Local News

Avoca potter wins best-of-show at 53rd St. Clair Art Fair

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch. Kodama Psyokami and his psychedelic work.

By Jim Bloch

Art is Normal. That’s the name of the production company of Oak Park based watercolor painter and cartoonist Steve Gamburd, who showed an array of work at the St. Clair Art Fair. Gamburd displayed his surrealist abstract paintings, nature paintings, his series of deceased pop icons such – everyone from Thelonious Monk to Bob Marley – and his series of deceased pro wrestlers from the 1980s and 1990s – think Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Bearer.

Art is Normal, of course, was the theme of the 53rd annual fair on the banks of the St. Clair River in downtown St. Clair, June 29-30.

Virginia Van Dam, a potter from Avoca, MI took home best-of-show honors and $500. Van Dam uses Michigan clay to throw and handbuild pots of various sizes onto which she etches highly detailed scenes from nature, fires the sculptures, then paints them using as many as 75 commercial and handmade glazes, and re-fires them.

Van Dam has a lifelong interest in the psychology of animals and does extensive research for her work. In one piece, she explores the relationship of whitetail deer and wild turkeys, which she depicts on a bowl.

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch.
Virginia Van Dam won best-of-show at the St. Clair Art Fair.

“When the turkeys come, that tells the deer that there are no predators in the area and they can feed without fear,” said Van Dam.

One of her largest pieces explores bobcats hunting whitetail deer. The bobcat jumps onto the head of the deer and smothers it. Because the deer is too heavy to drag up a tree, the bobcat buries it for subsequent dining.

It was Van Dam’s first appearance at the fair.

“The judges said that the level of the art was higher than previous years,” said Dave Fry, president of the St. Clair Art Association, which produces the art fair. Fry guessed that the turnout was lower than normal due to the weather. It rained Friday night and Saturday morning and then heated up to a sweltering 87 degrees. Sunday was overcast and much cooler than usual. “It was good. No big headaches.”

Kodama Psyokami traveled to St. Clair from the Irish Hills to show his surrealist paintings, which bulged with psychedelia and dark fantasy.

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch.
Steve Gamburd’s wrestling paintings.

Melissa Dawn took second place and $200 for her colorful, swirling acrylics. Dawn thins her paints with Floetrol and water, pours it on her canvas and pushes it around with a blow drier.

“I use a dotting tool to make the swirls,” she said.

Tim Drier of Lansing won an honorable mention and $50 for his big, handsome marine oil paintings of the Great Lakes. It was the first St. Clair Art Fair for the self-trained painter.

Steve Meadows took home first place and $300 in the 3-D category for his big fish sculptures featuring spatulas, forks, spoons, dinner knives, grills, strainers and other aluminum and stainless kitchen items.

“What – you gave up cooking for a living?”

“Yes,” said Meadows. “Had to.”

Ashwini Pradhakar of Ann Arbor showed her large acrylic paintings on textured wood, which she finishes with metallics.

“Most are travel-inspired,” said Pradhakar, who is planning to display four paintings in the SCAA’s Alice Moore Gallery in Riverview Plaza in the near future.

Andrew Johnson was on hand from East Pointe showing his “Beep Boop Bop Art.” Johnson, who has produced album covers for Phish, Disco Biscuits and Primus, among others, described his work as psychedelic concert-focused art.

“This is my first actual art show,” Johnson said.

Nicole Viviano won the Winnie Fangman Award for most creative entry and $500. In the 2-D category, Anthony Strubic won first place and $300 for his drawing. Emma Whittridge took home third place and $100 for her watercolors. Printmaker Mady Chen and Patty Ritchie, who works in pastels, won honorable mentions and $50 each.

In 3-D, Christine Borowski won second place and $200 for her jewelry. Patrick Doyle took third and $100 for his furniture. Potters Jason Mullias and Colleen Williams and woodworker Jim McEvoy won $50 each and honorable mentions.

Among SCAA members, Sue Lansky won first and $100 in the 2-D division for her acrylic painting; Diana Sandbank took second place and $75 for her cross-stitching; Vicky Path won third and $50 for her acrylic painting. Sharon Taylor received an honorable mention for her acrylics.

In the 3-d division, Roy Churchill took first and $100 for wood sculpture; Marie Radiess won second and $75 for her paper arts books; Lisa Hermesmeyer took third and $50 for her mixed media work. Nancy Diebold for her bas relief and Ken Reidel for his wood work won honorable mentions.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com. 

Related posts

The Port Huron Elks Lodge 343 Beacon Grant presentation

Port Huron Elks Lodge 343

Sanilac County Prosecuting Attorney Brenda Sanford will not seek re-election in 2024 race

Sanilac Broadcasting Company

Marine City Commissioners respond to criticism

Barb Pert Templeton

Leave a Comment