Art Sampler, Anyone?
Food trucks and pop-up stages have helped transform the streets of Birmingham into a creative and welcoming venue. As I drove by the first time, I took in all the faces. An elderly couple walked up the avenue slowly. Following close behind were three curious small children and two chatty women in their thirties. The second time I drove by with my windows down in hope of asking a local where to park. This time the smell of food and the sound of people and faint far-away music got me excited for what was to come.
Finding parking was only my first struggle. Resisting the temptation to buy every piece of jewelry at the various booths was my second. Luckily, I had my brother with me who was not the least bit interested in the jewelry stands who pulled me away. However, he was drawn to other booths himself. He walked away with a smoke-screen printed t-shirt with the phrase “Give ‘em Hell” spread across an outline of the state of Alabama, a Yellowhammer poster of the newly- founded local rollerblade team, and a few tacos from the Cantina food truck. The Heavy Hearts, a band started by Birmingham- Southern College alumni Zac Baldwin and Lauren- Michael Sellers, was playing when I arrived. Because I had friends in the audience, I staarted there and worked my way around downtown.
Su Abbott along with 200 other artists has her art currently displayed in downtown Birmingham for this year’s ArtWalk. In its 13th year the juried art show includes painters, sculptors, photographers, performance artists and musicians from around Alabama. Office buildings, loft apartments, and local cafés become art galleries for 48 hours opening the doors to loyal patrons and to first-time visitors like myself.
Eventually, I ended up in a dentist’s office. This time it was not for another root canal. Rather, it was to experience something much more peaceful and seemingly out of place. The lobby of this office was converted into a gallery by using curtains and a table. Su Abbot’s paintings hung on every wall. The artist herself stood behind the table and welcomed guests into the office. I began by turning left and making a circle until I ended back at the door. Right before the door, however, I was attracted to a large wall-filling piece entitled Tapas. Not only did the art grab my attention, but this title did as well. Having studied Spanish for years and visited Spain three times, I knew that tapas were Spanish appetizers. They were originally served on drinks at bars to keep guests from getting too drunk too quickly. So, why was the piece called Tapas? A little description by the artist stated that the piece is composed of many small works of art. Yet, though they can be sold and appreciated separately, they are mere appetizers for the entire piece together.
A professor of mine, Pamela Venz, once taught me “Color is seductive.” This came to mind as Tapas drew me in with its mixture and contrast of deep indigos and bright blues with poignant greens and pallid greys. The artist obviously used more than a brush to paint. Some strokes look blotched or pressed. Other canvases appeared to have had paint thrown at them. A few of them have paint dripping down or across the canvas. The stark difference between the aforementioned dark and light colors create an appealing contrast that seems to hold all the pieces together.
I pulled out my camera and snapped a shot….bad idea. Su Abbott, standing close by asked me if I was completing an assignment. I assured her that I was and quickly learned that you should always ask first before taking pictures of others’ art. Noted. Fortunately enough, however, this amateur mistake of mine opened up a conversation with the artist about her art. She told me she is self-taught and not professionally trained. “I start with textures,” she said when describing her artwork. Then I add paint. I use modeling paste, high gloss clay, and different types of acrylic paints.” These techniques are obvious in each piece. The time that goes into each small canvas is surprisingly longer than it may seem, up to weeks for just one. Abbott informed me, “The trick, is learning when to stop.”