Saturday, October 16, 2021

Life as Art

Treasure trunk. Submitted

Treasure trunk. Submitted

by Tara O’Neill

When I was a tiny girl I spent an entire afternoon watching my grandfather pen illustrations and designs on what seemed like a mile of butcher paper. He unrolled about 4 feet at a time over our dining room table and drew with a great flourish of the hand. I was absolutely mesmerized and it was hours before I thought to ask him why he was doing this. “I’m making wrapping paper,“ he replied. “Oh, Grandpa,” says I, “you can buy that now.” “Tara Margaret,” he stopped drawing and directed his blue eyes straight at my own, “you can make art out of everything you do, everything in life.” He died about a year later, leaving me with a heck of a legacy.

And some people do make art out every imaginable thing; they are, simply put, living works of art. You know them: their gifts come with palm-frond bows, they use feathers and sponges instead of brushes to paint their livingroom walls, their curtains are not fabric and their curtain rods are

A Mermaid’s Dresser.

A Mermaid’s Dresser.

probably not metal. Oh, and they set table as though every meal is an event, which it is, which it should be. They garnish.

Thanks to Grandpa I have a pretty broad art-scope, I have seen babies baptized in dresses well worth a Pulitzer Prize. I bore witness as a pile of broken cups and plates was transformed into a mosaic table of symphonic patterns. And I know Goodland resident Judy Wittwer.

Judy has lived in the area for over 25 years and is well known, through her company Judy, Judy, Judy, Inc., for her faux-finishing talents and as an interior design consultant. With fool-the-eye mastery she has turned concrete into flagstones, plaster into wood, wood into water, and just about anything into brick. But her art isn’t limited to floors, walls, and ceilings.

She defines her constructs as “functional and diverse;” one-of-a-kind hand-painted floor cloths, embellished tuxedos – really, with tails! – and knitted scarves so lively they could easily be stretched and framed, they are only a peek into her portfolio.

She is currently working on

Dinner in Paradise.

Dinner in Paradise.

a collection of furnishings that are re-invented using seashells, beadwork, paints and glazes. The woman has re-done an entire set of dining room table and chairs! I must tell you, being a Florida gal, I have never seen shells put to such thrilling use. The patterns and color combinations are nothing short of elegant – even when applied to something as whimsical as a treasure trunk. Trust me, to see is to desire.

To inquire about Judy’s work, contact her at

To improve your shell-to-art knowledge join the reception for Art League, Marco Island’s Center for the Arts’ upcoming exhibit Seaside Stories, Tues., Jan. 4, it includes a demonstration by Cindy Roloff, owner of Marco Shell & Craft in the Town Center. The exhibit runs December 29 to January 24.

Tara O’Neill has been an area resident since 1967. She holds a Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, Tampa, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. She can be contacted through her web site

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