By Rodger Skidmore
Why go to Svalbard? And where is it?
Well, from the outside it looks like a door that goes into a snowbank on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway, 810 miles south of the North Pole. Inside is housed the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The door in the snowbank leads to a defunct coal mine 390 feet into a sandstone mountain where there are over 10,000 seeds, collected from seed banks all around the world. These seeds are spares, so that if the main repositories are destroyed in some disaster, the backup seeds may be used to propagate those species, whether they be flowers, fruits, vegetables or trees. Of course all you will be able to see will be sealed drawers stretching out into the distance.
If you want to see the actual plants in their natural settings, you will have to travel all around the world – or go to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on Palm Avenue, just south of Mound Street, in downtown Sarasota where there is a collection of half the known plant species in the world. As an extra added attraction, you will, between now and November 27, be welcomed into Selby’s SECRET Garden. On display in the historic Payne Mansion will be rare botanical illustrations from the 17th and 18th centuries. These illustrations are in fine detail and exquisite color. One could think of them as being the Audubon prints of the plant world. And, in mid-October, the Tropical Conservatory will bring to life a Victorian greenhouse so that you will be able to view some of these same plants as they would have been displayed back when they were being collected and drawn by early English botanists. There will be lectures on botanical exploration, Victorian vignettes and rarely seen specimens from October thru December.
Feeling nostalgic about that rose, or those lilies of the valley, that you found pressed between pages of your parent’s high school yearbook? Pressed flowers and plants specimens were preserved before the age of photography so that artists could view and reproduce them to spread their glory beyond their original exotic settings. You will be able to see some of these old pressings and compare the originals to the artists’ representations. Why not go one step further and, with the aid of the Selby courses on photography and watercolor, share your perception of these horticultural beauties with friends and family. For specific dates of courses and lectures please go to Selby.org.
Do you believe in Fairytales?
Surely you remember those stories your parents read to you at bedtime; Life starts off calmly, then something terrible happens but, at the last moment, the brave woodsman / prince charming / bad witches’s good sister / or altruistic politician saves the day. While those endings were totally implausible, they made you feel secure and you could sleep peacefully. And, of course, you now know that life really isn’t necessarily like that. Life can, in fact, start a bit off kilter, get somewhat worse (but hey, you get used to it), and then go downhill until you hit bottom. Barbara Redmond and Brittany Prola are two accomplished actors who each portray, alternatively, older and younger versions of two women. It is interesting to watch them play off each other – or is it prey off each other – and, pray tell, who is the prey? Plus you don’t know who has hit bottom or who is just hitting a hard patch. This play could even be about just one person having a conversation with herself – sort of a tale of Lucid vs. Lucy as one person tries to help herself keep on the straight and narrow while twisting through the dark trails of the night that is closing in on her mind.
The play, Breadcrumbs directed by Brendan Ragan, is the age old story of Hansel and Gretel – or is it the story of old age for Gretel – and what ever happened to Hansel? Breadcrumbs? Are they squirrel or bird food, words, or your life’s little markers – and how important are they in helping you find your way when you aren’t going anywhere? Trying to figure all this out will keep you busy, and keeping your mind busy is supposed to keep dementia at bay – or so they say. It is fun to listen to the word play (one of the ladies portrayed here is a writer) and also helpful in finding your way through to the end. The visuals of the set (thank you John Reynolds) are also navigational clues. Finding your way to the Urbanite Theatre will bring you to your own appreciation of Jennifer Haley’s play Breadcrumbs – through September 18. Further clues may be found at www.urbanitetheatre.com or by calling the Urbanite Theatre (1487 2nd Street) at 941 321-1397.
Color me blue
Sing the blues and you’re singing about the troubles of love or lack of a job, and to feel blue is to be depressed, yet blue is the color of the sky, of blue birds, of bluebells, of gulf waters, of unmelted glaciers, and of some lover’s eyes. I’ll take the latter over the former any day, thank you very much. Blue, and every other color, shade and hue of the rainbow can also be in the color of glass. Glass, which feels so hard yet which can look so fluid, can be found locally, in many, many forms at the Hodgell Gallery, 46 Palm Avenue South, just south of Main St.
“Now” is always the best time to go to any art gallery – just ask any gallery owner. But September actually is a great time to walk up and down Palm Avenue as snowbirds are not yet back to clutter up the place. Yes, we bluebirds of paradise can stroll into a gallery like the Hodgell and not have to peer over anyone’s shoulder to see the latest creations on display.
And on display they are. Owner Brian J. O’Connell has just finished installing a new display system whereby the gallery can showcase many more pieces on each wall. It is great for clients who walk in and wish to see a large selection of what is currently available (it is always changing). During the past 25 years the works of over 300 artists have been shown. That same display system can be replicated, on a customized basis, in new owners’ homes so that they can show off more of their own collection at one time.
The gallery is normally open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, but on the first Friday of each month they, as well as many other galleries in Sarasota, are open from 6 until 9 p.m. as well. The theme for First Friday this month is “September Swing” and next month it will be “An Evening of Classics”. When “the season” starts and more people will be looking at art there will be some lectures given at the Hodgell to provide more information about this art form. Remember, glass is made of sand. Not the sand of crushed seashells but the sand found on Siesta Beach – quartz crystal. So, if you want a really high end Sarasota conversation piece try contemporary art glass.