GULFPORT, FLORIDA: Nine larger-than-life geckos will be the centerpiece of a live auction to benefit local charities. The geckos will be visualized and created according to each artist’s individual concept. All nine geckos can be seen for the first time at the Fourth Annual Art Gecko Show during an opening reception on Friday, August 3 at the Catherine Hickman Theater (5501 27th Avenue South) from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The show will also feature selections from the participating artists’ regular body of work in a variety of media. The reception is free and open to the public and will also include complimentary hors d’oeuvre and a cash bar. The selection of artists’ other work will continue to be displayed through the month of August, but following the reception, the geckos themselves will be moved to preview locations in venues throughout Gulfport’s Waterfront village. The geckos will then go up for auction at the Tenth Annual Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 25 at the historic Gulfport Casino Ballroom.
Each gecko will be a prized collector’s art work and join the ranks of nearly 80 other geckos that have been created since the inception of the Gecko Ball. Organizers initiated the Artists’ Gecko Auction nine years ago with much success and the auction is now a popular part of the tradition of annual Gulfport Gecko-related activities in late summer. The Art Gecko Show was conceived in 2015 to highlight and show appreciation for the participating artists.
Artists selected to create geckos for this year’s auction are Joan Allen, Larry Busby, Ray Domingo, Doug D’souza, Eric Folsom, Thomas O’Connor, Lucas Pitzen, Tom Pitzen and Monika Watson. Following the opening reception, the nine geckos will be moved and displayed at various public locations in Gulfport to be announced during the reception.
The annual Gecko Ball has become known as Gulfport’s party of the year! This year’s theme is “GeckoCon,” celebrating the touchstones and characters seen in popular Comic Com events held around the world, including superheroes, villains, horror, animé, TV, film, comics, graphic novels and more. In addition to the live auction of the artist’s geckos, the event includes dozens of silent auction items, costume contests, the annual coronation of the Gecko Queen, catered tapas, cash bar, live music, dancing and more. The Gecko Ball will be held at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom (5500 Shore Blvd.). Tickets are $35 each and are available in advance beginning July 4th at Gulfport Beach Bazaar (3115 Beach Blvd.), or online with a credit or debit card at VisitGulfportFlorida.com. A portion of proceeds from Gecko Ball, as well as Gulfport’s Gecko Crawl (August 11) and GeckoFest (September 1) will be donated to the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation, Operation Regroup and the Sonia Plotnick Health Fund.
Artists from Gulfport or with ties to Gulfport have volunteered their time and talent to create a gecko for this year’s auction.
Joan Allen has lived in Gulfport since 2002. She has acquired a varied resume in locations around the country, including rural stay-at-home mom, graphic artist, envelope-stuffer, coffee shop proprietor and historic hotel manager. She is also self-taught in the craft of quilting. After discovering oven-cured clay, she eventually combined this with her talent for needle and fabric work to develop a line of highly imaginative “art dolls,” made with detailed clay appendages, bodies of assorted fabrics, and inventive hair and accessories. She has created a wide variety of the dolls over the years and they have been extensively collected. She also works in the medium of encaustic painting.
Gulfportian Larry Busby is a Kentucky native, a decorated U.S. Navy veteran and award-winning Navy photographer. He is currently a Florida State Parks ranger and a wildland firefighter on the Florida Park Services Wildfire Strike Teams. He is planning to retire soon to devote himself full-time to his art work. His vivid photographs typically depict natural scenes and subjects.
A native of the Philippines, Ray Domingo went on to graduate on a full scholarship from Cooper School of Art in Cleveland. He became an internationally recognized illustrator and graphic designer, earning numerous awards in the graphic arts field. In 2001 he retired from illustration to pursue his dream of expressing his love for the sea through his art. Today he finds endless inspiration in the beautiful waters of Florida and the magnificent creatures that inhabit them. His large vibrant paintings are dynamic depictions of the ocean’s many moods; from the silent serenity of a living coral reef to the breathtaking explosiveness of a life and death chase in the open sea. In 2017 Ray opened The Domingo Studio in Gulfport.
Doug D’souza was born in India and came to the U.S. at the age of 18. He moved to Florida in 1994 and located to Gulfport 11 years ago. He is a self-taught metalsmith, working primarily in artisan jewelry since 1998. Doug describes his inspirations as industrial design and architecture, along with culture, spiritual symbolism and the “natural beauty of the organic.” Working from his studio in Gulfport, he incorporates metals into his pieces, including silver, gold, copper and bronze as well as more “modern” materials such as metal clay, aluminum and Lucite.
A long-time resident and native of Gulfport, Eric Folsom moved from the area in the 1970s to pursue his study of art, becoming an apprentice to George Anderson in Sperryville, Virginia. He became proficient in the techniques of brazing and fabrication of bronze and copper into jewelry and sculptural forms. He has pursued his craft for over 40 years. His work is available locally at Domain & Gallery and Florida Craftsman Gallery.
Thomas O’Connor started drawing in his teenage years, energized by reading action, science fiction and fantasy comic books, as well as the release of the Star Wars films. He is an illustrator, cartoonist and graphic artist working in various media. He worked primarily as a comic book artist from the late 80’s to the late 90’s, creating work for Marvel Comics, Dark Horse, Comic Images and several others on titles including X-Men, Starship Troopers, Planet of the Apes, Vampirella and Nightmare on Elm Street. He relocated to Gulfport a few years ago, joining the staff of the Historic Peninsula Inn, and rebuilding his career as a freelance artist.
As young man of 18 Lucas Pitzen is beyond his years. He is a recent graduate of the CAT program at Lakewood High School and is currently pursuing his passion of historic American and Japanese wood and metal working tools and techniques. You can often catch him at Pitzen Studios making exquisite pieces of furniture with hand cut dovetails and chiseled metal accents or banging away on an anvil while his home-made forge transforms steel into red hot billets. He is very active in the Gulfport community. The Free Little Food Panties are among his handy works.
Tom Pitzen was educated in art and design and went on to open a custom wood shop in Ohio, offering custom cabinetry, furniture and displays. Many of his pieces for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio travelled with exhibits throughout North America. He and his family now live and work in Gulfport. His large-scale public art installations in Gulfport, incorporating mosaics and mixed media, have become familiar sights throughout the City, including the entrance to Gulfport’s Waterfront District and the Gulfport Neighborhood Center. His art studio is in Gulfport’s Alley of the Arts.
Gulfport resident Monika Watson was born in Austria and moved to Paris in her twenties to study art and work as a commercial artist. Her unique style involves hand-made jewel-like clay pieces applied to her painted backgrounds, forming combinations of texture and color that depict seascapes, birds, villages and other scenes. Her work has been collected extensively by patrons from around the world.
All Gecko events are sponsored by the non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association and a portion of proceeds benefits one or more local charities each year. For more information on the Gecko Ball go to www.visitgulfportflorida.com, www.geckofest.com or www.facebook.com/geckoball, or contact John Haugen at firstname.lastname@example.org.