Friday, September 2, 2011

State Fair 2011

I used to think that the State Fair Art show was always the same—some good works, some mediocre works, some clever works, some pleasingly naïve works, some pretentious works, and some that were just plain terrible. But this year’s show is better. Interesting works of all kinds, and relatively few clinkers.

My favorite was a photograph of a pier. Looks like California to me. It has that blue light that seems to come from everywhere. The photo you see here, taken with a cheap camera through glass and later touched up to remove my own reflection and the glare of the surrounding lights, can only hint at its beauty. (That’s true of most of the other photos you see here.)

Second on my list is a print (silk-screen?) by Faye Passow. She seems to make the show every year, with some sort of imaginative litho illustrating female anxieties. They’re always very well done. But this one is more naturalistic. The chiaroscuro is intense and the subject matter itself—a half-dead tree—is very unusual.

We happened to be having a pizza with Faye and her boyfriend when she was making this print last spring. At the time she had just come from the studio, and was frustrated by all the registration the print required—there are eleven layers to get exactly right, if I remember correctly. I would say that the results were worth the effort.

Every show has a noteworthy political creation, almost invariably with a liberal bent. This year’s has Obama as Dorothy, Chaney as the wicked witch, and Bush as the minion monkey. The elderly couple ahead of us took one look and said, “I wouldn’t give that one a prize!” To which I couldn’t help retorting, “I would.” They just kept on walking.

Among the many arresting photographs there was one large panorama with a tornado front and center dwarfing the two semis that had pulled off the freeway in the foreground. I also liked the one of the snake between two tree trunks. (At least that what I think it was.) And there was something sweet about the little girl prancing toward a shop window in which a Tinkerbelle manikin was on display.)

There was a photo of a cedar waxwing in flight that looked like a painting, and several pencil drawings that looked like photographs. And I was also intrigued by a very large painting of Fruit Loops. In the retrospective corner of the show I was taken by the Alex Soth photograph of a young woman wearing a stocking cap.

Another highlight, in a different part of the fairgrounds, was the steer-wrestling. In this rodeo event, teenage boys on horseback chase a baby steer that’s fleeing at break-neck speed, leap onto it and try to wrestle it to the ground. Of the ten we watched, only three were successful.

We had our all-you-can-drink glass of milk. We listened to a demonstration about Danish Smorbrot that wasn't worth much. We tried to identify rocks at the geology booth, and won a Norway Pine seedling at the forest industry center. (It's still sitting in the bag. Where should we plant it?) We drank a free sample of an energy drink that tasted like concentrated Lick-em-aid.

Ah, the State Fair. Always the same, always something different.

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