by Jane Bumar
The Earth Angels cooperative of artists flew in like a flock of glass-glittered birds to their HeArt of Winter pop-up show at Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford this past weekend. They escaped the cold gray north into the Florida Tourist Board weather. Funky, artsy historic Sanford on a clear ultramarine-sky Saturday in February is not a bad gig if you can get it.
Their world is one of vintage, recycled, re-purposed items; collaged and reinterpreted from their original forms. In the artists' hands, faucet tops become necklace pendants, architectural salvage skeleton keys pair with amber chandelier drops. Victorian-era door escutcheons are decorated with rhinestones from a long-cast off 1940-era earring dangle, then draped on a leather cord around a vintage velvet mannequin. The more weathered, the more unloved - the better fodder to feed the creative imaginations of these mixed media artists.
They dress the part too; leather boots paired with linen skirts, statement hairpieces with feathers top worn tailcoats evoking a more fanciful age. Stacked steamer trunks form display cases of tiny hand-sculpted mice, purses with threadbare faded silk millinery flowers rescued from obscurity. One can sense the dust motes swirling when these treasures were unearthed, and re-imagined. It is real, but yet a bit of tinsel fantasy at the same time. One of the women artists told me that she'd created a 'regular retail' version of her art jewelry too. The missing crystals and rusted, chipped enamel on pendants that renders them unique - perfect to the art chick crowd - makes it 'too worn' and 'broken' for retail. So slightly more conventional renderings, with new chain, and artificially aged (thus, still intact) glitter had to be made just to keep them from being returned to big-box fashion stores as damaged goods. Rather ironic when that's the whole point of 'the vintage look.' At this gallery show, however, the real vintage deal is touchable and take-homeable, and the gallery clientele have the opportunity to meet the very artists who made the wares.
I got to the gallery in the last hour or so of the show; I was graciously offered a chair and room to sketch in the swirling middle of it all. For the next hour, I was somehow part of this pop-up moveable feast. Part of a bit of theater depicting another age as seen through a slightly wavy glass mirror, surrounded by their carefully placed shabby chic props. Time simultaneously slows down and races by when you're sketching. It imprints the feel, and the smell, and the spirit of where you are in the moment, until that moment fades and you're brought back into the world. As the show wound down, the artists' tulle and top hat art-wear was replaced by workaday t-shirts and jeans - it's difficult to wear vintage organza when you're loading crates and boxes into vans and heading back that night to New York, or Virginia. The late afternoon sun streamed in the old casement windows of the gallery, rendering a vanishing glow of light as the birds flew home.