June 05, 2009

Hour at the Arts Fest

Sat I under the combustible sun on a bench away from the crowds and through the foliage I spy a bronze-green steeple far in the distance. I felt for a moment like I was in old Europe, marveling at the sight of a German cathedral. It was more thrilling than what I saw in the rows of tents at the art festival. I briefly wondered why it is that had I seen the same exact scene in a photograph for sale in one of the booths it would feel like a cliche, like it was "too sweet". Perhaps merely that I'd think the artist was lazy, not creating so much as reflecting.

I'm perenially surprised at how so little inspires me at these fests. So much of it seems not worth a first glance let alone a second which I attribute in good part to my being, primarily, into music and books and not art. Most pieces seem cloying, either in their Rockwellesque earnestness or post-modern self-consciousness or meaningless strangeness. But every once in awhile I find a jewel, a little tent holding filling paintings, such as I did today with the work of John Cheng.

Cheng, from a marketing standpoint, seems at a loss. He looks down, is always fiddling, has no website, posts no bills listing his resume or awards. He's quite unlike the other artists who stand or sit with eyes boring, unaware of the laser impact of an artists' eyes on the public: Don't they know I know they can see right through me! I think to myself.

Instead Cheng seemed a quiet, humble sort with mixed media offerings of carp and birds and Japanese women and mermaids, sometimes depicting nakedness but with a purity that is a subject of interest to me. I seek to disarm the flesh with a pure flesh, as in the way an inoculation works. Always I think, when I see a Bouguereau or a Cheng depicting female nudity and innocence that here, at last, is the secret. Cheng's portraits of mermaids curled like nautilus's on distant banks hits some nerve within me, lighting up the part of me that so likes borders (such as that of between purity and impurity) and danger (that of shipwreck by mariners smitten).

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    Not Cheng's work, but a nautical theme

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