Saturday, April 16, 2022

Chalk Festival: Resilience

By Katie Runde -- slight running around 
the hairline due to rain 

The theme for the most recent Chalk Festival was "Resilience." It's certainly a relatable topic as we tentatively emerge from two years of combating Covid. The artists had to be doubly resilient as there were threats of thunderstorms for all three days of the Festival. (Luckily, there was only one night of rain. Thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of the artists and organizers, the paintings were by and large undamaged.)   

One of the most beautiful works was Katie Runde's recreation of this portrait of Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin. Garshin was a Russian author who suffered from mental illness. His stories expressed his pacifist beliefs and aversion to evil and are said to have shown "a spirit of compassion and pity." Runde chose to recreate this painting because of the way Garshin's face reveals "a tenderizer of depression alongside incredible depths of compassion." 

I'd be remiss not to give some background on artist Ilya Repin, the painter of the reference image. Repin created one of the most controversial paintings in Russian history -- "Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan." The work depicts the moments after Ivan killed his son and has been banned and vandalized over the years. Coincidentally, Garshin posed for the portrait of the younger Ivan. I always enjoy artwork you can appreciate on different levels.  For more of Runde's work, click here

Carole with work by Carlos Alberto and Julie Jilek 
The anamorphic (3D) paintings at the Festival are always great fun. I immediately become a child when I see a work I can interact with, running over and asking a friend or stranger to take a picture of me. And here's fair warning -- if you go with me, I will make you pose as well.  

This painting was done by Carlos Alberto and Julie Jilek for the 2019 Festival. (Some of the large scale 3D works are done in paint so they can be enjoyed for multiple festivals.)  But it still works with the theme of resilience with its focus on the environment and image of a boat adrift at sea. Where are the oars so Carole can get back to shore?!!! For more of Alberto's work, click here. And for more about Jilek, click here

Artist Sitka Dogan with Denise Kowal 
The "illusion rooms" were a terrific addition to this year's Festival. Each room consisted of two adjacent panels painted in a single scene. So much fun -- if a bit challenging to paint!  The latent lawyer in me was more than a little concerned to see Turkish artist Sitka Dogan atop these panels. At least in this shot he's balanced on both sides of the panels. At other times he was crouched on top bending over as he painted touches on the horse's mane. Even the artist next door laughingly asked him if he had insurance!  

Dogan incorporated an actual rope into his work so that visitors could try and rein his horse in. Shown here is Denise Kowal, founder, artistic director and producer of the Chalk Festival. She's doing a decent job -- at least the horse hasn't bucked Dogan off yet!  I suspect -- and hope! -- that we haven't seen the last of these immersive rooms.  

Alok Vaid-Menon by Jessi Queen
I'll leave you with Jessi Queen's portrait of Alok Vaid-Menon. The vibrant colors of this painting caught my eye from a distance. But once I was standing in front of the work, I knew there was a story to be told. 

Alok is a gender non-conforming artist, writer and performer. Being gender non-conforming is different than being transgender (a person whose identity and gender differs from their birth gender) or non-binary (a person who identifies as neither male nor female). Instead, if you are gender non-conforming, your behavior or appearance may not be consistent with prevailing social norms. So in this portrait we see an unshaven Alok dressed in a feminine style. It's similar to what Hunter Reynolds intends with his Patina du Prey alter ego that I wrote about in my Costuming as Contemporary Art post, although Reynolds referred to it as a "third gender." 

Alok -- who uses they/them pronouns -- has written a book entitled "Beyond the Gender Binary." Their worldview is that manhood and womanhood shouldn't be defined in opposition. Instead, these categories should be considered two of an infinite number of options, just as two stars are part of a galaxy. To watch a video in which they talk about this concept, click here. We are definitely living in a new era. And while it's not always comfortable for those of us who grew up at a different time, shouldn't people be whomever they most authentically feel they are?  

By Sitka Dogan
The Chalk Festival never fails to fill me with joy and wonder. And here's some good news: We don't have to wait a full year for the next Festival. Come October 29-31, chalk artists from around the world will descend upon the Venice Municipal Airport to create artwork around the theme of "Spirited." My calendar is blocked out! 

In the meantime, some of the Chalk Festival artists stayed in town after the Festival to contribute sidewalk paintings to the Avenue of Art on Pineapple and Orange Avenues in Burns Court. Dogan's fabulous 3D octopus is one of my favorite new additions. There are now more than 200 sidewalk paintings celebrating Sarasota and its history.  The works from Phase I of the project have QR codes with information about the image depicted and the artist. Documentation of the works recently created is in process. While it's always better to see art in person, you can enjoy the Avenue of Art from the comfort of your home by clicking here. As always, Kowal and her team have thought of everything. Enjoy! 

1 comment:

  1. This work is so amazing. Thanks for highlighting it & providing the link to the Avenue of Arts works. I've put the October dates on my calendar. Longing to see this in person!


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