Local Artists Worth Their Salt: Anne Patterson (by Sasha)

If you are here in Sarasota (or anywhere nearby) you should not miss the art installation by Anne Patterson that is presently on display at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.


Pathless Woods is a true sensory experience that is described as “swimming through color.”

The exhibit is composed of 8,500 silk ribbons that hang from ropes attached near the ceiling of the Monda Gallery and that cascade to just above the floor. Rather than stand outside of it looking in, viewers are invited to walk through these pathless woods and to be touched by the ribbons. Three other senses are invoked as well because this collaborative work includes music by composer Michael Gandolfi, light projections by Adam Larson, and a pine and fir scent by Beau Rhee (on Thursday evenings.)

At this week’s Conversation with the Artist, Anne Patterson spoke to the sold out audience about the intricate process of constructing the installation.

Far from being a casual gluing of ribbons to the ceiling, Patterson’s work is a painting with ribbons. This artwork was meticulously planned on several grids that charted the placement of each of the 1,000s of individual ribbons. Boxes of ribbon spools had to be cut to size,  baggies were then used to prevent the ribbons from tangling, each ribbon had to be attached to the diagonal ropes, and then, baggies were removed and the ribbons unfurled. It took 740 manual hours just to build the piece. (Kudos to the Florida State University student interns who did much of the work!)

I believe in the power of art to transform lives and bring peace into the world and beauty into the world–and you can’t underestimate the power of bringing beauty into the world. Anne Patterson

img_27881As Artist-in-Residence at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 2013, Patterson installed 20 miles of ribbon from the arches and heights of the Cathedral to form Graced With Light. For safety reasons, the ribbons stopped 16 feet above the floor. In contrast, the ribbons of Pathless Woods nearly brush the floor, allowing viewers to interact with them and with each other as they walk through the exhibit–and this has proved to be very popular with the school children who have visited.

Patterson’s work is influenced both by her training as a theater production designer, and synesthesia, a condition she has that allows her to see color when she hears music. She used what she calls “this gift” to listen to Michael Gandolfi’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation and to conceptualize the colors, mood, and shapes for Pathless Woods.

Interested in experiencing this for yourself? Be warned, the exhibit closes in early May 2017. Meanwhile, you can find it in the Monda Gallery (near the Center for Asian Art) of the Ringling Art Museum, 5401 Bay Shore Road (near Tamiami and University).



From the experiences of my two visits, you will want to look up; look down (incredible shadowed patterns!); spin; listen; feel; and just enjoy.

You can also view a video about the construction process and what it’s like to walk through the ribbons at https://www.ringling.org/events/pathless-woods



Patterson’s next project, Murmuration, will be in Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, opening at the end of April 2017. “Murmuration” is a word for when birds fly in large patterns. Instead of ribbons, her medium this time will be wire mesh. Below is a slide of the planned exhibit Patterson shared during her talk.





Local Artist: Rob Gerdin (by Jack & Sasha)

Meet Local Artist:

Rob Gerdin, designer and senior creative director of NatureRails, LLCRob parrott photo

Art Medium:

Custom metal railings, gates, fire screens, murals, mixed media. Airbrush & Sculpting

Contact Information:

http://www.NatureRails.com   941-351-2598    INFO@NatureRails.com



His family and friends say that Rob sees everything: that pelicans twist upside down a split second before they hit the water; that the lower beak of skimmers is longer than the top one; that each feather of a bird is completely different from the others. Even when he was just 4 years old, he noticed things that others didn’t; he used his crayons not to fill in spaces but to shade, blending the colors to more realistically capture the intricate beauty of nature.

When he was 13, Rob’s family moved from Queens, NY to the Hudson River Valley, and his appreciation for nature was moved as well. “I was used to seeing rats and pigeons but suddenly there was another Awesome photo of waves railing had to send-1world so beautiful; there were deer, huge green spaces, and so many birds with unique colors and feathers.”  The birds became his favorite subjects, so much so that his high school art teacher dubbed him “the birdman.” At 13 he sold his first professional painting to his orthodontist.


As an adult, Rob lived in Silicon Valley and then San Francisco, working by day and then coming home to paint at night. As a self-taught artist, he studied art at a community college but ended up teaching his teachers and fellow students. He then taught himself computer graphics, beginning with Corel Draw in its 1.0 version. His artwork garnered recognition and awards.




A transformative moment came when he moved to Colorado, met his wife Wendy, and built a log home that required dozens of wood spindles for the balcony. Again, Rob saw things differently. Here was an opportunity to take something functional and turn it into a work of art. The idea hit him at 3 am and by the time he was done, he had designed three metal panels depicting an eagle, moose, trees, and mountains to replace the spindles. NatureRails was born.


Under Rob’s artistic guidance, NatureRails produces custom steel and aluminum gates, railings, and mural panels that draw from the ideas, symbols, and interests of clients as well as the nature that surrounds them. Since their move to Sarasota in 2011 to be near his mother, Florida has inspired a new motif:  starfish, clown fish in seaweed, dolphins, and of course the birds:  egrets, blue heron, pelicans, and barred owls.

Carolina Palm wolf gate copyright

Each NatureRails item is meticulously designed to meet code, safety considerations, and built “like a bridge” by local metal fabricators to last even in a salty and tropical climate like Sarasota’s. [To see how they’re made, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kltPQMqWdFQ] There are no large areas of empty space, no sharp edges, and no area lacking a protective powder coating.

But what there IS, is art.


“If you can imagine it, we can design it.” Rob interviews his clients, interprets the ideas he collects, uses photos and research to get the details right, freehand draws into a tablet with a stylus and then from there uses his painterly skills to design the piece. “I’m a nature guy trying to be a metal guy,” he says.

Screenshot 2016-08-27 17.39.57

His background in painting and his love for nature show in his works, but so does his sensitivity to what is meaningful to his clients.  One of his current projects, [Full Disclosure: for my sister Cat] is a mural that depicts the Ringling Bridge, a woman below on a SUP board, her whippet watching from shore, and her favorite birds in the scene. Her reaction to the design: “It’s brilliant! He’s brilliant! Even better than what I had imagined.”

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