“I’ve had a good life. I wouldn’t want to live it over again. I wouldn’t want to start again. I just don’t think I’d be so lucky next time.” I’d like that. I stumbled upon this quote by William Manchester, an American writer and biographer, as I was browsing through the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) last Saturday night, during a reception for work. What a great place to hold it! The museum is another overlooked and unexpected treasure in Orlando. It isn’t big, but the space is open, well thought-out, and calming, spiriting you away from the swarms of people, heat, and lines of Orlando’s more obvious attractions.
I waded through two wonderful small exhibits (both on view until 28 October 2012): “Southernmost Art and Literary Portraits”, images by Central Orlando’s Jimm Roberts, depicting fifty internationally recognized artists, writers, and poets remembering their first brush with Florida, and “From Alice to Zeus: The Art of John Rocco,” a charming exhibit of preparatory drawings and illustrations for children’s books, all from the illustrator of Whoopi Goldberg’s retelling of Alice in Wonderland (the Alice of the exhibit’s title) and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians (the Zeus) series.
Truth be told, I didn’t recognize most of the people Roberts photographed, but the portraits–candid snaps of people at home, at their desks, or in their gardens, the private places with post-it notes, books, and mementos piled up in the background–and quotes from these portraits’ subjects, describing the first time Florida came into their life (being mystified by roads with houses but no sidewalks or pedestrians, like Wilfrid Sheed, or standing on a balcony in Miami, staring for hours at what felt like paradise, like Isaac B. Singer [Jimm Roberts took what are the last known portraits of him], or marveling at the “mixture of beauty and tackiness” of Key West with Richard Wilbur), were striking, touching, revealing, and personal. Allowing a glimpse into the unguarded inner sanctum of these people’s private and often most cherished spaces and focusing in on the significance THIS place had to them, the exhibit is a celebration of both the artists and the Florida they came to hold dear.
John Rocco’s drawings were a nice “dessert” at the end of the evening. The pencil drawings (that’s how he begins, then scanning the drawings and coloring them digitally) were delicate, beautiful, and the images–imaginative, yet simple. Rocco is best known for his illustrations for the Percy Jackson series, but he has written and illustrated books of his own–like the one I bought for a favorite child in my life: Fu Finds the Way, a story about a distracted boy who learns to pay attention to the moment before him through…pouring tea. Coming from a tea culture myself and being an adult who can learn a thing or two about savoring the moment at hand, this was a wonderful find.
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