Artist Doug Rhodehamel in Eustis

I hadn’t been to Eustis in years. The last time I visited was sometime in the early 1980’s; I shot a roll of black and white because the town and the country around it were old and “wooden” and deserving of that type of film. It was a bright, sunny day and the shadows were great. I still have those pictures somewhere, which I will try and find and then post on here.

I went up there today, twice, once to wander around the old streets of town, and then to pay a call on artist Doug Rhodehamel, who has an installation at the Lake Eustis Museum of Art. His fascination with sea life and all things scaly and crustacean often finds these denizens of the deep (why are things living underwater always called denizens?) figuring heavily in his work. (Go pay a long visit to Doug to see what I mean. He’s also the mushroom guy.)

This current installation, running through November, features a true sea of blue and green fishes which you can walk through. They are plenty charming in daytime, but at night, when Kirk and I returned for the debut, they were magical.

 

Here they are being installed.

Like all of Doug’s efforts, you are compelled to get directly involved with his work: with fish floating above you, below you, and on all sides, you can’t help but get close to them. You find yourself making underwater swimming motions as you float around the room, or you stare at one face-to-face, blowing on it until it spins merrily. It’s all such innocent fun, yet there’s a note of seriousness: each fish is made from repurposed cardboard  and recycled container lids. Doug is truly a green original.

Eustis is another little town that seems to be doing pretty well downtown. There are lots of little local shops and independent business, and careful architectural restoration. I had no idea; I would definitely love to spend a long, loazy Sunday at Olivia’s Coffeehouse on Bay Street. When I went in, they offered me a free coffee– they and a bank were doing a cross-pollination– but, pleased as I was, I opted to buy a larger serving. Free coffee! It was like being in the Twilight Zone. What a neat little place!

 

Here’s the sign for Dunnston’s Shoe Hospital. Remember in more innocent days when things were named that way? When personal items were respected and not replaced every fifteen minutes, there were places to bring them to for reconditioning or repair: shoe stores, television stores… even doll stores. Where I lived in Bay Ridge was a Doll Hospital, its windows filled with dusty babies and shrunken adults whose limbs and faces had been repaired… it was a creepy kind of place and I never felt the urge to go in. Even If I did  have a doll in need of surgery, I probably would have let it expire quietly rather than go inside the sinister looking Doll Hospital…

I love this wall! Think of everything it’s witnessed over many decades. It also looks very fragile, though I am sure it’s not. It’s the sort of wall that might have starred in a 1952 newsreel:

WALL  FALLS…  BROWNIES PINNED

… though they would have all been saved thanks to the industriousness of the entire citizenry, who would have all pitched in and carried off a brick or two until the little girls were freed.

Here’s a house typical of the old neighborhood just south of downtown. The streets are named Lemon and Citrus and Grove and Key, and you’d swear you were in Pleasantville.

A dreamy sidewalk setting where Grove meets Key.

I love this little place. No Radleys here !

Lake Gracie, downtown.

Perfect. But does it look like the house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

The stolid old Presbyterian Church.

And here’s Sea of Green at night, and you can see the shadows and the reflections. It really was like being inaide a tropical fish tank! It had everything but some grubby catfish feeding on aquarium waste.

Where to next… Palatka, I think !

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5 responses

  1. A. you need to find a job.
    2. Doug’s installation is very cool. Wish I could come down there and see it in person.
    C. Maybe you don’t need a job, otherwise when would you have time to visit and report on all these cool places.

  2. There is a LOVELY theatre right on State St., aptly named the State Theater, home of the Bay Street Players. They are in their 36th(!) season, and they consistently do productions far above the quality one usually finds in community theaters. I just wish they weren’t so far away from Orlando – I want to do more shows there!

    I’m so glad you re-discovered Eustis; it is really a delightful and charming place — it makes for a lovely day trip.

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