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Monumental salmon sculpture.

I could have titled my story, “Unexpected Art At A Small-Town Country Fair”, or even “Outsider Art At A Small-Town Country Fair”. For when I went to the Washington State Fair for the first time in ten years, with my friend Teresa, I was not expecting to encounter amazing art. Animals, yes; produce displays, yes; but not the kind of art I found.

We indeed saw dozens of jars of homemade jam – strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, rhubarb, cherry, chokecherry; and totally delicious-appearing home-baked pies (which sadly sat out for days and days, and were probably inedible). Those items are part of the backbone and tradition of a country fair.

We also saw a myriad of unbelievably beautiful flowers grown in gardens all around Puyallup. Its “rich volcanic soil” is so flower-friendly. I learned that dahlias can look like they came from another planet. They seem to fluoresce. Wow. I’ve never seen more beautiful flowers.

But the art displays boggled my mind.

In September of 2014, when I visited the fair, located in Western Washington state, and formerly known as the Puyallup Fair, I had yet to start blogging. And, I had just received my used digital camera from Teresa, as a gift. This was my initial attempt at digital photography. I was simply having fun; I took photos of what really stuck me as unusual and excellent. I didn’t fully document things such as the artist’s name for several of the below pieces. I had no idea I was going to ever have a blog, let alone blog about our visit to the fair. So forgive me when you don’t see an artist’s name. Most of what you see presented here was created by children, teens and/or amateurs.

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Pirate Raggedy Ann and Andy.

This take on a familiar, beloved doll couple really blew my mind, and that of Teresa’s. The black and white color scheme employed by its adolescent maker, along with Ann’s scull-print apron and Andy’s scull-print scarf and shirt are a pirate’s dream. — Not sure how the peace symbols fit in! I would not have wanted to play with these when I was a little boy. I was a scaredy-cat! To me, they turn the notion of Raggedy Ann and Andy on its head. Now, I want them.

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Pastel drawing of a DJ.

Angelina M. Casays, nine years old, received a Grand Champion ribbon for her beautiful rendition of a cool DJ droppin’ the bass. What a fantastic rendering. Notice the “sound waves” emanating from the speaker system. I like the little heart floating in air, which I interpret as signifying that the DJ is spreading the love. I would never in a million years have expected to see a drawing like this, and of this quality, executed by a nine year old. I think Angelina is just getting started!

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Closeup of DJ drawing.

During our visit, we viewed a good-sized exhibition of a junior and senior high school 3D art. The masks these students made were striking in their conception and execution. I collect tribal art, including African, Mexican, Central American and Indonesian masks. I would be proud to have either of the below masks in my collection. The first mask, which reminds me of an African antelope mask, was created by a Woodinville, WA junior high school student, Kinsale Sproule, from papier mache, and it is entitled, “Exotica”.

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Desyrai Keefer, Puyallup, WA high school student, crafted this fabulous clay mask, below, which she calls “Ooga Booga”. I can so see this displayed on my wall. Desyrai took such simple forms and elements to create something so expressive.

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Now that I am presenting these masks in this story, I regret so much that I only photographed two! I cannot say if either of these masks was awarded a ribbon; but were I serving as judge, they both would have won. In my opinion, every piece in this story deserves a ribbon. I hope I can at least give these artists some exposure.

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The above object is what I would call a ceramic art tile. Although I’m not positive that is the correct term for it. Let’s say, it’s a tres’ cool slab of clay. To me, it’s reminiscent of some of the wonderful European modern (mid-20th century) ceramic art I’ve been fortunate enough to view. I loved it, immediately. I like how it’s not “perfect”. But it’s perfectly fabulous. I have so very little concrete information about the object; I was simply taking pictures of what I liked. But I recall that it was made by a young person. I’d trade just about everything in my collection for it.

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Collaboration quilt.

I adore quilts executed in the African/African-American style. Sadly, the Puyallup fair was lacking in many examples in 2014. However, I found the one pictured here. This is a collaboration quilt; that is, it was made by an amateur and a professional, working together. The designer was Teresa Coe. She was assisted in her project by quilter Eileen Peacher. I love the way African-motif cloth was utilized in the making of the pattern. The blue and orange cloth appears to be a modern replication of African Kente cloth. For comparison sake, here is a piece of Kente cloth from my collection. This quilt demonstrates how strips of Kente cloth were sewn together to make larger pieces of cloth.

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African Kente cloth.

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Table setting.

A dazzling arrangement of Japanese lanterns was the crowning glory of this table setting. I had never seen a table setting competition before. There were many settings, and they were all uniquely done. Of the various styles and motifs represented; this was my hands-down favorite. The beautifully colored, floating balls immediately caught my eye, and my fancy. I failed to notice the two dragons which are “flying” among the lanterns, until just now. I had always thought of dragons as Chinese rather than Japanese. I learned something new…. I’m sorry I don’t know who accomplished this great table setting, but I would love to sit down with its maker and share tea and conversation. Oh, would I pick his or her brain!

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I collected Navajo pottery for a number of years. I especially loved it, because it was glazed using pine pitch. This pot, masterfully crafted by Phyllis M. Stier, has an almost identical type of glaze on its surface. I would have expected to see an ear of corn, or a bear decorating its surface. I won’t hazard a guess as to how representational the design Ms. Stier created is, but it’s very attractive. I am in love with this pot. As you can see, someone else likes it too. It has won a red ribbon! Below, for comparison, is a Navajo pine pitch pot which I found on E-Bay. The pine pitch is used not only to beautify the pot, but to make it waterproof. I have no idea if Ms. Stier is familiar with this type of pottery; but the label displayed beside her pot did not reference Navajo pottery.

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Navajo pine pitch pot, circa 1980’s-1990’s.

I am going to call this enormous sculpture a metal fish. I am not going to label it a “scrap-metal” fish. First of all, I have no idea what materials and techniques were employed in the making of this monumental item. And secondly, that phrase could sound derogatory, and that would be so wrong. I can tell you that it contains a goodly number of horseshoes, and that it is huge. I wish my friend Teresa had of been standing near it, so you could see how truly large it is. I will make the assumption that it was assembled via welding. The salmon is an icon of the Pacific Northwest. It was and is so important to the inhabitants of our area. Its skin has even been used in the making of clothing by native Washington tribes. People around here love their salmon, the way folks in Montana love their horses. I am so sorry I don’t have the artist’s name to share with you. Let me say this: if this salmon (actually there are two) didn’t win some kind of ribbon, then God didn’t make little green apples! Imagine the work involved in the creation of this magnificent piece. I hope it finds a home in a spectacular setting.

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Roped off. Do not touch!

I don’t know when I’ll be revisiting Puyallup’s Washington State Fair. I have no car, and I’m not very mobile, as far as getting to another town goes. But if I can manage that, I’ll take more photos and do much more documentation, next time. I’ll post everything here on wordpress. I’ll be sure to get some shots of those incredible florescent dahlias. But no pies! Let a food blogger do that.