Monday, May 10, 2010

Arts Redefined

Dunwoody, with its premier Arts Festival was not content to put on just another flea market style parking lot carnival of an arts festival. Yes there was a tent city that would be the envy of René Garcia Préval (we leave petty comments about tents not conforming to the Williamsburg overlay to those bloggers who can never find a good thing to say). There were indeed vendors hawking artery clogging blood sludge fare. And of course there were booths with art-student-oils, stained glass, knick knacks, and yard art, that had the council been paying attention would soon be as welcome in Dunwoody as back yard chickens.

But there was much, much more. Though the Dunwoody Arts Festival shared a common starting point with its more established artsy neighbors, Dunwoody has higher ambitions -- no less that redefining parking lot art.

And that they did.  Looking at the now rather common examples of stained glass the Dunwoody visionaries saw what they were convinced must be only the beginning of home related artistry. They embraced the struggling movement of "Home Renovation as Art" by inviting home "designers" and their "remodelers" to demonstrate the artistry behind "hand blown budgets" with well crafted "slip schedules".

A closely related, but distinct category of art was put on public display (well sort of) by a local artist specializing in RetroFoam. Dunwoody has, in one dramatic exposition, made accessible an art form that heretofore was appreciated only by the most discerning eye. Often mistaken for a performance art due to the aesthetics of injection hole placement, "wall foam" is actually a response to the recent trend of "found art"-- for this is Hidden Art. The work itself, comprised solely of foam inside a home wall, is intentionally created outside the view of the artist and presents a holistic connection between artist, art and the patron. This ethereal relationship is somehow made tangible by the full engagement of the mind's eye.

But there was true performance art on display, and what a display it was, for it was performance art in its oldest, and some say darkest, form--banking! An art considered by many to one of the most formal, often held in venues commonly associated with chained pens and bullet proof glass, banking took on a gritty, street-wise edge when performed under the sidewalk "little top". Passersby were regaled with the elegant pas de deux of high fees and fine print.

As stimulating and raw as "Banking as Street Art" was, it retained a certain orchestrated Cirque de Soleil quality, missing the informality of improv and thereby creating an artistic void that demanded to be filled. And the Dunwoody Art Community was determined to shake off an unfair characterization as an ultra conservative, intellectually restrained and aesthetically challenged arts backwater by presenting a burly, if not actually burlesque, display of "College Hunks Hauling Junk". The "Hunks" put on a series of bawdy plays in the shadow of their very own circus wagon garishly dominating the intersection of Chamblee Dunwoody and Mount Vernon. Oddly, alcohol was not involved.

Perhaps feeling that the "Hunks" might have pushed the envelope just a bit too far in one direction, the Dunwoody Arts Community showed a softer, but in fact no less edgy, foray into the performance arts with "Merry Maids". Spreading their own brand of pink, the Merry Maids added a warm undertone to the staid "Dunwoody Beige", reminding young and old alike just why these Maids made merry.

So there you have it. Not since the 1996 Olympics were declared almost the best ever have people in Dunwoody, and all across Georgia, had something to be this proud of.