Most suburban art fairs are rather pedestrian events. Oil paintings of landscapes, homemade jewelry, wood carvings, sketches of Chicago, not exactly what you would call avant garde.
The Oswego Art Fair was no exception. It had a healthy dollop of all the above, but there were those other artists who really grabbed my attention. They were different. A few of them took risks and went with material that would seem jarring to the average suburbanite (which I suppose isn't saying much, but I'll support them.) Others went with the themes I mentioned above, but had very unique takes on them. I'd like to draw your attention to all of these artists so that their work may be encouraged.
Gene Brack is an abstract artist who hails from Iowa. To me, his pieces seemed like the result of many hours of improvisation at the canvas, trying sudden inspirations over and over again until the various components gelled. While that sounds like fun, I'm certain there were several stretches of frustration, just as there are for us writers. At any rate, there is a sense of freedom and individuality that comes through in his work and it really set him apart from the crowd today. There is even the spirit of Warhol present...and that's never a bad thing. I recommend Dark Squares from his portfolio.
Paul Nickless had one of his paintings positioned on the outside of his tent. It caught my attention from all the way down at the other end of the street and drew me straight to it. He just has originality coming out all over the place. After reading that he is a self-proclaimed "abstract expressionist," I was halfway to liking the guy before even really taking a look at the pieces. He sees what he sees and isn't afraid to depict it that way. A really unique eye. Besides, how can you not like an artist that titles their paintings With Teethlike Knives, She Was the Best Dance Ever, Sorry, My Fault San Andreas, and The Cosmonaut Eats the Werewolves. I'm also a big fan of the Bulletground series, especially Bulletground Bravo.
I hope Paul Nickless makes it big. Maybe one day I could commission a few pieces for the site here at Strange Horizons?
J.L. Benson paints realistic landscapes. I know, you're probably saying to yourself "but you said you get bored with landscapes. You got all pretentious and called them 'pedestrian.'" Well, I did, but Benson's pieces really got to me. He has painted many farm scenes from the area, several of them while during fall and winter. This hit me on a personal level as I couldn't help but think of my Grandparents' farm. The winter scenes conjured up many a Christmas that I spent there and the warm and magical times that they always seemed to be. While those are cheerful memories, I could not help but feel rather melancholy at the sight. Not just longing for those times again, but mourning the passing of a simpler, agrarian time...even though I would have no place in such an era. Ironic, isn't it?
Speaking of melancholy, Benson's award-winning The Letter (first painting you see on the website) is craftily just that. What is ostensibly a bucolic tableau is really a poor soul about to get very bad news in the mail. Sift through the site, read the description, you'll see what I mean.
Corrine Smith certainly did her part to keep the fair from being totally vanilla. She is yet another abstract painter, one who seems to be in the mold of Kandinsky and Miro, with a dash of Klimt thrown in for fun. The pieces are confined canvases with geometric forms as players upon a stage. I loved how open to interpretation each painting was in that I could see a mere cityscape while my far more insightful wife saw a coastal lighthouse. Fun!
Finally, Nancy Rice Early was intriguing for the pure fact that she does each of her pieces with Sharpees only. But that's not the real reasoning I'm mentioning her. As you'll see from the first page of her website, Nancy was involved in a crop circle experiment enacted by several artists. How could Strange Horizons resist?
After walking through the fair, I went to a used book sale. Not much to speak of, especially if you're looking for Fortean material. I did however purchase The Touch of Twilight by urban fantasy author, Vicki Pettersson. For 25 cents I figured it was worth the gamble.
I did manage to a get a few photos of the even but my camera's battery gave out far too soon. As soon as things are recharged I'll upload them. Cheers.
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