After walking 3 blocks from the car to the first of the art booths at the annual Art Festival in Highland Park (IL) I suspected there would be no way I could cover every display on every street of this wide-spread feast of art as I had done every past year.
It was HOT. Everyone had a water bottle or large cup of lemonade. Yes, I would hold a lemonade too, and aimed for its traditional spot at the end of the first long block. I walked slowly, looking at the displays along this side of the street.
Stunning huge glass urns, stunning paintings, stunning jewelry. It is a juried show and the entry fee is large assuring the most ambitious of works.
Compelling artwork. I turned into the display with the Second Place ribbon. How can one be chosen above another? This had dramatic women, ovals around ovals, long distorted fingers, strong on the geometric patterns. The artist, Julio C Garcia, brought his canvasses from his studios in San Diego, CA and Orange Park, FL.
There were several jewelry booths. I loved the one with heavy antique looking silver, some enhanced with colored stones. Although I lingered, I could not have chosen a favorite from among the pins, pendants, rings. Pam Fox said she doesn’t have a store, just a small website, she sells principally at shows. She came from Sarasota, FL.
Another jewelry display stopped me with its garish colors. But no, each piece by itself was sharply colorful; laid out together they were eye popping. So much work on each piece. He told me it was cloisonné and enameling, explaining that cloisonné was the wiring that separated the vitreous glass enamels. They, Alexa and Peter Smarsh, also came from FL. Key Largo.
Further along I was stopped by the playful banner announcing Vincent Van Gourd. And indeed there was every form and shape of gourd disguised as something else. I liked the very tall curved gourd musician playing his horn.
I hadn’t reached the lemonade stand yet, and sweat was running down my face. I made discreet wipes with already saturated tissues, and plodded along.
I was rewarded by a stand of paintings that had me laughing out loud as I looked and read the captions of one after the other. The paintings, rather small in scale compared to the others I had just seen, had elegant figures in interesting situations. These sharply dressed figures were animals in human stance, some mixed in with humans. They were intriguing even before you read the words which were sometimes painted on the picture, sometimes on cards next to the painting. The artist, Gene T. Brown from Urbandale, IA, told me his process is mixed media, and pointed out the paper collage that is so integrated that it is of one piece. I can never remember jokes, so I wrote down one of the captions. The painting is of two elegant men, really a fox and a rabbit, eating at a small well-set table. Very handsome picture. Here is the abridged caption: The hors d’oeuvres were perfect raw. The Hare was sure the entrée would be to die for. I laughed and laughed. Or do you have to be a member of our Pun Club? I asked whether everyone walked around his booth laughing out loud and he said No. A lady walked into the booth and was seriously studying one, and I said, “Isn’t it marvelous? And so cheap. It is only…” and here I stopped to look at the price, “…$500.” I walked away before I was tempted to reach into my pocket for the $500 I did not have.
The lemonade stand at last. Five young people working fast to service the waiting crowd. Ice, sugar, lemon juice and a half of a squeezed lemon rind. It was real lemon because I was spitting out pits all the way to the bottom of the cup.
I told myself to get back to the car, and returned on the opposite side of the street. There I was impressed by huge paintings that had the main picture against a background of color that looked like pointillism, but on closer look were golf balls, buttons, clothes pins, paint brushes, dominos, coca cola bottle, belt buckles, all sorts of hardware. Whatever you have in your junk drawer was glued to his canvas and painted. A father was telling his kid, “Look, look, here’s a hammer, look a scissors,” pointing to the amazing range of nonsense on the background. The kid was not impressed. The paintings were large, 4’X 5’. The artist, Terry Cannon of Signal Mountain, TN, told me he sold two today, Sunday. I congratulated him.
The crowds were huge, and making it more crowded were their dogs and their baby buggies, but they appeared to be “lookers” like me. This was confirmed by the few artists I asked directly. The sales were good Friday, and better on Saturday. Sunday the artists were the entertainment.
Despite the oppression of the heat, I stopped at several other booths as I made my way back to the car. The flyers had announced that 250 artists were there on the streets. I was reluctant to leave after such a small sampling. I passed a Hinckley table with a stack of pointy cups and drew free water from the huge dispenser. I looked at the man and asked, “Has anyone poured it on his head?” He said, “No, but go ahead if you want to.” I said, “I want to but I won’t” and drank it instead.
As I dragged through the lot to my car, I could hear the quick step of a hurrying person who called, “Is this the way to the station?” and when I re-directed her, she ran away. Only a tight train schedule could make one move that fast, I thought.
As I drove away with the air conditioning blasting, I thought to push the button on the car panel that records the outside temperature. Are you ready for this? 98 degrees.
Were we all crazy? 98 degrees! As Noel Coward said, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” And we sure weren’t Englishmen.