Local collector Stanton Storer has had his finger on the pulse of Tampa’s art scene since the mid-’90s.
He began attending art events after a chance conversation with a stranger on a plane made him realize he was working too much.
In search of a passion outside of the pharmaceutical industry, Storer attended Art for Life, a Tampa charity art auction that raised money for AIDS awareness and care. This was where he met Tampa artist Theo Wujcik, and it’s when his life as an art collector began.
After Storer purchased his first Theo Wujcik painting, “Barking Dogs Signaled the End of the 20th Century,” the two became fast friends. Wujcik taught Storer about art and Storer, in turn, supported Wujcik’s career.
IF YOU GO
Unbound: Highlights from the Stanton Storer Collection
Scarfone/Hartley Gallery at The University of Tampa R.K. Bailey Arts Studios.
310 N. Boulevard, Tampa. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sat. 1-4 p.m. 813-253-6217. ut.edu.
Wujcik introduced Storer to USF Graphicstudio, Tampa’s legendary print workshop, which soon became the focal point of Storer’s collecting. Now Storer frequently attends art openings at Tampa’s best cultural institutions — The Tampa Museum of Art, USF Contemporary Art Museum, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, and the University of Tampa’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.
“Sometimes he catches three or four openings in one night,” UT gallery curator Francesca Bacci, who met Storer a little less than two years ago, says. “He’s always out and about when it comes to art.”
She explains how a showing of Storer’s collection arrived at the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.
“One day I had a special event here where I hosted FMoPA’s group of supporters. They came here for me to explain to them what the gallery was about...and he was with them, I believe,” Bacci says. The next morning, she was looking at footage from a UT show by Tim Hawkinson, and he was in attendance; that night, she saw Storer at a USF event. A few months later she attended an event at his home and saw the collection.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to bring a Victor Muniz to the gallery or David Hockney or Katz? I thought it’d be nice if our students could see these works,” Bacci says.
Now they can, and so can you. Francesca Bacci gave us a private tour of Storer’s collection at Scarfone/Hartley in advance of the opening.
“When I first saw Stanton’s collection, I noticed he was not collecting according to the normal art history or museum collection criteria. He wasn’t collecting by period or by artist or by genre or by movement,” Bacci tells us, “He was feeling authorized to be really free, as some collectors do. We called [the exhibition] 'Unbound' for this reason.”
Since Storer’s collection evolved based on his personal enjoyment and desire to support local artists, Bacci started looking for a way to show his collection that said something about Stanton’s personality and role in Tampa’s art scene. So she started tagging his works based on different themes: #Black&Color, #Voyeur, #TampaNative, #Relations, #Foundational, #Storytelling. As we proceeded into the gallery, Bacci started pointing out these qualities in the artwork on display.
“These are the pride of the collection,” Bacci tells us.The foundational works, the ones that essentially make the collection in Bacci’s opinion, are towards the front of the gallery. We begin our tour with Storer’s first serious art acquisition, "Barking Dogs Signaled the End of the 20th Century" by Tampa artist Wujcik.
“If you look at this painting, it’s like a summary of everything he likes — the black and white, the bright colors (especially oranges), this very, what he calls a tornado style, and also very graphic,” she adds. The painting is a beautifully fragmented mess of black, white and orange. “This [painting] is a predictor of many things he bought,” says Bacci. Storer bought this piece exactly 20 years ago, making this the 20th anniversary of his collection.
“Many pieces in the collection have this sort of playful eroticism about them and sensuality, and we wanted to show that, too. Of course this section is in the back,” Bacci tells me as we walk towards the back of the gallery. Standing in between a Selina Roman photograph and a ginormous sculpture of a vagina by Taylor Pilote, I jokingly ask Bacci, “Are you going to hang a curtain?”
“I think ‘Magesty’ here signals that things are about to get interesting,” she answers me. Given that she’s talking about a gigantic vagina made of car parts, I could have sworn she said ‘Vagesty here,’ but the title of the sculpture is “Magesty.”
My favorite works from this category are a string of photographs by USF Graphicstudio artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Each of the five photographs, artfully portraying the male figure, has a different hue. Like a rainbow, they are green, blue, purple, red, and gold. Bacci hung a rainbow-hued work by Kelly nearby to emphasize this quality in the Mapplethorpe photographs.
“It was my way of underlining what Mapplethorpe always said,” she says, “Which was ‘It’s not what you photograph, but how you photograph it.’”
Much like Storer himself, Bacci tells me the pieces in this section of the show are “humorous, clever, and funny, but they’re also accurate, precise, and limited. I like the playfulness of that.”
Storer’s penchant for artful arrangements of black and color is on display all throughout the gallery. You can see it in Theo Wujcik’s “Barking Dogs,” Mapplethorpe’s photographs, Kelly’s work, Enrico Donati’s “Icicles.”
Then there are four framed black rectangles by another USF Graphicstudio artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock. All are the same size, and three are hung in the same orientation, but one of them is hung vertically instead of horizontally. If you’re OCD, you wonder why, Bacci tells me. When you inch closer, you can suddenly read, “Wow that’s mean” within the images.
You can see Storer’s commitment to Tampa’s art scene in all the Graphicstudio artists represented in his collection. The Tampa print studio has hosted artists from around the world since the 1960s. They come to create affordable prints or multiples of their works for collectors like Storer.
Storer is a prominent supporter of Graphicstudio — not just through buying prints, but also by sponsoring exhibitions and making donations towards Graphicstudio’s artist-in-residency program and operation costs. An article in the Spring 2017 issue of USF alumni association magazine says that between Storer’s Graphicstudio donations and visual arts scholarships, he’s given more than $340,000 in support of the visual arts at USF. A reporter from a USF magazine once asked Storer why he supports Graphicstudio.
“Because it is a first class, world-renowned atelier that produces incredibly diverse works by various artists. The artists at Graphicstudio are pushing the boundaries and creating new mediums and approaches to art,” he explained. “It’s a convenient and incredible resource for students and the local community to become better educated on art, meet artists from around the world and hear them speak about their practice.”
I counted works from 16 Graphicstudio artists in the portion of Storer’s collection currently on display at Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, including Wujcik, Mapplethorpe, Hancock, Robert Rauschenberg, Duke Riley, and Tampa native Robert Stackhouse. Rauschenberg was one of the first artists to work at Graphicstudio. The photographer created multiple prints of his photographs while at Graphicstudio. He also made an extremely limited edition sculpture called “Tibetan Garden Song.” It’s the type of piece that makes you wonder, “Hey, why’s there a cello in this bucket?” According to the Graphicstudio website, only 20 of these things were made, one of which is currently sitting in the middle of Scarfone Hartley Gallery.
My favorite Graphicstudio works in Storer’s collection are the Riley prints, especially “Monkey Biz,” which depicts a Noah’s Arc scenario. There’s a large boat in the middle and tons of animals. But then there are all these funny little details, like a Dunkin Donuts box floating in the water. The busy print is full of these Where’s Waldo moments. Another highlight Bacci points out is Stackhouse’s “Blue 5606,” a piece the USF grad completed in 2006 to commemorate his alma mater’s 50th Anniversary. The lithograph (a type of print made with a stone plate) features aspects of the USF landscape Stackhouse personally enjoyed.
Some Bacci started when she started studying Storer’s collection was “that Stanton was collecting things in pairs.” You can see a lot of this in the Scarfone/Hartley display. Behind an Esterio Segura submarine statue, there’s a submarine cyanotype. The Cuban-born Graphicstudio artist made the cyanotype first, then decided he wanted to realize the same idea in sculpture form.
In 2016, Graphicstudio sculptor Keith Edmier created a full-size replica of a swimming pool in Florida SouthWestern State College’s Bob Rauschenberg Gallery and installed a line of 48 plaster masks on its walls. Storer commissioned a smaller version for his collection to remember this Florida moment. It’s now on display at UT along with one of the original plaster masks.
“I thought it was an interesting thing to bring to light – that he has pieces that speak of other pieces,” Bacci explains. “Not every collector is interested in that.”
Many of the works in Storer’s collection have a storytelling aspect to them, especially Edmier’s “A Year Without Summer.”
“It’s the heart of the collection,” Bacci tells me, “literally.” The sculpture, which sits in the middle of the gallery in a glass display box, is a personal diary with the cast of a heart sitting on top
“This was a commission,” Bacci tells me, “Keith Edmier is an artist that’s very close to Stanton.” When it’s not on exhibit, the sculpture typically resides in the cellar of Storer’s South Tampa home. The piece was inspired by Mary Shelley’s personal life and the events that led to her writing “Frankenstein.” Shelley wrote her story in 1816 in the wake of the historic Mount Tambora eruption in Indonesia. The eruption was so severe it affected the weather in Europe and North America. On one particularly gloomy trip to Lake Geneva that summer, the Shelleys and their friends, rained in, decided to write horror stories to pass the time. This was when Shelley started writing Frankenstein. When Shelley’s husband drowned six years later, someone gathered the heart from his remains and it was turned over to Shelley. She kept it for years.
Edmier’s sculpture ties these two stories story together in “The Year Without Summer.” The artist had his heart scanned in so he could include a reproduction of his own heart in the sculpture. The ashes in the book binding are from that historic Mount Tambora eruption.
The interesting thing about Storer’s collection is how much it says about Tampa as an art community.
“I think what it says is that the artistic community is very vibrant,” says Bacci, “It’s beautiful that there are people like Stanton that support the local community. Tampa has an incredible history of patronage of the arts. There’s a culture of giving that I have not seen in many other places, and that makes people stay.”