Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Chalk Festival -- Evanescence, Part 2

Detail of painting by Alexia Sinclair
It's a bit hard for me to wrap my head around, but the Chalk Festival is a type of performance art. Like going to the theater or a concert, you watch art being created. Perhaps more importantly, the experience is fleeting (dare I say evanescent?) But while we are used to the transient nature of a play or a musical performance, we are accustomed to seeing paintings on a wall where they can be revisited and exhibited in different venues. It feels almost sacriligious that the continued existence of these spectacular pavement paintings is subject to the whims of the weather gods.

Interestingly, the temporality of the medium seems to create a special bond among these artists. More than one participant told Constance and me about the friendships they've developed within the chalk art community. They see each other at festivals and keep up with one another on Facebook. One artist noted that the non-competitive nature of the medium enables those relationships to flourish.

Terralynn Lake's recreation of Michael Lang painting
A bonus of the performance art aspect of the Festival is the opportunity to chat with the artists. Michigan-based pavement artist Terralyn Lake was onsite recreating this striking image by Michael Lang. (In case you're wondering, she received his permission to do so.) Lake's rectangular painting spread across a double-sized space. This, of course, meant double the amount of chalking to be done in the allotted three days. Her husband was helping out, chalking in the shapes Lake had drawn like a paint-by-number. I kept circling back to the couple, both because I loved this work and because they were as exuberant as its colors.

Mucha's "Summer" by Holland King
Holland King's homage to Alphonse Mucha had Constance and me smiling with our memories of the Art Deco/Art Nouveau Fine Arts Festival at the Visual Arts Center. (King was impressed we knew the difference between the two movements.)

King explained he typically paints horror scenes, but that he felt he had to up his game in light of all the international artists participating in the Festival. King had studied Mucha in school and was happy to share some info about the artist with us. I wasn't aware of Sarah Bernhardt's role in launching Mucha's career. The story goes that Bernhardt was so pleased with the poster he created for her "Gismonda" show--after she had rejected the work of the original artist hired for the job--that she contracted with Mucha to produce stage and costume designs and posters for her shows. This work exposed Mucha to a whole new audience, and the rest is history. (For more about their relationship, click here.)

It's worth noting that King didn't wholly forsake his affinity for horror with his Mucha recreation. The bottom left corner of the painting included his signature skull, which took the place of a rock in Mucha's original. (I have to admit to preferring the original.)

"Lost Polar Ice" by Holland King
I could go on and on, but I'll leave you with one last story. Ron Hawkins is an artist who supports his habit--and his family--by working for a utility company in Atlanta. When a chalk festival came to town, his employer sponsored his participation. Hawkins now uses some of his vacation days to create paintings in chalk festivals around the United States.

His "Lost Polar Ice" is part of his animal selfie series. (He only shared the title when I asked how it fit with the evanescent theme.) I loved the humor in his work. His next subject is going to be sloths, which I really wish I could see.

Kudos to Denise Kowal and her team for once again creating a wonderful Festival. Mark your calendars for November 9-12, 2018 when artists from around the world will create pavement art around the theme "Museum of Motion."  I can't wait.

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