Monday, June 11, 2007

Art in the Park

Kibby Art in the Park
Kibby Art in the Park,
originally uploaded by robin kibby.

Ok, so i usually show work in my little space that's hard to find on the edge of Oakland. A dozen or so folks come by to visit and chat each day of Open Studios. Last weekend I actually congratulated my visitors for finding me.
Its all good, but has never answered my "how do I make this my living as a painter?" question.
So, for a change of pace, I filled the Prius with art, and ventured off of 5th Avenue to participate in the Live Oak Park fair in Berkeley.

Brian generously helped me cobble together a "tent" from some ingredients I found at Orchard Supply Hardware, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and (gasp) Target. We arrived parkside as the sun was descending Friday. The park was already filled with white domes, peaks, and sturdy fabric covered walls. Art fair veterans were clamping the final tarp wall over their space and heading off for dinner and rest. The security guard eyed us skeptically as we hammered 6-foot lengths of L-shaped metal into the ground with a rubber mallet. By post #4, he offered us a large irregular-shaped rock he found on the park edge an alternate tool to hasten the process. A nice thought, but potentially more tricky than swinging the rubber mallet at head-height. The metal pieces were intended to create wall-supports, the canopy for shade. Our tent had wobbly legs and was about a foot too short. Four paint buckets, several yards of twine, and the knot-tying efforts of a veteran Eagle Scout were employed to lift and retrofit my cheap canopy into a sturdy art shelter. 4 yards of fabric later, we had "walls" and a reasonable disguise for our goofy tent legs. Between the spool of metal hanging wire and a fistful of zip ties, we hung all the work.
A small pseudo shelf (another Target special) propped on a stack of bricks displayed the 4" x 4" highways.
Baskets were filled with cards, and a proper print-display stand filled with giclee prints.

When we brought in work on Saturday morning someone said "look! gorgeous paintings."
We hauled our goods past quilts, painted metal antiques, glass cases full of jewelry & herbal remedies. Our 10x10 plot was in the 'industrial art' section on a corner. One neighbor created copper panels "painted" with patinas, and the other welded metal collages using parts of old cars.

And maybe I'll skip to the super-good part of the story. People seemed genuinely excited about my work. They would round the corner of my area and break into a big smile while talking about color, the location, and the pretty things that can be seen in stuff that is often not-attractive. They'd chuckle at the binder clips or the highways.

One person bought a power pole print so she could come to terms with the one right outside her window.

In past weeks I've been advised "no one buys paintings at fairs" or "just bring small work".. but once there, it seemed like the big stuff was important. The big size contrasts well against the eclectic mix of tiny things. It got to do what big 2-d pieces do best - speak to strangers about color, place, and composition from far away or close up.
I met lots of civil engineers, urban planners, architects, and construction workers. I saw neighbors and friends. I actually met someone who recognized this building and said "I planned that development!". My art booth-neighbors tolerated my barrage of questions, were excellent company, and were ready to offer advice or help when needed.

I finally got to sell a lot of my card packs (been refining these combos for years), my new prints as well as original work. I got to talk about how much care was taken to capture detail and color of the originals. And icing on the cake... my highways and one of the large diptychs of the hillside sold. This is a huge deal for me, since I am really proud of this work and *just* decided to offer the big ones for sale. Gave out a fistful of business cards an mets lots of good folks. I may have re-told my stories over the day, but everyone who walked up, brought something fresh with them. I left convinced that art reinforces this intangible good thing in the world. It's a starting point for discoveries and connections.

Today, I am exhausted. The living room is full of paintings, papers, and prints. I am puttering around drinking lots of tea. I washed the car and Brian's motorcycle (as a thank you for his help!). It feels like the day after a big holiday soiree. Spent and content.
Behind it all, is a quiet sense that there is hope for this profession.

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