Harrison Gallery 825 White Street We began with this small gallery tucked away from the Duval Street madding crowd on quiet White Street. My companion, Rowland Bennett, longtime friend and librarian from Maplewood, New Jersey, and I had walked by it the day before and enjoyed peering in the window.
This time we were met in the tiny showroom by Helen Harrison, whose three-dimensional works were displayed along with paintings and photographs by others. I was drawn to Helen’s highly polished sculptures: giant fruits and other shapes which began with natural materials such as gourds or palm fronds but which now appeared to glow from within.
I also loved Helen’s studio, which we had to walk through to other parts of her gallery.Artists’ studios say so much about them–what inspires them, what’s on the walls, work in various stages. Despite my obvious lack of purchasing power–this is a pricy gallery–Helen graciously showed us everything, talked with us at length, and gave us a list of Key West galleries, at my request (my time was limited) checking off those I might like best.
Be sure to check out Helen Harrison’s work on her website: http://harrison-gallery.com/Pages/HELEN%20Page.htm
Haitian Art Company 600 Frances Street We were walking back to the car when I spied another gallery just a block or so away with it’s corner windows full of bright primitive-looking paintings. I had to go in. This gallery was huge…room after room hung ceiling to floor with dazzling paintings, pictures sewn entirely in sequins, papier mache pieces, with prices from $75 (on sale) to (I think) $55,000 for an incredible large realistic painting hung over the entrance to one of the many small display rooms.
I preferred the passion and color of the more primitive, or folk, art, while Rowland was taken with the more controlled, finely crafted paintings. Both were plentiful. The person attending the gallery claimed it was “the largest collection of Haitian art outside of Haiti.” I believed him, especially after we were shown storerooms stacked with hundreds more canvases and informed that there was another storage area at another location stocking even more.
I was taken with this “tap tap” bus by Lionel Simonis, who was quite accomplished as a papier-mache artist, based in Jacmel, Haiti, until his death a few years ago. Check out more Haitian art on the company’s website, http://www.haitian-art-co.com/.
Stay tuned for reviews of more Key West galleries I loved.