This July 11th on a beautiful Sunday my friend, Ellen, and I went to the St. Joseph Art Fair. I know it’s a tough show to get into, so I wanted to see what it was like since I had never attended this show as an exhibitor. I drove about an hour and a half to see what it is all about. I wasn’t disappointed. Every artist brought something different to the show with their unique selection of art. http://www.krasl.org/art_fair.aspx
When we first got there it was a bit difficult to find parking as parking was limited and it was compounded by the many exhibitors’ vehicles. We paid ten dollars to park in a commercial lot. As we walked down to the art show we were greeted by many cheerfully painted dogs!
Moving on to the show we came upon a wide selection of two and three dimensional artwork. Ellen and I both made several purchases through out the day and had many interesting conversations with artists that came from all over the United States. I want to showcase a few of the artists here today.
One of the first artists’ artwork we came across was Michelle Mardis. Her artwork is reminiscent of Andy Warhol with its pop art colors of large portraits of animals. WWW.michellemardis.com I really enjoyed her large piece titled “Fetch”.
She wasn’t at the show at the time we went through as she wasn’t feeling well. It is interesting to note that these art shows go on through all kinds of weather and even if the artist isn’t feeling well. Just like in “show biz”, the show must go on! There is quite an investment involved with doing an art show. There is the entry fee, travel, the cost to produce and even display the art at the show. This is why every artist designs their own booth to best showcase their style of artwork. Some people attend art shows for something to do as entertainment. I advise people to attend art shows and purchase from these artists as this, for many of them, is their sole source of employment. Their art is not only their life but their livelihood. You wouldn’t go to a movie without expecting to spend some money for your entertainment so it should also be with these art shows. Many people spend the day perusing the exhibits and eating the food but may not ever think to buy from these fine artists. However, if people don’t buy many of those traveling the longer distances will not be inclined to return to the show another year.
Many of the artists at the show were obviously influenced by the art of famous artists. While Mardi must have been drawn to the art of Andy Warhol, Penny French-Deal was obviously influenced by the art of the Impressionists and especially “Monet”. www.french-deal.com Ellen and I had stopped to have a quick lunch and upon walking back to the exhibits we were drawn in by a picture of two cows. They were meticulously painted but when we got up close to them, the brushstrokes were really loose and large. Her art was some what blurry upon close inspection. There was a softness to it that revealed some inner feelings from the artist.
Another artist, Larry Smith, obviously favored the art of Vincent Van Gogh. www.artistlarrysmith.com I bought a print from him and he told me much information about Van Gogh and the artwork that I purchased. He obviously knew a lot about Vincent’s art and greatly admired it. In his own artwork he used complementary colors such as red and green next to each other to create the vibrant effect of movement. I genuinely enjoyed Larry’s personality and the obvious joy instilled in his art.
I ran across a potter that really impressed me with his cut out piercing work. While it may seem very simple to most people as it is simple in color with its white, pearly surface, it is masterfully carved and pierced. The work is porcelain fired at cone 10 which is around 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. Artwork fired to this level has to be flawless. In order to create a porcelain bowl pierced on the edge such as this is truly a masterful skill. I’ve worked with porcelain for years. If a large bowl has so much as a small hairline crack, its flaw will be huge after a cone 10 firing. This bowl was priced at $1200. I didn’t find that shocking because I figured he lost many bowls to create this one unique piece of art. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a card from this artist, so I don’t know his name.
Another clay artist, Scott Causey, has very unique sculptural artwork. He won the non-functional clay award at this show. He makes these large pieces out of very colorful glazes. They can be frogs, salamanders and even monkeys. He makes them and then bisque fires them and then breaks them apart. He does this so he can glaze the different parts at different temperatures to get the special effects. Some of his glazes are luster glazes that give off a pearly, iridescent quality. http://www.scott.causey.com/
When I went to his website he is very proud of the fact that Al Gore has a piece of his artwork. The story about how Al got the frog is here. http://web.mac.com/scottcausey/Scott_Causey_/Al_Gores_Allegorical_Frog___.html
I bought a mug from two potters because they are working with cone 6 glazes and their work was well made and conceived. I am interested in maybe lowering my reduction gas firing temperature to save the time and cost of firing to cone 10. These guys called themselves the “Pottery Boys” and they live in Illinois. www.potteryboys.com
Some of the artwork was silly and whimsical and just plain fun. This art was artwork created to just inspire people with fun sayings and happy colors. Some of the artists that fall under this category are Susan Kline, Anne Leuck Feldhaus, Holly Sue Foss, and Patricia Statzer. I had so much fun reading the sayings and looking at the colors in these booths.
Another inspirational artist I met was Tres Taylor from Alabama. He paints on tar paper. Ellen recognized the material as it is common roofing material. She said they used to put it on the windows when she was a kid to keep out the cold. Tres is a man that embraced his artistic side later in life and rejected his previous occupation as a biochemist. His story is so interesting. His artwork reminded me of Modigliani with its elongated features for the people. There are also hints of Paul Klee and even Picasso in his shapes and faces. His work is probably considered a sophisticated form of primitive art. You can check out more of his artwork at his website. http://trestaylor.com/ I highly suggest reading this article and viewing his installation artwork. http://blog.al.com/entertainment-press-register/2010/01/amazing_journey_artist_finds_m.html
It is just amazing in its concept and story as well as the many children that he has obviously touched through this installation process through art. http://www.flickr.com/photos/12144219@N03/sets/72157623065536433/show/
It was fun talking to Tres. I would be thrilled if my students could have the opportunity to work with him and see his installation artwork.
Another artist that I really enjoyed is Pat Custer Denison. www.denisonartstudio.com Her artwork is created with ceramic tile and wood. She is a painter and printmaker that studied at the University of Michigan. She lives in Honor, Michigan so I’m hoping to stop by her studio when I visit the Traverse City, Maple City area. Many artists live, as I used to, up in the Grand Traverse area. It’s a great place to produce art as you are surrounded by all the beauty Michigan has to offer. Her artwork is very fun and whimsical. Some of the pieces are quite large. She inserts commercial clay tiles into large cut out wood shapes. Her artwork tends to have many colorful characters that seem to tell a story upon close inspection. She screen prints some of the design on the clay tiles to reproduce the image more than once. I found this process interesting as I have never silk screened on any of my artwork. I have seen this done in books but have never actually met an artist using this method.
Two of the artists work in very traditional materials that I feel are almost like a lost art. The first is Jane Bowers who creates “Pysanky” eggs. These are the very colorful and skillfully designed eggs that are reminiscent of Easter but are so much more involved than a typical Easter egg. Making pysanky has always been a part of her life as this tradition was passed down through her Ukrainian family for many generations. On a trip to the Ukraine she had the honor of presenting one of her eggs to President Leonid Kuchma. Jane was so open with me about how to create these eggs. She wanted to help me as a teacher to pass on the beauty of this tradition. I loved talking with Jane and many of the artists as they were all so open to me when they found out that I am a middle school art teacher. Artists are great teachers and generally want to share their knowledge as long as you aren’t some “copy cat artist” just trying to steal their designs.
The other artist working in a highly traditional almost “lost” type art is Brian T. Keller. Brian works with traditional egg tempera. He mixes his own paints much like Van Dyke or other great artists of the past did. This involves getting commercial pigments and using egg yokes. Of course he doesn’t have to grind the pigments like the artists of the past might have done but this was still amazing to me as there are so many different types of art materials and paints that could be used today. He works in a very highly detailed fashion. Just looking at the detail in his wood grain floors is truly amazing. Brian is highly skilled. I just loved his artwork. He told me that the he works in layers and that the egg tempera dries quickly. http://www.btkeller.com/
As you can see by all that I’ve shared with you today I truly enjoyed this art exhibit not just for the art but for the many intriguing conversations I had with the artists. It was fun going to an art show as a viewer and not a participant. I loved hearing about the different stories each of these artists had in the story of their own art. Only two artists didn’t want to be photographed. The rest were happy to indulge me with the many pictures I took. I ended the day being inspired by these wonderful people. They are all gifted with amazing talents and they were more than willing to share their time and knowledge with me. I ended up buying small pieces from several of the artists I spoke with as did Ellen. We had a great day and we lucked out with beautiful weather. I would definitely love to go back to St. Joseph again for this art show and to see the wonderful city nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan. I will end by sharing some additional pictures from many other fine artists. If you haven’t been to an art show lately get out there and meet some artists. The Ann Arbor Art Street Fair is going on right now. It’s a four day event so you still have plenty of time to visit through Saturday.