Gardner Colby owner Nancy Winch told American Art Collector magazine in 2007 that in his ten years of painting here in Naples, Frank Corso has firmly established himself as the preeminent interpreter of the Florida landscape. But don't be lulled. The plein air impressionist will go to great lengths to find paintworthy motifs - even the mountains of Hawaii if he absolutely must.
Naples Gardner Colby Gallery has hosted 15 solo shows of Corso's latest renderings, but the artist is taking 2013 off to concentrate on expanding his painterly repertoire. Nevertheless, he recently delivered two new paintings to the gallery to evidence his progress. One titled Mountain Trail, Kauai is an exquisite treatment of sky, sea and trees framed against and around a backdrop of what appears to be Kokeo Point on the Na Pali coast, a place known for its coastal cliff hiking trails and ocean kayaking.
The artist both hikes and kayaks to the locations he wants to paint. In fact, he uses a specially-rigged kayak for forays through the mangroves and waterways that are part of the Everglades. “I am able to go down little rivers, drag an anchor and start painting on an easel I have bungee-chorded to the kayak.” Corso explained at last year's solo exhibition.
It was something that evolved over time. At first, he'd pack up his paints and work from the side of the road. Then, he paid a tour boat captain to take him out, drop him off and return for him hours later. Sometimes he hiked or biked into the Everglades. And then he hit on the idea of using a kayak.
It took a bit of experimentation, but he finally found just the right kayak to accommodate his plein air painting. “It allows me to paint quite comfortably from just a couple of feet above the water, which gives everything – reeds, trees and even the skies – a unique perspective.” More grounded. As though seen through the eyes of the fauna who claim the Everglades as their habitat.
Corso’s rig also enables him to paint into the evening, which permits him to capture twilight and night scenes like Moon Glow, the other painting he recently dropped off at the gallery.
“You’re sitting out there in the twilight and then the moon rises and everything comes alive,” Corso relates. “It’s feeding time for the animals. You hear wildlife all around you and the hairs on my neck start to bristle.” Painting on location by day “allows me to get the values and colors exactly right.” But painting outdoors after dark is even more critical. “What happens is that with no artificial light, your eyes open to the darkness and you see more and more.”
Or as Corso told American Art Collector, “The great thing about painting with the moonlight, is that it’s so bright you can paint with no assisted light and it’s surprising at how accurate you can be.”
You can see these paintings this Thursday night, when Gardner Colby hosts A Slice of Life, a group show featuring new work by Stan Moeller, Kim English, Leslie Rich and Robin Cheers. But Mountain Trail, Kauai and Moon Glow won't be in the gallery long, and there's no guarantee they'll still be available by show time. So if you're in the market for a new and rare work by impressionist Frank Corso, time is truly of the essence.