I love interacting with people who are interested in my work — especially outside," says Ashland artist Pegi Smith.
Photographer Jerrold Hagstrom agrees, "For many of us, it's more about the conversation than the sales ... If people are interested and intrigued, that's what we're about."
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Smith and Hagstrom are two of 60 artists who will be exhibiting their work in Jacksonville Celebrates the Arts, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4, 5 and 6. The 13th annual arts festival is a free, fresh-air opportunity for people and artists to come together directly. It's a chance to share illuminating conversations and to view a wealth of paintings, photographs, sculptures, crafts and ceramics set against a backdrop rich in history and architectural charm.
The festival's swirl of light, color and movement is reflected in Smith's luminous paintings of primitive birds, horses and humans awash in overlapping layers of translucent color that shimmer under glazes of gold and copper pigment.
A self-taught artist, Smith creates works that are distinctive, almost aboriginal, in style. Bypassing more traditional techniques, Smith relishes the immediacy of painting spontaneously, exploring what paint might do instead of what it's supposed to do.
For Hagstrom, the joy of the Jacksonville festival comes from shared conversations about familiar places. Hagstrom specializes in evocative photographs of Southern Oregon and his hometown of Jacksonville. He says there's a desire for affordable images of places with personal connections.
"People come into town, and they like to leave with something of the town," Hagstrom says.
Victorian Jacksonville is a rich resource for his art because of the many appealing architectural details he likes to feature — curving arches, ornate gingerbread and balcony railings that slice shadows and light.
Presented on the grounds of the historic Jacksonville Museum, the festival celebrates not only art, but music, food and the town, itself.
Originally an open-studio art walk, the event has evolved to highlight regional artists and support the community. Vendor fees go toward a fund to build a community center.
New this year is "Hear Our Children," a booth where children can decorate their own ceramic wind chimes.
Artists will be available for demonstrations and discussions of their techniques. The reward for months alone in a studio are conversations, well-earned appreciation and that awed, "wow" response.
The "wows" are sometimes delayed when people walk by a booth called "Eye Candy." It often takes a second look to realize that the intricate brooches are actually antique jewelry reassembled on vintage eyeglass lenses. The reaction is consistently wistful — memories of mothers and grandmothers and nostalgia for a more stylish era.
That's just the effect artist Mary McCaffety wants to create. Raised by her grandmother, she describes her work as "bits and pieces from my childhood that I don't want to let go.
"There's so much character in old, vintage pieces; it's a shame we don't have that style today," she says. "I want to bring some of that back."
Besides nostalgic brooches, McCaffety transforms 1920s mannequin heads into painted "glamour girls" and redecorates vintage "flapper" hats with feathers and finery from the '20s and '30s. "I can't make them fast enough," says the artist. "People can't get enough hats."
Snazzy hats, evocative photos, primal paintings — whatever you acquire — you will have a story to go with it: color-drenched memories of a vibrant day.
As Smith notes, "It's a festive feeling. All the other artists and the crowds, everybody's vibe is there. It's exciting."