Art Festivals are always a mix of decorative and higher art. This is not to diminish decorative art, in fact in my opinion the best of art is that which is obvious, or at least doesn’t take being an art snob to understand it, looks good and says something!
From the Internet the Main Street Art Festival in Fort Worth seemed quite large anyway, so we headed in on opening night Thursday. I’ve been told several time Texans don’t pay for parking, but the streets were crowded with folks who most likely paid $10 to get in a downtown garage.
The first booth we came to outside that garage was unfortunately one selling bathroom remodeling. From that point I had little hopes this would go too far beyond the art of bathroom design. The good thing about beginning at the bottom, however is it only gets better, and get better it did.
Crossing the street a booth set up by the Kent Kraus Studio in New Mexico displayed an array if contemporary ceramic sculpture. Many were in the form of Calla Lillies and incorporated water and lighting. This falls into the category of art with strong decorative qualities, but is anything but simply decoration. Some were made just for the show and the fine crazings of the over-glaze were still making buckling sounds.
Making rust look good isn’t always easy. The attractive industrial scenes of Loretta Petraitis seemed out of place in Texas. Noticing the Florida location on her booth sign gave no further indication of location for her inspiration. “I lived in Chicago,” she explained. The trains and bridges and predominant rust color effectively bring a sense of urban decay to this cattle town.
The work of photographer Anthony Jacobus reminded me a lot of the “steam punk” look in Brooklyn and elsewhere, although clearly his own take on that. Jacobus says he’d never been to Brooklyn, however and may have brought the look back to Texas from San Francisco. In any case it was clear the black and white clowns, still life images and men in top hats were in tune with popular photographic trends. “I’m not sure Fort Worth is the place for me,” Jocobus commented. But why not? He did say he was happy to bring be able to exhibit his individual take on a look locals may not otherwise see.
Representational art that people can take home and hang on a wall is commonly easier to sell at art festivals. Landscapes and the like are often looked down upon in the art world, but they shouldn’t be minimized. The vibrance or warmth of a good landscape has as much to say now as it ever did. We experience the same emotions from moonglow through a dense fog or the bright sun on a field as our ancestors did, and its important for contemporary artists to continue putting those emotions on paper in their own way. Entering the booth of Jeri Salter of Round Rock, Texas it was clear she had mastered the art of the landscape, all the more difficult when using pastel. Salter explained that many of the Western landscapes she painted were now lost to building in subdivisions, making them landscapes of lost Texas.
J.D. Hillberry has an amazing talent with a pencil and uses it to create realistic images of money and stamps and tape that looks so real it could peel off the paper. Hillberry of course is not the first artist to master these techniques, but perhaps the first to do it in pencil. Like Peto and Harnett before him, Hillberry is able to draw large crowds in works that engage viewers in the novelty of skilled hands.
The event also provided the opportunity to get a first look at some of the architecture, both new and old in downtown Fort Worth. It is art in itself of course, and a perfect backdrop for this festival.