By Doc Lawrence
Original Florida is easy to find. It’s in that vast green prairie with occasional rolling hills interspersed with wetlands, lakes and streams comfortably away from crowded beaches and theme parks. It’s a gentle land where wildlife thrives, coexisting alongside people in picturesque towns with almost endless outdoor recreational opportunities. Here is a unique, deeply embedded culture closely tied to nature featuring big skies, subterranean aquifers, wildlife, literature, music and art.
For those looking for cultural wonders, Florida offers a trove. Art, in particular folk art, symbolically tells so much about the Sunshine State and the Deep South. Jeanine Taylor, a Miami native, was educated at FSU and transitioned from a career in education to owning and managing a successful gallery in Sanford, a lovely town not far from Orlando, but light years away when measured by quiet elegance and charm. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery occupies a beautiful 100 year-old building and is celebrating a milestone of 20 years. Works by artists who visually tell the world what Florida and the South represent are omnipresent, covering walls, filling display tables, rising from floors and hanging from above. Collectively, they become an indoor rainbow of colors with powerfully positive energy.
|"Louie" Guards Thomason's Paintings|
Paintings by Atlanta folk artist Olivia Thomason just joined the works of others in Ms. Taylor’s gallery. Some like Missionary Mary Proctor, Ab the Flagman and Eric Legee are also Ms. Thomason’s friends from her days as a gallery owner. An accomplished artist, Thomason has a display case filled with awards including Atlanta’s artist of the year and gallery of the year. Coming to Jeanine Taylor’s gallery in Sanford, she says, “is an exciting opportunity. I want to be around Florida’s authenticity and have a lifelong love of so much of its core culture including legendary authors like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston.” She added that “knowing and admiring Jeanine Taylor drew me here like a magnet.”
Jeanine Taylor says her love of the arts of the region enamored her “with southern art and culture,” leading to the successful establishment of her gallery specializing in contemporary folk art from the Deep South. Ms. Taylor garners praise from high places. GO Inflight, Air Tran’s passenger publication, selected her gallery as one of the “twenty essential galleries in the country” alongside prestigious urban galleries in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Chicago.
Ms. Thomason, in addition to her awards, has painted poet Carl Sandburg’s home, “Connemara,” a national historic shrine in Flat Rock, NC. Other notable paintings include the billboard greeting Atlanta’s Stone Mountain Park’s 8 million annual visitors. “I’ll always be at heart a country girl and my favorite paintings are based on precious memories from childhood.”
Her memory paintings adorn a lively wall in Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery.