Quick note: Il Sogno sold

for a recorded $18 million. The buyer was a Delaware-based limited liability company named Il Sogno PB LLC, according to the deed dated Wednesday, Dec. 26 and recorded a day later by the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office.

Here’s my story.

Il Sogno//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Hat tip: Darrell Hofheinz



Looking for the Slave Ship Peter Mowell

In silent gullies and on craggy rocks at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos lay fragments of an American-owned slave ship, the 129-ton, 88-foot schooner, the Peter Mowell, which ran ashore and ripped apart on July 25, 1860.

Luckily, 387 of the 400 of its human cargo were able to clamber safely ashore – many were quite young: 96 men, 37 women, and 256 children. And thanks to the ever-changing winds of fate, they were not to be sold as slaves. Rather, saved by early salvager Ridley Pinder and other wreckers from Cherokee Sound, they were some of the last of the 37,000 African-born immigrants rescued in The Bahamas, whose descendants most likely make their homes there today.

But what was left of the ship intrigued archaeologist Michael Pateman from the Nassau-based Antiquities, Monuments & Museum Corporation of The Bahamas, and archaeologist Corey Malcom from the Key West, Fl.-based Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society. And, even more importantly, what happened to its human cargo, crew and wreckers? Where are their descendants now and what stories do they have to tell?

On the 152nd anniversary of its wreck, partnering with William Mathers, of Lake Worth-based Atlantic Sea Resources, they set out to see for themselves. Using coordinates recorded in a letter from the Bahamian governor of the time, Charles Bayley, they returned to the site and were able to spot piles of ballast stones that were scattered along the shoreline, as well as encrusted copper nails and spikes that over a century-and-a-half had become concretized together.

The rest of the Peter Mowell was gone. While reusable objects and materials had been salvaged by Pinder and the other wreckers, the slave ship itself had broken apart and washed away.


The Peter Mowell was built in 1857 in Dorchester, Maryland, and delivered various cargo along the U.S. eastern seaboard before Salvador Prats, a New Orleans businessman with connections in Cuba, purchased it in February 1860.

On the 36th day out of Africa, bound for Cuba, the Peter Mowell’s crew caught sight of the mail steamer Karnak. Mistaking the steamer for a British Navy man-of-war and trying to dodge it, the slave ship maneuvered too close to the coral rocks of Lynyard Cay and ran ashore.

The slave trade had been outlawed by England in 1807. According to New York Herald accounts of the day, “endeavoring to avoid Scylla (Peter Mowell) fell into Charybdis.”

The wreckage sat on the shoreline with the main boom extending onto the rocks, and the Africans and crew slid across the boom to the beach. Soon after, the salvagers brought them to Nassau. The crew was jailed, although they were never prosecuted, and the Africans were distributed as indentured servants.


Mathers, captaining his 62-foot motor Catamaran, Suhaili, sailed to Nassau where the American team was joined by the Bahamian team. They headed for the Abacos, anchoring on the protected (leeward) side of Lynyard Cay. First morning out, Malcom and Pateman, with Bahamian archaeologists Kelly Delancy and Maria Lee, Atlantic Sea Resources diver Bill Spurlock and I snorkeled to the location established by the coordinates and did indeed spot piles of ballast stones.

Meanwhile marine photographer Don Kincaid swam off in the other direction, locating bricks from Peter Mowell’s ovens. Mathers and diver Mika Brewer set off on foot for a beach near the coordinates.

“It’s interesting that the location of this wreck was so easy to find,” Mathers said. “Looking at the reef as a mariner, I could see that there was only one place where it could be. It’s a rugged reef, and there’s only one short stretch of sandy beach about 80 meters where the slaves and crew could get off the ship safely.

“At the end of the beach, we saw bronze spikes and sheathing encrusted in coral, as well as corroded iron, which might be what’s left of the shackles.”

The next day, Mathers brought the Suhaili to the ocean-side of the Cay to gather the artifacts already identified and to search further.

Brewer and Malcom went ahead in the tender to mark a course through elk coral outcroppings in the shallow water.

Back to that New York Herald report: “This is one of the most dangerous places in the Bahamas, and inevitable destruction threatens all who are dashed against the high and sharp coral rocks.”

“This should be interesting,” Mathers said at the helm, while those of us less experienced exchanged glances. After all, this is a dangerous reef….

Nevertheless, following the path marked by Spurlock and Malcom, he brought the boat in, anchoring it close to the shore. The teams dove again, bringing aboard ballast stones, bricks, nails and spikes located the previous day, with some of the material right in line with the coordinates and more ballast found in the adjacent area that Mathers pinpointed.

After finishing work in this area, a team went ashore at Cherokee Sound to inquire after the salvagers and found some of Pinder’s descendants.

The successful locating of the wreck of the slaver promises to open a new chapter in the archaeology and history of The Bahamas and the transatlantic slave trade; it could allow modern Bahamians to trace their roots to the site and remains of a particular slave ship.

Previously, Malcom had located descendants of a crew member, Henry Felner, in Tampa Bay, and upon his return, he unearthed more information. “It looks like these people formed a community known as Congo Town, in an area outside of Nassau proper called Fox Hill. I learned that St. Paul’s Baptist Church was formed in 1870 by the last group of Africans to arrive on a slave ship in July 1860. If that’s true, St. Paul’s may well be the place where descendents of the Peter Mowell can be found.”

Delancy has already interviewed the pastor, who gave her some names of families who have been with the church since its inception: Ramming, Roca and Ferguson. “We plan also to interview a Foxhill historian as well as a member of Parliament who knows the community well and may be able to direct us to others,” Pateman said.

The Bahamian museum is planning an exhibit, which is of special interest to Mathers, who was instrumental in the public display of treasure he found from the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a Spanish galleon that sunk in 1638 off the coast of Saipan.

“I look forward to how the Bahamians will illustrate the Peter Mowell story and make it understandable to the general public,” he said.

“They might do a cutaway of the hull, to show layers of Africans, stacked on shelves and chained at the ankles.

“The crew would have wanted to keep them alive and in good shape, so the children would have been allowed to play on the deck with the women watching them.”


I was excited about the prospect of going along on this expedition and diving with the archaeologists, and then the reality set in. As cook, I’d have to prepare three meals a day for up to nine people for two-and-a-half weeks. The food would have to fit in one refrigerator box, two freezer boxes and a space under one of the seats in the salon. I also had to keep in mind that garbage would have to be stored on board until we returned to port, which meant I couldn’t overbuy canned goods, either. Also, I’d make only one major grocery run (on a boat, they call that provisioning).

So, I tracked down a friend who used to charter her sailboat. “Piece of cake,” she said, handing me three of her favorite cookbooks. “You have far more refrigeration than I did.”

But cake needs eggs, and in addition to dessert, I was asked to provide a variety of simple meals as well as a hearty breakfast for this crew, who would be hungry after swimming, snorkeling and diving all day.

I planned out menus, collected recipes and created a spreadsheet to add up all those cups of flour, tablespoons of sugar, pounds of butter, and, yes, eggs. (Count came to 224, which would take up more than the allotted space.)

I went back with that dilemma to my friend. Simple, she said. Rub them with Vaseline and hang them in a hammock.

Then I told the captain about the 224 eggs.

“Holy mackerel,” he said (I’m not kidding). We are not buying 224 eggs. Serve pancakes more often.”

Final count was 143 eggs (pancakes half the time, alternating with French toast), along with 10 pounds of bacon, 43 cups of flour (ten pounds), 29.25 cups of butter and 10 cups of syrup (for the pancakes).

also, published in the Palm Beach Daily News



Singing Home Sweet Home

On the Street Where You Live. An Affair to Remember. Why I can’t Walk Away. So, ask Vic Damone to sing the praises of 200 Via Bellaria, the house where he’s lived 15 years with his wife fashion designer Rena Rowan Damone, and he melodously will.

This lovingly renovated 1928 estate, La Casita, designed by Maurice Fatio for Mrs. Alexander McKay, is not just a Palm Beach mansion.  “I love it here. Our home is for people who are in love – who feel for each other. This is how we felt.”

“Some mansions don’t feel like home,” Damone says. “This one does.” But it does hark back to Old World Mediterranean, too.

“Anthony Quinn visited us years ago with his two kids, and he loves Italy. He walked in and said, ‘I want this house. I think I’m in Italy.’

In the early 1990s, the house underwent a three-year renovation by interior designer Juan Montoya under the direction of Rena, who, as co-founder of Jones of New York, certainly understands the elements of style.

But he and Rena are both 84, and they’ve have moved to a smaller house – that’s the only reason they are selling La Casita, he says.

The home, cabana and guest house, with six bedrooms, six-and-a-half bathrooms and 7,889 square feet inside and out, is listed for $8.5 million with Monique and Hal Matheson with Monique Matheson Properties, LLC.

Like an Italian villa, it’s very warm and welcoming, as Damone pointed out.. In the foyer, the freestanding circular stairway is adorned with a beautiful wrought-iron railing designed by Montoya. Architectural lines overall are sleek and fresh and the south wall has glass doors in archways that offer view of the rear courtyard with its bubbling fountain and pool set in lush landscaping.

To the east is the living room, and with all the grace of a Fatio home, features intricate ceiling details, pecky cypress paneling, fireplace, oak floors stained black and doors to the south opening onto the loggia. But it was elegantly updated under the masterful eyes of Montoya and Rowan.

“My wife has lived in this house for years. She was the mastermind (behind the renovation). Everything she does is perfect and every corner is meticulously done,” Damone says

The den and dining room are to the west of the foyer. The den has a cosmopolitan feel with cherry bookcases and a sleek wet bar area. Through wrought-iron gates is the dining room with expanses of windows all around. That’s exactly what Rena wanted, Damone says. “She asked for glass walls to bring the outside in.

Upstairs are his and her master suites. “As much as we want to be together, she has her privacy and I have mine,” Damone says. Both are sumptuous.

The home also has another bedroom suite on the first floor, a guest suite above the garage and another separate guest suite the Damones used as an exercise room. The large cabana comprises a living dining area with a bedroom suite and a full kitchen.

“Senator Hatch stayed here,” he says, referring to the cabana. He didn’t want to leave. And I had my piano out here before I retired. My quartet would come in and it was perfect for rehearsing.”

The covered loggia by the pool with a wet bar is inviting. “My wife and I often had lunch here,” he says. And the whole courtyard area has been wonderful for hosting philanthropic events, he adds.














Christmas Tree 2


Remember Cameron? Well, I’m beginning to think it wouldn’t be Christmas without Cameron.

Last year, he greeted me with open arms encircled with wreaths. This year, he was watering trees when I arrived at Christmas Tree Towne in Boynton Beach.

I had talked to him on the phone minutes earlier. (Again, this is the last minute, and I just want to smell the good smell of Christmas trees.)

“Do you have any Charlie Brown trees?” I asked.

“What, you mean you want a dead tree?” Cameron responded.

“No. I want a little tree.”

“Oh, sure. We have some. We have all kinds. Live ones. Dead ones. Brown ones. Big ones. Little ones.”

Last year, I asked him for tips. This year, he’s out of tips. Nothing new in the tree tip department. But….

“So, where are the dead trees?” I asked, while he was putting my Charlie Brown in a stand.

“Out back,” he said.

“Can I see them?” I asked. “Do people really buy dead trees?”

“Some do,” he said. “Some people come in looking for ugly trees.”

(Do you think he’s telling me the truth? Laura Graham said she’d buy that kind. She feels sorry for things like that.)

While looking at the trees not doing so well (that’s him above inspecting one of them — and they are priced about $20) — I noticed some woe-begone looking trees in the adjoining bin.

“What are those?” I asked.

“Yeah. They do look pretty bad,” he said. “But here’s one that will come back to life. It’s a Scotch pine — not as pretty as other trees, and Scotch pines don’t smell as nice, but they’ll last forever.”

(Do you believe him?)

So, this year’s tip for picking a tree that will last the season… buy a dead one, or a Scotch pine.

Discover Local Artists: Red Dot 2012


Beate Rodewald, associate professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic, and I talked about symbolism on our way to the Red Dot Fair during Art Basel week in Miami (Dec. 4-9). It’s not just cut and dried — one size fits all, she said. About snakes, for example, although they are associated with evil in Christian culture,  other cultures think of them differently depending on the context. In ancient Egypt, the snake was revered; In India, the snake is still worshiped as a god; In ancient Greece, the snake was a symbol for the healer; In Native American mythology, it symbolizes male energy.

In that vein, Adriane Arleo’s “Brambles” at Jane Sauer, a gallery (Santa Fe), caught our attention.

With snakey Medusa-like  hair, this lady, though, has deer growing out of her head. “For over two decades, I have been creating sculpture that combines human and animal imagery in a variety of ways,” Arleo says in her artist statement. “Some of these works allude to a relationship of understanding or connection between the human and animal realms. In others, the human figures possess animal faces, limbs or other features in a way that reveals something hidden about the character of primal nature of the person.”

Jenny Keith loves animals and nature. Her works often have a narrative quality, into which she occasionally incorporates text. In addition, she also creates large-scale abstract works influenced by microscopic cellular imagery. She showed both styles at Feral Fine Art Gallery (Edmonton Alberta, Canada).

Below, her beeswax work,”Lioness Regrets,” shows a “lioness who ate birds. She lets them out, but she’s upset about it. She’s apologizing begrudgingly,” Keith said.

“Lioness Regrets”

To create her pieces, she builds up layers of melted beeswax with some of the colors under the layers of wax, and others on top of the wax to give depth, she said. A multi-sensory piece, it does has an interesting texture, kind of like polished marble, but soft and it smells good, too, Rodewald noted.

At Kips Gallery (New York City), works of animals by Korean artist Park Kwang-ill are featured. They look sort of soft and pillowy. What kind of animal? Not sure. Maybe more of a fish and kind of cute, in a Pokemon sort of way.

Park Kwang-ill’s mixed media fish?

Skipping over to the fruit, vegetables and the insect world, Bonnie Seeman’s work was shown at Duane Reed Gallery (St. Louis).

Vase by Bonnie Seeman

Here’s what she says about what she does in her artist statement: “I am very interested in the utilitarian object and how it can be used as a means of narration. My work blends the macabre with the beautiful, which acts as a metaphor for the fragility and resiliency of life.

“By using my interest in morphology and anatomy, I present the viewer with a detailed examination of the living structures of the natural world. The juxtaposition of the botanical and the anatomical elements can simultaneously be jarring, disquieting, and beautiful. This dichotomy also enhances the tactile quality of the work, enticing personal interaction with the viewer.

“While producing my work, these elements weigh on my mind until a peace reaches its fruition.”

Below is a piece by Randall Mooers, shown at George Billis Gallery (Los Angeles). It’s called “Mountaineers,” and it is an oil-on-panel. Imbued with personality, on a soft white background, I like the red and yellow against the white and I wonder about the symbolism of that Oreo.


Each artist does seem to have created his or her own dictionary of personal metaphors. How is it that a squash got to be a mountain?

And then there’s “Biography,” which really seems to be an autobiography. This sculpture is by Neil Goodman and was shown at Perimeter Gallery (Chicago).

He works with forms out of wood, which are then cast. Each piece  resembles an earlier larger work, and represents a letter in his alphabet.

Strung together, they tell the story of his works as a whole.

“Agnes’ Room”


Above is a work by Nahila Campos called “Agnes’ Room,” and is what she calls an imaginary scenery. For this piece, she had found objects, including a photo of her Aunt Agnes, among her father’s belongings and bits and scraps from her own personal collection of “stuff.” A woman of the 1920s, Agnes appealed to Campos. “I tried to imagine the scenery of that time and recreate that space,” she said.

The photo is spliced in above doors that “could go anywhere,” and have “Do not disturb” signs. They have keyholes with people placed inside them, because others like to know what’s going on inside and like to peak, Campos noted.  The chandelier is central to the work, and there are stairs that don’t go anywhere in particular. Campos has a studio in Wyndwood.

There’s whimsy; there’s heavy. Below are two pieces that are weighty.

“The New Prophet”

To the left is Renzo’s “The New Prophet,” a bronze sculpture shown at Simard Bilodeau Gallery (Montreal), and to the right is Conor Walton’s “Still Life with Judgement” shown at CK Contemporary (San Francisco) .

“Still Life With Judgement”

From Renzo’s artist statement: “As the father of  Lucid Realism, an artistic style that draws heavily on his experiences with the indigenous cultures of Australia, Costa Rica, and Mexico as it expresses the commonality of the human experience through symbolic, abstract and figurative expressionism, he encourages the viewer to perceive the cohesion between reality and dream.”

Conor Walton’s artist statement reads: “Everything I do in still life is done tactically, strategically, self-consciously. I end up trying to treat the painting as a miniature drama, a microcosm. I use objects that have meaning for me and try to get the whole painting to make a statement, to express an attitude. And because still life is an art of objects, attitudes like objectivity, materialism, fatalism, nihilism, are easily accessible through the genre. It’s a battleground for me, a way of waging small-scale war against modernity.”


“Inheritance Renaissance Art” by Kevin Grass is about saying no to alcoholism, with visual “echos” of Renaissance art, noted Rodewald: “Art got him out from under it. The image reminds me of  Masaccio’s fresco, “The Holy Trinity” in the Santa Maria Novella. In Masaccio’s work, you see Christ on the cross and the skeleton underneath. It reminds you of mortality.

“Grass has reversed the order. He’s on the bottom with his father, grandfather, and the skeleton above him. The Past is sitting on top of him, weighing him down and difficult to crawl out from under. He has a book in his arms and the spine reads, “Renaissance Art.”

“Thinking back to “Biography,” you see how these artists make sense of their past.” Grass has a studio in Tarpon Springs.

On a lighter side (sort of), Jane Seymour was at Red Dot with her new series, Open Heart Family, with artwork and a new book.


“It’s all about how we connect with people,” she said. “My mother was in a concentration camp during World War II. She could have escaped, but  her best friend was pregnant, so she stayed with her.

“They promised each other that if they had families, they would be families with one another, so I grew up with these Dutch kids. Always, I try to live my life to accept challenge, to open my heart and reach out. That gives you love in your life,” she said. Her gallery is in Los Angeles.

And, finally, here’s one last artist, Ray Neubert, whose studio is in West Palm Beach.

Below is his work, “Twins.”


“I was in McDonald’s in Cleveland and this man was just somebody who came in. I sketched him, and he ended up with a blue face, which I liked. I didn’t know what the symbol was on his shirt, but when I looked it up, I found out it was from the Batman movie.

‘Twins’ has nothing to do with the picture. It’s just the way I put things together. ‘Twins’ is part of my tryptic on tension, drama and conflict.”


Ann Norton Festival of Trees

Only one night for this, so wanted to put this up in a hurry, in case you live in the area. If you want a dose of Christmas Spirit, do go for a visit. Will write more later, but am off to Miami.

In the meantime, just a word — I also put in a couple photos of the Lake Worth parade, and the turtledoves are in my backyard.

Christmas Closer//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden is at 253 Barcelona Road, West Palm Beach. This is the last day, so hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, and tonight (go at night!) 5-8:30 p.m. Adult entrance fee is $15 and for children, the fee is $5. The light show is really fun!