By Brianna Boyd
Special to Dixon Patch
Well over 50 people gathered under a white tent near the Dixon May Fair’s Fine Arts building Wednesday night for the first annual juried art auction.
The May Fair’s Education Committee and Solano College teamed up to bring this exciting event to the fairgrounds. The gala included a two-hour social prior to the event, as well as 10 live auction pieces and 25 silent auction items, ranging from paintings and photography to a hand made guitar and a squirrel made from recycled metal. Most of the artists were at the event, and provided background on their pieces to the many guests who came from Solano County and beyond.
The live auction began right at 6:30 p.m., with many people bidding hundreds of dollars towards each item.
“We are here tonight to support the arts and support local art program and support our talented artists,” said Jeanne Lorenz, a fine arts professor at Solano College who co-hosted the auction with Janene Whitesell.
Altogether, 151 entries were submitted for consideration in the art auction, and Lorenz and two other judges selected the 35 to showcase. When selecting the pieces, Lorenz said they looked for work that best represented the theme of the fair, “This Is My Country”. Variety was also important and the live and silent auctions included photography, drawings, paintings, printmaking and even an etching.
“All the work is just fantastic,” said Ethel Calvello of Dixon, whose oil painting of two butterflies was included in the silent auction. “This is a great event.”
Adding to the excitement was the knowledge that all proceeds would go towards artists and art programs. All participating artists received 60 percent of the sales of their work. Solano College’s art department received 30 percent of the profits, and the May Fair received 10 percent, which covered the cost of the event.
“I got most of my photo training at Solano College,” said Jim Ludwig of Rio Vista, whose photograph, “Chaco Doorways”, was a live auction item. “I feel wonderful that I’m able to give back to them because they have done so much to benefit me.”
James Stevens of Dixon has several of his hand crafted guitars on display in the fair’s Fine Arts building, and one of his most recent creations was included in the live auction. All his guitars are made with readily available materials – the top of the one included in the auction came from a redwood fence board he found in his woodpile - and can also be played, as was proven by the number of people who tried it out before the start of the auction.
It takes a couple months to make just one guitar, Stevens said, because there is a whole process he has to follow. He also learns a lot about guitars along the way.
“This is a traveling guitar,” he said. “It’s something that is easy to carry. I took it with me through the Panama Canal. I’d sit on the deck every day and play a few tunes and get a little bit of applause.”
Other artists had equally interesting stories to share about their work. Mae Long of Benicia had one of her photographs of bamboo in the silent auction. The picture was taken in her neighbor’s backyard and she remembers she wanted to capture it on film because she felt as if she had left Benicia when she was there.
“The photo turned out perfectly,” she said. “It’s been one of my top favorites since then.”
Long and her friend, Katelyn Russell of Vallejo, were thrilled to see their work on display for the first time. Russell’s entry, “Radar Love” was a photograph of her brother’s black lab when he was a puppy.
“I’ve always liked taking pictures of animals, especially dogs,” she said. “I love being able to get them from weird angles, like in this picture, I love how his nose is big and so close to the camera.”
Of the two friends, Russell was the first to learn their work would be included in the auction. Long was the first person she called.
“And then of course I called my brother,” she said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘your daughter is in the auction!’ We were all really excited.”
Around the corner from Russell and Long, Mary Ann Montague of Dixon was admiring the different silent auction items. A long-time artist herself, Montague submitted three entries for the event and her collage, “My Home Is My Castle” was chosen for the silent auction. The collage includes a castle, made out of newsprint, a drawbridge created with legal notices, and money in the sky.
She said she was “amazed” when she found out she would be included in the event.
“Since this is the first time they have done this, and it’s on behalf of the Solano College art program, I felt it was a win-win for everyone,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
In addition to the art auction, Solano College and the May Fair also partnered to bring the Solano Steamroller Smackdown to the fair. Local artists, as well as students from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco State University, Solano College, the San Francisco Art Institute and others will create large-scale printmaking projects using a 12-ton black and white steamroller. It will be rolling through the fair Friday and Saturday, and all prints and t-shirts will be for sale. Proceeds will benefit Solano College’s art department.
“We had such a strong response from professional artists and we are really looking forward to printing their work and seeing it on display,” Lorenz said. “People can come and watch this process unfold. It’s the oldest form of printmaking. All the printmaking we do now, including photography and digital, evolved from this form. It’s really exciting to use really basic tools and make really complicated images.”
The 137th annual Dixon May Fair opened Wednesday night and will continue to entertain thousands of visitors through Mother’s Day Sunday. The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.dixonmayfair.com
Editor's Note: Brianna is the editor of