Friday, July 20, 2007

My Fifteen Favorite Artists and Other Things about the Ann Arbor Art Fairs

Friday Fifteen

For background on the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, please see yesterday's post

The artists, in no particular order:

1. Andrew Carson The link here doesn't even begin to do his work justice, but his impossibly colorful, spinning, whirring, grinding kinetic sculptures at the corner of Maynard and Washington were an absolute revelation. DH and I stood transfixed, wishing we had even a fraction of the financial ability to invest in one of his sculptures.

2. Jim Spillane has managed to create cultural connections through his stunning portraits of ordinary people from around the world. We had sworn we wouldn't buy anything this year, but we succumbed to Mr. Spillane's amazing photography and ended up buying a both heartrending and whimsical portrait of a Bhutan work crew, consisting of Bengali workers and a Bhutanese foreman. Under a sign "Men at Work" a delicate Bengali woman in a pale pink sari, swings a pick-axe almost her size, while a group of male workers sit and relax around her. The work of Mr. Spillane, along with the conversation we had with him about his portraits, have actually given me an entirely new book project idea.

3. Lynn Whipple charmed me with both her mixed media and "ninny boxes." Examples of both can be seen on her site if you hit her "gallery" link. She combines humor, history, and interesting textures. Her art feels like storytelling to me. This is another artist I would buy if I could.

4.Ricky Boscarino. Fun, fun, fun! His kitchen jewelry attracted me, and his site is wonderful! His jewel charms - shoes, kitchen appliances, insects are delicate and perfect. His astonishing home is just a continuous journey of glass, mosaics and exploding color.

5. Rich Wood Just some really nice, solid photography here, with a particular eye for portraits. DH was especially intrigued by this piece.

6. Lisa Poulson of Dixboro Designs Once again, the pictures on the site can't compete with her shimmering use of color up close. Her ability with both glass work and color is elegant, intricate and has a definite edge. This is another artist whose work I covet. Another nice thing is that Lisa and Rich are both local artists, which makes me even happier.

7. Steven GregoryYes, we have a plethora of photographers, but that may be due to my interest in portraits and DH's interest in landscapes and more abstract photography. Steven Gregory uses photoshop to make statements and tell stories through his work. He had some very interesting "ghost" portraits, and anyone who knows me would know I'd love the irony of his "Free Speech" photo on the opening of his website. Great stuff.

8. Ed Camargo from Jonesboro, GA Sadly, the only site I found for this artist shows granite photo etching, which is nothing like the amazing granite inlaid tables that he exhibited. His tables burst with delicate flowers, which is no mean trick when your medium is granite. For any local art fair goers who read this, his booth is on Thompson St., right at the west side end - next to where the barriers are up to let drivers into the Thompson St. entrance to the Maynard Parking Structure.

9. Marcia Engeltjes A close friend of my father's produced leather-bound books, and we have a wonderful store in Ann Arbor, Hollander's,that provides classes in this area, as well as some lovely items produced on site. I've never, however, seen work like this. The flame album was simply spectacular up close. These albums are three-dimensional and both the attention to detail and use of color are astonishing.

10. Nicario Jimenez. I am a sucker for retablos, the portable sculpture boxes filled with wooden figurines that originally were used as Catholic shrines and now can encompass any subject at all. Mr. Jimenez's work is not only spectacular, but his subjects are as varied as rainforests, skeletons partying at a bar, and the debate over the current immigration bill. These retablos are by far the most interesting I've ever encountered, and the craftsmanship is staggering.

11. The basket art of Samuel Yao Another local artist who does not have a site, Mr. Yao's baskets are huge, organic pieces that incorporate a variety of natural materials and are unlike most baskets I've ever seen. I believe he dyes some of the reeds and other materials that he uses, but his use of color is very subtle, and just serves to emphasize his sculptural textures. If you have an opportunity to see his work, please take advantage of it. His art fair location is on Maynard Street, east side, around the end of Border's, about 1/3 of the way down the block. For more information on his upcoming fairs, etc., you can e-mail him at

11A. Okay, I'm squeezing in one more in a new edit. I went back today and found DH's and my all-time faves, and they've moved back to Ann Arbor from Florida! Leslie and Markel Leland of Purple Baby Daddies have brought joy to our lives, dining room, living room and porch, since we first found them right after the Art Fair of our first summer here in our house. Markel's sculptures bring me back to all the best things of childhood, and the colors and excitement in his sculptures never fail to make me happy (check out the link to "Markel's Suns," in particular). I had a great talk with Leslie today and it was so nice to hear they're BACK!

12. I don't feel quite the same way about this artist as I do about the ones listed above, but I really feel that Susan Loy of Literary Calligraphy deserves a mention for her stunning craftsmanship and the basic idea of what she does, which is to use her medium to incorporate literature. Anything that successfully combines literature and fine arts and I'm there!

And some non-artist faves:

13. Our break at Silvio's Organic Pizza. I can not say enough good things about Silvio or his shop. I am instantly transported to Italy every time I go there. His pizza is fresh and wonderful, but what DH and I are especially addicted to are his wonderful pastries - authentic, and without cloying American sweetness. We indulged on the world's best ricotta cake with bits of rum-soaked raisins and bittersweet chocolate, and a pastry filled with both vanilla and dark chocolate custard. The reviews through Chef Moz talk about some of the other menu choices. Viva Silvio!

14. Stopping by to see the Youth For Understanding volunteers in the "nonprofits" block. This is the grassroots organization through which we've received 4 of our 5 perfect exchange family members. It is mostly volunteer-run, and the area reps (those who help your family and the international students through their year together) deserve major kudos for all their hard work. Having these students in our lives has been an integral and unimaginably important part of our family, so if you have any questions about hosting, just drop me an e-mail - it's still not too late for this school year.

15. And finally... the perfect end to a perfect morning. As DH was becoming claustrophobic, and I was developing a weather- and stress-related headache, a charming young person came up to us and said, "Free pain reliever?" slipping both a packet and a coupon for advil into our all-too-willing hands. Yes, as fun as the Art Fairs are, pain relief is a necessary follow-up.


anno said...

What a great collection of links! This may be my favorite way to see the Art Fairs. Hope that headache has passed... I'm still working my way through various pain relievers.

Jen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anno! We cross posted, and I edited as you read - check out the new link for Purplebabydaddies - that's the artist couple who did our sun, the flowers on the porch and the fish rider. I'm so excited - they've moved back to the A2 area!

Also, if you ARE thinking about going to the fairs, it was relatively sane there, today. I just parked up at Kerrytown and walked down in the beautiful sunshine. And... had a piece of the best cake I've ever had - at Cafe Verde - the chocolate almond cheesecake....

MommaBoo said...

Hope you're feeling better!

I majorly enjoyed arts n craft fairs, too!

Enjoyed your list.

Happy weekend!

soccer mom in denial said...

I can't wait to go back and visit the links. I just love local crafts. Bravo for supporting artists.

Jen said...

Jennieboo, thanks for stopping by! And I'm feeling fine - it was definitely a fair-induced headache.

And yes, Soccermom, I feel artists need all the support they can GET! Especially these days...

Jenn in Holland said...

Man, that is an awesome list of links! A real treasure, Jen. Thanks for sharing!

Jen said...

Thanks, Jenn - I had fun giving a shout out to these artists (and Silvio and YFU).