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Linda Benson’s ‘Elsa’s Survival’


On view in the main gallery of the Alliance for the Arts through September 30 is Storm Stories, a visual art exhibit that features 53 works of art by Florida artists in reaction to Hurricane Ian. Linda Benson’s collage, Elsa’s Survival, is one of the artworks juried into the show.

When Ian struck, Linda and her 110-pound Great Pyrenees dog, Elsa, resided comfortably in small house situated on a canal that empties into the Caloosahatchee River. But as Ian bore down on them, muddy river water surged into the structure, forcing Linda and Elsa onto the dining room tabletop. Watching warily as the water continued to rise, she slipped a life vest onto the 110-pound Great Pyrenees and donned one herself. “It got up to over four feet in the house,” she later told Florida Weekly correspondent Janice T. Paine.

Sitting in the pitch black darkness, Benson began formulating survival plans, which included fleeing into the crawl space in the attic. She recalled that there was an axe near the front door, but the water began to recede before she had to press that plan into action. Around midnight, she and Else made their way into the garage, where they spent the night, cold and shivering, in the family’s waterlogged auto.

In the morning, Linda and Elsa crept out of the car to survey the damage. Her outdoor fridge was floating in the pool. All of her art supplies were ruined. Worst of all, her prized floating studio and gallery, The Artist Xpress, a vintage 46-foot Aquahome houseboat, was nowhere to be found.

While her art supplies, paintings and other artworks were either destroyed or gone, at least she and Elsa had managed to survive the storm.

Now retired, Linda enjoyed a career as a commercial artist and illustrator that spanned over 40 years. For 19 of those years, she was a creative artist for the Chicago Tribune. During the last ten years of her career, she served as a graphic designer and manager of various Florida newspapers and won numerous graphic design awards from the Florida Press Service and FNAME. At the News-Press, she was awarded artist of the year in 2004. In 2010, she appeared on FOX TV’s Morning Blend to paint [then] co-hosts Carly Wegner and Wild Bill Wood.
Benson has lived in Fort Myers over 20 years. Since retiring, she has been teaching art throughout Southwest Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Captiva and Big Arts on Sanibel. Many have seen her do art demonstrations during Art Walk, Music Walk and other outdoor events.
Linda’s distinctive impressionist style and color palette not only reflects her years as a commercial artist and illustrator, but her training at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art,

“I’m always trying new and fun ways of expressing my art,” she says.

Surviving Hurrican Ian now puts an exclamation point on her creative process.

September 2, 2023.

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