Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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I watch Art from afar and anear

Today my wife and I went to the Cottonwood Art Festival in Cottonwood Park in nearby Richardson. The park is about fifteen minutes from our home. Prior to the time we left, I donned my Theater of Surrealism (Theatre della Surrealisme?) t-shirt, a photo of a tiny theater, which I got from users Marstokyo's site, and which I think is really cool. Sadly, but perhaps not so sadly, spousal disfavor vetoed my accessorized artistic use of cut offs, Teva sandals, dark sunglasses and an unshaven face in favor of something a bit less Jackson Pollock, and we were off.

The parking for the event looked tight, as SUVs hovered like velicirolongscientificsoundingdinosaurword raptors, but soon I spotted a side street sign saying "Boy Scout Troop 526 parking this way". I must admit that I disapprove strongly of the BSA's stand on atheism and sexual orientation issues, but I was happy for us to pull into a green clad port out of this particular parking storm.

When my wife rolled down the window to see what the cost would be, an earnest scoutmaster voice chorused out "Are you just going to lick the can..." which I thought was an artistic way of asking if we were only staying for a moment, but it turned out he was correcting a scout whose notion of good parking attendantship was literally licking a can before he began his "donate what you will" speech. I liked these scouts, who popped up helpfully with reasonably priced drinks and good fun throughout the day.
I particularly liked the one later in the morning who put on a positively gothic tone as he intoned "water for sale--dehydration kills". We set aside our values, paid 3 dollars to park, and headed into the art fair.

I typically have mixed feelings about these art fairs. On the one hand, I believe that art by, for and of the people is the right way to go. I love the absence of any judgment save the passersby eye and the Visa card that park art fairs can entail. At the same time, I have the hypocritical feeling that folks who "ride the art fair circuit" with the same made in whereever sand drawings and Old Pokey on the Plain faux cowboy portraits do not "grab me", and I long for a different kind of art. I am pleased to report that the Cottonwood Art Festival defied all these conventional "we ride the circuit from show to show" expectations. The art was eclectic, fascinating and to my eyes, incredibly good. I should not say, incredibly good, because I do not really know what "good" art is. I say instead it really worked for me.

We wandered for 2 hours, pausing for lunch (I had "chicken breasts on a stick", except its "real name" was "chicken somecity in Europe"), dipping into and out of booths filled with painting sculptures and jewelry. At one point, we had a Bertolucci moment. An army of children appeared with violins and began playing nearly spontaneously in the middle of the crowd. If we had been in an art movie, like "the Conformist",the tune would have been "La Internationale", and some main character would have been moved or troubled by the serenade. Since we were in the real life event "Cottonwood", they played a minuet and something Mozartish and a good time was had by all. Their first piece was imperfect played, and I had a brief flash on the old portsmouth sinfonia, in which the musicians and non-musicians were given instruments they didn't play and then called upon to perform the William Tell Overture and the 1812, but the second piece was a marvel, and by the fourth piece,these kids had the audience, including my wife and I, eating from the palm of their hands. They ranged in age from perhaps 5 to 9. I took years of piano lessons, and never progressed much past being able to stumble through "Hello, It's Me" turgidly. These kids were something else again.

We also saw the long haired man who played 'Classical Gas' and the barefoot dancing violinist in the white tux who accompanied mix CDs of eclectic spanish guitar orchestra. Both of these two did very weddingy sounding music, so I was able to guess the gigs they sought when they were not selling CDs. I'm sad to report, though, that the same South American pipe flute band that seems to appear at any street fair I attend no matter where in the country it is, did not put in an appearance today. It's too bad--I really missed them.

The pictures! Watercolors of gorgeous flowers. Abstracts from every school and no school. The man whose 'artist's statement' declared he relied on altered consciousness to ink his oddball medieval portraits of wicked dukes and tyrants, which seemed to me to be a way of expressing a competing theory of behavior to "just say no", but maybe not. We saw animal pottery, portraits of abandoned pickups, polaroids pressed onto unique papers, incredible photos of fall leaves throughout the world.
It was literally a festival of color, sound and sights, which we shared with other attendees, and in some cases their dogs.

Events like this arguably could have the effect of making me realize just how much the mail art hobby I pursue lately is velveteen as contrasted with these "real" artists. I literally take fairly simple photos, affix them to plastic cards, and just mail them out, or sketch or MS Paint things. Yet, I must not be able to take the measure of my shortcomings, because all I could think was how fun it would be to rent a booth next year, put together large photos on Dollar General frames, MS Paint botanical portraits, and crayon art and sell it for 5 or 10 dollars a piece, an alternative to the 800-2500 dollars (and worth it) art I saw today. Maybe I don't need an art fair, though---my work is probably more flea market material.

We stopped by a Chinese bakery on our way back. Richardson has its own little Chinatown, not touristy, with tons of bakeries and
restaurants I'd love to try. I got a "pum floral cake", which was like a cross between pound cake and angelfood cake.

I have to go to the copy store now and pick up my booklet. I'm eager to get the next ones back on ebay. Last night, the print run had two minor errors in it. The fellow at the counter was extremely professional, thoroughly helpful, and agreed to take care of it. A good retail person is a treasure to cherish. Then again, I'm sure folks in retail would say the same about a good customer, albeit one whose print job is an
odd chess poetry book....

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