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Archives    Marya Summers art news Marya Summers is the former editor of Pandemonium art and literary magazine and  also the former art and theater writer for Free Press, Palm Beach County's alternative source for art and news.  Now, she's a freelance arts writer, a poetry and theater artist-in-residence in the public schools, an English instructor at PBCC, and the host of a weekly poetry slam in Delray Beach. www.delrayslam.com .


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A Tribute to Impermanence

   Artists took centuries to make the transition from classicism to abstraction, but Mother Nature managed the feat in a matter of minutes at the 9th Annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival this February.  Torrential downpours reinterpreted dozens of pastel paintings whose styles spanned the history of art.
 

   During the weekend festival, artists decorated the streets with paintings that ranged from the realistic to the fantastic, from portraiture to cartoons. They paid homage to Rosetti, Renoir, Picasso, van Gogh, Gauguin, Warhol, O’Keefe, and other famed artists, and they created original works of art.  Equipped with photos of the images they wished to create, some artists first laid grids to guide them while others simply plunged into their labors of love. 
 

   While shoulders and noses reddened in the sub-tropical sun, hundreds of artists were joined by thousands of art enthusiasts.  Artists sprawled on the pavement (some equipped with knee-pads and chamois cloths, some using cardboard and fingers as cushions and blending tools); spectators milled around, admiring the many-hued streets as they munched festival food and drank fruit smoothies.  Even when artists put the pastels down, picked up a cool drink and rested under one of the town square’s many banyan trees, they could be easily identified by the colorful smudges on their sun-kissed skin.
   Almost everyone knew the weather forecast for Saturday night was grim, but everyone enjoyed the glorious afternoon anyway.  At day’s end, most artists attempted to protect their creations from the weather using plasticene and duct tape. But as the wind began to whip through the streets, the gusts liberated some works-in-progress from the suffocating plastic.  One gust exposed a fairy’s bare bottom for a good, hard rain-spanking.
   Of course, no one had expected the images to last forever--once the festival ends and the streets re-open, car tires will become giant rubber erasers--but no one wanted the images destroyed before they were completed. 
   Before the onslaught of rain, Sharon Koskoff was putting the finishing touches on the four Tony Smith paintings within her giant, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art-sponsored square.  She shrugged off the weather threat:   “If it rains, it won’t be here anymore, but I can take a picture and that will last forever.”
   The next morning, Sunday lived up to its name. The clouds were gone and the sky was stretched like a giant blue canvas.  Artists returned to survey the damage.  Ironically, Koskoff’s creation weathered the storm.  And even if it hadn’t, the PB/ICA was offering free admission to the Smith exhibit, where festival-goers could see the originals.
   Some artists displayed their notorious sensitivity:  “Due to weather, life stinks! Death to Art!” was scribbled beneath one unrecognizable blur, whose creator evidently decided to call it quits.
   “I nearly cried,” confessed Georgette Pressler of her water-damaged rendering of Michael Park’s Art Deco “Moon Cranes.”   Picking up a piece of chalk to salvage what remained, she laughed  “Nature doesn’t care.” 
   As Pressler labored, hippie pacifists in clown attire teetered on stilts and passed out pamphlets protesting war.  Nearby, a drum circle encouraged participants to creatively and peacefully resolve conflicts.  Down a side street, children picked up chalk and drew smiley faces, flowers, and rainbows.  By the festival’s end, the streets of Lake Worth bloomed with color and creativity.
   Perhaps the festival’s most remarked creation was Laura Noel’s tribute to the Columbia 7-member crew.   Although by late Sunday afternoon Noel’s image was less than half-finished, onlookers admired the devotion and skill the artist had lavished on her subjects.  With their heads in the clouds, the international crew sported All-American smiles oblivious to impending disaster.  In the background, a tiny space shuttle trailed off like an afterthought. 



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Palm Beach Art
220 North G street
Lake Worth, Florida 33460
561-547-1167