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Wauwatosa's Firefly Art Fair a natural landscape of beauty

Wauwatosa print maker looks forward to exposure

July 29, 2014

At the Firefly Art Fair, the beauty isn't just in the artistic showcase of 89 juried artists. It's in the half-acre of land that creates a natural landscape for southeastern Wisconsinites to mingle through displays of woodwork, jewelry, photography, acrylic, oil and water color paintings August 2 and 3.

The Firefly Art Fair is the Wauwatosa Historical Society's largest annual fundraiser. The fair has tripled in size since it first opened to the public 28 years ago.

Its location at the Kneeland-Walker Victorian Gardens, 7406 Hillcrest Drive, supplements the art fair with a historic display. This year's theme is "Dot, Dash, Click and Flash: How Wauwatosa Communicated." The exhibit will display typewriters, dip pens, Morse code machines and anything else people would have used to communicate throughout history.

There will be ample exposure for both veteran and new artists this weekend, as between 3,000 and 5,000 people will trickle through the fair in total. The selected featured artists had to submit samples of their work to a jury of former artists to be accepted into the art fair.

"We want a good mix of people and the best art work we can find," said Janel Ruzicka, executive director of the Wauwatosa Historical Society.

An unusual skill

With variety in mind, one Wauwatosa artist's diversity of skill fills a niche in the show. Scott Smith, a former architect in Wauwatosa, will show digital printmaking. There is only one other print maker showing at Firefly this year, said Ruzicka.

Smith retired from commercial, public and federal architecture two years ago, but has been digital print making for about four years. He and his wife Amy, who specializes in thread work, sell art under the name, Red Cow Design — red, for Scott's favorite color; cow, for the state of Wisconsin.

Digital print making involves scanning hand painted or digital images into the computer and collaging prints, colors and textures with software programs to create a desirable image. The finished result — and its beauty — is in the eye of the beholder.

"The problem is you have to know when to stop sometimes," said Smith.

Smith's prints feature bright, vivid and highly saturated colors with interesting angles and patterns. His motivation is purely aesthetic, but it leans on his architectural background.

"Your training (in architecture) is based on design aesthetics. So it's easy to bring those skills into other art forms," said Smith. "It's the same thing when you're designing a building. It's just a different purpose."

Many kinds of images

Print making can take many forms, including monotype, screen printing, lithography and etching, but Smith's preference is digital. The advantage to digital printing is the image's longevity. While some forms of art can fade over time, the high quality ink and paper of the print Smith uses will last more than 100 years without fading.

"I'm an artist that's trying new technology to study new aesthetics, art forms and 3D printing," said Smith. "I do have a definite interest in bringing in technology to create the art."

The Firefly Art Fair will be Smith's first time presenting art without the company of his wife. He also makes ceramics, jewelry, abstract models and does woodworking. Smith's diversity as an artist is in line with the art fair's point of view.

"It's an eclectic group of artists showing eclectic art. We have a really nice mix," said Ruzicka. "There's something for everyone."

If You Go

What: 28th annual Firefly Art Fair

Where: Kneeland-Walker Victoria Gardens, 7406 Hillcrest Drive, Wauwatosa

When: August 2 and 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: Members $4; Nonmembers $5; 12 and under free.

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