Rain or shine, artists at 57th Street Art Fair showcase their talents

A vendor struggles to piece together the remains of his booth and display after the storm swept through the 57th Street Art Fair on Saturday. (Contributed photo)

Staff writer

Artists from around the nation had the opportunity to showcase their artwork during the 72nd annual 57th Street Art Fair on Saturday and Sunday.

The Midwest’s oldest juried art fair encouraged local art lovers to come outside to marvel and buy artwork from more than 150 artists, many of whom were returning, who were skilled in ceramics, fiber arts, sculpture, print-making, photography, wood-painting, jewelry, drawing, mixed media, digital art and other forms of art.

Throughout the weekend, hundreds of people walked along 57th Street from Woodlawn to Dorchester as they looked for art to buy. Visitors stopped at Friends of Ray PTO’s Food Court to purchase food and listen to live music from Buddy Guy’s Legends at William H. Ray Elementary School’s playground.

Natalya Sots is a ceramics artist from Kazakhstan but is currently based in Schaumburg, IL. She describes her work as whimsical, “I think it is like whimsical ceramics, it can be not functional and decorative like some of the wall pieces that you can use to decorate your bathroom or living room. Some of the works are functional and you can use for food, but at the same time, it is eye-catching.”

Sots has been coming to the art fair for a while and loves it, “People are very hospitable and helpful. People of different ages and different cultures walkthrough. There is good food and good music. For the artist, it is very important to sell work and they buy it. They buy what you love to do and it is wonderful.”

For first-timers, Daniel James Johnson, a painter from the South Side of Chicago, and Erin Alice Gray, a painter from Marion, IL, they were excited to be at the art fair.

Many were attracted to Johnson’s breathtaking painting called “Fallen Angel” where a young Black teen is carrying a younger child with wings, who appears to be dying in the teen’s arms.

Sevin Surucu lifts a print that she had just made by the Turkish Erbu method of paper-marbling on Sunday during the second day of the 72nd Annual 57th Street Art Fair. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

“I do art fairs because it gives me an opportunity to come out and mingle with the people. Talk about my process. Spark dialogue with some of the paintings that I have here because people have a lot of questions. That’s another part that inspires me, creating something that provokes emotions that creates dialogue,” said Johnson.
Once a graphic designer, Gray started painted 10 years ago to get away from her computer after her sister gifted her with a paint set. As an artist, she creates three-dimensional pieces by layering paint.

“I try to do impasto painting, which is where the brush strokes and the palette strokes are visible but I’m pushing that into the realm of sculptural by making that so three-dimensional and using pipping tools to get a whole new level of technique and dimension in them,” said Gray.

For anyone who is like Gray, who is interested in art or want to start a new hobby she said, “Just do art for fun. It’s got to start off as something fun that you do to make you happy. This is all a stress reliever for me. It’s what makes it so happy.”

The first day of the fair started off warm and sunny, but later in the evening, a storm brought strong gusts of wind, heavy rains and hail. As Laura Kochevar, a fiber artist based in Andersonville on the city’s North Side, mentioned, “It almost always rains during the weekend.”

Having experienced bad weather in previous shows, many artists including Kochevar, were prepared to handle the rain and wind. Kochevar had clips to weigh down scarves when the wind became unruly and a flashlight when it dimmed outside. Others had waterproof tents and created solid foundations for their displays and tents prior to displaying.

On Sunday, every artist was back in business, chatting with customers and enjoying a sunny, slightly warm day.