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Country meets city at Socrates’ ‘State Fair’

State Fair, at Socrates Sculpture Park, is an art show with a rural, agricultural theme, juxtaposed against the background of the Manhattan skyline across the East River from the park.

“Ideas for the exhibition began with a show that we did in 2006 called ‘Interstate,’” said Marichris Ty, exhibition program manager at the park. “Many of the applicants were addressing themes pertaining to notions of Americana, so we began to think about an exhibition that touched on related issues such as agriculture, small scale farming, horticulture, animal husbandry, amusement, pageantry and competition commonly found within the context of a state fair.”

State Fair is also curated by Alyson Baker and Mark Dion and includes the work of 11 artists.

The exhibit takes a particular look at the farming industry, and also incorporates nature as part of the artistic presentation. One can expect to see sculptures of old-fashioned farming equipment, a barn, an antique amusement park ride, arts and crafts, games and a handmade fence.

One of the participating artists, Emily Feinstein, is behind the amusement ride arrangement. Her inspiration derives from her time spent at Coney Island, she said — she deliberately wanted to create a nostalgic work of art based on her memory of what Coney Island used to be, compared to what it is today.

“I wanted to do a piece that showed abandonment and absence,” she said, “but also something with a sense of joy and a hint of possibility.” Her goal was to create something that would be enjoyable for children.

“On opening night of the show, there were children that were sitting in the ride,” she recalled. “The ride is stationary, so there was no reason to get up or go anywhere. By the end of the night, entire families were sitting in the ride.”

Another artist, Bernard Williams, is the creator of the Teck Barn sculpture. His primary focus is contemporary architecture. His overall sculpture is a barn, but he has woven in his passion for design by using the patterns of quilts that come directly from Southern women in Gees Bend, Ala.

“My sculpture weds the idea of the quilts along with Southern and rural activities, which connects with the proposal that Socrates put forward,” says Williams. “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever built”.

A third artist, Jennifer Cecere, has been a collector of laces and doilies since she was young, and has acquired materials over the years through yard sales, donations and things made anonymously by women. Her intricate work has nine pieces of doilies in each ring and each creation resembles the look of a spider web. Her arts and crafts are carefully placed throughout the trees of the park.

“I like the fact that they move in the wind. Sculpture can seem kind of static — these pieces really come alive to me,” she said.

She also credited the staff at Socrates Sculpture Park for their assistance and creativity.

“This is a great place for artists to experiment,” she said. “They want you to try something new. They don’t just cherry-pick things out of galleries. It’s so much better for artists. It really has changed the way the way I look at my work.”

The park receives more than 2,000 visitors each summer. According to the staff at Socrates, audiences have been especially receptive to “State Fair,” due to the entertaining and interactive nature of the exhibition.

“State Fair” runs through Aug. 2 at Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd., Astoria. For more information visit socratessculpturepark.org or call 718-956-1819.

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