Nov. 19, 2003 – It's show time again at Frenchtown's premiere place to view fine art. On Friday, Bella Blu (formerly Alexander's Café) will host the opening of an exhibition of oil paintings by longtime St. Thomas resident Eunice Summer, and the public is invited to the meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 7 p.m.
"Eunice Summer: Perspective on Life in the West Indies" is about the viewer as much as about the artist herself, according to publicity. Summer, who has won numerous prizes for her work, is showing portraits, carnival images, market scenes and more. The works will hang for a month.
According to Summer, she likes best to paint people. (One of the people she painted a few years ago was actor Morgan Freeman, in the Caribbean at the helm of his sailboat.) She says she enjoys the challenge of employing technique to capture the emotional impact of her subjects and is more interested in the impact an image has on the observer than in imposing her own interpretation.
"What interests me is what strikes the viewer," she says. And there is no limit to what that might be — a story that is told, an enigma that awaits revelation, an element of humor that is discovered. One of her paintings recently was selected to appear on a postage stamp in Anguilla.
Summer studied sculpture at the University of Pittsburgh and got interested in other media as well, notably watercolor, while pursuing a career as a social worker. It was not until she decided to make St. Thomas her home in 1977 that she took up oil painting — by chance.
She recalls how the transformation came about: A watercolor class was scheduled at the Fort Christian Museum, but when she showed up to take part, she found that it had been canceled. However, another instructor was there — Tom St. Vincent di Coio, who conducted group classes in oil in the courtyard of the fort. He looked over some of her watercolor work and encouraged her to begin studying and painting in oils. And under his guidance, she did.
As before, the monthly art exhibitions at the restaurant are being coordinated by Claire Ochoa. The last show was in August, and there've been some changes, of course, since then. Alexander's Café has reopened as Bella Blu. Ochoa meanwhile has opened her own downtown Charlotte Amalie art gallery — called Gallery St. Thomas. And they're now calling the event, a collaboration between the restaurant and the gallery, the Art Show Monthly.
Bella Blu owner and chef Alexander Treml says he hopes Friday's opening will serve as an incentive for people to check out his recreated restaurant, which specializes in Mediterranean cuisine served tapas style. It's a relaxed, smoke-free setting that "lets the ingredients speak for themselves," he says.

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