Chris Lombardo Serves as Auctioneer for the “2016 Marco Island Wet Paint Live” Event

Artists produce 20 views of Marco in one day

By Lance Shearer | Feb. 18, 2016 | Marco Eagle

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island got a paint job Tuesday, applied by a crew of seriously professional painters. Twenty talented area artists fanned out over the island, each choosing a spot to set up an easel and produce a painting “en plein-air,” or as we say in English, outdoors.

That evening, the artists and a gallery-full of art lovers converged on the Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum, to turn the creativity into cash. The 2016 Marco Island Wet Paint Live auction, a joint presentation of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce along with Leadership Marco, the Marco Island Center for the Arts, and the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts, was a fundraiser for the chamber’s scholarship program.

Each artist started their works from scratch on Tuesday, and they started early with a protocol meant to ensure that no “ringers,” or pre-painted masterworks, would be substituted for the work of a single day, said the chamber’s Katie O’Hara, serving as master of ceremonies.

“At 8:15, all the artists showed up at the chamber with their blank canvas, and we put a special stamp on it,” she told the gathering. “These paintings were literally painted today.”

She introduced celebrity auctioneer Chris Lombardo, a veteran of many such sales, and got off a joke at his expense. “He’s an attorney, but we don’t hold that against him,” said O’Hara. But if she sought to bandy words with this particular auctioneer, he was sure to get the last laugh, and started right off in that vein.

Katie told the crowd, “You’re going to bid often and bid high,” and Lombardo shot back, “I didn’t think we allowed them to use controlled substances.” He quickly made clear that along with all the painters present, there was one more artist in the room. An auction conducted by Chris Lombardo is a piece of performance art.

Sort of a cross between Groucho Marx and Don Rickles, he wheedled, postured, told shaggy dog jokes, insulted, harangued and cajoled the audience, artists as well as bidders, working to squeeze every possible dollar out of each painting. Lombardo made the maximum use of gestures and facial expressions, raising the thought that it would be interesting to watch him in action in the courtroom, where, as he said, he is a divorce attorney.

As has been the case with past “Wet Paint Live” events, Goodland had more than its share of the artists setting up in the corner of Marco Island that was left out of the city limits, a phenomenon noted by Lombardo.

“Apparently, Goodland is the most picturesque part of the island,” he said. “Every other painting is Goodland.”

The order in which the paintings were auctioned was completely random, said O’Hara, but in any case, it could not help but be a nail-biting or even gut-wrenching experience for the artists, essentially having your creative worth assigned a relative dollar value compared to your peers, with hundreds of eyes watching.

“I can hardly watch this,” said Art Center Executive Director Hyla Crane, standing in the back of the room and managing the silent auction of additional canvasses for sale. “These are my peeps.”

When O’Hara noted that Crane was in charge of the silent auction, Lombardo quipped, “You know how hard it is for Hyla to be silent?”

But it’s all for a good cause, and the artists do not go entirely unrewarded. The sale price of each canvas is split down the middle, half going to the creator and half to the scholarship fund for local high school seniors.

Most of the works depicted recognizable island scenes, waterfronts, beachscapes, or local landmarks. The Shops of Olde Marco appeared in four paintings, by Kim Belange, Malenda Trick, Betty Newman and Donald Sunshine, making it a serious rival to Goodland for the “artiest” spot on the island.

But Victor Hugo Vaca, Jr. turned in a seriously different canvas, an abstract painted around the corner from the Olde Marco shops at the Boat House Motel, although you would be hard-pressed to guess the location. Lombardo joked that the current presidential election “is harder to understand than a painting by Victor Hugo Vaca,” and that may be true, but it’s close.

Before the auction, attendees enjoyed a buffet dinner provided by Stonewalls restaurant. The auction did well, said Chamber Executive Director Sandi Riedemann, but at presstime the results had not been tabulated so the final haul was not yet known.

Successful bidders who took home oil paintings just need to remember that the “wet paint” in the event’s title is not merely a figure of speech.

J. Christopher Lombardo is a family law attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.  in Naples, Florida serving clients throughout Collier County.

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