Sunday, October 13, 2013

Florida Artist Christopher Still

Gulf Coast Museum of Art
I might have named this posting "Christopher Still, Florida's Artist" because few artists have represented the history, beauty and unique qualities of my state as well as Christopher Still. Above is Still's representation of the state seal, which features a Seminole Indian woman. Below is the actual seal, which is also displayed on the state flag.

flheritage.com

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
Christopher Still (b. 1961) won awards and scholarships as a teenager, and eventually attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on a scholarship. He took two tours of Europe, studying the techniques of Italian, Dutch, German and French masters.

Still returned to Florida, where he has become well-known for his scenic views of the state, often including historic elements and symbolism. On Sacred Ground, above, is one of a number of Still paintings that depict Seminole Indians, proud warriors who are equally remembered for their distinctively intricate style of dress.

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
Above is Land of Promise, depicting the time of Florida's early settlers and their homesteads. Still often tells a narrative by including a trompe l' oeil frame adorned with objects that relate to the central theme.

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
A great example is Changing Tides, which shows — through dozens of objects — the sponge diving history of Still's own hometown, Tarpon Springs, Florida.

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
My own favorite trompe l'oeil by Christopher Still is Orchids, which is now in St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts.

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
Here's a portrait of Silas Dent, a famous Florida character known as "The Happy Hermit of Cabbage Key." Silas Dent found happiness living an extremely simple and solitary life in a grass hut, and Still has portrayed him here with milk and honey.

St. Petersburg Times
You can read more about the well-loved Silas Dent here.

click to enlarge  |  Gulf Coast Museum of Art
Still usually works on a large scale and has done numerous murals. In 1999, he was commissioned by the Florida House of Representatives to create 10 murals for the capitol building. Eight are of Florida's history, from pre-settlement to contemporary time, and two are of Florida's aquatic life. Above is The Spring of Life.

click to enlarge  |  www.christopherstill.com
A recent mural (2007) is this image for the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. To give you a sense of scale, here's a photograph of Christopher at work on the painting . . .

www.christopherstill.com
 You can see more of Christopher Still's artwork at his own site:
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18 comments:

  1. Hello Mark, I am in love with the work of this fascinating painter. I got pulled into examining the details, and couldn't stop. There is such a wealth of symbolism, and I enjoyed exploring the links between the "frames" and the central pictures. (What wouldn't we give for the original of that engraved tortoise shell!)

    I like them all, but if I had to pick one of these here as a favorite it would be Changing Tides. Still's finest gift is perhaps his absolutely amazing use of color.

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    1. Hello. Jim,

      I too enjoy the symbolism of Christopher Still's paintings, and I know from having attended a retrospective of his work that he collects much of the reference used in his paintings. A man after my own heart, he is both an artist and a historian.

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  2. Mark,
    I really enjoyed this post on Christopher Still's paintings. Too often I see Florida depicted as a gleaming vacation / retirement land. Nothing wrong with that....just wonderful to learn a bit more about Florida's rich history.
    Cheers,
    Loi

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    1. Hello, Loi,

      I'm glad Still's work has given you a fresh perspective of Florida. I think his work — everything else aside — is important as a record of a Florida that is quickly, irrevocably vanishing!

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  3. Dear Mark,
    Thank you for introducing me to Mark Sills. I love his work - especially the trompe l'oeil paintings.
    The play of light and shadow is very clever.
    I wish I could paint like that!
    Bye for now
    Kirk

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    1. Dear Kirk,

      I'm glad you enjoyed the work of Christopher Still!

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  4. Very wonderful work, Mark. I love the orchid one too. I've never thought of Florida in quite this light before. You learn something new every day around here. :)

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    1. Hi, Yvette - Florida has a very rich and colorful history and was a frontier well into the 20th century. Incidentally, orchids grow very well in our climate, and there are any number of businesses here that specialize in them.

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    2. I'm surprised that the Nero Wolfe books never mentioned Florida as an orchid breeding ground. You'd think Wolfe would have known that. But maybe they did and I just missed it. When I think orchids, I naturally think Nero Wolfe. I mean, doesn't everyone?

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  5. Hello Mark,
    I'm on a train to Montreal and I have six lovely hours to catch up with my favourite blogs. Thank for taking us along your trips, from charming log cabinets to grand castles, from yummy doughnuts to beautiful orchids and everything in between.
    Anyes
    xx

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    1. Dear Anyes,

      Thanks for the comment! I've never been to Montreal, so I hope you blog about your stay there. I hope it's an enjoyable vacation!

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  6. What a find! I love the way the edges are defined on Changing Tides. Orchids is just incredible. The box and gloves just pop out of the frame. Nice post Mark!

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    1. Hi, Theresa,

      About four years ago, I had the good fortune of seeing all but the last two images (the murals) at a Still retrospective at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art. What a show! The paintings were matched with a lot of the reference, and with photographs of Still at work. He is so intent on capturing the essence of his subjects that he even devised a contraption for painting underwater!

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  7. Dear Mark - Christopher Still's paintings are lovely - I am pleased that you included the one of him actually painting, which really shows the scale of his work. I do love the way he has painted the frame, overlapping it with sand dollars and other local shells. It is also interesting to see that he has done a mock up of the beach with the actual shells and that he is painting them whilst looking through a magnifying glass.
    Have a wonderful trip, looking forward to learning and seeing where exactly you have been on your return.

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    1. Dear Rosemary,

      I really enjoy Christopher Still's attention to detail, and as I mentioned to Loi, I think he's doing a great service in preserving Florida history. I like to think of him as Florida's Artist Lauriate, should such a title exist.

      I believe that frame you mention is painted to look as though it's made from coral.

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  8. E gads! This is the first I have heard of the Talents of Christopher Still. I have stepped foot into many a Florida art museum, perhaps I have seen his work but never such a body of work presented in this manner. Stunning image after stunning image.

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    1. Thanks for your comment — I hope you had a chance to visit Still's site . . .

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