Bazaart offers shoppers `madness with a heart'

The American Visionary Art Museum's annual sale is part art exhibit, part flea market

November 25, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Sun reporter

Twins from southern New Jersey marketed slightly deformed glass bottles recovered from a dump as "squottles." An Owings Mills candy maker offered chocolate chili pepper truffles. And a North Carolina sculptor found a buyer for her papier-mache pet made from old doll parts.

Bazaart, the holiday shopping event at the American Visionary Art Museum yesterday, was intended to be the antithesis of 4 a.m. Black Friday sales on sweater vests and Thanksgiving weekend outlet sprees.

"It's the anti-mall," said Andy Snair, a 41-year-old artist and designer from Baltimore and regular customer at the annual fair - part art exhibit, part flea market. "I like giving unique gifts."

Mary Ann Moore, a 57-year-old Wilmington, Del., native, drove to Baltimore especially for the opportunity to find a conversation piece.

And did she ever.

From Bob Benson, a Glen Burnie artist who teaches at AVAM and whose work "Shiny, Happy Things" is featured at the museum, Moore bought a necktie made from a mosaic of mirror pieces. She's going to give it to her significant other, but only, Moore said, "Because I can wear it, too."

From jewelry maker Carol Savage, Moore couldn't resist a rock crystal necklace, with large beads that push the definition of bauble.

But the piece de resistance, Moore said, was from Robert Seven, a self-described "art missionary" from North Carolina. Moore snapped up a necklace that is sure to elicit comments from customers at the optometry practice where she works. It features the tip of a paint brush and large eye.

"It's just so great," Moore gushed. "I can't wait to hear what the customers say. ... If you have eclectic taste, this is the place to come."

Bazaart began several years ago in a tent outside The Sideshow, the museum's gift shop, said Pete Hilsee, a spokesman for AVAM. Held on the anniversary weekend of the American Visionary Art Museum's opening, it grew during the years and developed a following of both customers and regional artists who wanted to sell their work.

Three years ago, Bazaart moved into the third-floor space of the Jim Rouse Visionary Center, next to the main museum, Hilsee said. This year, event organizers decided to pare down the offerings by selecting 50 local and regional artists to showcase, he said.

Several of those selling their pieces were artists whose work has also been featured as part of exhibits at the museum, such as painters Tom Steck and Shawn Theron, and Druid Hill artist Loring Cornish, who contributed to the recent Home and Beast exhibit.

Many other artists from the Baltimore area were selling work at Bazaart, including Emily Marcovitz, a 42-year-old chocolatier from Owings Mills, and Allison Fomich, a Maryland Institute College of Art graduate who makes jewelry, some of which is crafted from fabric, buttons and natural items such as acorns.

"It's nice to support the artists that way," said Hilsee.

For patrons, he said, "This is our way of offering a respite from the mall madness. This is madness with a heart."

The space filled quickly - by 11 a.m. about 400 shoppers lingered over displays of purses, earrings, luminarias, paintings and other, indescribable, works. Event organizers didn't track exact numbers to the free event but estimated that more than 1,000 people came through.

Prices ranged from less than $10 for a box of six hand-crafted truffles, to less than $20 for one of the glass bottle vases found by twins Stefanie and Sara Himes, to several thousand dollars for one of the large pieces by Seven.

Yesterday was the first time Yvonne Ottaviano had been to Bazaart. A 51-year-old oncologist from Roland Park, Ottaviano was already a fan of the museum and some of its wacky events such as the Kinetic Sculpture Race. A friend told her about the holiday sale.

Although she wasn't expecting to buy a piece of art, much less one that cost several hundred dollars, Ottaviano said she couldn't resist the sculpture by Tiffany Ownbey.

The "Horse Dog with Rider" piece was papier-mache with old sewing patterns, and the form was created using doll parts. Ottaviano planned to put it on top of her piano.

"I've never seen anything like it," she said, adding that while she's admired friends' art, she never before felt inspired to purchase a piece. "This is my first foray into art buying, really. It's a total impulse buy."

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