Menlo Park Sidewalk Fine Arts Fair

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, with festivals beginning to pop up all over the place again, I decided to throw myself into the spirit of the season by attending two. After a morning trip to the farmers market for breakfast and cooking supplies and a later trip at 1pm to eat lunch there (and especially eat the pizza made by a guy who has a wood-fired pizza oven in his trailer), I drove to Menlo Park for its Sidewalk Fine Arts Festival. As I parked, I was surprised to observe the festival didn't take over the street. Rather, the art booths were erected compactly on the sidewalk.

The art in this festival ranged over a variety of mediums and techniques from paintings (cubist, impressionist, etc., and even paintings for kids), photography, sculptures (metal, glass, and clay), glasswork, and pottery to embroidery, clothing, purses, jewelry (including some pretty fused glass necklaces and earrings), and even hand-made women's shoes. Despite the diversity, I found myself getting bored about halfway through. Maybe it's simply because some booths looked familiar (I guess from my past visits to other art fairs).

I didn't feel comfortable taking photographs of the artwork.

Some artists were cool enough that I think I should call them out individually:

Others selections I enjoyed seeing at the fair:
  • tropical Hawaiian oil paintings.
  • Mediterranean photography.
  • art made by mounting fabrics on paper.
  • batik pieces, often with Jewish religious themes.
  • silk paintings. The colors were basic, bright, and youthful.
  • face jugs (a type of clay pot).
  • Club Presley's carvings. They take wooden golf clubs and carve and paint them to look like ducks and dolphins.
  • acid-etched copper, the acids giving it unusual colors and tints.
  • funky, person-sized metal sculpture. By funky, I mean, for instance, that one is of a cowboy riding a rocket.
  • copper figures of animals (turtles, fish, lizards, dragonflies, seahorses).
  • bas relief animals.
  • art made by layering painted metal on painted metal on canvas: e.g., a cutout of a person over a cutout of a building over the canvas. It feels like another form of a collage.
  • scepters made of glass with a globe on top.
  • miniature colored glass vases, a mere two inches tall.
  • stunning glass bowls.
  • swirled colored marbles.
  • more awesome glass pieces, including glass pumpkins.
A few artists had real photographs, especially landscapes, printed on canvas. I didn't know this was possible. The resulting prints felt more natural, more real, than any photographic prints I've seen previously.

A friend of mine, B, referred me to Peter Callesen's paper constructions, knowing his constructions feel like the kind of novel, unique artwork that I often report spotting at festivals. (That's why I feel it's appropriate to mention him here even though I didn't see his work at a festival.) Peter Callesen's constructions, often three-dimensional, are made simply by cutting out parts of paper and folding it. I think the skeletons such as this one are particularly amazing. It's only when I saw the full-sized stairs and ladders (in the large scale papercut installations section of his website) that I realized the artist could make anything out of paper.

Incidentally, while walking through Menlo Park, I discovered Penzeys Spices. They have a wide selection, selling for instance a variety of different types of cinnamon, saffron, and curry powder, along with numerous other spices and house-made spice mixes. Fancy.

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