Local artists celebrate ‘fun art’ at Recycle Reads Library and Bookstore

Kirthi Dronamraju

Somewhere between the refined realm of fine art and informal illustration lies the whimsical world of Fun Art.

For artist Theresa Bayer, whose declaration Fun Art Manifesto served as the inspiration for Recycled Reads’ Fun Art exhibit, Fun Art’s ultimate goal is to elicit pleasant emotions in the viewer.

“Unlike fine art, Fun Art does not take itself seriously,” Bayer wrote in Fun Art. “There are no weighty ponderings about symbolism or realism or abstract outsiderism or any other kind of ism — there are no isms in Fun Art, yet Fun Art embraces all isms.”

At the exhibit on display through Oct. 28 at the Recycled Reads Bookstore, the movement’s inclusivity will be celebrated with a collection of works that underscore the importance of personal expression in Fun Art.

“It’s about being an individual, having something interesting to say, and saying it in your own voice,” Bayer wrote.

One of the local artists showcasing her work spends much of her time painting custom pet portraits. Svetlana Novikova, who trained as a contemporary and impressionist artist in her hometown of Moscow, Russia, has been painting these portraits for 20 years and commissions from around the world.

“When I paint animals, my goal is to capture each pet’s personality,” Novikova said.

According to Novikova, her customers, who usually comment on her ability to capture animals’ emotive expressions, include the son of the famous Sphinx from the film “Austin Powers.” Novikova said that while she does not have a favorite piece, this style of art appeals to her because of its seemingly limitless possibility for creativity.

“Even though I can do very realistic pet portraits, I often gravitate to making animals look funny and cute by exaggerating their features,” Novikova said. “The eyes are my favorite thing to paint in an animal because they are expressive and emotional. I usually leave them for last.”

Bayer said that Fun Art is allowed to be playful, even commercial.

“Fun Art is joyful, even when (it) veers toward dark and edgy,” Bayer said. “There is a zingy energy to it that doesn’t depend on gravitas; its finest examples express a genuineness that goes beyond any commercial concern, even if the subject matter happens to be highly salable.”

Additionally, Bayer wrote that while Fun Art does not require a maxim, it can often tell a story.

“Fun Art can stand alone and without a story or product to enhance it, although it can also be narrative,” Bayer said.

Local artist Kevin Middleton uses Fun Art for a unifying message with his piece “Faces of Humanity.” Though first appearing as a political cartoon, he instead describes the work as a caricatural mix of faces representing the diversity of humanity.

A professional artist for the past 30 years, Middleton said Fun Art is valuable in itself even when it lacks symbolic meaning.

“Art historians seem to have a low opinion of ‘illustration’ let alone ‘cartoons,’” Middleton said. “There are many ways to put a value on a work of art — dollar value, technical execution, time spent to create, size, effectiveness of communication of intended message — so why not simply fun?”