A look at my work from behind the curtain
The agony and the ecstacy of an art fair
It was 6:30 a.m. when I pulled up to Cook Memorial Park in Libertyville. Bright orange traffic cones formed a long line on the street in front.
Inside, the pristine lawn should have been empty, but on this morning, it was dotted with white tents. A few people busily milled about in front of them.
It was set up time for 42nd Adler Festival of the Arts, my first outdoor art fair since 2021, and, more significantly, another entry my outdoor art fair list that began in October of 2002, with the Townline Art Fair in Ephraim, Wisconsin.
That's 21 years of showing work at outdoor art fairs, which might account for the overwhelming feeling of trepidation I felt in the days before the Adler show.
While 21 years is a fine amount of time for one's art to evolve, its also enough time for one's body to devolve. That made the even the thought of setting up a 10 by10 tent, a table, chairs, displays and almost 50 framed and matted photographs painful, even with the usual doses of anti inflammatories, blood pressure meds, extra strengthTylenol.
“Why am I doing this,” I asked myself more than once during the week leading up to the show. The question continued as --with the help of my daughter and her partner-- I unloaded and set up a 50 pound tent, two display walls, a folding table, two chairs, two plastic bins and a collapsible wagon loaded with photographs to show.
The answer would be simple, if I just paid attention.
The answer was in the young girl, not your art typical buyer, who sheepishly picked up a 5 x 7 black and white image mounted in a simple white mat that I had made of the Eiffel Tower. She said it was a gift to her brother who had recently been in Paris; she wanted him to remember his time there
“What a thoughtful sister you are,” I told her.
The answer also was in the smile on the face of the middle aged Hispanic woman who quietly, but with a big smile, held a matted image of a saguaro silhouetted against the blue sunset sky in Tucson. Her husband handed me his credit card. Neither person said a word. Maybe I'm wrong, but I imagined that, for the woman, the image sparked a memory of a long gone time and place.
My answer was also in the two elderly ladies who were about to walk past my tent when they caught a glimpse of a photo--"The Awakening"-- of fog shrouded Wisconsin sunrise. One lady scratched her chin, her mouth part way open, as she seemed to say, “How'd you do that.” I happily explained.
There were other examples, but I think you get the idea.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that the early part of each day of the festival was relatively free of pain, but as each day unfolded, my knees and the back hurt more. And I wondered. “What are you doing here.”
My answer was simple. Pay attention: the answer is in the faces of people who look at your work. If they smile, if they use your work as part of a thoughtful act, if your work appears to bring back a pleasant memory, if they are moved to the point of making your work a permanent part of their lives, then all the pain is worthwhile.
Technical info behind the shot
Camera: Sony A7
Lens: Zeiss Batis 25 mm f2
Focal length: 25 mm
Shutter speed: 1/20th of a second
ISO: 200 .
Processing: Lightroom Classic; under exposed the sky to emphasize the clouds and the fog
Tip: Look for early fall days when the air is cool but the water and earth are still warm, creating light mist or, if you are really lucky, fog.
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