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August 3, 2010 > State of the Arts

State of the Arts

By Margaret Talt

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Picasso

Trivia moment. Imagine what it would be like to be a famous artist and have your creations described as "household goods." Constantin Brancusi, a famous Romanian artist working in Paris, in the autumn of 1926, shipped 26 selections of his avant-garde sculptures to the U.S. for an exhibit in Manhattan. U.S. Customs regulations allowed original works of art to enter free of duty taxes, but when Customs inspectors looked at Brancusi's sculptures, they did not consider the pieces as art and categorized them as household goods.

Adding injury to insult, customs inspectors then declared the "household goods" subject to a 40 percent import tax. The matter ended in court, where - after some very contentious discussions - the pieces were declared to be original art entitled to enter duty free. Al Minard, the source of this tidbit and member of Mission Peak Heritage Foundation, found the item in a Pennsylvania publication named "Old News."

Jumping to modern times, the Fremont Art Association recently opened its quarterly showcase featuring pastels and collages by Elizabeth Chavoor, which will be on display through August 8.

When working with pastels, Chavoor chooses outdoor and floral themes, but when she discovered collage as a medium, it freed her creativity. Said Chavoor, "Almost all of the ideas I envision for my collages come from the instant I see a certain piece of paper." Many of her collages offer fantastic, riotously colorful scenes, some with a Polynesian flavor and titles to match, such as "Octopus Sun."

One visitor, Sue Switkowski of Fremont and a friend of Chavoor owns several of the artist's creations and thinks they're great. A scientist from Livermore who preferred to remain anonymous, expressed a preference for the pastels on exhibit rather than the collages, particularly "St. Kitt's Tree." Gallery Director Ginny Reidner is pleased to have Chavoor's work on exhibit and describes the collages as "mind-bursting fun."

While the arts bring beauty and color to our lives, art has practical applications as well.

Smithsonian magazine's October 2009 issue featured an article about art historian and lawyer Amy Herman's "The Art of Perception" course, which sharpens the observation and communication skills of those who study with her. Ms. Harmon uses paintings to explore attention to visual details.

Professions benefiting from lessons on observation by Ms. Herman have included US Secret Service agents, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Guard, and even London's Scotland Yard.

So, beauty, color, harmony, and practicality - the arts have it all.

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