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Artist Paints His Journal, Another Works With Discarded Treasures

For many artists, their work is more than just paint on a canvas or metal soldered together. For two artists at the 53-rd Columbus Arts Festival, their works are memories painted on glass, as well as an ode to discarded would-be treasures. We talked with them about what their artwork means to them.

Arts festival patrons were slowly making their way along the Scioto River Friday morning as many artists finished setting up their booths for display, hanging paintings, setting out business cards and attaching price tags.

M. J. Rigby, of Kansas City, though, was set for this weekend’s crowds. His brilliantly-colored abstracts are eye-catchers. Upon a closer inspection, the paints are actually brushed onto historic glass windows, not canvas. Formally, Rigby calls the works narrative abstract composition. But they’re really pages from what he calls his journal.

“It’s my sons, the silly things they say. The golden memories," Rigby said. “I use shape and color to influence and form emotion and context, even time of day.”

Rigby named one of his paintings after a childhood game he and his sons made up: hill ball. Hill Ball shouts brilliant oranges and reds and yellows that overlap each other and form shapes. The shapes are Rigby and his sons.

“I’m documenting things. My sons know exactly who they are and where they are in these things. They know the language, too," he said. "It’s rewarding in that sense, cathartic in the sense I would do it anyway whether I was getting paid to do it or not.”

So when it comes time to part with the memories Rigby has so carefully painted, he admits, it’s difficult. But he finds solace knowing someone else will treasure them.

“The greatest thing is, everyone who buys one wants to know the story, and they get enlivened by the story. And I know it gets told and retold and retold and morphed, and the telephone line, I can’t imagine what it would be ten retellings later,” he said. “But they own that memory. And it’s awesome because they get engaged in it. They smile when I smile about it. So, I don’t feel like I’m losing it, I feel like I’m sharing it, I guess.”

Several tents down from Rigby, Brad Devlin, of Louisville, Kentucky, places prices on some of his art.

“I love old material. I’ve always loved trash. I love getting into a dumpster, an old abandoned building," Devlin said. 

That’s where 85 percent of the materials comes from, items tossed out by others. Old steel colanders and other metals are soldered together to form working lamps. And there’s a wall hanging called Time Traveler which includes an old gun, light bulb and plastic baby doll.

“It’s kind of a piece that sort of harkens back to simpler times.”

Being a friend to the environment is a big motivator.

“You know, [I'm] quite amazed that I can just work in my big barn all and not have a boss and be able to figure out something to do with all this old material," he smiled. 

Brad Devlin is one of 300 artists from around the country whose work is on display at the annual Columbus Arts Festival this weekend.