We went down to St. Petersburg for the opening of my husband Ed’s and our friend Alberto Alfonso’s show at the Morean Art Center . If you’re near St. Pete this month, stop in at 719 Central Avenue and see what these two men have been up to for a year. They have had an intense collaboration. Ed writes a poem every day (or almost) and sends it off to Alberto, who responds with a watercolor. The sustained project has been brilliant to watch and inspiring as well. The mutual spark propelled both artists to expand and the ideas sparked many a brush fire. Fifty of the paintings and poems are on view at the Morean, as well as Albert’s four large-scale oil paintings Earth, Air, Fire, Water with the poems for those incised in the paint. The project continues.
Alberto, left, and Ed at the show:
This is the Morean exhibit:
The red writing you can see are words in the poem that connect directly to the paintings. The events of the opening were enhanced by Albert (Secondo) Hurley’s guitar compositions for each of the elements. And by the great staff at the Morean.
Alberto Alfonso lives above us in Cortona but in real life he’s an architect in Tampa. If you land in the Southwest Terminal there, that’s his design–an astonishing airport space that soars with light and rewards the eye with aesthetic detail and art. A building that says travelling here symbolizes the beauty of your journey. The main terminal was designed years ago by Alberto’s father, the modernist Cuban architect Carlos Alfonso, who fled Castro’s Cuba with his family and managed to prevail in America. If you look closely, you see Alberto’s homages to his father in his own terminal.
Alberto recently designed the Chihuly Collection (also a Morean project) in St. Petersburg and it is stunning. The glass artist, Dale Chihuly got really, really lucky when he selected Alberto for the project. The materials and design of the space are as impressive as the glass art. Here’s Chihuly’s boat full of glass balls. You wish you could row out to sea and toss them into the waves for the beauty of their floating!
St. Pete now is a thriving arts community and has night life like a mini-South Beach. We stayed at the 20’s Vinoy Hotel and there are wonderful water walks all around and proximity to a charming neighborhood of old Florida houses amid moss-hung oaks. The air was balmy and sweet. The beach at Pass-a-Grille lured us for another long walk in white-white sand. Just north in Clearwater is Carmel, a wine restaurant that Alberto designed. You begin to recognize his touch. That’s his long, long painting along the wall.
There may be such a sustained and fruitful collaboration between artists in the long history of art, but I don’t know of one. This experience has been a life-highllight for all of us involved and makes me excited, as the new year approaches, to think of other ways that life can expand if we are diligent enough to recognize the electric charge to the synapses that a book or painting or piece of music or sculpture offers. After a deep encounter with art, so Rilke tells us in his “Archaic Torso of Apollo” poem, you must change your life.