Often it is with regret when we have the opportunity to travel down “Memory Lane” and find things not quite as we remembered them. I had a different experience. My recent trip down memory lane brought back some wonderful childhood memories.
It was a transitional time in my childhood having left Central New York for the sunshine state of Florida. I was 10 when we moved from the small college town of Hamilton, New York, to the beach town of Fort Pierce, Florida. We went from an old wooden farmhouse to a cement block house, from acres of land to feet of land, from snowfall to rainfall, and a change of four unique seasons to hurricane and non hurricane season. The move south opened up a lot of new and rewarding opportunities for me, some of them I am still benefiting from.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to my childhood home i
n Fort Pierce and revisit the place of my youth made even more special for me since I did so with my two children and a childhood friend by my side. It’s been over 45 years since I have laid eyes on our first Florida home and we were lucky enough to find the home owner, Clementine, who graciously let us in and showed us around. The house, which was once shiny and new, has dulled to a well-worn patina under a relentless sun. I was taken by surprise how small the rooms were and couldn’t understand how the house had shrunk. Did it shrink under that insistent Florida sun? But it was evident that the old house is loved, and I left there with a warm feeling.
Our next stop was to the A.E. Backus Gallery and Museum
. “Beanie” Backus was a famous Florida landscape artist who I was fortunate enough to have worked under. I have so many fond childhood memories of Saturday mornings sitting on the floor with a drawing pad and pencils in “Beanie” Backus’ living room sketching with a roomful of my peers. The lessons I learned from Beanie went far beyond composition and form. It was Beanie who taught me to think for my self and paint from the heart and to paint what inspired me.
Beanie’s passion was the seascapes and landscapes of old Florida, mine have evolved into French and Italian landscapes, cityscapes and seascapes. Not only did Beanie take us children under his wing, but he started a whole movement taking a group of discarded Black men under his tutelage, giving them painting supplies and teaching them painting techniques. They became famous, known as the Florida Highwaymen, by selling their artwork along the main highways in Florida. Looking around the museum, it is self evident that I wasn’t the only one Beanie influenced.
So for this French and Italian landscape artist, once again living in Central New York, the trip down memory lane was a positive affirmation of who I am today. The influence Beanie had over me as a child still governs me today and I am truly thankful for his guidance which had developed me into a European landscape paintings