Capturing Costa Rica: The Portrait of Artist Scott K. Wimer

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    Glasses of wine. Cheese plates. Paella. Dancing. Revelry.  Everyone at the private party in San Ramon Tres Rios was celebrating the eve of Christmas, and every moment of this celebration was captured by his camera.  The night progressed, as nights tend to do, and the group drifted into the Rancho, a covered patio at the top of the property.  Some guests gathered in conversation around the Christmas tree, others around a small table, and one, still documenting the fiesta, was lounging comfortably in a hammock.  Fascinated by this man, and suddenly determined to take a selfie with him, I leapt to join him on the hammock.  My weight and enthusiasm ripped the metal screw from a wooden pillar and the two of us crashed to the ground.  Thus began my friendship with the artist, Scott Wimer.

    After aggressively pursuing a coffee date with him, he obliged, and began telling me the biography of his art, using large brushstrokes for the background, and then filling in with a few, sharply outlined details.

    Chapter 1: The Ornamentation

    His career began immediately after high school when he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and started selling his

    “Christmas” Coronado, Costa Rica

    paintings.  But, in order to supplement his income, as artists are typically compelled to do, he painted Hawaiian Christmas tree ornaments.  Santa surfing on the crest of a wave, the board covered in presents, a palm tree arched over St. Nick.  Or, a palm tree covered in twinkle lights, the sand below scrolled with the words, “Mele Kalikimaka”, “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian pidgin.  For two years Scott worked his elfin magic in a tropical version of Santa’s workshop until the offer of a scholarship to attend The Art Institute of Chicago lured him back to the mainland.

    Chapter 2: The Stunning

    Painting, his primary medium, became his major at the institute.  However, an increasing interest in photography soon became the dominant area for his artistic expression.  Scott was on track to graduate when a young girl stepped in and changed the course of his life.

    At sixteen, this girl was detassling corn near a road that ran in between two endless fields of tall, green stalks.  As she removed the husks and silk from the cobs, photo assistant Victor Skrebneski, pulled his car to the side of the road, and handed her his business card.   She was sent to an agent in Chicago, who sent her to Scott, as he had begun freelancing for agencies while in school.  An appointment was set.  The girl and her parents came to Scott’s studio at Surf and Broadway.  He took several test shots, and immediately sent them to the head of Elite modeling agency in Chicago, who then sent her to the company headquarters in New York.  Within a month, she was gracing the cover of Vogue magazine and sent directly into the supermodel stratosphere.  That girl’s name was Cindy Crawford.

    Chapter 3: The Glamour

    Scott’s launch into the world of fashion happened as quickly as Cindy Crawford’s, and he left school for Paris, France to work for Delphine agency.  He began doing photo shoots around the city, the banks of the river Seine, a café in bohemian Saint Germaine, the Tuileries Gardens.  These were some of the backdrops to his photos.

    He shot a photo of Gloria Selby glancing up from her newspaper and into the lens of his camera, as though

    “Mural in home in San Ramon” Tres Rios, Costa Rica

    acknowledging the arrival of another coffee shop patron.  Another of a lithe, gracefully posed woman, legs crossed, face missing, wearing a fishnet body stocking. And a myriad of silk, and fur, pouty mouths and innocent eyes.  With the photography came elegant parties, waifish models, celebrated designers, increased recognition, and a heady self-importance.  After eight years of lights and action, the pressure of the fashion business led to a time of serious introspection.  In the end, he decided his professional portfolio needed more body.

    Chapter 4: The Reality

    To reassess his goals, he moved to San Francisco and drove a cab.  A pendulum swing from the brittle glamour of Paris, Scott was eager for grounding.  His nights were spent driving, listening to stories told from the back seat, and eventually dropping clients at their destinations.  His days were spent photographing the city and its people,

    Photo portrait “Elizabeth and Silvio”

    capturing its grit and reality while searching for his own destination.   An invitation to Australia offered him work with a French interior designer who taught him how to upholster walls.  It was here that he discovered faux finish, a painting technique in which the artist replicates materials such as wood and marble.  Refreshed by his return to painting, he began creating murals.  Bouncing from locale to locale: Paris, Chicago, Italy, and Costa Rica, the strokes of his brush swept him around the world.  Costa Rica became a regular stop, drawn as he was by the people, energy and warmth that permeate Latin life here.  Pura Vida.  As the trips grew more frequent, and his reluctance to leave increased with every impending departure date, he applied for residency, and is now citizen.

    Chapter 5: The Established

    Currently, he is a walker of the city, capturing what is left of old San Jose, appreciating the Costa Rica overlooked by postcard fantasies.  Many of the crumbling buildings with their colonial or art deco architecture will not be rebuilt by historic preservation.  He frequently paints on top of photos he has had enlarged onto canvas, giving them texture and definition, combining the two media he loves.  Murals continue to be painted, and photo portraits shot.  When I asked him what he thought of the budding art scene in Costa Rica, he gave me a look that made me blush with naivete, and replied,

    “It’s not budding. It’s been around forever; it just hasn’t been recognized.  Amazing, world class art has been neglected.  The energy of contemporary Costa Rican artists is bringing about a long awaited recognition.”

    Finally, hammock selfie

    It is art spaces such as, Galeria Andromeda, Galeria de Arte Amir, and Arte Latino that are now celebrating what has been ignored.

    Scott’s formative art years in tropical Hawaii were the beginning of a search for his personal and artistic destination.  In tropical Costa Rica he has found a place that combines glamour, and grit, and offers continuous inspiration.  One of my favorite places in Costa Rica is Scott’s home in San Jose.  There is wonderful conversation, walls covered with beautiful artwork, and always, a cold beer in the comfort of a very secure hammock.

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