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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
South Tampa News

Hammer: Libraries offer cool artistic respite in summertime


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The heat is on in Tampa. It's a good time to take your summer reading indoors - into local libraries where you will find books, yes, but also interesting displays of art by local artists. Here are a few to visit:

Through June, the Charles J. Fendig Library in South Tampa is featuring paintings and burned wood reliefs by local artist Monis Rodriguez, who signs his name, simply, "Monis."

Born and raised mostly in France, Rodriguez eventually came to live in the United States and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design.

He started out doing murals, paintings and black-and-white drawings; but during the past two years he has focused on wood burning reliefs.

He uses images of Native Americans in his works as a way to convey a theme of spirituality.

"I chose that topic because of a documentary I saw on how the Indians lived together as people and how they protected their families and their land and I think we could all relate to that," Rodriguez said in a telephone interview. "They were willing to give their life to save their family and their land. I think that describes America itself, because you see so many foreigners come to this country to try and struggle to accomplish something for their families."

Among the Native American portraits is a picture of a non-Indian girl in prairie clothes sitting in a chair, reading a book and looking out the window of her log house.

"That's my little girl, Leah," Rodriguez said. "She's 9 years old and she loves 'Little House on the Prairie.' She must have read it six times at least."

He doesn't title his works individually. "In a very abstract way, if I were to title all those works I would call them 'Memory,' because it's really about respecting the past and going forward," he explained.

Farther north, the New Tampa Regional Library each month exhibits the works of an "Artist of the Month" for the North Tampa Arts League. This month's artist is Jeanne Forsythe.

A resident of Wesley Chapel, the award-winning artist combines her love of photography with her fine art skills, taking pictures which she transforms into photographic prints as well as eye-catching paintings.

"I love to take landscape photographs, but sometimes I just think the trees have more color in the way I feel about them," the artist said, "Photography is a way to hold onto the memory and painting allows me to express how I feel."

Her focus for now is beach scenes, and lately she has gotten into actually attaching sand and shells to some of her photos, such as "Purple Water."

"Ocean water runs through my veins," she joked. "I want people to be able to take the beach home with them. It's having that tactile physical thing with you."

Back in downtown Tampa, the John F. Germany Library features local artists on a rotating basis in the Louise and Arnold Kotler Art Gallery. Through June, the gallery is showing a diverse selection of works by the late Tampa artist Carolyn Heller. Her playful and vibrant personality comes out in the brush strokes and colors of her watercolor and acrylic abstract and floral paintings.

The library also displays pieces from the its permanent collection, including a bold painting called "Moses" by William Pachner and a copper and metal sculpture by Lee Jones. Called "Habitat, Egret in Mangrove," it is perched on the piano on the second floor of the library.

Correspondent Esther Hammer can be reached at ehammer@tampatrib.com

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