Every flavor of art on display at Bayou City Art Festival
Gregory Arth’s artwork, at a cursory glance, might pass for ordinary paintings. His subjects include city skylines, human portraits and Star Wars robots donning Western attire.
Upon closer inspection, however, Arth’s work is anything but ordinary. Circuit boards and random hardware bits jut out from the canvas, forming what Arth describes as his “circuit board art” — collage-type pieces made up of paint and “tech hardware-type stuff,” Arth said.
“My idea of this is the ubiquitousness of tech nowadays, and how it’s really taken over the world,” he said. “We don’t even realize it sometimes. And that’s kind of the idea.”
Arth and 284 other artists are displaying their work at this weekend’s Bayou City Art Festival, a two-day, biannual showcase of art from around the country. Artists this year hailed from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, and dozens of cities in between.
About 15,000 to 20,000 people typically attend, requiring about 700 volunteers, said Roger Bare, executive director of the Art Colony Association, the nonprofit festival producer. Tickets — general admission costs $15 — and sponsorships fund the festival, with some proceeds going to local nonprofits.
Organizers ensured that attendees found their preferred art medium without much effort. Within less than half a block of Bagby Street, for instance, booths displayed paper collages, jewelry, leather handbags, porcelain dishes, oil paintings, stained glass lamps and photo galleries. The jumbled layout was intentional, Bare said.
The festival, held downtown in the fall and at Memorial Park in the spring, covers several blocks of Bagby, Walker, McKinney and Lamar streets, surrounding City Hall and Hermann Square. Sam Houston Park hosts food trucks, a children’s “creative zone” and, on Sunday, a Halloween costume contest. The judging criteria, Bare said, are “best and most creative.”
“So, totally subjective,” he said, laughing.
On Bagby Street, Denver-based Dolan Geiman, 41, exhibited paper collages made up of paper gathered from abandoned churches, missions, warehouses and other spaces spread across the southwest U.S.
“I’ll go in and kind of sweep up all these old papers, whether it’s an old handwritten letter or a receipt,” Geiman said. “Anything that’s paper is fair game for me.”
Many artists at the festival produced their work out of a hodgepodge collection of parts and materials. Robert Nehring, 57, creates sculptures out of parts gathered from scrap yards, flea markets and rummage sales, generally shaping each work around a single piece.
“I start out with a piece of metal,” Nehring said, pointing to a unique-looking nearby figure with shoulders made out of pot handles.
“I found the pot handles and I’m like, ‘Oh, those would make great shoulders,’” Nehring said. “And then I go from there.”
Terri Vogl, 59, lives in San Antonio and creates acrylic paintings that depict plants and farm animals, among other things. Her subjects include friends’ llamas and alpacas, and animals at petting zoos.
The range of work on display Saturday in part traces back to the artists’ childhood experienes, with some saying they were highly influenced by early life.
Geiman, the paper collage creator, said he sometimes tries to “weave tales” into his work from the stories his dad would tell around the campfire in native Virginia.
Tucson-based Adam Homan, 47, makes sci-fi fantasy-type steel sculptures influenced by his childhood interest in Japanese animation and Star Wars. And when Vogl creates her farm paintings, she thinks of visits to her grandparents’ farm in Columbus, Texas, as a kid.
“I just have so many good memories from that,” she said. “I guess that’s where my love of all this comes from.”