Inspired by artists

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Inspiration, like the rain,  has been washing over me lately and even invading my dreams. The other night I dreamed that I found a huge slab of pink bologna in my refrigerator and got the idea that I should become a headhunter in the meat industry. I picked up the phone and began cold-calling meat packers, but quickly realized that I hated making cold calls and wasn’t making any progress. Headhunting is ridiculously stressful work. Then I tried to sell the bologna to butchers, but nobody wanted it. Discouraged, I suddenly thought that instead of dealing with meat, I should get out the sewing machine and make up-cycled dresses and sell them. I woke up excited to started, but remembered that the moment for up-cycled clothing has passed. Still I felt jazzed about making something creative.

Then over the weekend I was bombarded with creativity.  I got my hands on a copy of the Sunday New York Times and read it cover to cover. It’s not that my usual read, the Citizen-Times, is poorly written, but that it is hardly written at all. It is about as comprehensive as a high school newspaper and contains almost no news. What a pleasure to read well-written and researched news stories and thoughtful, well-crafted features.  I was inspired to work harder on my own writing and perhaps spend more time writing fiction.

The high point of the weekend, though, was the Annual Folk Art Show at Fearington Village in Chapel Hill. The village itself is exquisite. Built on an old farm, the community still raises belted cattle and goats and is beautifully planned and landscaped. The tress were budding out and the Lenten Roses and Daffodils were blooming. As we drove in the entrance and into the parking lot, we passed the trucks belonging to some of the folk artists. They were colorfully and crazily decorated and gave the lot the air of a circus.

We waited in the courtyard of the large barn where the show was held until the stroke of 10, when we paid our $5 admission and streamed into the barn where dozens of outsider artists had set up their work. I felt like a penitent getting smacked in the forehead by an evangelist, “Heal!” The air was thick with energy and the colors and forms made my heart pound.

The first thing we did was make a beeline to Mike Jones’s booth. I love Mike and adore his work. His day job is grave-stone carver. You may remember his wooden sculpture and wall pieces in addition to his carved granite. I carried them for a long time, and then I lost touch with Mike. Now we have reconnected and he promises to come back up here with a truck-load of his work. I bought a few pieces at the show because I couldn’t resist.

Charlie Frye, whose work I carry was there. His booth was full of his whimsical, bright paintings. The ones I have had in the shop were mainly animals, but he has expanded to include some fun portraits. I would pay Charlie to decorate my car like he has his truck, but wonder how Ron would feel riding in a wacky Scion.

I always love seeing the work of Cher Shaffer. Her paintings are charming, but it is her mud figures and spirit dolls I really love. She is such a leader in the folk art world, though, that I cannot afford to buy her work.

Someone I fell in love with at the show was Athlone Clark. A tall, handsome Jamaican, he left the law to paint large canvases with social justice themes. Race, social issues, politics, and voting rights were stunningly depicted in his work. I wish I could have afforded one of his pieces.

An artist whose work I could not resist was Lucy Stevens. Her childlike figures were put together in a way that reminded me of Basquiat. Her color palette sang to me. She lives in Rhode Island, but I begged her to come to Black Mt. and do a show at Chifferobe. I certainly hope she accepts my invitation.

It was jewelry, though, that really caught my eye at the show. I have some jewelry in the shop, but it is too much like jewelry I have seen around town. I had considered eliminating jewelry from the shop because I didn’t feel that what I had really represented my aesthetic. Then I met some amazing artists at the show whose work I love. Thomas Graham recycles tin cans into wonderful bangle bracelets and pins. I bought a few, but ordered a bunch more, which he will send me. Jennifer Left May left me breathless with her collage necklaces made from bits and pieces of stuff. Buyers were crowded into her booth snatching necklaces by the hands-full and then lining up to pay. Poor woman was in a tizzy because she felt hurried by the line of eager buyers. When she has replenished her much depleted supply of work, she will send me a box full of necklaces and tin can earrings.

Once we got back into the car and were driving back to Black Mt., I was still on sensory overload and couldn’t talk or even listen to the book on tape we had listened to on the way down. It wasn’t until we stopped for lunch outside Winston-Salem that I was calm enough to replay the show with Ron. To be in a place where simple people were letting their freak flags fly inspired me to get funky in my own right. Not sure where this train will take me, but I have climbed onboard.