Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Revenge of the pelican

White pelicans, neon 9x13

White pelicans, neon 9×13

In my last column I expressed some very definite opinions about the 1960’s Collier County Art Scene?including some pretty snarky remarks about the over-abundance of sand dune and pelican paintings. I’d like to think I’m the sort of person who, when they’re wrong, say they’re wrong?especially when no less than twenty-three of my own dear readers point it out. Instantly. The truth is, Pelicans don’t make bad Art, bad Artists do.

Consider the common Pelican. What a delight to catch it gliding low above the Gulf, nary a mosquito’s breath between its elegantly outstretched wing-tips and an angry wave. With yoga-like precision it stretches its splayed feet to the front then lands with all the comedic expertise of Buster Keaton-?only with a bigger splash. Suddenly, you’d rather be a crow. No wonder artists persistently portray them poised upon pilings faking nobility. Noble?. Even their walk is a waddle.

Enter Jim Freeman, Photographer Extraordinaire and Isle of Capri resident. Jim takes this prehistoric punch-line of a bird, two birds actually, and electrifies them with his techno-savvy and artistic eye. The combination of ice-blue shadows and red-hot lights cause the photograph to vibrate. The composition is strong?the subjects are large, just off-center, and captured walking with the side-by-side synchronicity of old friends. The unlikely colors stream and swirl and it all seems perfectly natural. Ah! the willing suspension of disbelief. That, my friend, is Fine Art. (For the record, Jim was not one the readers who so

Goodland crab floats.

Goodland crab floats.

swiftly pointed out my alleged narrow-mindedness.)

A thirty-year veteran in the fields of both Commercial and Fine Art Photography, Jim and his wife, graphic designer Sherri Morrison, arrived on our coast in 1999 from the Texas Panhandle. Before making landfall on Isle of Capri, Jim lived for a period aboard a sailboat in Goodland. That boat, Katherine, is still essential to the couple’s lifestyle and to Jim’s work. Many of his landscapes are shot at sites only accessible by water, making it possible to combine his work with their love of sailing and exploration.

I recently ran into Jim at a civic function and he was kind enough to share some of his background with me.

Exhibiting all the independence you would expect from a true Texan, Jim took an SBA loan right after college and started his own photographic studio. Most of the work was Commercial, relying on Fine Art imaging as an “escape mechanism.” He was able to travel extensively for one of the world’s largest agricultural corporations; photographing wheat fields one week (landscapes!), silos the next (architecture!), then back home to turn industrial refinery processes into, well, Art.

Jim partnered with another photographer for a time, allowing him to indulge his passion for the hands-on demands of dark room and color lab. “I was the tech-guy, I enjoyed manipulating the processing and making the final result happen. I‘m still fascinated by the advances in technology.” It appears that this intense focus not only paid

The Katherine at anchor. photos by Jim Freeman

The Katherine at anchor. photos by Jim Freeman

off then, but is still very much alive today.

Here on Florida’s wild West Coast, Jim’s artistic eye can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary; especially the images in his collection of crab traps, buoys and similar Florida flotsam. The landscape opportunities he finds boundless, and is still pleased to aim his lenses at architecture for commercial clients. “Photographing architecture is a love of mine, and not one I got to satisfy much back in Texas.”

Jim’s work has appeared in publications from Texas Monthly to the New York Times Magazine, and our own Gulf Shore Life. He still accepts commercial contracts from regional magazines and I asked him what subjects he chooses.

Well, I don’t actually pick and choose,” he laughed, “but they know there are some events I’m not interested in?like anything I’d have to buy shoes for. And I left all my suits back in Texas.”

View Jim’s work on his web site,, or by visiting Blue Mangrove Gallery in the Marco Island Town Center.

In season you can also meet Jim at Art in the Park, sponsored by the Naples Art Association and held monthly at Cambier Park, and at the Left Bank ArtFests held at the Esplanade and sponsored by the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts.

Tara O’Neill has been a resident since 1967. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts, University of South Florida, Tampa, and has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her web site

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