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Featured Artists: Philips, LoBianco, Gray and Solito

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Once again, the halls of the Brooksville Art Gallery at 201 glow forth with a pictorial tribute to a quartet of fine local artists—master craftspeople who are gracing the community with their ‘featured’ fine artworks.

The Brooksville Art Gallery at 201 is hosting its latest Featured Artists Exhibit, showcasing the work of esteemed Hernando artists Sandy Philips, Joan LoBianco, Robyn Gray, and Giuseppe “Pepper” Solito.
Philips is a devoted family woman, career woman, and creator who has been drawing since age 14. After taking an extended break from art, she renewed her love for drawing and painting by attending evening classes and workshops. She now counts pencils and airbrush among her favorite media.

Philips has won many awards over the years, such as the Annual Regional Exhibition, Ringwood Manor Annual Fall Open Exhibition, Ridgewood Art Institute Regional Open Jury Show, Ridgewood Art Institute Grand National Exhibition, and Community Arts Association National Open Exhibition. She was awarded Artist of the Year by the Hudson Artists and staged her own solo show, “Years in the Making.” She received an Award of Excellence from Manhattan Arts International and was a Finalist in the Artist’s Magazine All Media Art Competition. She is proud to be an active Nature Coast Art League member and was recently named Artist of the Month.

Now, Philips is also a featured artist in a special showcase exhibit at the Brooksville Art Gallery, 201 Howell Ave., Brooksville, and she is a participating artist in the gallery’s Shades of Purple exhibit, where she is showcasing “Purple Essence.”

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For her Featured Artists exhibit, Philips is exhibiting her special ballet series. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be one of the Featured Artists at Gallery 201 and am exhibiting my ballet series,” she said. “They are acrylic media created using an airbrush.”

Joan LoBianco, a photographer who’s been a shutterbug for more than 30 years, is a Spring Hill Camera Club member who loves photographing nature, people, places and animals. She has won awards in the Nature Coast Art League show at Art in the Park, presented by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, and claimed top honors in the Hernando Substance Exposed Task Force (SEN) Art Contest; in addition, her photo “In Mama’s Embrace” was named the winner of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, the City of Brooksville, and Brooksville Main Street’s Second Annual Art Competition. Previously, her work appeared in the Gallery 201 Untold Stories exhibit.

“I am exhibiting some of my favorite bird photographs and architectural scenes in the 201 gallery,” she said. “I am so honored to be recognized among so many talented artists for my photography in my pursuit to frame up the beauty in our world.”

Robyn Rutzen Gray, known locally for her signature art courses at Live Oak Conservatory, is—according to information supplied by Live Oak–a retired elementary teacher/administrator who holds a Masters degree in elementary education from Western Michigan University and has taught for 34 years in public schools in Michigan, Missouri, and Christian schools, camps and churches in Florida. She was an Elementary Principal, Academic Coordinator and Dean of Girls for five years at Hernando Christian Academy, as well as a fifth-grade teacher for 12 years. Art has always served as an integral part of her elementary classroom instruction. In 1999, Walmart chose her as “Teacher of the Year” for Hernando County.

As a child, she traced her parents’ artwork and drew the days away in her role as a self-taught artist. Now, during her retirement years, she devotes much of her time to the teaching of art—introducing her pupils to the media of acrylic, watercolor, pastels, oils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, oil pastels, copper art, wood burning, mosaics, jewelry and scratchboard. Her students’ works have been displayed at City Hall and the Hernando County Fair, earning several “Superior” blue ribbons and “Best of Show” and “Best of Class” rosette ribbons at the fair.

Giuseppe Lordpepper Soliyo (aka Pepper) is a lifelong artist who has honed his craft for nearly a half-century. His passion for art started when he was a young child, this passion inspiring the title and theme of his past exhibit at Spring Hill’s Ever After Gallery: Ars Gratia Artis, which translates to mean Art for Art’s Sake.

He loves pop art, Neo Classic Renaissance Style and oil on canvas in particular, and truly considers himself a multimedia artist. He was 17 years old when his first exhibit of portraits, done in pencil, debuted in Taranto, Italy. He has been a resident tattoo artist at Ever After Gallery for about a year now.

“I am really honored to be part of the Brooksville community art,” he said, “and I like to share my personal and different European culture of art.”

On display at Gallery 201 is a shining example of his signature brand of sublime Pepper portraits. “My painting has a purple background,” he said. I am European, and in my culture, the color purple is used more for funerals. In my painting, I explain the death of the old generation. We are empty as we get older, but the rain will help to grow a bright flower, and that represents our big hope for the new generation.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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