The 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair is happening in real life. Or, more accurately, art fairs (plural), as the annual summer event will feature three fairs in one: The Original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair.
2020’s event was canceled entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there was some doubt it would happen this year for the same reason, but an improved public health outlook and a thumbs up for outdoor events means that the fair will go on as planned July 15-17 in downtown Ann Arbor.
Ann Arbor has a reputation for being one of Michigan’s most affirming cities for LGBTQ+ people, and so it’s no surprise that this year’s Art Fair includes a diverse roster of artists. Here are three LGBTQ+ artists to look out for this year.
Scotty Jones—Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (Booth MN237)
Kokomo, Indiana artist Scotty Jones is headed to Ann Arbor for the fourth year, not counting 2020. Expect to find functional fiber art in the form of handbags and wallets as well as wall art. Prices range from $20 to $150.
Jones combines hand-pulled screen prints with vintage textile and vintage-inspired textile he designs himself. “I fuse and layer foundation and textile, creating structured handbags and wallets,” Jones tells Pride Source via email. “Each piece is one of a kind. I consider the handbags and wallets my canvas. I use the scraps to create framed tiles. The images in my screenprints are made from my digital art. I use rescued photos of people I don’t know found in flea markets and mid-century ephemera as my inspiration.”
A personal inspiration for Jones is his grandmother. “She was very skilled in the home arts and taught me to sew when I was around 9 years old,” he says. “She gave me a love for vintage things and an appreciation of fine craft.”
Artistic inspirations include handbag designer Enid Collins and Andy Warhol. “I learned screen printing in the 1980s because I was so drawn to his repeating graphic images,” Jones says.
Jones particularly loves working with vintage barkcloth, “a fabric that was mainly used for drapery and upholstery,” he writes. “The name comes from the texture: it’s nubby like the bark on a tree.”
As to where he finds this material, he writes, “It finds me.”
“When you collect something, it seems that thing has a way of finding you,” he continues. “I find it in many places, online, estate sales, flea markets and sometimes it’s gifted to me from people I meet at art festivals.”
Like most artists, 2020 was a very difficult year for Jones. Not only did both Jones and his husband get infected with the virus, but they also lost friends and family. And then there was the threat to his livelihood.
“Once the shows began canceling, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear,” he writes. “I began to grieve not only the loss of income but my whole support system. The reality of not being with your tribe was a hard pill to swallow. Once the dust began to settle and the hard reality of no-shows sunk in, I had to figure out a new way forward.”
That new way forward included a new focus on selling art through his website and connecting with local galleries and gift shops. He honed his photography and website-building skills. He read books, connected with artists across the country via social media, and listened to podcasts about the business side of art.
“I will look back on this time as the time I really grew as a creative and got more deeply in touch with that artistic voice that fuels it all,” he says.
Regarding being an LGBTQ+ artist in today’s artistic and political climate, Jones writes, “I am 58 years old and came of age during the AIDS epidemic of the late ’70s and ’80s. I’ve seen change in our community I never could have dreamed of as an 18-year-old gay man. I have always just been who I am and pressed forward. I travel the art fair circuit with my husband Leon and our two dogs. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary this October.”
You can find Jones’s work on Instagram @scottyjones_urthyfiberart and at urthyfiberart.com.
Con Lustig—Ann Arbor Art Fair, The Original (Booth WA818)
Michigan native Con Lustig is a lifelong Downriver resident currently living in Wyandotte. This will be Lustig’s first time at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, though he was supposed to be part of the canceled 2020 event. Expect to find paintings in acrylic and in oil, as well as prints of some of his works, ranging from $15 to several hundred dollars.
“I had been working in acrylic painting for several years, but since the beginning of 2020, I’ve been practicing working in oils,” Lustig writes to Pride Source via email. “I like to lean toward the surreal, even gothic. I’ve always liked exploring darker themes and broad concepts (fear, love, etc.) in my work; often, I like using animals for their symbolism related to these themes.”
Lustig, who has no formal artistic training, says most of his images are built “almost fully in my mind before I put anything down.”
“Occasionally, I make a loose compositional sketch beforehand,” he writes. “Then I search for reference photos I can use to help me build a realistic image. I create a much more detailed sketch directly on the canvas or board in a thin wash of paint. With my most recent oils, I’ve used both direct and indirect painting techniques.”
Among his influences, Lustig names Caravaggio and Goya. “For contemporary artists, I really enjoy the work of Kehinde Wiley and Nicola Samori,” he says. “Both draw from and directly reference works of the Renaissance and Baroque era, using the cultural recognition and iconic power of those traditional styles (to very different ends and to make very different statements), but making them obviously contemporary and beautiful pieces. Both inspired me because I also love the look of traditional oil paintings of that … time period, but for a while, I thought that they were too antiquated to be a viable source of inspiration for contemporary works.”
Lustig encourages a visit to the Detroit Institute of Art to see Wiley’s painting “Officer of the Hussars,” describing it as “really breathtaking.” He continues, “I encourage anyone who is there to see it, if for no other reason than to understand how beautiful his work is and that photographs really can’t quite do oil paintings justice.”
While Lustig sees “the continued and increased participation of LGBTQ artists in the world” as very important, he’s also wary of being reduced to simply a “queer artist,” used as a token “Pride Month gesture of representation” and/or expected to represent all queer artists.
“I want to use my talent and skill to do something — at the very least, increase representation.”. I want to explore more queer themes,” he says. “[But] there becomes the question of how deserving I am to be that representative — where does that leave intersectionality in all this? Who might I be talking over who also deserves a voice and a means to express their experiences?”
Lustig’s plan for summer art shows last year fell apart after the shows were canceled. “It completely changed my plans, and I think my life trajectory,” he says. “Artistically, I started working with oil paints since I had the time and no real pressure to produce a viable product. Personally, I finally started HRT and transitioning — being forcibly confronted with your own mortality every day really can be a motivator.”
Luke Hobbs—Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair (Booth MA330)
Industrial & Vintage Inspired Lighting Design
Luke Hobbs comes to Ann Arbor by way of Los Angeles, California, although he is originally from the Midwest and has family in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. “I’ve lived in different cities across the country, but most recently have called Palm Springs, California home! It’s a very welcoming city for artists and the LGBTQ community,” he writes to Pride Source via email.
He adds, “As a person of the LGBTQ community, I love the travel that comes along with being an artist and being able to connect with the different local communities.”
Hobbs creates unique lighting and lamps, AKA “functional art.” His first time at the Ann Arbor Art Fair was in 2019. Prices for his work range from $95 to $300.
“My medium is always somewhat hard to describe, depending on the ‘categories’ available to choose from,” As an example, on the art fair website, he is listed under artists who work with wood, but wood is only one element of his work. “I use an array of different materials and components. There is a lot of woodwork involved, but I also work with concrete, metal, etc. They all combine to form a unique aesthetic that can blend nicely with a variety of different styles.”
Hobbs’s art can be found in the possession of some high-profile clientele.
“I primarily started off as an artist in Los Angeles, where my workspace was in the middle of Hollywood,” he says. “One of my first sales at a local artisan market was to Leonardo DiCaprio (who happened to be with his friend Johnny Depp). That was a nice confidence booster in my work and helped propel me further. He has since purchased several more pieces as gifts throughout the years.”
Past COVID-caused cancelations of art events made the past year a particularly rough one.
“The cancelations of the artist events really took a toll on me both mentally and creatively,” Hobbs writes. “I love to meet people and the interaction that comes with traveling as an artist. The interactions, travels, and networking always propel me and help to fuel my creativity. I’m excited to finally get back to some ‘normalcy’ and see some smiling faces!”
The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs from Thursday, July 15-17. Learn more at the event’s website.