Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tampa Bay Sun Biennale Italy Interview with Helen Tilston and The Plein Aire Cottage Artists

AS PROMISED, BELOW IS plein aire cottage artists interview with Phyllis Johnson, Journalist with Tampa Bay Sun, December 27-January 09 2008


Granddaddy of all art festivals draws hundreds of artists, including three of IRB's own.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - An art show held in a fortress one city block wide with 840 artists representing 76 nations, the Biennale is considered the Olympics of the art worldand a feather in the cap of local plein aire cottage artists Helen Tilston, Mary Rose Holmes and Violetta Shtumeyzen, who were asked to participate.

Modern, new exhibit halls have been built into the historic fortress, explained Holmes "Over there they preserve the old rather than tear it down".

That is a tradition the cottage artists identify with: their main subjects have been the Indian Rocks Beach cottages that remain endangered while condo overkill has been robbing the city of its small-town ambience.

Tilston, on arriving in Florence on December 1, said she felt like the queen of England riding down the banner-lined streets with people saying they were honoured to have the artists.
"Even customs and immigration officials welcomed us and said how delighted they were with our presence"

From the opening ceremonial concert through the black tie gala dinner closing of the event on December 8, there were classes, lectures, films, even some time for coffee at local cafes. An unfortunate incident that turned into an unexpected victory occurred when an unhappy-looking Biennale participant at one of the cafes approached Tilston and Shtumeyzen. The artist, a Russian, explained in her native language to Russian-born Shtymeyzen, tsap tssap" meaning she had been robbed. Her passport and money had been stolen while she was hanging her works. "Clawed by the cat" was the way a Turkish artist sitting nearby described the robbing.

Tilston and Shtumeyzen had two free hours before a scheduled lecture and decided to stage a two-person fundraiser. They hurried back to the show and went from artist to artist to explain their cause and filled garbage bags with donations. When they counted their bounty, over $1,000. flowed from the bags. They then presented the artist who had lost her possessions with the money and managed to be on time for their lecture.

The nine international jurors for the show included distinguished figures in the art world from Brazil, Mexico, Florence, India, France, California, New York and New Orleans. "They looked like male and female models out of Vogue magazine with their beautiful leathers, colourful shawls and sleek boots," said Tilston.

Artists who are juried and who exhibit at the Florence Biennale receive a lifetime invitation. The plein aire cottage artists plan on attending again in 2009 and inspired by the energy of the Biennale are painting profusely for their exhibition at Guppys on the Beach.

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