The Artful Eye
Celebrating World Art Day right here in Southwest Florida
We’d be hard-pressed to honor all the artists among us in our richly creative part of the world, but we’ve dedicated this chapter to some wonderful, artful women in our midst.
Photographic colorist Niki Butcher just released her art book, “Daydreaming.” We sat down for a chat with the artist to gain additional insight between the pages.
Naples has an area that could be called a hidden gem: the Naples Design District. Women represent a number of the District’s business owners, and we introduce you to artists of three varied disciplines, with a hope you’ll explore this eclectic, artful and walkable part of the city.
Naples Botanical Garden’s expansive tribute to the life and legacy of Frida Kahlo is its most ambitious exhibition to date. We present a glimpse of the botanical masterpiece that is “Frida and Her Garden,” which closes Sept. 10.
As we celebrate the creativity behind every art form, we are reminded that “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” ~ Aristotle.
in this issue
‘Daydreaming’ and Listening to Her Heart
Niki Butcher’s life, art and historical perspective are here to inspire future generations
by Kathy Grey
Many of us define others as seeing the world in black and white or in color. Artist Niki Butcher sees it both ways.
In her life’s journey, in times of plenty and in times of pain, the 79-year-old photographic artist continues to see the world around her as a canvas waiting to be illustrated, immortalized in both color and black and white.
She has dedicated her life to education and exploration, most often with her famous photographer husband, Clyde Butcher. And though Clyde’s is a household name, certainly in Florida, Niki has her own story to tell, something she recently accomplished with her daughter, Jackie Butcher Obendorf.
“Daydreaming” is the book’s title, and true to Niki Butcher’s adventurous nature, it chronicles her life as an interminably curious woman, artist, activist, wife, mother and photographer. In 2022, she became a published author and was honored with her first solo exhibit at the Clearwater Main Library’s newly imagined exhibit space. The exhibit closes April 29.
Ninety percent of the images in her book are her hand-painted oil-on-black-and-white photographic works. These were rendered with cotton balls and Q-tips, Niki says in her characteristic, self-effacing manner. Hand-painted photography is an old art, she says, noting that once there was only black-and-white photography and that color was rendered by hand.
History and Her Story
“I love history,” she says, and “Daydreaming” can be viewed as a culmination of her personal experiences. “My great-great-great-grandchildren will have a piece of my history. This is my life passed down through generations.” It’s also a recorded history of old Florida that “hasn’t been torn down to make developments,” she says.
“Florida is a conglomeration of everybody — all these cultures — people who think and act differently.” These are portraits she has captured with photos, colorized and celebrated since the early 1980s.
In what seems to be her truest essence, she says, “Too much of life is telling you who you need to be.”
In addition to colorful characters, Niki’s body of work represents a timeless volume of nature, historic buildings, roadside attractions and fantastical ideas that capture the human spirit. Many of her images are inspired by Florida, a state the California-born artist has revered since 1979, when she and Clyde packed up their two children, Jackie and Ted, and moved from Huntington Beach to the Sunshine State.
Discovering and Losing Color
It was in 1983, inspired by old Florida hand-painted postcards, that Niki embraced the art, photographing things she expected would sell in the festivals where she and Clyde showcased both their works of art. Their kids were teenagers, and college tuitions were on the horizon. Her work — and Clyde’s, then in color — became recognized in the art festival circuit.
When their son, Ted, was killed by a drunk driver in 1985 at the age of 17, the color drained from all their lives. Clyde chose to photograph only in large format black and white, which would lead to his iconic status. For 10 years, Niki couldn’t speak of the horrible accident that took Ted’s life without breaking down. Daughter Jackie dropped out of college and returned home so they could somehow heal together, now as a family of three instead of four.
“We were all wallowing,” Niki says. “Trauma is meant to teach you something. To honor my child, I chose to try to make the world a better place.”
“One morning, I told Jackie she should go back to college,” Niki said.
Jackie refused. Niki took another approach: “‘Let’s pretend you’ve already graduated. What do you want to do?’ Jackie was only 18 or 19. She started a business that took her all over the country.”
“I’m a visionary,” Jackie confirms. “At the time, Mom had all these images to put on postcards. I opened 500 [sales] accounts in a year.”
Ultimately, Jackie’s vision was to manage Clyde’s black-and-white fine art business, including its expansion, public relations and marketing, product development, special events, social media and day-to-day operations of the two Florida galleries. That, too, has been an enormous success. (As Mom Niki declares, “Shows you how brilliant she is.”)
“I wanted my dad to see the benefits of his artwork. People saw him as an environmentalist first and as a photographer second. He is an amazing, amazing photographer,” Jackie says. “And mom is an amazing, amazing artist.”
Still, she says, “Mom is of the age that women lived for their husbands. She made a living so he could do what he loves. The only reason dad survived as an artist is because of her.” It wasn’t easy “pulling mom’s story out,” Jackie continues. “She is important. So is he. But she has a story of her own.”
And Niki is honored that her story, finally told and illustrated in black, white and in color, gave her the opportunity to chronicle her life and document Florida’s landscapes, people and icons for generations to come.
Naples by Design
Meet a few visionary women of the Naples Design District
by Kathy Grey
An eclectic gem, the Naples Design District is within, but a bit of a departure from, a city characterized by elite golf courses, boutiques and white-sand beaches.
Located between 5th Avenue South to 7th Avenue North and the east side of US 41 to Goodlette Frank Road, the Naples Design District was established in 2018 and has become a destination for creatively spirited visitors, wanderers and shoppers who embrace nuance and style.
The District offers art galleries, interior design and consignment shops, floral purveyors, places for beauty and home design, many of which are owned and/or operated by women.
Naples Design District - Photo credit Caronchi Photography
And Gulfshore Playhouse, whose CEO also happens to be a woman, will be opening the Baker Theatre and Education Center next year at the District’s intersection of 1st Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road.
Patrons of women-owned and/or operated businesses, especially small businesses, actually help combat employment inequality. Plus, spending at a women-owned, local shop is good for the economy.
Here, we present three businesswomen who are at the heart of the Naples Design District.
Naples Design District - Photo credit Caronchi Photography
Amy Jensen is the gallery manager of Method & Concept, where her husband, Chad, is its founding director. She is a champion for artists, particularly those who are emerging. She coordinates season exhibitions, special events and community projects, actively advocating for arts and culture and enhanced quality of life through her work.
Norma Long says that iN’Dulge Cut & Color Treatment Bar, the salon she founded, is the culmination of her salon experiences from Beverly Hills to Naples. Having been involved in the salon and beauty industry for many years, she created and developed the iN’Dulge concept, providing clients with customized hair treatments which directly meet their needs using various cruelty-free and organic conditioners, oils and glosses.
Sharon Gilkey founder of Montanna Designs says there is an art to living your best life, and that life’s best moments begin at home. And much like works of art, interiors are deeply personal. She is the interior architectural designer and creative visionary behind the client-focused design firm, understanding that the most important luxury in your life is time.
Of course, these are only three of the many women business owners and/or managers who are the backbone of the District. To learn more, take time to experience the Naples Design District, both virtually and literally.
OUT AND ABOUT
A Window into Frida’s World
Naples Botanical Garden’s “Frida and Her Garden” exhibit continues through Sept. 10
by Jennifer Reed, editorial director
Naples Botanical Garden
Naples Botanical Garden’s ongoing exhibition, “Frida and Her Garden,” pays tribute to renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and celebrates the comfort of home and the beauty of nature. The significant Garden undertaking continues through Sept. 10.
Kahlo’s self-portraits are a window into her soul, and often, expressions of her emotional and physical pain. But Kahlo found solace in her home and in the natural world.
At La Casa Azul (the Blue House), Kahlo tended gardens and delighted in animals. The property was her birthplace, marital home and deathplace, and it served as a haven in times of joy and of tumult.
The home reflected her cultural pride, from its cobalt blue exterior to the Aztec-style pyramid Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera, built to display their collection of pre-Hispanic art. Their garden abounded with native plants. Kahlo took cuttings of blooms and wove them into her hair.
The Garden’s preliminary research and exhibition planning started three years ago, and the making of Frida and Her Garden began more than a year ago. The exhibition features garden beds, animal sculptures and even plants that appear in Kahlo’s paintings. Frida and Her Garden represents the Garden’s most ambitious art installation to date, requiring the creation of a new display garden.
The artist had suffered from polio as a child and was in a horrific crash as a young woman. “People who know about her and her life see her as a symbol of strength,” says Britt Patterson-Weber, vice president of education and interpretation.
The Blue House and her personal garden were her refuge. Thus, Kahlo’s story invites Garden guests to explore this singular exhibit in the natural world.
Naples Botanical Garden will present “Frida After 5” from 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 7 and 5-8:30 p.m., with after-hours entertainment, themed cocktails, and an evening stroll through the exhibit. To learn more, visit www.naplesgarden.org.