Eight years after leaving Florida, I decided last week to go back for the very first time, driving the entire 730 miles in one stretch. It was hard on my body, but did wonders for my spirit. I was able to reunite with several close friends — some of whom are artists from our group BRAVA, still meeting and having shows after 20 years — and spend quality time with family members that I don’t get to see often enough.
My first look at what eight years of growth can do to an already-congested area of the country was shocking, but shouldn’t have been surprising. New strip malls and restaurants on almost every corner. A whole new Tampa River Walk has sprung up since I left. Some wonderful lifelong friends and I had lunch outdoors overlooking the river at Ulele.
An important stop was at Michael Murphy Gallery, where they had just finished rearranging the walls and put this one up for my work:
Installation, Michael Murphy Gallery, Tampa, Florida
It was a thrill to see, for the first time, all of these paintings together since they left my studio a few at a time. The gallery looks wonderful. A few new artists, and some of the same ones as before.
The short 6 days made me sure that I will go back again much sooner than another eight years. A week just isn’t enough time.