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St. Pete artist Chris Duncan claims the 2020 Margaret Murphy Steward Best of Show Award at Morean

22 Jul 2020, Posted by Robin McGowan in ART Matters, News, Press Releases

Soft spoken and modest, Chris Duncan welcomes visitors to her home studio with mischievous eyes that twinkle above her face mask. She is amazed that her painting, was selected for the Margaret Murphy Steward Best of Show Award. The Best of Show award in the Morean’s annual members show is named in memory of Margie Steward, due to her long history with the organization and her love of exploring various artistic mediums.
The award is presented to honor the legacy of Margaret “Margie” Steward who returned to being a fulltime artist in the early 1980s after a brief career in geology and groundwater hydrology. The threads of this legacy award, presented this year, are interwoven in the pathways of two women who never met. The Annual Members Show was adjudicated by artist Chad Mize, who also never met Margie or Chris making their commonalities in life pathways and fulfillment in the arts all the more amazing.

Margie Steward, artist, passionate community history and story teller, and arts community icon

Chris Duncan is surrounded by her watercolors of downtown St. Petersburg, Venice, gardens and other shapes that she captures initially through the lens of her camera

Like Margie, Chris Duncan is also a ‘refuge’ from what she describes as “a left-brain career.” Chris holds a degree in biology and after moving to the area from Michigan, worked over 25 years for an engineering firm doing environmental impact statements.
Margie transitioned to creative pursuits in the precision of formulas associated with photography and darkroom manipulation of Cibachrome printing. Chris first explored her creativity with colors and art as the owner of Delphi Stained Glass store in Tampa where she created within the framework of solid glass shapes.
Chris feels that being retired allowed her more time to use “the other side of my brain.” She started exploring the art of water colors. Pushing the boundaries of the material she eventually developed a unique style of starting each painting. “I use only 3 colors, red, yellow and blue. Everything starts with that,” Chris explains. “I don’t draw very well so I go right from the photograph to the paint. I wet the paper all over and place the colors so they run together and create this magical starting point. I find the blending of the colors so pleasing,” said Chris.
She masks off the areas that she wants to remain white. “See that bicycle,” she points to a piece on the wall. “If I just painted a white bicycle well that would be so what. Ho hum. I’m known for my use of colors and what I love about painting is discovering how to see things in new ways,” said Chris.

While Chris and Margie have early careers in the sciences in common, and a restless exploration of new art materials, there is a third point of intersection, as they express their love for the community of St. Petersburg and work to make it better.
While at the Morean Arts Center Margie led several city projects in the 1980s. The Central Avenue Project photographically documented the rapidly disappearing downtown St. Petersburg scene. Margie also created a St. Petersburg poster celebrating the Pier and the city’s Russian heritage. Finally, she did a millennium project called City Under Sail. In 1992, Margie was named the Artist-in-Residence at the Morean Arts Center. The Center had a small press and introduced her to the monoprint, which became a major focus of her work for the next 18 years.
Now settled into her permanent St. Petersburg home and studio, Chris promises to have the same passion for community engagement that made Margie an arts community icon. Chris moved to St. Petersburg because it is an arts community and she wanted to be able to fulfill her needs as an artist by being in proximity to it all. Chris loves being close to the Morean Arts Center and all of the downtown art. But when asked what could be improved, she gets wistful and suggests that the “arts community could have a little bit more cohesion.” She is active in an artist group at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club that hosted an art show for 22 to 25 artists last year. She hopes to find ways to create more opportunities for bigger shows of paintings and wishes to see more groups of artists doing things together.

Chris has three sons and six grandchildren who all followed her to the area. They join her in being delighted at her Award and look forward to the solo exhibit that Chris will have at the Morean in 2021. The 2020 Members Show is exhibited in the free galleries of the Morean Arts Center at 719 Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg. Summer hours are 10 am to 5 pm Monday thru Saturday   and 12 noon to 5 pm on Sunday.

Stained glass lamp by Chris Duncan

Chris Duncan’s entry for the Pelican Proud exhibition at the Morean

This painting will never be sold, confides artist Chris Duncan. It was the first time she used her unique and watery color blending technique in a painting.

The wall of Chris Duncan’s home studio

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