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As the huff and bluster of another Vermont winter revved up, Harvey Sibley set sail for Caribbean sun then a sail up the Florida coast to find a new home and reestablish his art studio in more hospitable environs. Up the long Florida coast from the south, there were several stop-and-looks, but many more stop and goes. Then, the last marina in Florida, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. As he sailed into Fernandina from the ocean, the natural beauty and the unique vibe were palpable: Cumberland Island to the north, Fort Clinch to the south, and a low- key working waterfront with the Port, the Pogey Plant, and a mill all co-existing astride a genuine Victorian town with several distinct and gracious churches and Florida’s oldest saloon, quite comfortable aging naturally.

The area’s natural beauty and affable diversity appealed to him. He dropped anchor and strolled Centre Street on that stellar Sunday to find every realty office dark, save one with a small light on. Finding the door locked, Sibley knocked on the window and within 20 minutes an enterprising work-on-Sunday realtor was showing Sibley the home (vacant) on Marian Drive where, after modest renovation, Sibley’s waterfront art studio was established.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Sibley studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, following service to his country in the Navy. Thereafter, he distinguished himself in the seemingly diverse worlds of graphic and restaurant design, and abstract painting. While painting was the cornerstone of his life, Sibley enjoyed creative and financial success as a graphic designer and restauranteur in and around Rochester, New York. Hoping to paint more and work less, he moved to Prickly Mountain in Warren, Vermont in the Mad River valley. A sailor since childhood summers on Lake Ontario, Sibley raced his sailboat “Gran Cru” competitively on Lake Champlain in the summer and skied in the winter.

Sibley was influenced by the New York school of abstract expressionism, particularly James Brooks, a recognized abstractionist and one of his teachers at Pratt. Sibley’s work reflects his fearless exploration of color, shape and space. He often painted a series of pieces exploring a related theme or method of expression, utilizing at times, mixed media, transfer processes, and collage. While his body of work refuses to yield a singular signature style, each of his works reflects his unique artistic sensibility.

Sibley found inspiration for his art in wilderness trekking in Patagonia, northern Spain, the Peruvian Andes, and the Western well as urban meanderings through backstreets and promenades of Istanbul, Paris, Barcelona and Rome. Sabbaticals to the wilds of Utah and New Mexico fueled many of his nature-inspired abstract and representational works.

Often asked to explain his work, Sibley declined, believing that the work speaks for itself and is a personal and unique experience for each person. He invites each observer to experience his work with their own eye, and their own sensibility. Unlike some abstract paintings that can be off-putting, Sibley’s works are visually appealing with an underlying sense of harmony.

An active artist until shortly before his death, Sibley was joyful and energized to accept a commission for a mobile, although he had never done three-dimension work before. True to form, he created not one but three distinctly different mobiles in his final exploration of color, shape and space.

His work lives on. His waterfront studio gallery is open by appointment (904) 686-4513 and contains a variety of work available for purchase. You may also view his art at Baxter’s Restaurant on Buccaneer Parkway on Amelia Island, Florida, and Here...

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