Frank Gromling and Rick Cannizzaro are in a love triangle. The object of their love is not a woman. It’s nature.
“I’ve lived, worked, played on the ocean since I was 4 years old. It’s an important piece of the world for me,” Frank says of the sea. (Let’s dispense with both men’s last names: like the monosyllable cadence of their first name, they both like to get to the point.) Frank was born in New Jersey but escaped early to Cape Cod then Bristol, Rhode Island, and has spent the last 12 of his 66 years on Flagler’s shore.
Here’s how Rick describes his artistic aims these days: “To expose as many people as possible to how important it is for us to preserve all species of life on this earth. It’s that simple. I guess my last painting I ever paint will be man. Hopefully he’s not an endangered species.”
Rick was in facilities management for years. He now paints. He’s self-taught, specializing in oil pastels and acrylics, and—previously, anyway—in portraits of elected officials, college presidents and civic leaders. He’s since veered toward more eye-pleasing subjects. Frank describes his past, with a wince that suggests discomfort with the question, as “a life in international security.” He’s also a Beverly Beach city commissioner, and one of the area’s first volunteers for the Right Whale Project. And now a book publisher: he started Ocean Publishing eight years ago out of his house, and opened its increasingly familiar white and glass storefront in Flagler Beach, across from the pier, in December 2009. “I’ve really focused on marine life, nature and conservation,” he says.
- Opening Friday, Feb. 18, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at Ocean Publishing, 200 South Ocean Shore Blvd (A1A, across from the pier) in Flagler Beach. Call 386/517-1600. “Ocean Giants” is on display through mid-March.
Rick walked through that door last summer. He’d never met Frank before. He had notions of writing a children’s book. That may still happen. But things took a different turn when he started talking with Frank. “My passion is endangered species and the environment,” Rick says. “So when I found out Frank was doing a whole series on marine life it just worked fabulously together. So I started doing paintings strictly related to the subject matter.” Rick became Ocean Publishing’s commissioned artist, and Ocean Publishing’s walls have been turned into a gallery.
There’s been two shows there already. “Loggerhead Turtles” and “Wonders of the Reefs.” Each was presented in concert with a book Ocean Publishing was releasing. (Explore the Southeast National Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the book released in conjunction with “Wonders of the Reef,” is the first of a four-book series Ocean Publishing is doing in collaboration with the heir to the oceans’ first family.)
The third show, “Ocean Giants,” opens Friday (Feb. 18), with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at Ocean Publishing. It’s not directly connected to a book so much as to the season: Frank will be exhibiting 11 original paintings from his new whale series—to coincide with right whale season along the shore–, including orcas, humpbacks, sperm whales, right whales, minke whales. There’ll also be several paintings from previous shows. You could also enter a drawing and win the one painting Rick donates at each show. The drawing is on March 17. The paintings, all modestly priced, range between $90 and $200. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Right Whale Project.
Rick’s work “connects emotionally with what I believe about nature, that it’s exciting, it’s whimsical, it’s beautiful, and it strikes the inside of me,” Frank tells the artist directly, noting that he’d never said that to him before. “I know what I like, I know what’s fun, and I know what compliments my work, so from that standpoint, with our Ocean Publishing’s focus on marine life and nature, environment conservation, and Rick’s passion, which he shares with us, is nature, and his belief system, his faith is strongly based in the importance of nature. As is mine. So it’s kind of a really cool situation that we’ve brought our talents together in a real working synergy. And it’s working for Ocean Publishing.”
It’s working for Rick, too. He paints quickly, vividly—his brushstrokes more like darts than sweeps—sometimes choosing ingenuous surfaces that, in his oceanic paintings especially, accentuate that metallic blue he seeks: he sometimes uses old newspaper photographic plates instead of canvases. He works so fast that, in a side gig, writing columns for a spiritual website (the same site where Frank also writes a weekly piece), he produces an original art work every time.
Frank wishes he could express himself visually. Rick wishes he could write (he doesn’t consider his columns more than prose jaunts to go with his art work.) They’re both answering their call, it seems, with mutual assistance. “It’s things like that,” Frank says of his paintings, “that hopefully inspire the next generation to just be a little more aware what’s going on.”