Art for Good

Darryl Pottorf

by Cindy-jo Dietz

Rose Bowl
de Marra Kech
2000 Darryl Pottorf / Gemini G.E.L. llc /
llicensed by VAGA, New York, NY
THE DRIVE OUT TO CAPTIVA is a beautiful one. Coming from the mainland, you cross over the bridge onto Sanibel Island, with its gorgeous views of the Gulf. You pass state parks, manicured lawns, quaint little specialty shops and galleries of all sorts. With bicyclists and pedestrians galore taking advantage of the sunshine, the scenery definitely keeps the eyes darting from one side of the road to the other. Every moment there is something new. Eventually, I hit the tightly packed-in luxury homes and pristine beaches of Captiva Island, with jungle-like landscapes hiding the magnificent homes and identities of those inside. I imagine, as an artist, Captiva would offer just the right amount of the spectacular and eclectic to inspire on any given day. This is ever-present right up to the front door of Darryl Pottorf’s home and studio.

I parked my car, got out, and was immediately confused. The face of the residence is large and flat and all glass. I wasn’t quite sure of where the front door was. After a bit of exploring I gave up and made a call to see if I even had the right location. Seemingly out of nowhere comes artist Kathleen Walsh to greet me with a smile. I quickly realize this will be no ordinary interview as she leads me directly through the enormous pivoting glass door previously masquerading as a wall.

She leads me up the staircase and into the living quarters where I meet Darryl. Pottorf is a gracious host, eager to tell his story and show off the plethora of pieces he has created. We sit at a large table near the kitchen where the view of a fireplace and garden can be seen through more large glass walls. In fact, most of the house is glass, a design Darryl created himself. He says that when he does glass, he does glass. He wasn’t kidding.

As I interviewed Darryl, I realized that I was interviewing a team. Kathleen Walsh and Andrew Corke are both artists who will be showing thier work with Darryl at the Arts for Act Gallery in March. They also happen to work with him daily and sat with us to discuss pieces and timeframes, and to assist in providing additional information as needed. Andrew, Kathleen and Mark Pace were not only helpful assistants but also like family, with Pottorf as a sort of father figure. I got the sense that the flow of creativity in this house thrived on their mutual love and respect for one another.

If you are not familiar with Darryl Pottorf’s work, he was an assistant, associate, collaborator, and companion of Robert Rauschenberg, one of the great American artists of the 20th Century, for over 30 years. He traveled extensively with Rauschenberg and you can see how he influenced Pottorf’s work, with its mix of photograghic images and paint, colors and symbolism. Darryl explains that he tended to be a bit more painterly than Rauschenberg, but the two do share similar styles.

As Rauschenberg took Pottorf under his wing, so too does Pottorf now influence and support Corke and Walsh in their artistic pursuits. So far, their work remains strikingly different from Pottorf’s, but they both claim their process is heavily influenced by him.

“There are some similarities, like with the way we complete our art. It’s like there’s no plan. The plan comes from the art itself, as you’re doing it.” says Walsh. Kathleen’s works are whimsical caricatures, often of people, drawn in pen and ink and watercolor. Andrew Corke grew up on Sanibel and often works with recycled and repurposed materials with paint to render a variety of animals. Corke is the featured artist in the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge’s inaugural ‘Upcycle! Art Fest in Apreil. He is also is an accomplished photographer.

After a brief tour of the residence, we all sat to discuss their art and what’s next for the studio.

Can you tell me a little about your upcoming show at Arts for Act Gallery on March 7. What pieces will you be showing?

DARRYL : The original photographs were taken in Marrakech, an incredible and colorful place, in the late 90s and early 2000s while I was traveling with Bob Rauschenberg. The prints were then completed by Sidney Felsen, the head of Gemini G.E.L., exclusive publishers here in the United States. There are six different editions. The colors are incredibly vibrant. The final pieces I handmade in Los Angeles, where Gemini is located. They’ve been shown in Europe, Los Angeles and New York, but never down here. As I was thinking of different things for the Arts for Act Gallery I remembered I had these. They were so gorgeous. I thought perfect! One of my favorites is titled ‘Rose Bowl de Marra Kech.’

Andrew Corke and Kathleen Walsh will be showing in addition to you?

Yes, It’s the three of us, but we are individuals. Andrew was in high school when he started assisting me. He’s 24 now. Kathleen had worked for Rauschenberg as a nurse when he was not well. She would give pieces as gifts to Bob. They were really quite interesting. I started seeing more of her work later on when she started working for me after Bob died.

Can you tell me a little bit about your studio and home?

I designed and built this house in 1992. It has glass at all the corners. The front doors pivot in the center. The center of the house is open. Because it’s all glass you feel like you are outside. The fireplace, though, is outside so you can have a fire in the summer. The walls are all big because I like to do big paintings. The front staircase lights up at night. Originally, I couldn’t afford the floors I wanted, but I had been working with eighth-inch thick aluminum – so I thought to put down aluminum on the floor. I thought it would be temporary, but it became the character of the house.

I also designed Bob Rauschenberg's house on the beach, but built around his taste and what he wanted. That house is also extremely open, like this house. The living room is huge. We still do events there, like the one I’m doing for Artis–Naples, March 7. There will be more than a hundred people attending. That house is great for cultivating that sort of situation because of the scale of the rooms.

Do you miss working with Rauschenberg?

Yes. Over the years I traveled so much, being an assistant to Bob Rauschenberg. I was fortunate to photograph in Malaysia, China, Africa, throughout Europe, all over. In Malaysia we stayed with headhunters. We were in Russia when you could not go to Russia – and Cuba. I stayed at Fidel Castro’s beach house. We happened to be in Berlin when the wall came down. There were just so many exotic situations. I was very fortunate to be able to take part because of Rauschenberg. I was grandly influenced by him.

I remember in the last year of his life he had a show out in Port Au Portugal. He wasn’t in good health at that time. We hired a private jet just so he could get to the show. He was ill the four days previous to that, but he got all dressed up with his white hair and black suit and went to the show. At dinner he was just perky as could be. I had a show a month or two after his. I was scared for him to go, but had to be there a week or so earlier for the installation. He insisted on taking the private jet all the way over to Port Au Portugal. On the way he had passed out. We were worried he would go into cardiac arrest. We were met by an ambulance. I didn’t want him getting on a jet, private or not, but he did and he didn’t get sick. There’s a picture of him (Pottorf points to a photograph). I’m on stage or something, and he’s just smiling and clapping. He was just so happy.

Do you feel that you have benefited by working with Rauschenberg more so than going it alone?

Definitely. It was fun, but he taught me a good work ethic. I had doors opened for me that other people didn’t have due to our association. I got to know museum directors and people from galleries where I was able to progress in my own right. I did better because I was showing in better galleries. There were disadvantages, too. Because I was Rauschenberg’s protégé people would accuse me of having advantages. I would work hard, but it was used against me at times. An advantage is not an advantage unless you are able to do the work. You’ve got to be able to do it all. Bob was extremely prolific; I’m extremely prolific. He’s got huge warehouses with work; I have huge warehouses with work.

Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

I just really love doing it. It’s simply my joy in life.

How long does it take you to complete a piece?

It varies. I may have a concept that comes into my head quickly. I don’t know why. And sometimes you go back and back again, or they sit and you work hard on them. There are really nice pieces that I’ve done in a day and then there are pieces I’ve worked on for years. Sometimes they seem like they’re never going to be finished. I just get lost and I’m not sure where I’m going. And other times they just fall in place. The pieces showing at Arts for Act just fell into place. I was working at Gemini maybe ten days.

Describe your process.

Oftentimes I will transfer parts of photographs rather than use the whole thing or I might paint some if it out. Then I go on top of it with something else, and paint back through. I’ll have a background and pull white through. Then I put something in here and there – maybe a brush stroke here, and some white there, whatever. I just sort of work on top and paint out a little and work on top of that and on top of that.

Do you attempt to evoke a particular feeling, or is your work coming from a more subconscious place?

Once I get going, it starts taking on a direction. That’s when I title. It sums it up. I’ll stand back and look at it, think about it. The title represents the whole feeling I had as I was working.

What projects are you working on now or have coming up?

Steven Hummel is writing a book and has asked me to do the cover for it. It’s so incredible detailing all the complicated issues in Afghanistan between different tribes, languages and dialects, and the Americans coming in as outsiders. Having read the book, I can say there are so many visuals. I felt like I’d been there. I really am looking forward to doing it. I’m not taking any royalties. All my proceeds will go toward Wounded Warriors.

On March 7, I’m hosting an event here in Captiva called ‘Boys on their Bikes’ for Artis–Naples, benefiting the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and its Youth Music Education Programming.

Do you work with many charities often?

I believe the more you give, the more you get. If you have a talent and can do something for the world or for people who don’t have the opportunities you have, I mean you are one lucky bastard. To know that you can make a difference...“Wow!” Is that lucky or what? I work with charities quite frequently, like CROW, the Zimmerman Children’s Museum, the Gulf Coast Humane Society, the Animal Refuge Center, the Children’s Hospital at Lee Memorial, The Coalition of the Homeless... There are too many to mention them all.

I understand you recently completed a series of 40 prints for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s gala on March 8 in Naples. Can you tell me more about that?

The prints are of the painting titled ‘Close,’ created specifically for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation event. Working on the painting and edition for JDRF, I immediately thought of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco – God reaching out to man in the creation, not quite touching, and the drawing of Leonardo Di Vinci’s formula of Light Reflecting Through a Mirror. The reflection of God and Man brought together by the insulin needle for the victim of Juvenile Diabetes. The title, ‘Close,’ is today’s story of hope. With our help there may no longer be a need for the needle and God and man will touch.

Would you give any particular advice to new artists starting out?

The biggest thing is to work every day, to do a little something every day. You don’t have to release everything you do. You know sometimes I think, “That’s crappy. Paint over that. Mix it for registry books”. Then I think, “Just wait... I may change my mind.” Sometimes I'm just not sure, but you never know. Maybe later I might like it. You can’t just immediately paint over something because you may regret doing it. You’ll think, “I wish I had that piece that I painted over.” •

Darryl Pottorf will be the featured artist, along with Andrew Corke and Kathleen Walsh, at the Arts for ACT Gallery in March. There is an opening reception, free and open to the public, during downtown Fort Myers’ Art Walk, Friday evening, March 7. The Arts for ACT Gallery is located at 2265 First St. in Fort Myers’ Historic River District. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 11am-4:30pm. Call 337-5050 for information.

Pottorf will host ‘Boys on their Bikes,’ an ‘exclusive’ evening of art and music, on Friday evening, March 7 at his home and the former home of Robert Rauschenberg on Captiva. The event features a special exhibition of Pottorf’s art and selected works from his collaboration with Rauschenberg, as well as a musical performance by Kat Epple. The fundraiser benefits the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and its Youth Music Education Programming. For more information, call Artis–Naples at 254-2777.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Hope Gala Dream Ball is March 8 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples. Call 591-2825 for information about the black-tie cocktail party, dinner and auction.

Darryl Pottorf : www.darrylpottorf.com
Andrew Corke :
Kathleen Walsh :

March-April 2014

“Over the years
I traveled so much,
being an assistant to
Bob Rauschenberg.
I stayed at Fidel Castro’s
beach house.
We happened to be
in Berlin when
the wall came down.”

Horse Sense
de Marra Kech
2000 Darryl Pottorf / Gemini G.E.L. llc /
licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
“There are really nice
pieces that I’ve done in
a day and then there are
pieces I’ve worked on
for years. Sometimes
they seem like
they’re never going
to be finished.”

illustration by Andrew Elias