Photo courtesy of countryclubplaza.com
The Plaza Art Fair, originally beginning in the early 1930’s to distract shoppers during the Great Depression, has transformed into one of the top 10 fine arts festivals in the country, according to the Art Fair SourceBook. The 240 artists, 23 restaurant booths and numerous live music performances draw in an estimated 250,000 people, creating a perfect welcome to the fall season. Since before I could walk, I have spent the third weekend of September peeking into each each white tent searching for the brightest, most intricate piece of art. Of the many activities, food vendors and excitement at the fair, the artists stole the show. These four artists are just a few that stood out from the crowd with their bubbly personalities and stand-out pieces.
As I approached a large corner tent, I was pulled in like a moth to a light bulb. It wasn’t because of the overwhelming, recycled scrap metal sculptures, or because of the dozens of people scattered around the work. I was intrigued by sculptor Mark Winter, the artist himself. He stood with a content, peaceful look on his face, gazing at the small honey bee dancing around his hand. He took the bee in his hand and let it crawl on up his arm until it flew away. This carefree, friendly nature is prominent in all of Winter’s sculptors.
To make his sculptures, he finds and takes old parts of metal and pieces them together to make a cohesive sculptor. Winter gathers inspiration from music, dreams, other life experiences and art.
“I truly enjoy the freedom and creativity that being an artist brings,” Winter said. “I try not to overthink things when I work.”
Winter’s sculptures look like friendly robot characters out of a children’s book. The random pieces he makes them out of have no relation to each other, but the finished product fuses them together into one connected work of art.
Sculptor Arabella Tattershall is a fashion designer, though she doesn’t use cotton, lace, mesh, or other fabric for her masterpieces. She imagines, creates and executes perfect dresses and torso sculptures, made entirely of steel. Her “statements in metal” are fit for a princesses, and the miniatures would be perfect outfits for Tinkerbell.
Tattershall’s sculptures come to life, using mostly leaves as the shapes, hammered and molded to create a female form. She produces each leaf individually, eventually morphing them together into the picture built her mind. She also combines her work with clay and hand-built birds that are companions to the dresses and torsos.
For Tattershall, coming all of the way from Lafayette, Colo. was completely worth it. As she stood in the back of her tent with a slight smile, it was made clear that she truly loves her profession.
Tattershall made my list of favorite artists at the show because of the intricacy of her dresses. It takes a creative genius to come up with the things she does, and her work inspires many of her customers and competitors to take risks and do what they love.
“I truly believe that we are born with gifts and it’s our job and work to discover what that is and pursue it,” Tattershall said. “I am very blessed to have found mine.”
Angela Kullmann and Russell Grace
When photographers Angela Kullmann and Russell Grace first started dating, they knew they would make a perfect pair. The two came together over their newly-found love of infrared photography. Infrared photography is unique because it uses film or image sensors that are sensitive to infrared light, an invisible radiant energy that isn’t visible to humans.
“We took rolls of infrared film out [to shoot photos] and that’s what we did to have fun and bond,” Kullmann said. “Now, it’s all we do.”
The resulting images have a distinctive surreal quality, with bold, contrasting black and whites that is created when foliage strongly reflects the infrared light, according to Kullmann.
From emotional horse portraits to melancholy war memorials to Americana modernized landscapes, the variety of depth and creativity made Angela and Russell my favorite photographers at the show.
“We have created a collection based on everything that inspires and excites us,” Kullmann said.
Their photo process incorporates the use of traditional equipment and techniques, while also applying modern materials and technologies.
My favorite of Kullman’s pictures were the peaceful moments captured between two identical horses in a field. Their plainness and contrast made them particularly beautiful. The infrared gave the photographs a bold and stormy look, filling them with emotion.
“We like shooting a variety of things from different ends of the spectrum,” Kullmann said. “We just really enjoy things that truly express our light personalities.”
Day after day, jeweler Julie Seymour sat quietly at her desk, filing away paperwork and watching goldsmiths deliver their jewelry to the high-end store she worked at. She eventually realized she was on the wrong side of the counter. Little by little, she taught herself how to manipulate the gold and metals that she would later use for her delicate jewelry.
Using all-natural gemstones and high-carat gold, Seymour hand-fabricates all of her pieces. Fabricating requires ancient skills and technological advances to achieve a much higher level of craftsmanship. Seymour’s inspiration comes from both classic jewelry and ancient jewelry from 250 B.C.
This year marked the five-year anniversary of Seymour coming to Kansas City for the fair. The perfect position of her products in delicate glass cases or dangling off steel jewelry hangers drew in a constant flow of customers.
Of all of her pieces, Seymour’s favorite is her pair of moonstone earrings. Moonstone is characterized by an enchanting play of light and the shimmering blue and white that resembles a full moon in the middle of the night.
“I don’t get to wear them because they are for sale,” Seymour said. “Hopefully, a customer will enjoy and appreciate them one day as much as I do.”
I enjoyed Seymour’s jewelry so much because of the timeless beauty and amount of effort she puts into each and every piece. The solid gold and gemstones pieced together by a woman that is passionate about her profession makes the price well worth it.