AT THE SAGAMORE
Sagamore Hotel project

Sagamore Hotel

Sagamore Lobby

South Beach, Florida has become the trendy spot for fashion couture, sophisticated dining and cuisine, hotel decadence and fine art. The simple, yet elegant, Sagamore Hotel has recently become a part of the trend. The hotel is located at 1671 Collins Avenue, just down the street from the well known and fashionable Delano and Shore Club.

South Beach has returned to the grandeur of the Art Deco era, when hotels and businesses thrived throughout the forties and fifties. Unfortunately, the area later declined and deteriorated, and many hotels and businesses ultimately were abandoned for a time. In the late eighties builders and architects resurrected the sweeping designs, pastel colors and streamlined details adorned on buildings. The revival occurred along Collins Avenue, Washington and Lincoln Roads spreading throughout the boulevards at the heart of the city.

The Sagamore was one of the few buildings yet to be renovated when Marty and Cricket Taplin spotted the gem in 2000. They set out to create a place where vacationers and patrons of the arts could enjoy original contemporary fine art, as well as the amenities of South Beach. Their intent was to create a hotel with a museum-style setting, characterized by pristine white walls, sweeping hallways and sparkling granite floors. Fine works of art from international artists, both established and emerging, are carefully placed throughout the bright sitting areas, hallways and rooms, displaying the artistry of fine sculptures, paintings, drawings and mixed media.

Over the years, my continued relationship with the Margulies Taplin Gallery led to my unexpected involvement with the hotel; the commission they had in mind would be one of the most exciting projects of my career. Marty and Cricket, as well as Marty Margulies, art consultant, were fond of my pen drawings with watercolor and asked me to send samples of my latest work for a possible project. At the time, I had been drawing images of shells that reminded me of the beaches, salt-water bays and alcoves of the Florida Keys where I spent many summers during my youth. I was always captivated by the rugged and natural environment of the Keys. The tones and subject matter certainly reflects my interest in shells, clouds, horizons on the water, birds and more.

The Taplin's and Marty Margulies were drawn to the shell images and asked me to create drawings for the majority of the Sagamore suites. Overcome by delight and flattery, I immediately accepted the job. We decided on a total 175 drawings. At the time I was not fully aware of the magnitude of the project. The project appeared manageable: I celebrated the new project - as well as the prestige and exposure that would come along with the Sagamore name - with friends and family.

We signed a contract quickly so I could get started as soon as possible. The hotel was still under renovation, but would open to the public within the year. To the reader, it may sound like a race against the clock, but I was perfectly comfortable with the amount of work ahead. I started the project with an irrepressible obsession, that lasted for months. I decided from the onset that no two pieces would be alike; a collection of 175 original seashell drawings were composed from a vast index of 100,000 species. In this case, plentitude was no obstacle: I chose the shells with the most interesting designs and appeal. The astounding number of beautiful homes inhabited by the mollusk family intrigued me. I had never fathomed the variety of beautifully designed shells living in the many regions of the world; from the warm temperatures of the Caribbean to the icy waters of the Arctic. Whether a common shell swept up on the Florida coast, or a rarity lying thousands of feet below sea level, each has a unique way of living. Like any other organism, a shell begins life as an egg, then a hardening process begins in order to protect the soft tissue of the mollusk. A secretion of calcium carbonate then forms and, over time, becomes solid. Here begins the shell process leading to the eventual development into adulthood.

During the growth stage, each shell develops into its own unique design; the Fleabite Cone decorated with delicate patterns of irregular spots against porcelain white: the Royal Paper Bubble of pink, tan and ivory bands lined around its structure: the Hebrew Cone with an irregular v-shaped pattern curled into an unseen interior. The variety of designs and unique structures seem almost endless.

With a fine tipped repidograph pen, I used a crosshatching technique, which etchers, engravers and draftsmen have used for centuries. Densely crosshatched lines molded shadows and creases in each shell, as well as lightly crosshatched lines that highlighted rotund exteriors. After a drawing was finished, a wash of watercolor was applied for subtle hues, as well as the occasionally bold color printed on creamy-white surfaces.

Each month I sent overnight packages containing stacks of drawings to the Taplin's home to ensure safety. As the months passed, my pace gradually slowed: I began having difficulty when the project was roughly three-fourths complete. It was now a test of my artistic capacity to withstand the constant ink line after ink line. The initial excitement had worn off and I found myself struggling to complete the remaining images. The drawings began to appear slightly out of focus and I felt that my judgment had waned. To assure myself each drawing was completed to my standards, I showed them to my husband and friends before shipment. Among the final drawings completed were the Saffron Cone, File Miter, Celine's Cone and Nucleus Cassidula. I was undoubtedly overcome with relief and found closure once the project was finished.

As I look back on the project, I feel a sense of tremendous accomplishment. On occasion I ask about the Sagamore's progress in renovations and additions, such as; the new restaurant and shops, as well as new artists included in the Sagamore collection. I think of what the drawings represented that year, an absolute period of compulsiveness, as well as a result of elegant charm. As I reflect, such a project eludes my capacity as an artist, such an enormous amount of work seems nearly impossible.

I think of what the drawings represented that year, an absolute period of obsessive compulsiveness, as well as a result of elegance and whimsy. As I reflect, such a project eludes my capacity as an artist, such an enormous amount of work seems nearly impossible.

Beyond the project, I truly enjoyed working along side Cricket and Marty Taplin, - and Marty Margulies. Their passion and vision for the arts made this project possible and fulfilling.

Sagamore Garden