Art and Provenance at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty, Ann Arbor, MI

First let me state the "facts" about the Ann Arbor Art Fair:

*it will rain on opening day and perhaps throughout the entire Wednesday through Saturday event - there may even have been hail at times in past years - so far just some light rain on opening day this year - not bad!

*locals will leave town for the duration

*traffic flow will be seriously affected

*many businesses will shut down for "vacation" during this period

*massive crowds from all over the US will descend upon Ann Arbor, both artists and aficionados alike

*most visitors will go home with something "on a stick" - I have a cherished copper hummingbird that is planted in my garden beds - I have seen variatons in many locations in and around Ann Arbor - great deal for under $50 - but one does feel a bit uneducated for having fallen for the 'thing on a stick' and buying it.Michigan hummingbird

To be more specific, this art fair is one of the most influential and fair art fairs in the country.  There are actually multiple "art fairs" in the mix, some with just juried work, others with whatever the market will bear, and others with everything in between.  This is not an event to be taken in in just one day.  Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat, and leave babies and pets at home.  Bring money.

In previous years our entire family has attended but the men quickly lost interest so it has become a girls only event.  One rule we have worked with is that when we reach that artist whose work elicits a gasp of delight, we know we are done.  We may not be able to purchase that artist's work, but we are satisfied with our art fair exposure.  One year for me, it was coming across an artist booth that featured cast concrete wall art.  The low relief human faces brought my gasp of appreciation but my pocketbook did not stretch anywhere near that far to be able to do a purchase.  I will never forget the discovery though - one day, maybe one day....

This year our oldest daughter was the first to do the art fair experience.  (She and her younger sister visited again on the last day.)  She lives downtown and is walkable to the exhibits.  After viewing many artists' work, she found her gasp.  It was a photographer, with photos so vivid that she could not look away.  As so often happens, the artist emerged from his behind-the-scenes solitude and began a conversation.

First, he asked her how old she was since he said he rarely saw appreciation for his work in someone her age.  She said 21.  (She neglected to mention that she had just graduated from the University of Mighigan with a minor in art history, major in English.)  She asked how he got his depth of color in his photography and then he really opened up.

He said he preferred little about modern photography and worked with an ancient camera that had the cloth hood covering the head of the photographer - I am quite sure he relayed that more exactly than I am doing here.  He then said he had met Ansel Adams once and had quizzed him on how he achieved such depth of color, or light and shadow, in his work.

Ansel Adams printAnsel replied by throwing a glass of water on the artist's shirt.  Thinking he had offended Ansel by asking what his secret was, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a lesson.  Ansel asked him to observe the color difference between the wet and dry parts of his shirt.  There was the answer.  Always shoot on rainy days.  This man listened and it shows.  His art has color that seems unnatural in photography.  He said he brings someone along to hold the rowboat in reeds - it is not thisumbrella over his head while he shoots.

My daughter wavered between two works, one framed with a rowboat and reeds - I have seen it and it is exquisite.  Another was less expensive as a matted piece but similarly compelling with the autumn foliage of a bright red tree punctuating the other fall trees in the background.

When she decided to buy the framed rowboat piece, the artist said it was one of his favorites and asked her when her birthday was.  "November," she replied.  He said he would give her the second as a birthday gift.  She protested, too much, and her birthday was too far away.  He replied, "I am 70 years old.  I may not be alive in November."

She is well on her way to accumulating original art, little by little through travels and this sort of generosity.  Her heart is touched by these exchanges and the stories will undoubtedly live beyond the lives of the artists.  She also has her provenance.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair, and Ann Arbor itself.  Prepare yourself for the unexpected. 




Comments (2)

Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Art Fairs are great. I talk about them, push them,blog on them and then leave town. LOL


Jul 19, 2009 01:07 AM
Susan Walters
Keller Williams Realty, Ann Arbor, MI - Ann Arbor, MI

Missy,  I wonder it the Ann Arborites who leave Ann Arbor during Art Fair week go to other fairs in other areas - wouldn't that be funny!

Jul 19, 2009 03:35 AM