Live action, upside-down images of Edgewood Park as viewed from a darkened, walk-in chamber, were among new interactive art events and features of the 17th annual ArtWalk festival held in Westville Village Friday and Saturday.
Some may remember the stern directive heard at the beginning of the 1960s sci-fi television series The Outer Limits: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.” The inverted images appearing on photographer Terry Dagradi’s Camera Obscura “screen” (Ben Dean storefront) did seem to warrant some sort of adjusting.
Walking into a darkened chamber and suddenly seeing the world upside-down was disorienting at first, and a little surreal. ArtWalk visitors who came to see and experience the exhibit walked into a room-sized optical device which uses no electricity in conjuring a projected image from outside “the box.” Around since the time of Aristotle, the device was perfected during the Renaissance period, presaging the invention of the modern camera. Dagradi said she was thrilled to bring an event that combines art and science to the festival.
ArtWalk, Westville’s annual celebration of arts and commerce, offered a packed slate of events with a number of “firsts.”The closure of Fountain Street between Whalley and Central Avenue not only added an element of safety; it also increased the festival footprint for vendors selling arts and crafts, according to Chris Heitmann, executive director of Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA). Mistina Hanscom was this year’s ArtWalk event coordinator.
Friday’s ArtWalk opener included a red-carpet runway and fashion show in the middle of Central Avenue near Delaney’s Restaurant patio with fashion ideas from Vintanthromodern Vintage and Odeon Boutique.
One of the few male models featured in the fashion show was Jeff Manley, whose red-hot blazer was the perfect fashion statement for his scintillating dance moves.
Another new ArtWalk addition, bookended by the Pellegrino Stage at one end of the block and festival activities under the Aquila Motors canopy, was a pop-up gallery exhibit curated by Westville artist Noé Jimenez. It was his first show as curator. The exhibit, which will be in place for one week, was a mix of sculpture, paintings and prints by area artists, some showing strong pop-culture influences, including several kitsch-infused pieces by University of New Haven’s Laura Marsh. Other exhibiting artists included Phil Lique and Heather Hill-Young.
Close to the police barricades cordoning off Fountain Street from vehicular traffic, architect Eric Epstein installed a new exhibit called “Do Dogs Dream in Color?” on his outdoor gallery, dubbed “Wall 12.” The second installation on this prominent new space, it is a feast of color and expressive design, painted by ArtWalkers who were lucky to arrive before the 80, 16” x 16” panels had been exhausted. A brilliant lime-green color presents a punchy backdrop for the artworks spaced and arranged with architectural precision, a counterpoint to the spontaneous painterly musings created by young and old.
Oil & Water, a group show, was underway at Kehler Liddell featuring 25 of the gallery’s eclectic artists. The alleyway between Kehler Liddell and Keys on Kites Tattoo and Gallery, now exhibiting the work of artist Joshua Mattes, was abuzz with another kind of art, as a pair of exterior gallery walls took on new life. Graffiti artists Cers, Mastro, Yers, Reo, and Vedas got the green light to create two graffiti murals, a small sampling of what the alley driveway will bring in the future, according to Eric Mikita, Keys on Kites Gallery’s owner. “We will be doing giant-scale productions with fully animated back grounds with people from all over the country, and many international artists as well. This was just getting our toes in the water,” he said. Graffiti, or “street art,” is a genre that has evolved from its early “outsider art” roots, and has been gaining wider acceptance in mainstream art circles, not unlike tattoo art.
Appearing with the Project Storefronts-sponsored Ponics Lab, which had its grand opening in March, was artist-designer Alysia Southern, who enjoyed her own grand opening, independent of Project Storefronts at Friday’s ArtWalk. Barrage Designs replaces the Lesley Roy Home Couture shop, located at 845 Whalley Ave., featuring items created by “building new and reimagined designs from the pieces of throwaway culture, into the building blocks of a more sustainable one,” as Southern describes her creative mission.
A wall outside Westville Wines, leading to exhibits of artist Frank Bruckmann and Gar Waterman on West Rock Avenue, was the site of the “Chalkies: paint yourself” activity. Under the guidance of artist Muffy Pendergast, temporary portraits and self portraits were made of chalk and a medium of tinted liquid and cornstarch. The event was the brainchild of 11-year-old Jorgie Bruckmann. Artist and Edgewood School student Elijah Mathews, 14, joined passersby in creating an exterior-wall gallery with personality.
Back at Aquila Motors, the Converse Reimagined auction was in full swing, with most sneakers finding eager bidders.
Making their first appearance on the main stage, José Oyola and the Astronauts rocked the park, as bike riders performed gravity defying platform stunts offstage.
Art in Windows represented a trend of expansion and inclusion, an opportunity for more artists to participate in the festival this year, however informally.
Whether offering new exhibits and events or returning crowd favorites, ArtWalk continues to be one of the best cultural events of the season, a festival made possible by the community spirit that fuels it.