I haven’t been (as vendor or visitor) to a big ART festival for two years. I’ve stuck to small events close to home in order to avoid losing money through high show fees and travel expenses during the economic slowdown. This year, for the third time, I was part of the Sausalito Art festival in CA. Even in ultra–wealthy Marin County, things have slowed. People just don’t buy as much. All the art there is good. It is a very tightly juried show and the quality remains high. Some vendors do very well but I know there were a few who sold nothing. I did okay and had fun visiting friends and family and people watching. The music is always wonderful. Even though the artists’ amenities have diminished, they are still the best I experience.
A very interesting phenomena to me was that all the watercolorists roughly equivalent to me in style and subject matter, showed only large pieces: a few half sheets, mostly full sheet and bigger (true for originals and gicles). The paper is painted to the edge to show off the decal or torn edge. I felt liked I’d missed a memo. No one but me had any small originals, which was kind of nice, because I sold several. Also everything was “float mounted” so that it looks as if it’s magically laying unattached on the backing of the frame, even though the frame is vertical on the wall (this shows off those edges). Instead of a regular frame, this method demands a shallow box, most are at least an inch deep, to frame the art. The glass is that far above the painting. It looks fine, but what a pain. There is no chance to “crop“ the painting. Your original composition can’t be altered in size and/or shape by cutting the paper. When I was in college, photographers did something similar. When using large format cameras, like Ansel Adams used, they would print the entire exposure, showing the edges of the film. This supposedly proved that they had composed the picture in the field instead of in the darkroom, which was intended to convey expertise.
I want every tool in the bag available to me in order to make art, and being able to improve paintings by cropping isn’t something I would choose to give up. Also, those boxes used in floating are larger and more cumbersome than ordinary frames, which seems like a burden to both the exhibiting artist and the collector. I greatly admire the artists whom managed to get 10-15 of those monsters to the fair and hung without breaking glass, dislodging mounts or chipping and scratching finishes. I find keeping ordinary frames in good shape onerous.
Fashions in framing come and go. A few years ago, someone started using wide gold frames for all her work. These became wildly popular and are now known as “plein aire” frames. I just heard that even in backwater Bellingham WA, galleries now consider these frames passe. Funny, they still look nice.
I want my framing to be classic and elegant. I use many recycled frames. I square them up, reinforce and redecorate them with gold and silver leafing. They have a distinct and deliberate distressed look, so that one little blemish isn’t going to ruin them. It’s kind of like before fiberglass bumpers were the norm. Bumpers were made of hard rubber and you could actually tap or even bump them against things with no damage!! How cool is that? Bumpers were made to protect the car!! Frames can be used to protect art!!!
Any way, I’m hoping the whole floating watercolor thing doesn’t go on too long. If you like it, enjoy it while it lasts. Ideally, the art is more important than the frame.