OK, so it’s not in a studio, but the weather was too nice to stay inside and a day trip to Bluff Park is almost like going to a different world and time, which makes it worth the excursion. Bluff Park commands such a pleasant height over the city. And the art show is a tradition--this year was the 48th annual--and many of the houses overlooking the valley have been there at least that long. It no doubt harbors its own lore from the Birmingham of yore.
My friend Michael the serious art collector eschewed what he calls the arts and crafts fair. And it is true it is hard to find much of what they would call serious art in Soho. But Jean was game to go so we carpooled out there and took the schoolbus shuttle to the show.
And sure enough, there were some crafts, works with gimmicky slogans, and bright and tasteful junior league art. Some you might even call granny art. But we found some things that even Michael would have to recognize. Here are some highlights:
Perhaps the best work in the show was not local. It consisted of baskets woven from palm fronds by Jean Yen who came up from Florida. Yen was born in Taiwan and studied in Japan. She says it is not derivative of any style from her homeland, but it does have an stateliness and exquisite perfection reminiscent of the ancient art made for chinese emperors that now resides in the world’s best collection of Chinese art in the Taipei Museum.
That contrasted with some of the grotesque images in the etchings of Bessemer’s Justin Banger. (www.justinbangerart.com) He is drawn to printmaking in particular because the work exists as multiple originals. It revitalizes the notion of reproducibility in a world where cheap reproduction is evading. He uses centuries old intaglio printmaking techniques of the likes of Rembrandt, Durer, and Goya; but in doing so he explores the religious and mythic tensions that could only arise in our 21st century.
Some of the best photography was by Greg Turco from Athens, Georgia. Follow the progression from exploring abandoned places to imagined and staged and lighted scenes. (www.turcophotography.com) Local photography was represented by Brittany Carol Moore of Reverie Images with surrealistic multiple in-camera exposures. (www.reverieimages.com) Royal Miree displayed some impressive kinetic sculptures made of hand wrought pipe and sheets of metal. (http://richardmiree. com)There are no commercially produced parts in the sculptures; all the elements are designed, fabricated and polished in my studio.
Woodworker Joseph Wujick turned some very interesting pieces of wood, following their whorls and grains and inlaying them with a paste made of semiprecious malachite and lapis lazuli. (www.josephwujcik.com) My objective is to produce museum quality woodturned vessels from exotic burls. I specialize in sculptural hollowform vasesincorporating natural features, for example, edges and voids. Theflare top wing feature is my signature. A final design element is achieved with semi-precious stone inlays which are placed into natural inclusions. We enjoyed talking to some of the artists and then decided to find a place nearby to grab a beer and watch the end of the Auburn game. We asked some locals and got a surprisingly shocked reply. We were informed that one place that served alcohol had opened in Bluff Park a few years ago but it had burned down under suspicious circumstances. Well, Bluff Park is another world, we found, so we headed back to Birmingham.