Center for Spiritual Care

Integrating Body, Mind, Spirit & Creativity

Center for Spiritual Care 20th Anniversary

Past Exhibits

March-July 2020

Friday, March 6, 5-7 p.m.
Opening Reception for Michael Kemp and Sean Sexton, Land Lines/Sun Circles


Ongoing exhibit 

Black Palms  Transfer Lithograph 1985 20” x 28” A landscape view from the yard at the residence of Sean and Sharon Sexton looking west.



Collateral Creation:       

The Letters of Mike Kemp and Sean Sexton

              What do artists talk about when they get together?  What really went on between Manet and Degas at the Café Guerbois in late-19th Century Paris?  Or in New York’s Cedar Tavern between De Kooning and Pollock?  We have the highlights, of course, and recollections, but very little of actual conversations.  For one-to-one exchanges of their thoughts, anxieties and insights into their working processes, we need to turn to letters.  These can be extraordinarily rich, as proven by those between the Van Gogh brothers and Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse, as well as  between Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly.  Today, when the art of letter-writing has all but disappeared, to stumble across a correspondence that has been going on between two artists for more than four decades is to behold a particularly rare treasure.  And treasure is exactly what the letters of Michael Kemp and Sean Sexton comprise.  

              They first met in Gainesville in 1979. Sean was completing studies at the University of Florida, and met Michael headed out to paint one morning with a friend in a landscape around Micanopy called the "New Studio."  They exchanged promises to paint together and a spark that still fires their friendship kindled immediately.  Their correspondence began inauspiciously with a card from Mike apologizing to Sean for missing his opening art reception at Kesl’s Coney Island Restaurant in town. His wife's horse was down with the colic and they had to wait for the vet. 

              It continued when Sean moved back to Vero to manage the family cattle ranch.  Somewhere along the line the letters turned into a form of journaling, a way to channel encouragement, hope and energy between them as they struggled and increasingly found success as professional artists.  But life kept interfering with art.

              Mike:  ...the aspects of my life [—] are piling up behind me as I spend more time on printmaking. Social constructs, economic necessities, long range planning, quality of life issues, family responsibilities, are like a pack of runners jostling me in the back as I try to make my deliberate way down a path to some unknown destination.  That path seems to be figurative art and I'm making progress with this line drawing. Seems imperative to go beyond the single nude figure study and there— at that juncture, the world becomes so large I don't quite know where to turn off. The sense of mortality intervenes and I wonder whether any particular course is the right one in the sense that I am willing to commit what is left of my life to it. 

              Sean: I think you'll find your realization when you are able to reestablish that intimacy with your work that everything and everyone (including yourself) has been keeping you away from.  Oh, it’s so difficult to have faith in that, to commit yourself to certain pain. But you must do it because you have to paint and since there's no choice about that, you have to make it as good for yourself as it’s going to get. So you commit yourself to what you believe in, what you're doing and say ‘I'm not backing down!’ (unless that picture and that idea are so ‘birth defective’ they  just can't walk and never will).  And in time, even months (years?) it will come! Sometimes you say, ‘I'm going to wait and see if I learn enough in a year's time to  be able to finish this damn thing’—So then you set it aside. Your commitment hasn't changed, it’s just on hold.

              They exchanged notes on museum shows they had seen.  Here’s Mike on a 2008 retrospective of Georgio Morandi at the Met:  It is hard to overstate the depth of revelation I experienced at the Morandi show, both the one at the Met and the   one at Pace Gallery. Until I began to digest the show, which took about three days,   I was simply not aware of the huge and pervasive influence Morandi had on me. The etchings especially are fundamental to my way of approaching that medium. In fact the still lifes with window, chair and fruit are deliberate attempts to employ Morandi principles -- straight lines, minimal contours, open areas -- without making prints that ‘look like’ Morandi. I have been wondering if I should begin again.

              Another letter found Mike ruminating: I believe that Cezanne, so devoted to natural motif, was constructing a parallel world of art based on his own principles of perception. These anomalies strengthen the reality of his art. How can I use this 110 years after his discoveries?  I think by pushing forward the means of art. The structure of composition and execution. That is apparently what Morandi thought and practiced: overlay the undeniable melodrama with exquisite paint, or lines or composition. This is all quite easy to say on vacation. The test will be if I can return home and put it in practice in the production of paintings and prints. I'm glad to  get it stated here, however. Never quite saw [it] that way before.

              They wrestled with getting their work right.  Sean wrote of a large painting: ....I finally think I've got the thing under control—the design mainly, which wasn't right. I'm getting to where I feel it like a pain when the composition isn't working, much like a spine when a vertebrate is out of whack, and nothing makes    it well but the ultimate finding of what's out of alignment and pushing it back to where it belongs. This design was quite that way and I began groping around to fix it almost as soon as I began painting the thing. (Nothing will reveal the deficiencies in your scheme quicker than the application of paint over a charcoal drawing!) So now I'm on to "level two" problems… 

In the end, they could never remain discouraged or stay away from their studios for long.  Wrote Mike: I'm off to work. Thinking about our etching project—waste some plates—dissolve some metal—dirty up our nails. I can't wait.           

              The letters of these two artists and friends merit publication, but these days that may be more a pipedream than a possibility.  Yet here they are, some of them, in this small but substantive show of works on paper by a pair of talented, mature artists.  They deserve your attention — don’t overlook  them.                                                                                                                                                                               -- Warren Obluck                                                                        


Elise Geary

Transitions and Transformations

Through February, 2020

Force Fields and Energy Orbits:  

The Art of Elise Geary


            When the dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the esteemed Michigan school that has produced such major arts figures as Duane Hanson, Nick Cave, Eero Saarinen and Harvey Littleton, saw the petition on his desk, he chuckled.  A 13-year-old junior high student wanted special permission to enroll in the Academy’s nude life-drawing studio.  Then he opened the portfolio that accompanied the request.  And his chuckle turned into a whistle of disbelief. The drawings enclosed were a revelation -- a revelation of exceptional talent that had captured meticulous, perfect renderings of the local landscape.

            Those drawings were the work of Elise Weinrich (now Elise Geary), whose outsized ability belied her age and saw her incorporated immediately into the highly selective Cranbrook program, albeit on a part-time basis.  She continued to make rapid progress, her hyper-realistic style loosening up under the influence of her new teachers, while her work remained fully representational. When it came time for college she opted for the school one of her personal heroes, Helen Frankenthaler, had chosen:  Bennington College in Vermont.

            Geary chose well.  She excelled in her classes, but endured a crisis around the end of her second year. One of Bennington’s credos is that a good education prepares you for a set path but a great education prepares you to change direction.   Her education clearly had been great because she found herself switching from art to pre-med.

            It was a life-changing decision, because now she had time for nothing but science. Through medical school, residency and the beginnings of a thriving dermatology practice in Durham, she was able to think about nothing outside her chosen field.  Then her mother, a talented watercolorist in her youth, moved to North Carolina to be close.  They decided to enroll in watercolor classes to spend time together, and the passion to express herself through art was rekindled in Elise. 

      When she finally retired and moved to Vero Beach she was determined to transform her life from one of scientific analysis to one far more open to the intangible.  “I have two favorite quotations,” she says. “One is from Albert Einstein, one is from Carl Jung.  Einstein said, ‘The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all science.’  Jung tells us, ‘The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.’  I couldn’t agree more.”

            Deb Gooch, whose teaching touched countless artists in this area, first nudged Geary toward a still looser, more abstract approach and then guided her earliest efforts, which led to real breakthroughs.  More recently, she has worked with Marianne Mitchell, a nationally recognized painter who functions with Geary as a kind of personal trainer. Mitchell’s critiques and insights have been pivotal.  

            “If you’re going to be a complete artist, you not only have to have the intellect and the technique.  You have to have the emotion. And that’s Marianne’s whole thing. Five years ago I would have said my inspiration was nature.  Now, ‘nature’ is too confining a word for me.  I’m more into the energy field of whatever I’m painting.  It’s this dynamic force or flow: which way is the energy moving… or is it just mysterious?  

            “And I’m not saying that I don’t go on the beach and feel the beauty of what’s happening there.  Before, I might have wanted to paint the wave.  Now I’m just trying to remember the feel of being there.  Now, it’s not about nature per se. It’s about the inner energies.  

            “I have an urgency about my painting now. It’s as if I’m making up for lost time. And I want to keep going.  I want to learn more and explore more. There’s no question in my mind that there are energies out there that we know nothing about, that you feel but you can’t explain.”

            It’s those energies that Elise Geary has set about to capture in her striking paintings in this exhibition.

--Warren Obluck

Barbara Rowles

Counting Flowers on the Wall

January 2020

Allan Teger

Metaphor:  Photo Poems
December 2019

Ian Maguire Opens the Door

            Thoughts on I M Ian:  Emerging Abstractionist

            Ian Maguire seems to have been prepping for his current exhibition at the Center for Spiritual Care since he was a boy.  Growing up in New Canaan, Connecticut, he taught himself to draw and recorded the world around him with single-minded persistence. 

            His sketches eventually came to the attention of artist and educator Roe Halper, who became an important mentor to Maguire from his early teens through high school.  She offered private classes that grounded her students in design and painting, and arranged their portfolios for art school entrance.  “Roe made us understand that we were not just aiming to be artists, but that we were already artists,” Maguire recalls. 

            And Halper expected her charges, like the practicing artists they were, to haunt not only nearby New York’s museums but its commercial galleries.  “In those early days, my mother and I would walk down little streets that didn’t seem very promising and we’d come across these wonderful shops full of art.” 

            Eventually Ian was old enough to do Chelsea on his own and one of those shops turned out to be the storied gallery Cheim & Read.  It was there Maguire came upon the work of Joan Mitchell, a New York School painter who was to influence him significantly. 

            “For years she was like my personal secret,” he says.  “None of my friends seemed to know anything about her but for me she was almost an obsession.  My teacher, Roe, had a book about her that she finally gave me when I graduated from high school because I had been studying it so much.”

            Committed at this early age to abstract expressionism, Maguire went on to refine his painting skills at Alfred University, a small school in Western New York known for its excellent arts program, and finished his undergraduate work at Manhattan’s Pace University, closer to the art scene.

            Later, when he moved to Vero Beach to be near his family, he began to work with noted painter Tim Sanchez.  “Tim started to critique my work about a year ago,” Maguire says, “and I feel as if I’ve made tenyear’s worth of progress since then.  It’s as if a door had opened.” 

            What’s different?  “I approach the canvas now in a very distinct way.”  He points to a painting he calls Destroyer.  “This one is the culmination of everything I’ve learned with regard to technique and form.  It’s gone through a dozen iterations but I was never entirely satisfied with it.  I like this version because you can see so much of the past in it, even -- if you know where to look -- a touch of the original painting.  I like paintings where you can see the history and the struggle that have gone into them.  To me that signifies growth.  Somehow I reached a new gear at the beginning of this past summer that allowed me to completely change the feel of my painting.”

            Unsurprisingly, Maguire paints every day -- all day and late into the night.  That clearly suggests there will be moments when his muse goes silent.  To jump start his process, he has no qualms about beginning with objects, often flowers, that will help him judge his color palette and where his forms might take him.  You’ll see at least one painting on the Center’s walls in which the floral motif still remains.  In others, it’s inherent.  “Certain color combinations contain within them for me not flowers themselves but the memories of flowers,” he says. 

            Among the most successful works in the show is Some Kind of Love, a painting in which Maguire tones down his exuberance and exercises almost uncharacteristic restraint.  The panting incorporates much scraping and overpainting but is free of the chaos he sometimes embraces, interestingly, as a unifying element. 

            Ian Maguire is a young man on the move.  This first exhibition of his work in Vero Beach marks a turning point in a career that has the potential to achieve important things. 

April 2019

Deb Gooch Takes a Long Look at Life

         When Deb Gooch riffles through the Kodak black-and-whites she inherited from her parents, a past reappears that seems a little like a dream.  There they are: her father and mother looking for all the world like William Powell and Myrna Loy in a Thin Man movie…her little brother, always underfoot…dogs she played with as a child…her favorite horse growing up.

         In Gooch’s hands, these memories become a rich source for paintings that in a personal sense may be cathartic but to the rest of us are transcendently joyful.   For, make no mistake, these paintings are not attempts to recreate the photograph.  They are meant to represent the emotions the photo evokes. 

         Gooch was deeply influenced as a student by Raoul Middleman, who has taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art (one of the oldest in the United States) since 1961.  Middleman has been described as a “Baltimore maestro [whose] narrative paintings give contemporary life to his personal obsessions. They are intelligent, messy, and utterly masterful.”  Although their styles diverge significantly, that would not be a bad way to describe Gooch’s narratives.

         The real difference surfaces in her sense of humor.  She lends a cartoonish lilt to many of her figures, encouraging us to smile at their antics.  Or the figures themselves radiate exuberant delight that evokes the same reaction in us, as in The Three Graces, an award-winning triple portrait of women having the time of their lives.

         Another name resonates when considering Gooch’s work, and it is one that brightens her face when mentioned.  It is Larry Rivers, the outlaw tenor saxophonist and breaker of rules whose paintings helped light up New York City in the ‘60s.  Gooch certainly does not paint like Rivers, but his influence might be deduced in her compositions, the lanky, nonchalantly intertwined bodies on her canvases, her insouciant placement of figures on a ground.

         Consider No More Dancin’, with its figure of a small boy in a bunny costume, a recurring trope, who shares the surface with the images of three “real” rabbits, one doing a hoedown.  It’s a painting Rivers would be entirely comfortable with.  Figures do recur in Gooch’s work regularly.  Whippets, purple hippos, crows, and fruits of many kinds pop up in the oddest places and at the strangest times.  They reappear mysteriously and often unintentionally, swirling up from her memory pool. 

         In the case of No More Dancin’, the recollection comes from a ballet class she attended as a child for a few weeks before a scheduled spring recital.  As she caromed about with an Easter bunny chorus line, her father turned to her mother and said, “Well, Janet, there goes your fifty bucks, hopping across the stage.” Repeated endlessly over family dinners, the anecdote became part of Gooch’s subconscious.

         Deb Gooch is a very special person in the Vero Beach art community.  Both as a teacher and as an example of a life devoted to art, she is a model for younger painters and a dedicated and supportive colleague to more experienced ones.  For her, the operative word is seldom “I” but most often “we.” Her paintings express her affection for family, friends, and all the creatures of this garden of earthly delights.  We are delighted to show her works at the Center for Spiritual Care.


Warren Obluck



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