I first visited the Beaux Arts Gallery around 1953. I was a student at St. Petersburg Junior college and I wanted to find a gallery to attempt to exhibit my drawings and watercolors. The galleries in the city were beyond my capabilities as an artist. But the Beaux Arts was and continued to be, a place anyone could be seen at least.
The gallery was an old hotel. It had porches around its perimeter and Pinellas Park was small and quiet. The door was open like a church and I went in. I called out and Tom Reese came from a back room. He came thru a curtain and stood before me in a pose. His shirt was off and he had a chest covered in black hair and his head too was jet black and wavy. He was handsome and muscular with no belly or flab. I knew I wasn't in a traditional gallery.
Tom sat with me and looked over my small collection of work. He was not caustic in those days although his prize insights were blunt, it was usually the fact. Some art is bad. As if the person set out to make it so.
Each meeting seemed to convince him I could have a show of my poems and pen line watercolors. Finally I did have the show on the side room which was a small gallery for art that could not compose a whole show in the main gallery.
He had 2 watercolors printed in color in the St. Petersburg Times. They were the first color plates used back then. And he had given that all to me. In a sense he saved my life because without his encouragement I would truly be a different person today. He was a saint in the true sense that is a man or woman, who subjects themself to a belief system and is always trying to live up to the rules. The rules of art as well as religion are the same except in regard to the human body. Beaux Arts was freedom to be true to yourself. Tom was the one that first showed me the variety of people I could at last fit in with. this family of artists.
As a man Tom was the man that sells the tickets in a carnival. The Beaux Arts was that to me. As I went in the door those carnival images painted on trailer were now in a gallery dignified not comic book paintings. It was a rarified world with people like carnival people, odd balls with a tent to live under together.
Tom was attracted to fame at an early age. He went to see the famous pianist Paderewsi who was a Polish hero visiting St. Petersburg. he got up early and went to the train station to wait. He got to say hello, and shake hands, and perhaps that handshake, to an 8-year-old boy passed fame, because he never stopped his craving for fame or the talk of famous people. The desire to have the whole world know your name was his burden as well as his reason to be able to see others with the same eye to try to help another get what he knew he could never get.
He was famous but the never felt it was enough. I'm so glad he never achieved the fame he longed for. I wouldn't have gotten to know him.
"Self Portrait" top painting
"Cain and Abel" below.
Eric kindly sent us some videos he made with Tom. Those will be posted here soon.