Delaney was sequestered in the somewhat unflatteringly titled “Emerging Artists” section of the fair on South University Avenue. His work is comparatively unproven, and his booth – tiny and sparse – reflects that. The art itself, though, does not. His simple pen and wash drawings of the human form are imbued with remarkable strength, a memorable force one would normally associate with a well-recognized artist.
Colin Delaney, ink or pen and wash
Delaney’s work ranges from pure ink to colorful pen and wash. His direction seems a bit uncertain, but it’s a fresh uncertainty. He has great faith in the power of simple expression.
“Sometimes a sketch is all you need,” he said. “When you can say, ‘That’s it, I’m done, right there’ – that’s great. When a figure is perfect, it’s perfect.”
At a fair filled with wild mediums and off-the-wall innovation, simple ink might seem a tad quaint. But the idea that his work is unoriginal, even overworked, Delaney shakes his head firmly.
“People really respond to the human form and gestural mood. It’s universally appreciated – I think it has an intrinsic appeal to us. After all, everything old is new again, right?”
Lisa Kristine, photography
Photography is a medium that risks being cliché more than almost any other medium. The volume of photographs we see almost daily is stifling, and the photographers must go far afield to blaze a new trail.
Lisa Kristine has traveled to, by her count, more than 60 countries. She began taking pictures at age 11, and has since worked 25 years as a professional photographer. Kristine’s photography centers on the vastness of humanity, on mankind in all its forms. Her interest extends to every culture and every society. Still, it’s not the scope but the focus of her work that makes Kristine unique.
“I’ll stay in an area for a few months – sometimes go days without taking a shot, just to get a feel for it, you know?” Kristine has a remarkable dedication to making a connection with her subjects.
“I’m so taken with anthropology. With old, old traditions,” she said.
Her work seems to capture the fascination humankind inherently has with itself. Many of her photos are hardly more than portraits, but they convey astonishing depth and context. Each one acts as a tiny anthropological vignette.
Of her focus, Kristine said, “I think I’m just drawn to people’s intensity – to the strength of the individual.”
Jane DeDecker, bronze
It’s rare to see sculptures filled with as much motion and vigor as Jane DeDecker’s. Her subjects might seem old-fashioned – after all, she works in bronze – but the emotion they carry is not.
Rather than remaining simple expressions of human form, DeDecker’s works need interpretation. Each bronze seems to have something to say, and it’s almost invariably a message filled with hope.
“I guess I’m really hopeful,” said DeDecker. “I have a basic faith in the human race, and when I think about describing people it always comes with an element of hope.”
Many of her sculptures are scenes: a father tying his son’s shoes or four children leaping gleefully off a dock – but not all. Other pieces are more contemplative: “Setting the Pace” traces the form of a man walking atop a huge ring, meant to encourage us to think a bit more with each step.
DeDecker doesn’t fit the artist stereotype, and that might be part of her appeal. Pure, approachable and cheerful, her sculptures attempt to capture “emotions that we’ve all felt.”
“Humans are an unfinished story,” she said, “I’m just working to explain that story.”
Dylan Strzynski, Mixed Media
The art fair can be so predictable. Year after year you can roam State Street and Main Street and expect to see a multitude of booths filled with garden ornaments and paintings fit for the lobby of a dentist’s office. While predictable is comfortable – and sellable – the art fair needs artists like Dylan Strzynski to keep pushing forward.
Strzynski’s work is initially attractive on the aesthetic level. It draws you in with bright, contrasting colors and sharp lines. Then, it hooks you with the deep narrative that the paintings offer about global communication and the environment.
“When you are at an art fair, you see a lot of product. I don’t do that,” Strzynksi said.
“If you don’t have contemporary art, you have a bunch of things that look like a remake of a famous artist.”
But Stryznski’s work looks only like his own. A combination of pen and ink, pencil, oils, pastels and print, he builds up layers to create what seems like a bird’s eye view to the modern, technological world. Geodesic domes and wind turbines rest on splattered green paint that make up the land. Small red and pink houses fashioned from Chinese paper cluster into neighborhoods and seem as if they will fall off the sharp plane of the painting at any second.
The vibrant greens and blues often collide with dull, muted lines of thick, painted highways and overlaid blueprints or maps. Stryznski’s narrative is clear without being overbearing.
“I don’t like to alienate the viewer,” he said. ” I don’t want to make obtuse things that people don’t understand, where someone can say ‘What’s wrong with you, why don’t you get it?’ because I don’t like feeling like that.”
Mary Alayne Thomas, Mixed Media
Artists continually argue about digital versus traditional and fine art versus craft. Mary Alayne Thomas has made the best of both worlds.
Beginning with a watercolor painting, Thomas then pours encaustic (a mixture of beeswax and resin) over her work. After letting the first layer of encaustic dry, Thomas screenprints a more graphically-based image onto the mold and pours more of the mixture on top of that, sometimes incorporating pen, pencil or gold leaf into one or more of the layers.
Thomas’s initial watercolors are drawn in the style of Eastern prints, though they nearly always combine the form of a 1920s children’s book illustration in her depiction of people and animals. The watercolor’s softness contrasts with the bold screen-printed images and provides a depth to the work, as if it were a 3-D image.
“It has the benefit of craft. I get to use my hands,” Thomas said of the encaustic process, adding that it also has the freedom and expressiveness of the fine arts.
Thomas constructs an ethereal luminescence and brings you into a dream-like place where birds, tigers and people all coincide, where digital and traditional are used interchangeably and where crafts complement fine arts.
Lynn Whipple and John Whipple, Mixed Media
Lynn Whipple’s tent felt like she took everything out of my grandma’s house, put it in a huge pile, mixed it around a bit, then started grabbing at old photographs, books, and knick-knacks. The result is a group of artworks that make everything old look new again.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is almost exactly what she does to create her assemblage art.
“(My studio) is like a laboratory of junk,” she said. “The walls are journals. I pin up nature and photographs I like, and then piece it together.”
Whipple’s work has a carefree and honest element to it. You can tell that she has fun when she makes it, and it is hard not to smile at the collages of boys from the 1920’s transformed into bugs with buck teeth or feel a reminiscent glow while looking at any of the boxes that include old toys such as “cootie catchers.”
Yet, as much as Whipple’s tent feels like grandma’s house, her husband John Whipple’s tent feels like the remains of a carnival ghost town.
Like Lynn, John Whipple also specializes in assemblage art, but his work has more of a dark-humored edge to it. His paintings look like the portraits of the few straggling carnies, and his sculptures look like the remaining, deranged, crossbred townies, parading through the streets. And this is all a good thing.
It’s almost as if these pieces had to be made, that the “junk” they collected has finally found its true purpose.