Artists in residence: Goodland couple comingle their artistic sensibilities

Lance Shearer

Goodland has a reputation as an artists’ colony. Some of that comes from the irreverent, off-beat vibe that permeates the community in general and has to do with the fishing village being blissfully outside the city limits of Marco Island, although sharing the same island, and beyond the purview of city zoning, law enforcement and government oversight.

But there are real artists living and working on Goodland, helping make the image real. Two of the most notable, designer Sherri Morrison and photographer Jim Freeman, are married to each other. Morrison is a graphic designer, who has created the branding and visual presentation for some of the area’s most iconic institutions and was honored as the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts Artist of the Year during a luncheon in June.

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Her local clients include the Naples Winter Wine Festival, now gearing up for its 20th anniversary season, the Friends of Rookery Bay, with their annual Batfish Bash, and the Naples Botanical Garden. Her work was spread all over Marco Island on roadside banners, when she created the graphics and signage for the Marco Island Historical Museum that welcomed the Key Marco Cat back to the island last winter. Corporate clients include Kitchen Gardens, the Imagine Solutions Conference, and the Naples Trust Company.

Morrison and Freeman met through their work. They both come from Texas, where Morrison was creative director at McCormick Advertising, and hired a commercial photographer whose work she liked for agency projects.

She liked the photographer as well as the photographs, and the two have been together for about 22 years. Each has a daughter from a previous marriage, his living in Sarasota, and hers in Austin, Texas. They came to Southwest Florida in 1999 and lived in East Naples and Isles of Capri before being irresistibly drawn to Goodland.

“We love it here. Everybody knows everybody, and takes care of each other,” said Sherri. “I feel this community is family – we can be a little crazy and dysfunctional sometimes, but that’s what families do.”

Being on Goodland is particularly important for Jim, who uses the community as a jumping off point for his photographic expeditions into the 10,000 Islands aboard his 27-foot sloop, Kathryn.

“It’s so beautiful around here. I love the easy access,” he said, sitting in the cockpit and looking out across a natural vista of mangroves. The unspoiled nature preserve to the south of Goodland serves as his muse, as a look at some of his photographic images attests.

Queried why the name on the stern reads Kathryn, not Sherri – or the “Texas tomato,” as she is jocularly known – Morrison puts it down to seafaring superstition.

“That’s the name the boat came with, and you only have one year to change it,” or be plagued by bad luck, she claimed. Apparently, the good luck is flowing, as Kathryn came unhurt through both Hurricanes Wilma and Irma, when almost all the boats around her were damaged or even destroyed.

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Freeman’s photographs of nature scenes put a discerning eye on the scenes of the barrier islands, showing driftwood, mangroves, vast open skies, and beaches at low tide. One of those, in one of his iconic images, includes a skiff high and dry, which is his, and not placed there for photographic purposes. He was shooting, and not paying attention to the tide, he said, “but it worked out pretty well.”

Some of Freeman’s photos feature what he calls “light painting,” in which he plays a powerful flashlight over the foreground to illuminate it, while the background night scene glows with natural light. These shots reveal a willingness to be out in nature when more timid visitors have headed home, leaving the field to the mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and the shooter who is willing to brave them for the sake of his art.

He also continues with his decades of experience doing commercial and architectural photography, but finds himself drawn more and more to the islands, as well as upland natural areas such as Fish Eating Creek.

Freeman shows his nature photos at select shows in South Florida, including those put on at Margood Harbor Park in Goodland, where Morrison takes a leading role in presenting and publicizing the exhibits. This work for the arts community had a lot to do with her elevation as Artist of the Year, said fellow honoree (2015) and Goodland-based artist Tara O’Neill.

“Sherri is a driving force behind the arts community,” said O’Neill of Morrison. “She is the woman who doesn’t let any of us flag or tire. Her enthusiasm is sincere, and contagious. She has a lot of talent and does a lot of giving.”

The two worked together to start the Goodland Arts Alliance, which has now been folded into an arm of the Goodland Civic Association. The group is planning their regular pre-Christmas holiday bazaar at Margood Harbor Park on a weekend this November. Sherri will create the graphics, and Jim will be there with his photographs.