Everyone's a Critic
The Observer's culture blogMonday, July 11, 2011
ART FAIR JOURNAL, 2006 by Lakshmi Narayanan
In 2006 I wandered the streets on all four days of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, soaking it in, sweating it out, and carrying, for the first time, my note book to record conversations with artists or comments overheard or anything else that might seem journal worthy, not realizing then, that those notes were not going to get overwritten with new memories of the Art Fairs any time soon. I had missed just one Art Fair since we moved to Ann Arbor in 1987 but I have been out of town every July from 2007 till 2010.
So on a wintery day in March, daydreaming about the warmth of July and my elusive twentieth Art Fair, I transcribed those now faded penciled notes and realized, once again, some of the reasons why I savor the experience each summer as a feast for all of my senses:
- Jim and Tori Mullan of Pompano Beach creatively crafted the perfect bulletin board for my kitchen wall with old found items like printing blocks and lantern slides from the early 1900s and cabochons from the 1940s.
- Met interesting artists like Judd (wood), Bataglia (old photos & car frames), Fagerty (glass turned paper artist), and Whalen, (photos of doors). I talked to Patrick Whalen at length. He used to be in the construction business in Michigan, and is now a photographer in Florida. "A door is full of symbolism," he told me, "it invites you in, yet protects most of the best parts." "Most of photography is in the seeing..." and his photographs reflect that. He told be about Ireland's annual contest for the prettiest towns. And in his opinion, Ann Arbor is getting greedier because too many artists are now being squeezed into the fairs.
- A lady paid $750 for an outdoor dandelion sculpture. I guess we were not exactly similar in our spending habits. While I have spent that much and more at the Art Fairs, I haven't missed the springtime dandelions enough to install a metal one in my yard.
- Got henna-tattooed by the art teacher married to a Lebanese man. She was practicing her art on a low wall in the Diag. No signs lead us there - just two of her former students peddling her services.
- Listened to Eric the Flute Maker in the King's Chosen play his flutes, interspersed as always with his wisecracking comments.
- Re-learned how to make a candy wrapper chain--a childhood skill that I had forgotten. Got this free lesson from a college student constantly eating candy and converting her wrappers into a garland on her shoulder bag.
- The craftsman from Kansas who created the 'spirit house' had no idea why he carved the Chinese symbols or the Om on the metal sculpture except that an earlier client had liked it. It now adorns my front stoop.
- Drummed with Paul Namkung, artist and owner of World Drums--an annual meditational routine.
- Found Champion House waiters offering a free napkin to anyone who bought a bottle of water from them.
- Number of docile husbands carrying garden poles for their wives on Friday: 4. Number of angry husbands: 2.
- "Ooh Raja Rani--your favorite! Remember our first apartment with the curry smell?"
- "How should we walk--back and forth or all in one line?"
- Saturday was CROWDED. Most people just walked through the middle of the road not necessarily looking at the art.
- Checked out the non-profits along Liberty: There was the usual mix of religion, schools, political parties, nude beaches; as well as organizations that supported parents without partners, aging greyhounds (the canine variety), co-housing, and opposed circumcision; but what kept me on that street the longest was the small stall of the Mars Society manned by an enthusiastic 10-year old Alex Hessler and his DTE engineer dad. Alex shared interesting facts like the differences in weights on Earth versus our moon versus Mars: 100/33/16. When his phone rang I asked him if it was from Mars and he earnestly answered no. He had books for sale. One that was a very serious 1997 publication with a red footprint on the cover that predicted a 2007 Mars landing. I liked another one better--a more recent (2003) book: William K. Hartmann's Traveler's Guide to Mars. Alex sold that to me at the special Art Fair price of $15--not a bad deal considering he agreed to sign it for me. When Alex is about his dad's age, he plans to be the second man on Mars, "in case the first attempt blows up". And I plan to be around to welcome him back to Earth.
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