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Palm Aire artists showcase their talents in Sarasota

Palm Aire Art Association hosts its 39th annual show at the country club in Sarasota.

Patricia Hanly complements her display with the Swarovski crystal jewelry she is wearing.
Patricia Hanly complements her display with the Swarovski crystal jewelry she is wearing.
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To Ellise Elmore, the Palm Aire Art Association's 39th annual art show provided something vital to its members.


Elmore, the co-president of the association and a former interior decorator who has painted for 18 years, said the event, this year held Feb. 14-20 at the country club, showcases the members and, importantly, their improvement as artists.

Take Cheryl Zaccagnino, for instance. Zaccagnino had exceptional sketching ability when she decided to venture into another medium by taking co-President Joy Pendergast’s watercolor class. Her results as a painter didn't initially rival her talent as a sketch artist, but after multiple attempts, she created artwork that she entered in the show.

June Paton stands beside her favorite photo, which depicts a bird of paradise.
June Paton stands beside her favorite photo, which depicts a bird of paradise.

Zaccagnino had been working on a "value study," a painting with only one pigment mixed into water to create different shades. Her sketching talent served her well as she had no problem establishing the outline for her work. But then she struggled for the right consistency of water and pigment.

Determined to improve, she practiced repeatedly, and it wasn’t long before her practice made a difference. “Initially it's a little frustrating," she said. "I think eventually it will be a lot more fun."

Elmore said the collaboration between budding talents like Zaccagnino, and those with experience, makes the art show important for the association members.

“As an artist, you get to show what you've worked on and created, and some of the artists are just getting started,” Elmore said. “This is something they had wanted to do but never had the time. Once they start, it leads to validation. It just prompts them to keep on going.”

Marcia Knight shows off the skills she's been practicing in retirement.
Marcia Knight shows off the skills she's been practicing in retirement.

At the art show, there are no established requirements for skill, medium, style, or subject. The only rule is that artists must be members of the Art Association of Palm Aire or employees of The Palm Aire Country Club.

A variety of pieces line the walls of the makeshift art gallery that’s been set up in the lobby of the Palm Aire Country Club. Visitors will find paintings of Florida scenery, wood carvings, a motorcycle fender painted with a dragon and a fish design.

“I don’t think we’ve ever turned a piece down,” Elmore said.

Marcia Knight had loved painting since the fourth grade, but with a career in marketing and later interior design, she never found the opportunity to explore her passion until retirement. She is currently taking art classes at the State College of Florida, and her husband, Bruce Knight, has even built her a studio. “It’s fun to have a studio that I can just mess up and stay in,” she said.

Visitors to the show will find her vibrant nature scenes including “A Quiet Place,” which features a lone
snowy egret with its white feathers distinct against the green of a swamp setting.

June Paton is the organizer of the art show, but unlike her sister Joy Pendergast, she isn’t a professional
artist. A former legal secretary, travel manager, and corporate conference planner, she said her talent lies in making things run.

“She's quite a talented girl,” Paton said of her sister. “Too much for me to compete with. I gave it up, because she
was too quick and made it look too easy.”

Photography is one area where June feels she can contribute. “I just display something so I can go to the reception,” she said cheekily. “You can’t attend the reception if you don’t have work on display. I like doing it. I look forward to having them on display.”

Pat Hanly stood beside a colorful array of beaded jewelry, adorned with a necklace she made herself based on the design "Until I Can Breathe Again" by Shelley Nybakke, an array of strands that twist and curl in order to intertwine with one another. “My husband says ‘fun for the feeble-minded,” said Hanly, but she wants viewers to know the hours of work and the expense that go into creating her items.

Jeri Susi stands beside her
Jeri Susi stands beside her "little future baker," who she created from an old photograph.

Hanly begins a piece by plotting the design out on graph paper, then threads Fireline fishing line through the crystals, interlocking different strands by weaving the threads together. When her eyes grow tired due to the extremely micro scale of the work, she uses 400% magnifiers. 

All of the crystals are by Swarovski, meaning the items are costly to produce, and she said she doesn't sell as many at Palm Aire as she did at the yacht clubs where she was formerly a member. But she loves the show.

"People see another side of you," she said. "It's been fun trying to organize the display."

Geraldine Susi has long been passionate about offering something unique. She noted her past projects have included a paper mache zebra and giraffe, and a quilted elephant.

Formerly a schoolteacher and reading specialist in Fairfax, Virginia, Susi wrote and illustrated her own children’s historical fiction books to help students better understand their past, with the titles including “For My People: the Jennie Dean Story,” and “Looking Through Great-Grandmother’s Eyes”.

Each of her pieces on display this year offers a different character. One is the "Forever Bonsai Tree" made of thin, thoroughly interwoven wires, one is a watercolor titled "Future Baker", which depicts an infant toying with a rolling pin, and another is a highly detailed still-life circle of vegetables which she titles "A study in color, shape, and shadow.”

Elmore said proceeds from the show go toward the Ruth Levin Scholarship. Named after the club's founding member, it is given each year to a student at Ringling College of Art and Design, selected by the college. This year's recipient was Paige Drewett, who largely focuses on creating true-to-life scenes and is considering a career in branding design.  


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