Friday, July 21, 2017

A Trio of Makers (Ann Arbor Art Fair)

In years past I was all about the Ann Arbor Art Fair, started thinking about it the month prior, researched some of the upcoming artists, planned out routes to maximize work lunch hours and exhausted evening hours; took pics, googled and wrote and felt compelled to publish a post for whosoever may care to read. Then it shifted to childcare hours and who and when and not really time to process later, but at least not sandwiching the sun-hammered art walks between office hours. This time, a few days ago, I glanced online before giving up -- other more pressing research items weighed in -- new car, travel, toddler tendencies and how to handle. This time around: I'll find what I can find.

It was only as I marched on Liberty, having drained my pricey Avalon latte, striding between Holy Mary, Mother of God and the Mars Society booths in nonprofit row, that I realized how happy I was. Excited, joyful, freed up! No matter how jaded I become, no matter the various life pressures, this kind of thing always feels like a reward, an unwieldy present to be opened. There's always treasure, hiding below the layers of wine slushies, lawn ornaments and neon-colored Warholalikes. You may maintain your ideas of where the best art is and dismiss all other regions (the fair is actually four fairs glommed together), but for treasure hunting, one must be open and far-reaching. Far-walking.

And here I was, walking along to meet Compatriot (who I haven't mentioned in forever, but who is the perfect Art Fair fellow attendee -- we travel well, we overhear well, we investigate and muse). And here, suddenly, was an old friend from a former life, exclaiming in my path! She can't understand people who hate this*, she arrived at 7 AM**, parked just like that, dwelled over an hour long breakfast at Afternoon Delight and now at 11, she felt done for the day. We were pleased with ourselves and exchanged brief chatter about unknown children (my toddler, her grandchild, about the same age), and happily parted ways. Mildly discombobulating, but a fine start to (my experience of) the fair, nevertheless.


Tina Leto (booth #A152): Gorgeous black and white plant photography. Simple and stunning. Savvy lower price points -- I mean way lower -- am tempted by her wee $25 prints, which one could easily center in a pre-made shadow box or floating frame; small sleek tin of 20 (? maybe) shots together at $150. The subtitle of her photography business card lists Alley, Garden, Prairie, which appeals to me somehow. They all have equal footing, these plants, regardless of categorization. Again: search for the treasure, right? We talked toddlers -- she affectionately described her granddaughter as "a demon child" -- and it's obvious, Leto's a pistol. I imagine she'd be a fun drinking companion. She most definitely has stories.

Back home, it was interesting to see a wealth of journalistic photography on her website -- Romania, small town America, portraiture. All this documentation of "moments in time" exist in stark contrast to the timeless, sleek visuals of her plant photography. On Day Two, I asked her how about the shift. She raised her eyebrows, half-shrugged: "Ehhh? What happened, I turned 50. I don't know." Also on day two, the fair jurors came around with a foam-core sign about her winning an Excellence Award. She waved it at the artist next door, "See? I wasn't lying." She returns inside the booth: "I exclaimed a lot when I heard they were awarding me, everyone around here probably heard it." 

Amanda Outcalt (/Out of Print) (booth #A260): 2D, mixed media with a strong emphasis on intaglio, drawing, painting. Self portraits, circus elephants, fish hooks, and polka-dotted sheep. Magical realism, no unicorns. Website here plus rich instagram.

"Putting Out Fires"
She also teaches art to kids K-5, so she often feels like she's handling mini crises -- "Everything gets so big for them, like from the outside you think it's something that doesn't matter much, but they have a huge reaction, so that's the title (at right). You just try to help them to a better place and sometimes something good comes out of it, that's why you have the balloons."

Outcalt, a first timer to the show, also won an Excellence award.

Emily Howard, a/k/a The Diggingest Girl (booth B4003): Talented and groovy, Howard balanced visitor chatter with restocking, and carving a Frida Kahlo linocut. She is an art school graduate with not one-but-two masters! (I keed, I keed --> a sensible pairing of MFA and arts education), who came into printmaking relatively late in her arts schooling. She took a class in 2006, liked it; and dove into printmaking on a more professional level in 2009. She said she always knew she wanted to do the art fair circuit, which I had every intention of asking about, because it seems so incredibly difficult to me, but different strokes. Why did she opt for prints over other media? "Practical reasons, actually. I love painting and sculpture, but those are hard to lug around; and I want to create beautiful things for people, that more people can afford, so that's prints." To me, that's 500 point answer**** 

I like how "Gwendolyn" calls up Love & Rockets characters and Ghost World. I'm also a sucker for a nice herringbone pattern. Who's Gwendolyn?


Extra Credit
In my alternate, wealthy life, I'd send my personal shopper to Booth B2023 to fetch glittering, mesmerizing mosaics from the Canadian transplant with the best name your mouth has spoken in a long time. Check out Giampietro Filippetti's work here. If you aren't going to the art fair, the photos are probably the best you'll see, though they fall woefully short, since you can not walk back and forth, back and forth, to watch the tiles glitter in the light. Just shy of magical.

*I can, I used to work retail in its midst.
**the fair opens at 10AM
***Not redeemable for cash, not translateable to other real-world usage. But you know, gold star.