Art Outside: A breath of fresh air for festivals

Originally Posted on The University News via UWIRE

Schlafly’s Art Outside Fair drew about 15,000 people this year. The three-day long, outdoor art display was accompanied by music, hamburgers and beer.
Going around speaking with the artists, it became apparent that the show was particularly enjoyable because of the variety of talent available, ranging from traditional painting to metal work and mixed media arts.

Melena Abijaoude Local artists showcased their unique works this weekend at Art Outside, with displays that included funky cigar box guitars (top) and beautiful 3-D window boxes (below).

Melena Abijaoude
Local artists showcased their unique works this weekend at Art Outside, with displays that included funky cigar box guitars (top) and beautiful 3-D window boxes (below).

The first artist that drew my attention was Jimmy Lui, who has been participating in this show for the past five years. He is a potter, however, he has shifted from traditional standards with his take on teapots. A personal favorite of his is the teapot in the shape of a hopping bunny.

Interestingly, Jimmy has not always been a potter. He had previously spent 30 years working in the field of electronics while living in China. After retiring, he enrolled at Maryville University and began pottery classes. He went on to graduate from Fontbonne University. Since then, he has continued to explore his new found passion and unique approach to this time-honored craft.

A few tents down, Jay Thompson’s gallery called Cat Works was on display. It showcases digital graphics that take human poses and add cat faces to them. Thompson began his work in animations, pursuing this after retiring. He too has been a part of this art show for several years now, admitting that he is drawn to this particular event because of the energetic crowd as well as the low cost of the tents at $150 per day (compared to the $700 that the Saint Louis Art Show charges).

Continuing on, I encountered a particularly crowded tent. Once I saw the artist’s display I understood why.

Den Smith uses mixed media to create eye-catching 3-D wall pieces. He has been an artist all of his life but did not turn towards his 3-D work until he started sculpting. The frames he creates are both intricate and unique – incorporating wood, canvas and metal. The centerpiece of the exhibit featured a captivating frame with a silhouette of a head. Behind the silhouette is the phrase “take me seriously” while beneath it there is a cut out of a bowtie which spins.

Unlike the previous artists, this was the first time Mark Hurd has participated in the Art Outside art fair. Mark is a photographer inspired by Edward Hopper and as such, much of his work lends to dark hues of purple, blue and pink. One of his favorite subjects is the city of St. Louis itself, with a focus on an old urban elements.

The last two artists I spoke with were Lon Brauer and his wife Rudy Zapf. Lon Brauer made cigar box guitars which were first seen in the 1800s and consist of three piano strings, a wooden neck and a cigar box. Brauer emanates a strong passion for his art and is quick to share a bit of history with all who view his work with an open mind.

He tells how the cigar box guitar was used when blues first started because the blues artist didn’t have the money for a guitar. These guitars are fretless and thus allow more notes to slide into each other. Rudy Zapf, Brauer’s wife, creates mixed media or 3-D wall pieces. Her pieces are very interactive with various doors and windows that can be opened and closed to change the perspective of the art. The couple spends their free time in search of intriguing decorative pieces of all shapes and sizes that can serve to complement their work. Lon showed me one of his guitars that is made of a Wise Cigar Company box from 1802, which was a popular St. Louis company.

The majority of the artists that partook in this annual event are from the greater St. Louis area and many are active in the city’s rejuvenated art community. The Art Outside show had a little something for everyone, from rain sticks, woodwork, jewelry and much more. There were also three tables for interactive art, jewelry making, painting and crafts. In addition to all of the unique works found throughout Art Outside, the food vendors and Schlafly beer was delicious and very reasonably priced.

Overall,  this was yet another awesome event by the St. Louis art community!

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