naples, a desire to return to the past may be the best future. It has certainly helped to establish a very special — and very successful — type of art show.

CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LISTING OF UPCOMING LOCAL ART SHOWS AND ART EVENTS

Once a year, six local artists get together and host “Five Painters and a Potter,” a small art show that contrasts with the bigger, white-tent shows that are typically prominent in the Naples weekend landscape. In fact, these art soirees are becoming a celebratory way of business life for artists in Collier and south Lee County — several of the artists at the event Sunday will have also been at another Saturday night.

In all, six different art/entertainment happenings will give Southwest Florida art lovers plenty to explore, admire and possibly buy.

Artists Phil Fisher, Natalie Guess, Paul Arsenault, Jerry Vallez, Jim Rice and Jeff Fessenden have one of the longest running soirees. They’ll be showing and selling their works in various mediums in a beautiful outdoor setting at The Clay Place for the sixth year. Located at Jim Rice’s pottery studio on Shadowlawn Drive just north of Davis Boulevard, its little haven of tropical landscaping provides a perfect backdrop for the artists to showcase their work in a Sunday show known as “Five Painters and a Potter:” Rice, the potter, is joined by the five local painters at his studio. The Clay Place. Local bluegrass music and refreshments will add to the ambience.

The show “seemed like a natural evolution of our own individual careers,” said Rice. All of these artists have lived in Naples for more than 20 years. Back when they first began showcasing their artwork in the area, the exhibits were always small and had a more close-knit atmosphere. “Five Painters and a Potter” has successfully attempted to recapture that essence, they say.

Rice’s studio is lush with the vegetation that thrives in Naples. Among the tropical plants, one can find his pottery pieces cleverly tucked in everywhere; his benches and sculptures seem to sprout from the ground just as naturally as the plants that grow there. Mosaic pathways link a few small structures — the studio, the gallery and the office — together.

Rice is known for his fish platters, available in numerous sizes and vibrant colors, and able to serve as anything from dinner plates to soap dishes. Along with the platters, Rice also creates decorative wall pieces, mugs, goblets, fountains, even fireplaces.

Fessenden produces fine art in trompe l’oeil mural painting and oils as well as humorous piece, such as the invitations to Five Painters and a Potter. It was his turn to create the piece, and: he caricatured all of the artists’ faces and placed them on a bright yellow background.

Watercolor artist Paul Arsenault will join the others at the event. His landscapes distill a Naples influence. But Arsenault’s world travels mean scenes from Hawaii, Nantucket, the Caribbean Islands, and even Vietnam complement his paintings of Florida palm trees and beaches and old Naples.

The natural environment of southwest Florida helps to influential Rice, as well as the other artists featured at this event, and another group who participate in the City Dock area’s “Art after Dark.”

“The environment is very inspirational,” agrees Guess, whose work will be in both events. She specializes in batik painting, which uses hot clear wax on fabric — either silk or cotton — and creates colors by dipping one at a time.

Guess has given the Asian art a distinctly Florida feel. Her subject material ranges from wading birds and native flora to mangroves and the Everglades.

Her studio located on Fifth Avenue South, but if you travel a bit further into Old Naples, you can find the location of a clutch of galleries that includes the one of Guess’s husband, Phil Fisher, at 12th Avenue South near the Naples City Dock. In that area, known as Crayton Cove, a group of artists have begun offering monthly “Art after Dark” gallery open houses with music, snacks and a look at each artist’s current works.

Fisher’s gallery features his watercolor and oil paintings showcasing Naples, and is the hub of the seasonal monthly Saturday events, along with neighboring galleries like Whitespace Gallerie and Nora Butler Design & Studio.

The gallery of Jerry Vallez is also on 12th Avenue, just a few yards away from Fisher. Vallez, too, will be at both events. He works in a variety of media, including oil, acrylic, and watercolor, creating works that show his fascination with the sea and his affinity for portrait work.

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