Joy Gallery introduces TSU artist to art enthusiasts in Florida Keys

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Features Editor

Each night on the Gulf side of the Florida Keys, there is a Sunset Celebration.

The beaches are packed as locals and tourists gather to let the beauty of the sinking sun "sink in."

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Sergei Shillabeer was there March 14-17, but, for him, the sunset was actually the drawing of a new era in his professional life.

Shillabeer was in the Keys to introduce his paintings to art enthusiasts in South Florida and the international arts community in Key West.

The prestigious Joy Gallery on Key West’s famous Duval Street is displaying nine of Shillabeer’s paintings. He was there

for the opening of the show March 14 and for artist’s receptions March 16 and 17.

"To have my work displayed with such highly recognized artists is a great honor," Shillabeer said. "Being represented at a leading gallery like the Joy Gallery is an opportunity every artist hopes for."

The Joy Gallery is located on Duval Street in the "Old Town" historic district of Key West. Shillabeer compared Duval Street to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

"Duval has a unique atmosphere – a totally different atmosphere," he said. "It’s exciting. It’s supercharged. There are about 200 galleries lining the streets and everything reflects the light. The light is absolutely amazing and produces some of the most fascinating opportunities for photographs."

For Shillabeer, light is most important in his profession.

He is known for his unique portrayal of the human face. The way the light "falls" on subjects highlights the qualities he looks for when painting a portrait.

"I look for a combination of frailty and determination," he said "It’s just something you see in certain people. The best subject is the person who displays a combination of vulnerability and strength."

The Joy Gallery has arranged, and is arranging, portrait commissions for Shillabeer and that is opening new doors for him.

He will fly to the homes of the subjects who have commissioned his work and in the Florida Keys, Shillabeer finds renewed enthusiasm for his work and a different dimension of excitement about it. Perhaps, there, also, the spiritual essence of his work is deepened.

"The spiritual essence of a work is very important to me," he said.

"I have long been impressed by the fearless search for truth. The image which captures the heart and mind of the viewer – because there is something inexplicably penetrating and demanding about it – is the common denominator of my efforts.

"Where the mind does not want to generally go – because it is scary and baffling – is sometimes hard to generate in an image.

"I am after the unsung spirit of my subjects – that which goes unnoticed in the daily inventory of life. I am after as much of the truth about a subject as I can possibly get."

Shillabeer is an associate professor of art at Troy State University. He has been a member of the faculty since 1976.

He is represented at the J. Proctor Gallery in Seaside, Fla. and the New South Gallery in Montgomery.


work is maintained in several public and private collections and has been exhibited in galleries and shows throughout the country.