Gary Borse captures the familiar and the sublime in his landscapes and other eclectic works.
Gary Borse with his 2019 painting, “The Inauguration.” [Julie Garisto]
A memorable landscape doesn’t just capture a detailed view of the outside world. It reflects an artist’s inner world, illuminated, and dappled by the magic of imagination.
Such an interplay of the real and the otherworldly comes through in Gary Borse’s paintings. His works hang everywhere from state collections to galleries across Florida to the Harn Museum of Art gift shop at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The most recent of Borse’s landscapes — “Moonrise Melody,” “Night Light,” “Cypress Rhapsody” and “April Showers” — are currently on exhibit at C&C Fine Art Gallery in Ocala.
“Painting what you see and what you feel at the same time is like walking the fence,” he explained in his artist statement.
“If you fall one way, you will have what everyone sees, and if you fall the other way, you will have what everyone feels. Therefore, you must stay on the edge of the fence.”
From palm trees bathing in moonlight to cypress stands and pine forests, Borse captures the beauty of a Florida landscape through his mind’s eye, interpreting scenes with vibrant colors and subtle specks of sunlight and moonlight that add shimmer to the water and leaves in his works.
He has also painted horses for Ocala’s Horse Fever and a violin for the Florida Orchestra.
As we toured his living room and studio, Borse showed off his majestic stand-up bass from his jazz days, sharing that he also played guitar in rock bands. A lifetime of paintings adorns the walls between Asian, eclectic sculptures, and colorful keepsakes. The woody aroma of Palo Santo infused the air, courtesy of wife, Lily Van Halen, a licensed massage therapist who specializes in lymphatic draining massage. Dogs of all sizes — Walker collie hounds Jake and Elmo, rat terrier Petey, a Griffey named Gigi and a chihuahua named Obe Juan Kanobe — scampered about, adding cheer to the colorful yet calming home.
Outside his serene abode, Borse has helped spearhead an effort to save majestic land encompassing the Marjorie A. Hoy Memorial Park at Orange Lake Overlook (OLO) in McIntosh. He and his cohorts rescued the land from development and helped the Alachua Conservation Trust take over the scenic expanse known for its old windmill, located off U.S. 441. He’s continuing to work with the trust in hopes of acquiring more land adjacent to the OLO, which may one day qualify it as a federal wildlife refuge.
“Marion County is a special place,” he emphasized. “We have so much here. Everywhere you go, you find arrowheads and shards from all the indigenous people who lived here thousands of years ago. I find ’em all the time at OLO. You find little pieces of things of arrowheads and, and ax, heads and bird points. So, we know that there were thousands and thousands of people that lived on that hill.”
Up until the past decade, Borse cattle farmed on his idyllic property in Reddick/northwest Marion County.
“I wanted be away from the city, away from corporate America, and I wanted to paint pictures,” Borse said. “I’ve always wanted to be just painting pictures, but I had to raise my family. I was a single parent at the time.”Borse’s daughter Katherine, now 40, lives in Tulum, where she works with yoga and acupuncture. His son Brian, 38, lives in Gainesville, where he translates five dialects of Chinese full time.
Having recently sold a large portion of the land and horses, Borse and Van Halen have a little more time to spend time relaxing by the pool in a patio blessed with one of the most sweeping views of the area’s rolling hills and pastures.
Borse’s downtime was well-earned.
“I had 40 head of cattle, and I had horses,” he shared. “It seemed like every day there was a storm with trees falling on the fence. You’re always fixing the fence. You’re always doing the work all the time. … You grow your own hay every year and cut your own hay. So, with all these things that you have to do, it’s 24 hours a day. That’s why they call it animal husbandry.”
A former draftsman, Borse was born in Chicago in 1950. He studied art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago. He helped make his family’s patternmaking/plastics business a success and, after they sold it, he moved to Florida.
Raised Catholic, the artist-conservationist evolved in his beliefs around spirituality since his altar boy days, and his connection to “what’s out there” shows up in his works.
Borse’s Horse Fever equine “Mistaken Identity” is “a shaman, a healer, with fire and ice combined as yin and yang to calm the soul as well as fire up emotions to an atomic level,” he wrote in the statue’s description. “The power and vibration of color can help heal many maladies of the heart and soul.”
He reads about UFOs, making contact with ETs and theories around consciousness. “I’m also involved with a group, Exo-Conscious Humans, led by Dr. Rebecca Hardcastle Wright, who worked with Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon and the founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences,” he added.
Borse also went on to speculate that he might have been an artist or composer in a past life.
“When I was little, I started painting and drawing, doing things that other people weren’t doing,’’ he recalled. “And then when I was going to school, I started playing different musical instruments — without instruction.”
Read more about Borse’s art and conservation efforts at garyborse.com.