Naples Dailly News  

What's Up in Ave Maria: A change of scene for local artist this summer

 July 23, 2015

<p>This oil painting of schooners by local Ave Maria artist Cornelius Sullivan shows a different theme and style than the work familiar to many in Southwest Florida.</p>

This oil painting of schooners by local Ave Maria artist Cornelius Sullivan shows a different theme and style than the work familiar to many in Southwest Florida.

By Patricia Sette

Catching up with a friend from Ave Maria in a New England seaport is like observing a familiar painting under new light.

In Ave Maria, we know him as Cornelius Sullivan, worker in stone and oil paints, the lively conversationalist and passionate supporter of the sacred arts, the friend who is ever-patient when explaining what makes one work “kitsch” and another “fine art.”

But on the Gloucester waterfront, where my husband and I visited him recently at a gallery he’s renting, he’s not Cornelius but “Edmund,” or “Ed.” OK, let’s just call him Sullivan for now. Sullivan has been painting and sculpting during summers in Gloucester since 2006, with a hiatus of several years after he arrived in the Ave Maria area, where he works on his art and gives lessons at his studio in Golden Gate Estates.

Now he’s in a red New England gallery that opens on what seems a river of sea, one filled with commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft; inside, the walls hold etchings and paintings of sea themes, saints and more. The living quarters are happily simple, and I think of Mole saying to Rat in “The Wind in the Willows,” “And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!”

“In some ways, it’s like I never left here,” says Sullivan, who when he moved to Florida, shifted from using his middle name, Edmund, to his first name, Cornelius, because of possible confusion with another artist. (He jokes that he’s been told “Cornelius” will be more of a hit with biker babes.)

Sullivan, who grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts, has always had close ties through family to Gloucester, and opened a gallery in 1970. His daughter Mary teaches art at a Gloucester middle school.

We sit at an outdoor picnic table eating cappicola sandwiches and sipping prosecco while every passerby calls a greeting to him. While he’s telling us about recent visits from Ave Maria residents Drew Emmans and Caity and Michael Raiger, I’m imagining this dock in January. At any rate, it has sturdy railings for which I’m grateful; Sullivan tends to step forward when he speaks and I tend to step back, and the water is a fair way down.

I like Sullivan’s story about how, during a college chemistry class with a teacher who could barely speak English, “I began sketching the instructor instead of taking notes,” and, eventually enrolled in Rhode Island School of Design.

He was an artist in residence for Cambridge for two years, spent time visiting schools in the city, taught drawing at Harvard and showed his work at the Boston Center for the Arts.

The area he lives in is a lively one, where fun-seekers rock on into the night at the Madfish Grille next door, so, Sullivan often paints until wee hours, his sable brush tip sliding swiftly along to the sounds of steel drums.

We finish up the day at a crowded waterfront restaurant in which my husband and I certainly would not have gotten a seat, except for “Ed,” whose presence secures us a fine table. We hear about the painting Billy Joel bought from him, and how Sullivan persuaded Joel to play the piano not far from where we are enjoying bouillabaisse.

Even as we say good-byes, Sullivan is hailed away by others. He will return to Ave Maria in the fall, and will resume teaching theology of the body with Michael Waldstein in the spring, but for right now, Sullivan’s clearly at home under Gloucester’s northern skies.



This etching of the harbor in Gloucester, MA, is one of many Massachusetts-themed works of art available in the Gloucester studio of local Ave Maria artist Cornelius Sullivan.