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The Art of Being Local

Tucker Lenora's new portrait series explores what it means to be a townie.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 4, 2016
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Visual Art
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Tucker Lenora will be the first to tell you: She’s not the world’s greatest networker.

As people increasingly become “brands” and social buzzwords abound, the local artist errs on the side of the unpretentious. She does network — just in the way people did before there was a name for it.

If you spend enough time in a small town, she says, you get to know the people you see most often — the mail carrier; the bartender; the barber — the familiar faces. They’re the salt of the earth. She’s always been drawn to that, and it’s the subject of her new portrait series, which explores the idea of community.

Manny "Fresko" Lopez and John Lichtenstein were two iconic locals Lenora painted in her latest installation.

“Just by living and interacting in the same place, it sort of seeps into your personality,” she says. “Whether you realize it or not, your community has its thumbprint on you. There’s a sort of collective consciousness here that we’re all tapped into.”

One might say Lenora falls into the category herself. Her family has lived in Manatee County for eight generations. She grew up here; she studied metal sculpture at Ringling College, moved around, moved back, tended bar, started a family, sold paintings.

All the while, she had the portrait series in the back of her mind, but she says it never quite fit into any local gallery. During a recent conversation with Derek Anderson, owner of the Shamrock Pub, he mentioned he was hosting an event called Townie Fest.

“It was perfect,” she says. “I’ve been trying to do this townie series for years, and here Derek is hosting an event called Townie Fest. I can’t think of a better fit. It’s the type of bar where everyone knows everyone. It really is a pub for the people, so I was happy to be able to show my work there.”

For the series, she picked a sampling of 11 familiar faces in her life, from a variety of backgrounds (including Anderson). She asked for people to vote on two of the subjects via social media, then painted a watercolor portrait of each person’s face.

“Those are the people I know,” she says. “That’s who I can relate to. I’ve changed a lot of things in my life, but painting has always been a constant. I love storytelling, and to me, painting a face is like a miniature story in itself. I thought it would be my way of honoring these people.”


Over the course of two weeks, she completed the portraits in her home studio. She says she enjoys working within the constraints of skills, materials and time, and that knowing she’ll see these people again — regularly — was a huge source of motivation. She displayed the portraits, for one day only, at Townie Fest. Each participant received a digital copy, and the originals are on sale.

“I want to show people that art doesn’t have to be intimidating,” she says. “It doesn’t always have to be formal, or in a gallery. It can be relatable. You can see people you know. I think that’s important to remember.”


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