This month, Palm Beach County plein air artists have come inside to the Palm Beach Art, Antique & Design Showroom in Lake Worth Beach to kick off the fall season with a group exhibition titled Travel en Plein Air, curated by Debby Coles-Dobay, founder of Art Moves You.
Collaborating with the showroom directors, Angelica Sua and Paola Sanchez, the exhibit highlights a diverse collection of artworks and takes the viewer around the world through the palette of local plein air artists.
“After a few years of impeded travel, it is refreshing to view these artists’ diverse style of plein air painting,” says Coles-Dobay. “Through the paintings, visitors will be reminded of places they’ve been or drawn to the places they’d like to go.”
The exhibition, which ends Friday, includes varied representation of paintings by artists sharing their travel stories through their art. The paintings were created in a few hours, many on locations that viewers may recognize, including the Boynton Beach Inlet, Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach and Lighthouse Park in Jupiter. [Editor’s note: Technical issues delayed the posting of this story.]
Included are works by 12 local artists including Ralph Papa, Chris Kling, Carl Stoveland, Susan McKenna and Manon Sander, among others, and is a memorial tribute to plein air painter Lorrie B. Turner, former board member of Plein Air Palm Beach and teacher at the Boca Museum of Art School, who died in May.
Papa, 83, a signature member and past president of the Artists Guild of the Boca Raton Museum of Art and co-founder of Plein Air Palm Beach, first fell in love with the process of painting en plein air as a young man when painting in the Hamptons on Long Island and in New York’s Hudson Valley.
His style is both representational and impressionistic.
“My art is part of me and how I express myself,” says Papa, who also owns Papagallery in Boca Raton, specializing in plein air works from local and nationally known artists. “It’s in my DNA. It’s like eating and breathing; a necessity in my life.
“It gets me outdoors with others, in places that interest me. It’s visual storytelling about the people, places and things I love. Painting en plein air is always an adventure,” says Papa, who also teaches at the Boca Museum Art School, Lighthouse ArtCenter, Old School Square and the Armory ArtCenter in West Palm Beach.
His painting exploits have taken him on a seven-week adventure to Europe in 2015 and he was one of 10 artists selected to be part of the 2015 Farindola international Arts Festival in Farindola, Italy.
Included in this show are his paintings, Bell Tower at Balboa Park, painted on location in 2017 with 30 other plein air artists; his 2018 painting, Rays of Light and Love at Farindola; and St. Thomas Cathedral at Ortona, painted in 2021 at a church in the city of Ortona, Italy, 100 miles east of Rome, where the remains of the apostle Thomas were taken from India, where he was martyred, and placed in this church.
Also part of the show is Stuart artist, Chris Kling 65, who owns Kling Gallery Wine & Décor. A Florida native, Kling has painted portraits, seascapes, landscapes, plein air and still lifes. In 2019, she won Best Seascape in the Lighthouse Plein Air Festival for her painting Surf Watch.
Like Papa, her art is part of who she is. “Being an artist is not just my career,” she says. “It is an integral part of who I am and is something I am compelled to do.”
For her, painting en plein air has energy. “You can feel the breeze blowing, hear the birds chirping and see the true colors. It’s my passion,” she says. “I can’t give it up.”
Kling admires Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla, Swedish artist Anders Zorn and the French impressionists and appreciates Coles-Dobay for promoting artists and creating opportunities for them. “It’s wonderful for the arts community.”
German-born artist Manon Sander, 55 (“I feel like 39”), of North Palm Beach, is a former banker turned artist. She painted murals for a decade in Chicago before moving to San Francisco and falling in love with the work of Ken Auster, an impressionist painter. She had an “epiphany,” decided to become an oil painter, and says after that, “everything fell into place.”
She found an art school, the right teacher and soon after moved to Florida. A signature member of the California Art Club and the American Society of Marine Artists, Sander is also a member of the National Oil and Acrylic Painter Society.
Her inspiration comes, she says, “when the muse kisses you.”
A self-described “contemporary impressionist,” Sander prefers to paint nocturnes and endeavors to capture the light and shadow patterns in the evening from city lights reflecting on the water. Her favorite venues to paint include the island of Palm Beach, on a boat at night, and at Lighthouse Park, where in the evening you can see the restaurants all lit up, their lights reflecting on the water.
She studied with Camille Przwodek, a disciple of Henry Hensche, and admires the work of fellow artist James P. Kerr (whose work is also included in the show). In 2021, she was awarded signature status in the National Oil & Acrylic Painters Society.
In her plein air travels, Sander will participate in the upcoming Sedona (Ariz.) Paint-Out and will host an artist retreat to Santa Fe, N.M. She has painted from Alaska to Ireland to Vermont and on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Next March, she will participate in the plein air festival in the Lighthouse Center for the Arts in Tequesta, one of the largest festivals in the country.
“There’s nothing like setting up your easel and painting outdoors,” says Sander. “I can really absorb the sounds, smells, temperature, wind and vistas. Those are the moments that stick with me.”
Palm Beach Art Antique and Design Showroom is located at 500 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth Beach. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm.