Whether it's a state fair or a county fair or a contemporary arts fair, in Texas, a fair is a fair. So when I went to that big pole barn on the east side of downtown, I wasn't looking for the best art or even how well the local folks were represented, I was looking for fair fare and with my MeeMaw in tow, I found it.
Right up front they told us like it was, All Sales Final. No swapping (except maybe partners in the VIP lounge), no take backs, and no refunds.
All Sales Final
At every fair I've ever been to there have been political workers and surveyors who eagerly swoop down on my gullible MeeMaw for a few minutes of her time. This one was no different. Of course, a few minutes of MeeMaw's time was a few minutes of MY time. I doubly resented it because the exploitation of MeeMaw's gullibility was not only eating up my time it was also interfering with my exploitation of her gullibility. Luckily, the Fotofest's Political Bowl Season electronic poll was quick and didn't promise to save anyone's soul ,so it was also free. The vote count was mighty lop-sided for Romney. He had 61 collector votes. Obama only had 147 artist and convention support staff votes and at a 1:99 ratio, team Obama had a little catching up to do.
Brian Piana, Political Bowl Season
For some reason, it ain't a fair without flags. May be it's because most of the peoples walking and gawking and working the booths don't look nothing like the people setting up and serving. They, them that throw fairs, want to reassure everyone that if they got enough money and they want it we will metaphorically wrap it in a flag and slap a price on it.
Andrew Schoultz, Made in China (Extreme Melt) and Snake
Skylar Fein, Black Flag for Voltaire (All Murderers are Punished), 2012, acrylic and plaster on wood, 43.5" x 71"
Now, I love me some horses (but not in that Equus kinda way) and so does MeeMaw, so we always gotta swing by the horses. We liked this horse, Ruby, but we thought it could use a little more "meat" on its bones. MeeMaw said it was probably from a fundraiser about abused horses or the artist just ran out of money because bronze is expensive. I told her I didn't think it made out of bronze. She told me to quit back talking and lick it if I doubted her. So I did. Before I could tell her what I discovered, an art fair cop stepped up and asked us not to touch the art. MeeMaw looked him up and down. "You a damn fool." She said and then gave me a look that said do it again or else you will walk your ass to Sugar Land. So I did. "Or LICK the art!" he said and walked away in disgust.
I was little disgusted inside my mouth. The horse was not made of bronze; it was made of rust.
Deborah Butterfield, Ruby
Not long after the licking, we stumbled across a beautiful blue horse. While I was thinking about Franz Marc's Large Blue Horse, MeeMaw couldn't quit fingering the stitching on it. Her actions attracted the attention of another art fair cop, but before he could utter a word, she grabbed his pale, thin hand and rubbed it over the stitching. "I haven't felt needle work like that since the 1970s." "You're so right." He chimed in. "I got these plaid pants at Texas Junk and they must be at least 40 years old, but feel the stitching on the inseam." MeeMaw did what the art cop told her to do.
Eric Beltz, Revival Wall
She eventually quit rubbing on the young man's inseam when I promised to find her some quilts or rugs to view. We passed these pictures of automobiles, which I quite like. She said that the paintings were dangerous to impressionable young minds and might influence teenagers to try and imitate those automotive arrangements. Not wanting to get into the perils of arts influence on the impressionable and idiotic, I said, "I think I see the rugs over there."
Jeremy Dickinson, Thirteen Rears (with silverside), Twelve Rears (greyhound history), Tramway Station
The rugs were beautiful but not very practical. One was made from packaging tape. MeeMaw was in my face with "What's up with that?" She thought she had me until I simply said, "It's waterproof in case it floods."
Mark Khaisman,Antique Rug 1
MeeMaw then found an even more objectionable piece of art than the "parking dangerously" paintings. It was Eric Beltz word pieces, I welcome the dead into my soul. She exclaimed, "I would not darken the door of a house with that hanging in it." So of course I thought real hard about buying it to hang in my room.
Eric Beltz, I welcome the dead into my soul (Revival Wall)
But I couldn't afford it, so we wandered on.
Not to get too OED-deep into the meaning of the word fair, but a fair is market is a garage sale without a garage. The phrase quilt had kick-started MeeMaw's appetite for consumption. When she saw Rice University's booth, she gasped, "Ahhhh! You didn't have to. Gewgaws for MeeMaw." But after 30 seconds of scanning the merchandise, I could she her ambivalence set in. She was thrilled she could afford something at the prestigious art fair. However, she just wasn't sure why she would want to buy what she could afford.
Rice University Gallery
Elsewheres there were some mighty fine teeth. "Organic gewgaws" with fine stitching, which MeeMaw said that she would have bought for Uncle Buck if she liked him more.
MeeMaw had to shake the dew off her lily, so I took that opportunity to find the holy grail of every fair: the games and the side shows.
I stumbled upon this one game. At first I thought it was a take-off on the build-a-bear theme only for the art fair kid crowd (age 20 to 40, with trust fund attached) of oil barons from Baytown. Wrong. Next, I guessed it was a game in which the object was to knock the crap off the top of these deer heads and win a prize. Problem was I couldn't find a gun or a ball or dart to throw at them. Sans equipment, I was just about to just walk up and bitch slap one of those colorful palm fronds off when one of the booth workers told me the price. Damn! Was I surprised to learn that it was one of those VIP games that cost more than I could get for MeeMaw's Buick LeSabre.
Disappointed, I walked over to see what was all the fuss at the Glasstire bar. From the excitement, you'd have thought they were giving away spray-paint damaged Picassos. When I got closer, I realized it was just the art world's version of "touch my lizard" for people in business attire. Never have I seen such finely clothed people holding lizards. Only they was using alligators with their mouths taped shut instead of lizards, but it's the same thing unless of course you happen to be the lizard.
I like to touch lizards as much as the next art fair patron. Nevertheless, I passed. I didn't want to have to explain to MeeMaw why I was caressing a crocodile and how that was art or in any way, shape or form related to art. I sidled up to the bar to bar to hob knob with a celebrity du heure. It must have been shift change because no one was there except Bill Davenport. Although he's whip smart and all he don't have any gold teeth or date a Kardashian, so in MeeMaw's book, he don't count.
Time was running out, so I headed straight for the side show section of the art fair. None of the maps or signage pointed to it and they didn't have a crier, but when I turned the corner, there was no doubt in my mind that I had hit the art fair side show. Behold! photos of Basquiat, breasts, and blind folds.
Basquiat photo orgy
Blind Folds and Breasts
I stood around ogling the three until a booth worker asked me to quit fogging up the glass on the Basquiat or he'd have me removed from the fair. As I was leaving, a woman approached me and offered to show me what I wanted to see if I'd meet her by the water fountains.
Let me just say art fair types frown on running through their hallowed halls yelling "whoopee!"
I was elated until I got to the water fountains. There wasn't just one water fountain. There were 6, each for separate ethnicity: Muslim, Latin American, African American, Native American, White, Asian American. I was in a conundrum. I wasn't sure which ethnicity she was. Furthermore, I wasn't sure which one I was. After all, my ancestors where sluts. I look white but if those water fountains collect your saliva and then run it through one of those CSI machines, I might be accused of going to the wrong fountain. I waited. I wavered, but finally I wandered off in dismay.
The last thing I needed was MeeMaw to find me at the wrong water fountain with the right girl.
Travis Somerville, Well Division
Travis Somerville, Well Division
Travis Somerville, Well Division
Travis Somerville, Well Division
MeeMaw found me staring at some white guy quenching himself at the fountains. "You been staring at him the whole time? It's time to go."
Now it ain't a fair and it ain't over until someone propositions you in the parking lot. As we was walking toward our car, this gawky guy in a white PAN ARTS FAIR t-shirt comes over, blocks my MeeMaws path and says. "Psst. You wanna go to real art fair?"
"We've just come from one. Cost my grandson and famous art blogger $40 a ticket."
He looked at us. "You was robbed. See that building. It's the Embassy Suites. In Room 307 is the Pan Arts Fair. That's a real art fair."
"You mean a whole art fair in one room?" MeeMaw said skeptically.
"Totally. They've even got art in the drawers."
"I'm sure they've got all kinds of MIRACLES in their drawers. And as far as we're concerned, they can keep them there!"
She pushed the young man a side and made a beeline for the car.
But later that evening, I overheard her telling her friend Mabel on sky, "if I didn't have that brat with me, I just might went to look in those drawers."
May be next time MeeMaw. May be next time.