Friday, April 12, 2019

Chalk Festival Returns to its Roots

By Carlos Alberto -- GH (Mexico)
Chalk Festival devotees were disappointed when the event scheduled for last November was canceled due to red tide. You might not think there would be a correlation between an event to be held at the old Venice Airport and a health concern at the beaches. But trust me when I say that people were not flocking to Southwest Florida given the extreme conditions. I can only assume Festival organizers decided it was financially prudent to postpone the event. which has been reported to have a $6-10 million economic impact on our area. 

By Tonya Youngberg and Bridget Lyons (U.S.) 
This is a long-winded intro into why a smaller version of the Festival found itself back in its original quarters in Burns Court in downtown Sarasota last week-end. Having only been to the Festival at the airport, I wondered if the event would seem somewhat paltry in the more compact venue. My concerns were allayed the moment I stepped through the gate. It was fantastic.

The first painting I came upon -- which was still in progress -- was a lovely rendering of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."  It seemed apt for this year's theme of Museum in Motion.  It wasn't until on my way out that I realized the painting lying head-to-head with the Botticelli was a cartoonish satire of the painting. I loved the tongue-in-cheek version, with its "Venus" shocked to find herself naked and on a clam shell.  The eyes say it all.  (Note: The character looked a lot like the artist, although the artist had all of her clothes on.) And in case you're wondering, this wasn't happenstance. The artists for the two works were clever collaborators.

By Cesar Paredas Pacora (Peru) 
I anticipated there would be a dearth of 3D artwork given the lack of space. Again, I was wrong.  I joined forces with another woman visiting the Festival on her own so we could take pictures of each other. It wasn't the same as being with a friend, but it worked.

As in the past, Kurt Wenner participated in the Festival. For those unfamiliar with the name, Wenner is the creator of anamorphic -- or 3D -- pavement art. His resume includes a stint as the Guinness World Record holder for the largest anamorphic pavement painting -- the megalodon shark he designed for the 2014 Chalk Festival. The painting was 22,747 square feet and cost approximately $150,000 to create.  The now faded masterpiece, which is located at the Venice Airport, will be restored in connection with the next Chalk Fest.

By Kurt Wenner (U.S.)
At this year's Festival, Wenner premiered his first 3D chalk art installation. As I approached what looked a bit like a lean-to, I was somewhat leary. There was a window on the side with butterflies clearly dangling from thin wires. A volunteer shared info about Wenner with visitors as they waited their turn to view the installation.  We learned that this work will eventually be installed at the 3D Museum of Wonders in Playa Carmen, Mexico, a museum that features many of Wenner's creations.

The work was pretty stunning when properly viewed through my camera from the perfect vantage point atop an artless PVC pipe. (Perspective is the key to all 3D art, so it's especially helpful when the artists direct you where to stand.) The painting on what I knew was a flat ceiling transformed into this cracked rotunda that opened to the sky. The butterflies took flight. The floor opened into a craggy abyss. It was magical.

By Leon Keer (The Netherlands)
As always, I was taken with the creativity of the participating artists. And I enjoyed a bit of political commentary amidst the fun. The jar of OxyContin gummy bears was particularly striking given the current lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the drug's manufacturer, and its owners the Sackler Family for their alleged role in the opioid crisis. If you're keeping up with the news, you know the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate and National Portrait Gallery in London recently announced they would no longer accept donations from the Sackler family. The Sackler Foundation has responded by halting donations for the time being. Artist Leon Keer seems a bit prescient with his creation, which was surely in the design stages before much of this news broke.

By Marije Spelbos (The Netherlands)
No matter how many Chalk Festivals I attend, I always come away with a smile on my face and a great appreciation for the artists who dedicate themselves to this ephemeral art.

Although the City of Sarasota decided to allow the art on Pineapple Avenue to remain until it fades away naturally, a post-Festival visit isn't the same as going on an official day. (Among other things, you run the risk of getting run over by a driver more intent on getting to her destination than allowing you to enjoy the art.)  Happily, you won't have to wait a full year to enjoy a pavement art extravaganza. The next Chalk Festival will be held on November 15-18 at the Venice Airport. See you there!


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  2. Nanette - these are such beautiful pics of the chalk festival. I've never been & it's one of the things I would love to see 'in person.'I've put the Nov. date on my calendar. Maybe time to pop down for a visit.


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