Dazzling array of fine arts attracts crowds to downtown Westport
Published 1:37 pm, Monday, July 19, 2010
Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island served as outdoor galleries Saturday for the 37th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival, which attracted a mix of new-comers and veterans among the artists and viewers.
While most of the museum-worthy art works displayed at 145 booths during the two-day event were meant for viewing and purchasing only, some pieces magnetically drew people's attention, holding them in thrall.
Jim Hunter's kinetic and static creations, made largely from scrap metal, especially appealed to children. One boy was fixated by Hunter's chess set, its pieces dancing in the breeze off the Saugatuck River. One girl sat on the pavement under his tent to admire a sculpture that reminded her of the solar system.
"The kids were interacting with everything," said Deborah Hunter, Jim's wife. The two are from upstate town of Sherman. This show was the first ever for Hunter, who has never publicly displayed and sold his art.
Children and adults were mesmerized by J. Douglas Vokes' decorated guitars, which are not only imaginative works of art but functioning musical instruments. "I look at them as my new canvases," said Vokes, of Allentown, Pa., who didn't seem to mind that so many people wanted to touch them.
"These are spectacular. These make music in many ways," Karin Fraade, of Weston, told Vokes.
Not everyone's art was touchable. One artist thanked a mom for grabbing the hand of a child as she was about to touch an oil painting of a New York skyline.
The juried art work was displayed in seven categories -- oil painting, print-making, photography, mixed media, drawing, sculpture and watercolors.
The varied works included reverse painting on glass; rich earth tones in the oil paintings by John Mauer, of Bristol, who fills his canvases with scenes from his travels to Portugal, Italy, France, Spain and elsewhere; the Pictorial Oddities Roadshow of artist D.S. Morrison, and whimsical sculptures by Roger Ditarando.
One of the more unusual works were the paper pulp paintings by Stephen Gatter, of Natick, Mass. Gatter layers different colored paper pulp, in what he calls "a wet collage" process, to create vibrantly colored landscapes and flower gardens.
Also among the artist in the show is William McCarthy, of Hamden, who creates "atmospheric landscapes." Ten of McCarthy's paintings were recently selected for permanent display at the new clubhouse of the Patterson Club in Fairfield.
"I like walking around and seeing the art. One photograph booth had a photo of purple fields. That really popped out," said Jared Himmel, 12, of Westport, who added that his favorite artist in the show is Elise Black, a mixed-media artist who just happens to be his mom.
Black paints but also creates assemblages using found objects. "I go dumpster diving. I love saving things from going into a landfill," she said.
Lois Caron, of Bridgeport, said she has come to this fine arts festival for many years. "I like coming back and seeing how certain artists evolve over the years," she said. The watercolors of one artist, Rosalind Oesterle, caught Caron's attention years ago when she purchased a painting from the artist, which hangs in her kitchen still. "It's totally different from what she's doing now. I love what she's doing now too," Caron said.
"We love looking at the art work. I'm trying to show my children culture," said Jessica Wasserman, of Westport, who brought her daughters Alexandra, 5, and Isabelle, 3, to the show.
The Westport Arts Center has a children's activity tent with a Wizard of Oz theme where children can create Oz-inspired art.
Stephen Previte of Hollis, N.H., said he has participated in the Westport Fine Arts Festival for at least eight years. "This is what I do for a living and this is a high quality show, and the attendance is always good," said Previte, who does landscapes using oil paints.
Peggy Travers, business manager of the Downtown Merchants' Association -- which produces the event in conjunction with the Westport Arts Center -- estimated about 5,000 people attend the event each day.