Both Mable and John Ringling came from humble beginnings, but you’d never know it from the legacy they left to Sarasota. The couple married when they were 30 and 39 years old, respectively – quite senior by the standards of the turn of the 20th century. They wasted no time building a fairytale life for themselves.
When John wasn’t busy with the circus, they traveled the world. Mable fell in love with Venice and decided to create her own little slice of Italy on their 20 acres of waterfront property on Sarasota Bay. In 1924, architect Dwight James Baum set to work designing a Venetian Gothic style home for the Ringlings. The design was inspired by the sketches, notes and photographs Mable brought back from their trip to Venice. Local builder Owen Burns was responsible for bringing Mable’s vision to fruition.
The five-story 36,000 square foot home boasted 41 rooms (15 of which were bathrooms). The gilded ceiling of the ballroom features 22 paintings of dancers from around the world. A different heraldic shield is painted on each wooden panel of the ceiling of the Grand Court. An expansive marble terrace was available for overflow guests at the Gatsby-esque parties the Ringlings threw. (The orchestra was often located on the Ringling yacht moored at the foot of the terrace. Mable’s gondola was moored at a nearby isle.) The cost of the home – named Ca’ d’Zan or House of John – was 1.5 million in 1926 dollars (more than $21 million today). And that doesn’t count the Venetian-style décor that graced the mansion.
Mable was quite hands on throughout the building process, going so far as to oversee the mixing of the terracotta and the glazing of the tiles featured throughout the home. She was also heavily involved in the landscaping of the property. Her Rose Garden was planted ten years before plans for Ca’ d’Zan were drawn up. The garden’s style mimics an Italian circular design similar to that of a wagon wheel. More than 450 rose plants can be found in the garden today.
Once Ca’ d’Zan was completed, Mable became more heavily involved in the community. She became an active member of the Garden Club and the Women’s Club. Sadly, Mable passed away after only enjoying three winters at Ca’ d’Zan. Mable, John and John’s sister Ida Ringling North are buried in the Ringling estate’s Secret Garden.
Today, visitors to the Ringling Museum can roam the grounds and take in the same views that Mable and John enjoyed and, of course, stop and smell the roses. Tours of Ca’ d’Zan are available as a supplement to Museum admission.
Notes from the Artist:
Lori Escalera comments "My painting of Mabel Ringling. She was a Sarasota stunner in her younger days for sure. She was athletic and rode equestrian (horses). I wish I had a whole WEEK to have worked on this painting. The paint dried so quickly at 90˚ it was impossible to blend, so it is brushy - impressionist style. Oh my, the angle makes her look quite buxom! LOL.
All the paintings were done in NovaColor Artist Acrylics. My fave mural paints…. It was fun working large, but not easy knocking these out over 10-12 hour days. Each one took about 8 hours of intensive work."
Lori Anne Escalera A native Los Angelino, Lori centered her artistic life Southern California. She has had a full career as a corporate advertising graphic designer working with aerospace, advertising, institutional and manufacturing firms. In 1981, at the age of 23, she started her own business. In 1994, Lori organized "The Culver City A.R.T. Group,” serving as its President, as well as “BCR” (environment, community, arts Nonprofit). Lori’s interests shifted away from commercial interests towards fine Art. focus revolved around the figure. Lori questions the artist's place in the continuum of art history, as well as contemporary cultural beliefs in a relationship to history and myth. Lori is a cross medium artist and exhibits her art on paper, canvas, ceramic or in the street. Her work takes on an energy and vibrancy that refreshes the spirit and enlivens the imagination.
Since 1994, Lori has enjoyed participating in many Street Painting festivals in the USA, Canada, China and Mexico, helping raise money and awareness for many causes. She is a professional and award winning Madonnari Street Painter. Lori was an inaugural “Featured Artist” at the 2007 International Sarasota Chalk Festival, and featured pavement artist in 2008 Xian China pre-Olympic festivities. In 2012, 2014 and 2015 she participated as part of an international team of artists on three projects for The Chalk Festival, designed by Kurt Wenner (two of which entered Guinness World Record Projects for the Largest Anamorphic Street Painting).
Over the years, Lori has instructed hundreds of children and adults her ideas about art history, drawing and painting, through cultural arts programming, museum classes, art camps, and private lessons. She has led the creation of several community murals in Southern California, working with community groups and the underserved. Many of these murals provide vocational training for youth allowing local residents to combat community deterioration. https://www.google.com/maps/d/...
Lori writes and speaks on Art. Her paper on Gender, Art Ideology and Neuro-aesthetics (TRAC 2015 Proceedings – published in “As It Is”); Pavement Art as Fine Art Canon (TRAC 2018 proceedings); The Occident, The Orient and The Odalisque – Reimagined (TRAC 2019 proceedings).
Education: B.A. Design Communication Cum Laude SDSU; A.A.: WLAC, Commercial Art Certification/A.A.: LATTC; Humanities Minor: DHSU
Video documentary about Lori:
"I am eager to return to Florida every year! Traveling for artmaking is integral to my work as an artist. Engaging with new communities is a pleasure. No matter where in the world I travel, learning about other communities enriches me. The research and preparation for the artwork excite me. My mind runs wild as I take in fascinating information about historic people and places. It makes the fabric of my own existence more textured in the process adding to the vocabulary in my visual artmaking. When I was asked to participate, after a year of COVID isolation, I was nervous. Could I do it at age 64? Could I get back in the street, muster the elements (it was over 90˚!), and do a good job? I’ve had multiple joint replacements in the past decade and I was afraid. I am grateful that the “Avenue of Art” staff helped me make extra preparations to succeed. One striking thing is of the many people who stop by to appreciate the art and share their fears about their own artmaking. There is fear of sharing our inner identity thinking that who we are is not “good” enough to find acceptance."
Nanette Crist is a retired lawyer who began blogging when she moved to Florida. It was an online diary of sorts, a way to keep track of her new life. It was also a good way to share her discoveries with friends and family outside the area. Over time, Nanette realized her writing makes her experience the world differently. She keeps an eye out for interesting things to write about and then delves more deeply into them as she crafts her words. It's all about telling the story. Nanette's blog can be found at http://nanettesnewlife.blogspot.com.