In a community hall on a beautiful, rural island, Margery Brown is polishing her gravenstines and her summer squash. She’ll get a blue ribbon for sure for her zinnias. Up-stairs, in “Art,” Margery’s painting of a rooster has taken second in the Watercolour category. All this will win her “points.” Margery is coming close to being overall trophy winner.
There are tables and tables of jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys, pickles, honeys, zucchinis, breads, pies, cakes and muffins. As Prince Charles once said, “Creativity is uncommonly common in the colonies.”
Nicely, it’s broken up into categories. In the dairy and poultry department, for example, eggs are broken into “brown, white, green or cream, bantam, goose, any other variety, largest, and largest chicken.” Some of Margery’s eggs are in there. In the art department it’s by medium — which in my opinion is the best way to go — otherwise it’s like comparing apples and oranges.
First prize wins three dollars cash. “It’s not the money,” I’m told, “It’s the honour.” I jury the art department carefully. Last year, with a lesser juror, the host and hostess took first and second. Names are now taped over to prevent jurors from fingering their favorite hens.
The last time I wrote a letter about juried shows, at least a dozen artists wrote to ask why an artist would ever consider entering a show where they stood a chance of being thrown out. In this fall fair, like life itself — everyone who enters, gets in. It’s more about community. Honour, fame and three bucks are just part of the fun.
As everywhere these days, there’s lots of competition in the Digital Photography category. In Pen and Ink, there are only three entries — all will be in the money. Outside, a man has a mechanically-goofy, slow-moving boat that pedals like a bicycle with a big floppy prop at the stern. Winner.
Creativity, sharing and participation are alive and well at the fall fair. On this island where your next-door neighbor is liable to be an artist like yourself, you make sure no one goes without eggs.
PS: “Creativity is the life force that Dylan Thomas called ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.'” (Julia Cameron) “The painter’s mind is a copy of the divine mind, since it operates freely in creating the many kinds of animals, plants, fruits, landscapes, countrysides, and awe inspiring places.” (Leonardo da Vinci)
Esoterica: One woman takes first in “Mixed Media” for papier mache body casts of herself and her daughter. These are accompanied by a well-made 45-minute video dealing with a variety of women’s perceptions of self and body. Fair-goers are glued to her presentation. A teen-aged girl tells me: “I like art that makes me think.”
Art in everyday things
by Anne Copeland
“Fall fair” struck a chord deep in my heart. I have often looked at some of the everyday things people make and have thought of them as their own unique kind of art. When folks say they have never been artistic, they need to look deeper inside and see what art they make of everyday life. I have a very wonderful collection of crocheted potholders, and when those are displayed up on the wall, they make a wonderfully graphic and imaginative statement of their own, every one worthy of the word, “art.” Here is an everyday item that could just as easily have been a piece of rag. Here’s to the everyday artist in each of us. There is an art to living life fully and paying attention to the details!
by Violette Clarke
We attended a Saturday fair on an island that was so quaint and precious. The artists were really open to talking about their process. I especially liked the button-lady who made ceramic buttons and the woman who made prayer flags. People kept admiring my painted purse and suitcase saying, “Oh, I see you’re carrying Amara’s purse.” Amara, it turns out, is another artist who paints purses and suitcases like me. Apparently she is also someone who is very similar in appearance to me!
A place to call home
Sounds like a wonderful community. And it is always nice to hear that it is not the money that counts. This world seems to revolve around money and so many morals and standards as well as the important things in life are somehow sacrificed. I recently lost my job that I had for 15 years at a large corporation. I thought I was important and that I mattered more than I really did. I was tossed out like a piece of trash — but that is corporate America for ya. Small communities with real neighborhoods where people actually know their neighbors are very special places. I live in an old historical neighborhood among many artists. We porch sit, have great conversations, and share home grown vegetables. My neighbor to the right lets me cut her roses… gorgeous long stemmed watermelon colored ones. I feel very special to have this place I call home.
by Bill McCaffrey, Lake Worth, Florida, USA
We have an event similar to the one you describe in “Fall fair.” We use the pavement as canvas to transform our town into a temporary outdoor museum of original art and masterpiece reproductions. The great tradition of street painting began in Italy in the 16th century. A crowd would gather whenever an itinerant artist used his chalks to turn the ordinary pavement into a fine work of art. Although the “painting” would only last until the next rain, the tradition of street painting has endured over 400 years. In addition to being one of 10 “featured artists,” I’m a volunteer on the organizing committee that puts it together. I do the “paintings placement” maps. Everyone who participates is doing it for art and the fun. There are no prizes or remuneration. This year we had over 200 paintings.
Kids love fall fair
by Carolyn Smith, Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada
In an imperfect too busy world where striving for perfection is the norm, a fall fair is a relaxed and gentle pocket of an earlier time. I have a niece who I teach a little watercolour to once a year when she wants to enter the fall fair. She’s entered for the last 4 years using my paper and watercolours and brushes. She has earned ribbons for her work. In a world where competition in school and her young life can be frustrating and overwhelming, now, she has found a niche in her life. I know this because she has asked her mom for her own paper, paints and brushes. I feel very proud of her for creating, entering and taking that leap of faith in herself.
Integrity under question
by Joy McAughtrie, Pender Island, BC, Canada
You have made fall fairs sound truly romantic, which in a sense they are. They definitely bring out a grand sense of community and sharing. However, I feel that it is of the best interest of all fall fairs that the referral to the extreme honesty of judging be corrected, in spite of “writers’ licence” to make a good story. The rules in judging on all fall fairs are very strict, and the identity of entries prior to judging is a well kept secret, and always has been. There can be no deviation on this ruling.
System for jurying
by Bobbie Kilpatrick, Columbus, TX, USA
My system to jury art is to be first concerned with originality and creativity. Our unique individuality is what sets us apart, how the artist has presented the idea or subject in an unusual way. Then I go to the technical elements. Design of space is first (not to be confused with composition). Value is second, because it is needed to create design, and technique is third. Other elements, such as color, drawing, and subject are of lesser importance because all can be distorted to achieve the artist’s expressive goal. Since we need approval at times to gauge our progress, we enter shows. I judge on the above criteria instead of my personal opinion, which only enters into the final outcome if I have several pieces that are equal in all elements. Then I have to make a decision as to what touches me personally. Remember, the work that one judge rejects, another may award.
by Carole MacRury, Point Roberts, Washington, USA
Isolation can be tough for some artists. We are social animals, for the most part, and are always trying to find our proper niche in life. Finding a good fit in an art club is probably no different and requires a little research. Do clubs foster mediocrity? There’s a tendency to think of mediocrity as a disease one can catch, when actually, I rather think both mediocrity and excellence are part of the human condition, here to stay, and in fact each vital to our lives. I’d like to see people more comfortable with the word because it’s so much a part of our existence. We are and can be, I think, both unique and mediocre. We derive comfort by surrounding ourselves with mediocrity. We choose a home instead of a tree, we dress ourselves in manufactured clothing, we drive vehicles, we attempt to follow rules of conduct in social situations and many times we reap the benefits from those employed in what many might call mediocre jobs. Have you ever wanted to kiss a plumber? I have, remembering a stopped up toilet. Same for cooks and waitresses, I love to eat out. Let’s face it, we are as a whole, a mediocre bunch, pretty average for the most part, and I sometimes suspect, even inferior! That thought comes to me on clear star-lit nights, preferably with a full moon.
by Judy Decker, OH, USA
“It’s not the money, It’s the honour.” NBC has this same attitude. They are giving me an opportunity to have my art work ridiculed. The Today Show contacted me to make a sculpture of Conan O’Brien out of aluminum foil to celebrate a segment they are doing for Conan’s 10th anniversary with them. I don’t do foil sculptures — but do clay and papier mache. In my reply I said I would expect a fair amount for my time, cost of materials and shipping. They said they were willing to cover cost of materials and shipping. I was ready to send them looking for someone else — but my son wanted me to do the sculpture — he likes Conan. I combined my techniques and covered them with foil to “please” them and presented my sculpture. They weren’t happy with what I had done since they really wanted a caricature — they gave me suggestions to improve it. I said no hard feelings. I will keep him. I have a use for him. I got an immediate phone call that they would take him just as he is. So I agreed to ship him. After I shipped him they had the audacity to ask me for more sculptures — including one made from toilet paper. I told them my time was too valuable. Then they had the nerve to ask me if I would ask other art teachers if they would do it. I was infuriated.
by Larry Moore, Orlando, FL, USA
I read your letter about subliminal insertions, a subject that always fascinated me when I was an agency art director. Wasn’t going to respond until it hit me that advertisers no longer have to bother with the subliminal. We went from suggestive to blatant. You can’t go anywhere without having some kind of blatant sexual message stuffed in your face. Kinda miss the good old days of the Jesus riding the back of the monkey through a volcanic eruption in the image of an ice cube (anyone who read The Clam Plate Orgy will know the example). Not only did it skip the conscious altogether, it was so confusing even Freud’s subconscious couldn’t figure it out.
Art is a safe business
I don’t know where you live, and maybe it’s immune to beer billboards… but, here in southern California, this summer’s crop is so blatantly obvious, it’s Maddening!! You should see what lengths they’ll go to, to reach the lowest common denominator — beer is sexy and so are you if you by Coors Light. I hardly know a family who hasn’t suffered some effects, to some degree, from alcohol abuse. Let us be thankful that indulging in our passion for painting rarely ends in tragedy!!
advertising illustration for MTV
by Marvin Mattelson, NY, USA
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2003.
That includes Jerry Waese who wrote, “Winning anything in a juried show is a plus but not a necessity. Participating is key. It is the second of the painter’s keys, and almost as much fun as the first which is painting itself.”
And also Elaine Sioros who wrote, “Today I want to throw my hands up, quit my job, sell my house and move to the islands! I dream of doing this someday. If I was not too afraid of taking the risk I would do it now.”