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Tower Gallery showcasing new artists, new artwork
August 13, 2019

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With the addition of several new artists, one island gallery has a lot of new pieces to explore.

Since the start of the year, the Tower Gallery on Sanibel has added the work of five new members throughout the space. Founded in 1982, it is an artists' cooperative, consisting of members who work in two-dimensional and three-dimensional mediums, like oil, photography, ceramic, glass and metal.

In February, minimalist acrylic painter Patrick Conolly and fabric artist Sally Dutko joined the cooperative. The more recent additions are fiber artist Katie Gardenia and mixed media artist Kelly Morrison - both previous gallery members - and contemporary jeweler Kathleen Dennison.

"It's been a record year," Board Member JoAnne Bedient, who also is an artist, said.

"We can go years without any spaces opening up," she added.

Bedient explained that the gallery's artists are juried. Potential future members must submit an application, then go through a process that involves review by a committee made up of members.

"We know what we're looking for," she said, citing the addition of Dennison and her pieces as an example. "We had been looking for a long time for a jeweler, a jeweler that worked in metal."

Bedient noted that the new artwork is helping to create a more well-rounded gallery.

"We have a very diverse group of mediums," she said.

A former gallery member in the 1990s, Morrison used to create stained glass, mosaic wine tables, window hangings and such. She currently works with wood, specifically pine - cutting, sanding and carving it, then layering on paints and glazes before finishing off the pieces with lampwork beads.

Morrison creates flamingos, herons and tropical icons, but mostly fish and sea turtles.

"I just love the island lifestyle and sea life," she said.

The prior owner of a faux finish and painting business for 15 years, Morrison grew up around woodwork as her father and grandfather were carpenters. She enjoys working in paint and glaze.

"Trying different textures and different techniques," she said.

"I've always been an artist," Morrison noted. "When it's in there, it's got to come out."

She is looking forward to the upcoming season.

"I'm just thrilled to be back," Morrison said, describing a visit to the Tower Gallery as a family tradition for many. "The people are great - and we're so fortunate to have this house."

With some exceptions, most of Conolly's art springs spontaneously from his imagination. His brightly-colored canvas paintings, with their smooth semi-gloss surfaces, bring to mind the pop art of mid-century America. But they have a minimalistic, relaxed tropical vibe that is a perfect fit for the islands.

"It's very minimalistic, but there's a texture to it," Bedient said.

An award-winning artist, Dutko dyes and paints much of the fabric used in her art quilts and mixed-media collages. Unlike traditional quilting, the work is more like painting with fabric and thread. Dutko uses a combination of hand-dyed fabric, transferred images and geometric compositions for her art.

"I would say she paints with fabric," Bedient said.

A self-taught artist, Gardenia creates one-of-a-kind fantasy art dolls, fiber art pillows, hand-knitted watercolored greeting cards, fiber art beaded jewelry and upholstered fiber art chairs. It is her attention to the details - every little one that is handmade and plays a role - that her pieces are known for.

"I don't even call them dolls," Bedient said. "I call them souls."

Dennison creates custom pieces that are well constructed, original in design and lacking in commercialism. Working with precious metals such as gold and silver, each creation is a unique form of art. Dennison incorporates stones and gems, as well as makes her own lampwork beads.

"It's contemporary," Bedient said.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to stop in and check out the new artists.

"There's a lot of new this year," she said.

The Tower Gallery has the following set for the coming season:

- Oct. 18-19: Attic Sale

- Dec. 12: "Under the Stars"

- Jan. 9: Matsumoto Retrospective

- Feb. 13: Poetic Reflections

- March 12: Katie Gardenia

- April 16: Auction for Captains for Clean Water

In addition, Ikki Matsumoto's work is on display at the gallery until October.

For more information, call 239-472-4557 or visit www.towergallery.net.

It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May to November and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. December to April.

The Tower Gallery is at 751 Tarpon Bay Road.

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