Times book editor
Trust the creative gang at the Studio@620 in St. Petersburg to celebrate their sixth year by creating their own big, gorgeous birthday card.
That would be the first edition of the Studio Review, a broadsheet arts journal modeled on McSweeney's brilliant San Francisco Panorama, which was published in December.
Studio Review was conceived by the organization's co-founders, Dave Ellis and Bob Devin Jones, published by Jones and edited by Sarah Gerard. Their aim, according to a note on Page 2: to "publish a quality newspaper with content as eclectic, stimulating, and socially relevant as the studio's programming."
They've done just that. The 28-page review is packed with work by more than 70 contributors. You'll find lots of fiction, poetry and nonfiction, an essay by Eckerd College professor and novelist Sterling Watson, and book reviews. There are interviews with several filmmakers, including Troy Durrett, who made the documentary The Bro Bowl: 30 Years of Tampa Concrete, as well as interviews with five Web comic creators.
Thanks to visual arts editor Daniel Williams, Studio Review boasts a lively, vivid design and loads of cool art: photos, comics, a cutout 'zine and a psychedelic map of the Tampa Bay music scene. It will be published quarterly (next up: a fall issue with a map theme). Subscriptions are $40, single copies $12; go to thestudioreview.blogspot.com/.
* * *
Times visual arts critic
An era ends in St. Petersburg with Eleanor Morse's death
Eleanor Morse died on July 1. She and her husband, A. Reynolds Morse, were co-founders of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. He died in 2000. I wrote her epilogue for the St. Petersburg Times and earlier reviewed an exhibition at the museum celebrating its history and the couple's pre-eminent role there. It's a remarkable story.
We reporters never have the column inches to say all we'd like to, and so it is with my stories about Eleanor. I'd like to say a few more things here.
I can't claim a real friendship with Mrs. Morse, with all the confidences and personal interaction that word implies. Yet we enjoyed an easy camaraderie. Eleanor was not a gossip, so she never "dished" about Dali and his wife, Gala, whom she and her husband got to know very well over the years. But she was a bountiful source of funny and interesting stories about the eccentric artist and his equally eccentric wife.
Dali and Gala were famous people, their lives lived in the public eye. Eleanor was never impressed by that and gave them, in her accounts, more human faces. She and "Ren" were impressed by his genius and sought to honor that genius by assembling their remarkable collection of Dali's art and thousands of materials related to it.
Before her health deteriorated so badly, Eleanor and I (My given name is also Eleanor; she got a kick out of that and frequently wondered why I didn't go by it.) would have lunch from time to time. She had stopped driving and didn't get out as much as she used to, so I would pick her up and off we'd go. She was always immaculately dressed and coiffed.
Her favorite dining spot was Pepin's because the owners were friends and supporters of the museum, but she was always game to try a new place. We mostly talked about the past. At that point she was beginning to have short-term memory loss, so her best recollections were from years ago.
She missed her husband terribly, but Eleanor did not withdraw into widowhood. If anything, she became more visible and active with the museum and continued to attend Florida Orchestra concerts, which she loved. Still, conversations would always come around to Ren, whom she called "my darling."
I realized at some point that Eleanor didn't have close friends. In part I think that was her temperament, but it was also because she and Ren formed their own world that was totally complete. She enjoyed the company of others and loved parties, but also had a deep Midwestern reserve that seemed to discourage intimacy.
With her death, the Dali Museum enters a new era. Their son Brad, who lives in Cleveland, has become a trustee and is carrying on the family representation admirably, but the direct link Eleanor and Ren provided is gone. I can't mourn her passing; she had been seriously ill for about three years and her memory was gone. I believe it was her time.
I miss what she had been. I treasure the hours of delightful conversation she gave me over the years. She had a marvelous sense of humor and was an intellectual without being stuffy or pretentious. I doubt I knew her well but, for me, it was well enough.