The Card Thrower, a painting by Alabama artist Jean-Jacques Gaudel, is filled with symbolism, much of it painted in gold.
Sunday the gold itself became symbolic as the work won the $15,000 best-of-show award.
Gaudel, 47, was exhibiting in his 12th Gasparilla show, and previously had won lesser prizes, but for different kinds work: huge paintings covered with objects such as pebbles, buttons or toys. Those works were just as sharp. Gaudel's paintings fall into the category of trompe l'oeil (realistic illusion).
Now, though, his objects go deep into content. "I pick up objects and put them together," said Gaudel Sunday. "Sometimes they work into a story. But my story may not be the same as yours."
The Card Thrower is filled with images of different times and places. It is a "vanitas" painting, a 17th-century art term referring to the transience of life. The egg, nude and skull refer to stages of life; the hourglass marks time.
Gasparilla brought in nearly 300 artists, who set up their works in booths. Throngs of viewers came both Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the exceptionally good weather and the festival atmosphere, and not so much to buy. Several artists said they were disappointed with sales.
A few notes from the overwhelming array of fine art:
Stunning sculpts: Sally Rogers of Penland, North Carolina, working in layers of fabricated steel and pate de verre (paste of glass).
Fascinating photos: Barbara Kline of Ketchum, Idaho, formerly assistant to Florida's foremost art photographer, Jerry Uelsmann, carrying his darkroom manipulations into a different direction.
Noteworthy newcomer: Christopher Giuffre, St. Petersburg painter, in his first outdoor show. The Eckerd College graduate is influenced by pop art.
Rousing reprise: St. Petersburg Beach painter Patsi Aguero's exuberant, fleshy ladies. Her last Gasparilla appearance was 17 years ago.
The show's new location, along Ashley Drive and side streets in downtown Tampa, was necessitated by construction. But it turned out to be a more attractive setting than the previous one, between the scenic Hillsborough River (nice) and the Curtis Hixon garage (gross). More important, the show was easier to navigate. Both artists and the public loved it.
A few areas still need attention from the Gasparilla committee:
The festival should have an "enforcer" to eject artists whose work is not up to the quality of the three slides submitted for pre-judging. That way, there wouldn't be any silly yarn marionettes or jewelry booths with three magnificent bracelets and a hundred junk earrings.
A "Controversial Artist" need not be labeled. Let the viewer decide.
Rifkin, in making his awards, chose control and skill over emotion and scale. He also ignored all jewelry.
NationsBank Best of Show, $15,000, to Jean-Jacques Gaudel, Birmingham, AL., painting.
Board of Director's Award, $7,000, to Galen Carpenter, Sedona, AZ, wood.
Gasparilla Award, $3,500, to Roddy Reed, Tampa, ceramics.
Anniversary Award, $2,500, to Bob Kopec, Longwood, wood.
Friends of the Arts Award, $1,500, to Les Slesnick, Orlando, photography.
Awards of merit, $1,000 each, to: James Bassham, Lakeland, sculpture; Gwen Bennett, Eureka Springs, AR, mixed media (two awards); Kevin Bourgeois, Orlando, drawing/graphics; Jim Brown, Nashville, TN, photography; Clyde Butcher, Ochopee, photography; Michael D'Andrea, St. Petersburg, metal/wood; Robert Detamore, Barnesville, GA, drawing/graphics; George Dombeck, Tallahassee, watercolor; Denis Gaston, Dunedin, drawing/graphics; Ray Hartl, Salem, WI, photography; Thomas Kenney, Brandon, painting; Bill Lemke, Waukesha, WI, photography; Edward Lopez, Altoona, drawing/graphics; Patty Margerum, Oviedo, photography; Robert McCosker, Melbourne, mixed media; Marsha McMann, Roanoke, mixed media; Jerry Napoli, New Smyrna Beach, sculpture; Margaret Newman, Tampa, painting; Ronnie Phillips, Stone Mountain, GA, photography; Henry Poe, Lakeland, photography; Frank Rakoncay, St. Augustine, drawing/graphics; Gabriel Rowe, Kansas City, KS, painting; Rebecca Sexton-Larson, Tampa, photography; Steve Shepard, Gautier, MS, drawing/graphics; James Skvarch, Syracuse, NY, drawing/graphics; Margaret Steward, St. Petersburg, photography; Lynn Whipple, Maitland, mixed media; John Williams, Clintonville, WV; metal/wood; and Theo Wujcik, Tampa, painting.
24th Annual Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival, Saturday and Sunday along Ashley Drive and side streets in downtown Tampa