Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Madonnari Festival, Santa Barbara, California

31 May, 2011

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the I Madonnari Festival was held in Santa Barbara, California.  The festival, which harks back to artists in renaissance Italy who painted religious icons in front of churches during sacred festivals, has been transformed here into a community celebration of art, music and food.  The central attraction is the street "paintings" created in colored chalk over the course of the three days on the pavement in front of the Santa Barbara Mission.

Children watching the fish in the fountain in the Mission courtyard.

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Here is my English teaching tie-in!  This artist is a student in a local adult education English class in which I was doing a teaching practicum.  The students in the class worked together on a fundraising project to pay the fee for him to participate in the festival, and got their class named as the sponsor above the painting.  He had never participated in one before; while at the festival, he was approached with an offer to participate in another festival free of charge because the organizer liked his work.  Their regular English teacher found a class project that was engaging and empowering for the students.

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The below painting was specially designed to be anamporphic, or three dimensional when viewed through a lens at a certain angle.  I love how it looks like the artist and the girl in the painting are actually drawing together!
This view shows how this painting looked from the side.  Amazing!

I attended the second and the third day of the festival, and it was fascinating to see how paintings evolved over time, like this one.

Also this lovely rendition of the fountain in front of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, which I didn't even realize was unfinished the first time I saw it.  Using blue tints to paint the statue gives it such a different feel that had it not been for the caption below the image, I wouldn't have recognized the image as the fountain, although it did seem awfully familiar.  (Once I saw the caption, I did recognize the Strangely Evil Fish from the fountain!)

This one, sponsored by the SB City Firefighters Association, was the most poignant image for me - a depiction of the Tea Fire of November 2008.  This is exactly how it looked in the nighttime news videos as local residents anziously watched its rapid spread and waited to see who would be evacuated next.

The first day, I was there late in the afternoon and it was difficult to get photos without the long shadows of the wandering spectators falling through them.  In this photo, the shadow is that of the artist standing up for a stretch.

Tools of the trade - look at all the lovely chalk!  This detailed painting required a full "palette", and there were several more boxes off to the right unseen in this photo.
The sun was rapidly going down, but there was still enogh light for this artist to work in one corner of the painting!

All of the artists had images that they were working from, and this artist was taking part of his design from a T-shirt .

Fishies from afar...
... and near!

The subjects were amazingly varied, from fruit to pets to people to the space shuttle.  However, some artists stuck to tradition and reproduced religious paintings, most notably Madonnas (hence the name of the festival).

Some artists sat or perched precariously on cardboard and foam, fastidiously avoiding contact with the chalk as though it were a sacred thing; others seemed to regard themselves as part of the art itself, and by the end of each day were liberally covered in chalk. 

Others approached their work like tradesmen, with knee pads, umbrellas, miniature vacuum cleaners and even rolling dollies.
This was the only image done entirely in black and white, it turned out very striking.  You can even see a reflection on the glasses.

Apply the chalk...
... and rub.
Apply the chalk...
... and rub.

In the late afternoon, the artists who had some experience with these festivals worked under standing umbrellas, making an image inside an image.

The painted painter!

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