2014-02-20 / Arts & Entertainment News

THE SHOW OF SHOWS

The Naples National Art Festival brings artists and shoppers back again and again
BY DON MANLEY
Florida Weekly Correspondent

BOB AND PATTI STERN SET UP SHOP at about 40 art shows a year, traveling the country to hawk their artistic creations.

One of the couple’s favorite stops for displaying their one-ofa kind clock-head cabinets and humanlike sculptures crafted from architectural antiques is the Naples National Art Festival, which marks its 35th anniversary this weekend.

“It’s one of the most highly regarded art shows in the country,” says Mrs. Stern. “I love the energy. It’s such an educated, inquisitive, sophisticated crowd. It’s the most the most sophisticated group of people on the West Coast.”

This year’s juried fine art and craft festival will feature more than 260 artists from around the nation exhibiting their handiworks at Cambier Park and along Eighth Street South on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23. The Naples Art Association hosts the event, which serves as the main source of funds for the association’s education programs.


“Giant Water Lily” by Julie Carlson “Giant Water Lily” by Julie Carlson The Sterns, who reside in suburban Cleveland, won the Award of Excellence in 3-D Mixed Media at last year’s festival, which draws more than 20,000 attendees each year and is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 fine art festivals in the United States by Sunshine Artist Magazine.

“Part of the reason for the festival’s success is we’re drawing on 35 years of history,” explains Shea Lindner, NAA manager of marketing and public relations. “This festival is known among collectors as one of the best.”

Festival applicants are judged based artistic merit, design, vision and creativity, craftsmanship and technical competence, and marketability-booth presentation. The jurors’ panel changes each year and is composed of people who have in-depth knowledge and experience in a variety of artistic mediums. Their backgrounds include working artists, educators, fine art and craft gallery owners and museum directors-curators.


“The Three Stooges” by Patti and Bob Stern “The Three Stooges” by Patti and Bob Stern Artists will compete for $5,000 in prize money divided among the winners in 14 categories: ceramics, digital art, fiber/ leather, furniture, glass, graphics/printmaking, jewelry, metal, mixed media 2D, mixed media 3D, painting, photography, sculpture and wood.

Creating kinetic art

Like the Sterns, Chicago-area artist Michael Brown sees the Naples National as a highlight of the art-festival circuit. This is his fourth year to have been juried into the show.

“My experience has been wonderful,” he says. “The weather has always been perfect, and everyone who comes is always happy and having a good time.”


Artist John Leben, an exhibitor at the upcoming Naples National Art Festival, is asking the public for help coming up with a name that aptly describes the “particular poetic appeal” of his latest digital painting, above. Email suggestions to jleben@lebenart.co. The person who submits the winning name will receive a free 5-by-10-inch limited edition print of the piece (a $24 value). Be sure to include a mailing address when suggesting a name. Artist John Leben, an exhibitor at the upcoming Naples National Art Festival, is asking the public for help coming up with a name that aptly describes the “particular poetic appeal” of his latest digital painting, above. Email suggestions to jleben@lebenart.co. The person who submits the winning name will receive a free 5-by-10-inch limited edition print of the piece (a $24 value). Be sure to include a mailing address when suggesting a name. Mr. Brown’s optical photo art can enable the viewer to see the passage of time by simply taking a single step. His specialties are 3D images that can be viewed with the naked eye and lenticular printmaking, an exacting and time-intensive process that blends multiple photographs into one to create images that shift with the viewer’s perspective.

He describes his lenticular works as “kinetic art” and says they can depict the changing of the seasons as reflected in bucolic scenes, such as a gentle woodland stream spanned by a wooden footbridge.

He describes the lenticular screen he uses in the print making process as having a “ribbed surface like corduroy.” It has the ability to refract light from angles, so what the viewer sees depends on where they stand, he adds. It’s a method that was discovered about 100 years ago and is rarely used because of its expense and complexity, says Mr. Brown, who has been working with the process since 2006.

“The whole thing just fascinated me — the ability to take photography to a place that it hadn’t been before.” To learn more about Mr. Brown and his art, visit www.michaelbrown.com.

Whimsy in life and art

The sense of fun that infuses Mr. and Mrs. Stern’s artwork is also reflected in their approach to life.

“We think that it’s OK to have too much fun,” says Mrs. Stern.

Marrying American antiques and architectural salvage items with “a touch of whimsy,” the Sterns create sculptures that mirror the human form. “Bob and I are the American Pickers,” quips Mrs. Stern.

The couple, married 28 years, discovered they shared a love of antiques when they were dating. Inspiration for their artistic approach sprang from Mrs. Stern picking up a window frame at an Ohio flea market in 1993. That eureka moment “literally started the business,” she says. Within six months, their creations were in 10 stores. “It was quite amazing,” she says.

The Sterns only use American antiques and no reproductions for their pieces, reflecting their shared appreciation of 19th century craftsmanship.

“Every piece is one of a kind, made from antiques,” says Mrs. Stern. “It never happens twice.”

She says they log 30,000-35,000 miles a year traveling the art festival circuit and enjoy every stop.

“We try to get people involved in the fun,” she says. “It’s all about the fun.”

A connection to nature

Julie Carlson doesn’t have to venture far to find inspiration for the floral designs, trees and botanical scenes she lushly depicts in her oil paintings.

All it takes is venturing out her door and onto the verdant grounds that surround her home Bonita Springs home of 11 years.

“When I stepped foot on this property, I knew I was connected to it without even seeing the house,” says Ms. Carlson. “I knew that I belonged here.”

With Oak Creek running along two sides and the Imperial River nearby, the property is home to mature oaks, palms, mangrove, tangerine and other trees and abundant wildlife. The old trees are the subjects of Ms. Carlson’s paintings.

“When I’m out in the woods and walking around in nature, I can feel an immediate connection to something and know that I have to paint it, just like when I stepped on the grounds here.”

Motivation can strike in any local natural setting, whether it’s a flower garden or the Everglades, she adds.

Ms. Carlson says she has been exhibiting at the Naples National Art Festival for so long that she no longer recalls when she began.

“It’s got a wonderful reputation,” she says. “People may follow you for months and they’ll wait until the show to make a decision.” Not only that, she adds, the possibility of selling an original is greater for her at the Naples National. ¦

The 35th annual Naples National Art Festival

>> What: Works by 260 artists from around
the country
>> When: Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23
>> Where: In and around Cambier Park,
downtown Naples
>> Info: Call the Naples Art Association at The
von Liebig Art Center, 262-6517, or visit
www.naplesart.org

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