Today was the first day of the annual Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit (WSOAE). This year marks the 80th anniversary since “… one balmy spring day in 1931, in the heart of the Depression Era. Jackson Pollock, desperately in need of funds to pay the rent on his Greenwich Village studio that also served as his home, took a few of his iconoclastic paintings down several flights of stairs and set them up on the sidewalk near Washington Square Park. His friend and fellow Village artist, Willem DeKooning, in equally desperate financial straits, soon joined him,” (from www.wsoae.org).
Given its illustrious origins, the WSOAE is the longest running street art fair of its kind, so I am told. I love strolling through the tents, seeing beautiful works of art, and meeting the artists themselves. There is something spectacular about learning about the techniques and inspirations behind these valuable works of art right there on the sidewalk. No pretense, no fanfare, and definitely no air conditioning; simply art, artists, and me. And, of course, you.
This year, there are over 130 exhibitors, including fine artists, photographers, sculptors, and craftspeople. In addition, the Art Students League of New York and the Salmagundi Junior/Scholarship Group are featuring young artists, which will help keep the tradition of this street-level art show alive for generations to come.
- Fine artist Dudley Vaccianna creates wonderful Caribbean scenes on hand-blown glass vases, and he also brings his prints and handmade jewelry to the WSOAE this spring.
- Painter Richard Stalter has been exhibiting his lovely oil paintings at the WSOAE since 1964. His work turns familiar scenes and objects, such as a country fair or a bunch of crocuses, into breathtaking works of art.
- Tracy Silva Barbosa uses more artistic techniques than I can name in her extraordinary paintings, stemming from her background in glass and including fine pigments, metal lusters, photo transfer, and much more. What I can tell you is that the longer I looked at each piece, the more wonderful and complex it became to my eye.
- In another part of the artistic spectrum are the glorious images by photographer Michael Chen, who takes travel photography to an entirely higher level. His images of monks in Asia, camel caravans in the Middle East, and the Chrysler Building at different times of the day are all stunning and inspiring.
- Paul Musaracchia creates wonderful kinetic sculpture using bits of metal, nails, tools, and other familiar items. Look for his wonderful wall hanging of a park, with children playing on swings and trees swaying in the wind.
- Along a similar whimsical line is Tim Shanley, who paints lovely and familiar images using the points on the color wheel. His cats, dogs, martini olives, and wide-eyed fish will catch your eye because of the bright colors, but there is also a deliberate and distinct balance, beauty, and musicality to his compositions.
- The images of Long Beach-based photographer Ed Kennedy caught my eye because of the color and unique seaside lighting, both at the height of summer and dead of winter. His sand shovel photograph was taken in the yard of a neighbor in Long Beach who picks up all the shovels abandoned on the beach at the end of each day and then hands them back out to the kids the following day.
- I had to stop and stare at the wonderful paintings by Meg Azzoni of rivetingly detailed rooms and buildings. I learned that she is both an artist and a painter. Her paintings allow us to see her idyllic visions for ourselves, from stars shining through skylights to the patterned tapestries and furniture.
- Valeria Merrell of ValKnitz, in the Craft section of the WSOAE, masterfully knits sweaters for adults and children, as well as knit necklaces and scarves. She hand-dyes much of the wool she uses, and her designs are beautiful, flattering, and innovative.
- Last but definitely not least, Dara Hymowitz, also in the Craft section, is the creator of Another Work In Progress, which is a singular collection of notebooks and other items made from everyone’s favorite old board games, including wall clocks made of the spinners from games like Twister. I adore her work, not only because it can be so sentimental and personal, but because it is so incredibly clever.
And definitely seek out and page through the delicious, fine watercolors by Linda Cromer, who won another prize this year!
These are just some of the amazing artists whom you can meet on the sidewalks around Washington Square. Their tents are spread along University Place between East 12th Street and West 3rd, and on the blocks just east of Washington Square. It runs this weekend, including Monday, as well as next Saturday and Sunday, June 5th and 6th. Definitely make a plan to come down to the WSOAE, which truly celebrates the artistic heritage of Greenwich Village.