Some decades ago, a young girl, wandering away from her father who was exploring a cave on their property in northern Spain, called out to him, “Torros! Torros!”
She had the name of the animals wrong, but that wasn’t important. The girl had discovered on a low ceiling of the cave 15 perfectly preserved 15, 000-year-old multi-colored paintings of accurately proportioned bison, horses, deer, fawns and boars.
The girl had discovered the Cave of Altamira. On their craggy walls, Cro-Magnonspictured what they knew. You might say that the art of painting began with cave imagery. Before the daybreak of recorded history, when humankind didn’t know how to read, write or build permanent shelters, cave dwellers covered their dark, rock-lined rooms with the days of their lives.
Carrying on the Paleolithic painting traditionis the art of mural painting in parking garages. Behold the murals in three-story Park Avenue Parking Garage in Sarasota.
At first, I thought that sticking art in a garage was a bad idea. I also thought the building didn’t need art. It already was art. With its aluminum sails attached to the exterior, the garage is sculpture the way the Sunshine Skyways is with its triangular-shaped cable stays that also suggest sails. http://modenook.com/art-in-st-petersburg/the-sunshine-skyway-got-the-shaft
Do critics ever change their minds?
Art News magazine ran a story in the ’90s about critics who do an about-face, suggesting that those who don’t aren’t facing up to a fact of life: changing circumstance. The point was brought home to me when I remembered the Cave of Altamira. Finding pictures on the walls of an unexpected place like a parking garage shouldn’t be unexpected.
Enter Skip Dyrda who was hired to paint in the Palm Avenue garage top floor. You may remember Dyrda’s work on the east wall of the Mediterraneo restaurant on Main Street – a 60-foot-high, 90-foot-long mural painting so photo-real that you thought what you saw was actual. The illusion included make-believe balustrades and two towering archways through which you could see Sarasota’s lost treasures — the John Ringling Towers and the Bickel House.
The see-through arches were reminiscent of Richard Haas’ landmark mural on Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel. Like the hotel mural, the one on the restaurant building transformed a blank wall into a field of vision full with icons of Sarasota arts and circus history. Dyrda’s painting was so skillfully rendered, I remember mistaking a worker he pictured on a scaffold for a real person and parked my car to go talk to him.
Now consider Dyda’s mural for the Palm Avenue garage. His assigned theme was to celebrate Sarasota’s theater history. But rather than picture some generic image, he showcased The Players Theater, owing to its history as the oldest community theater in Sarasota (and the 2nd oldest in Florida), complete with the title of a play on the marquee that showed in the theater’s early days – “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
You can even see old play posters and a ticket window down to a ticket taker.
Cave art lives!