An Art Fair Experience

Columbine Bell

Columbine Bell © 2011 Bo Mackison

I was at the 57th Street Art Fair in Hyde Park, Chicago last weekend. This weekend I purposely did not schedule an art fair so that Sherpa and I could celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.

We will be going to the Wright and Like 2011 House Tour on Saturday, and my second favorite thing in the world to photograph, second only to shooting botanicals and nature, is photographing the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the like-minded architects who were his contemporaries. There will be plenty of opportunities as we tour fifteen buildings in and around Milwaukee (if we have enough stamina!)

Thinking over the events of last weekend, I so enjoyed the art fair. I analyzed (just a bit) what made it a great show for me. Yes, I covered expenses and made a profit at the show, and that is always a great thing, but there is another really wonderful reason that I am an artist on the art fair circuit. 

I love art fairs. I always have. And I love being in art fairs and festivals even more.

Sure, art fairs are enjoyable when crowds of eager customers fill the streets, when the weather is sunny, when the entertainment isn’t drowning out conversations in the booth. But that unique combination doesn’t always happen.

Still, I pretty much love any decently organized art fair that has patrons who want to talk art with me — who are genuinely interested in what I do, in my vision, in my photography, in my life as an artist.

There were so many people at the 57th Street Art Fair that wanted to talk art, it was pure pleasure. We discussed why and how I chose to photograph certain subjects, we talked about emotions caused by visualizing oneself in a photograph.

In one example, I shared the background of the relationship of a specific photo and its title with a couple of women. The conversation went like this:

“Why do you call the photograph of that white flower ‘Basho’s Temple Bell'”?
“I was inspired by a haiku by a poet named Basho who lived in the 17th century.”
“Do you know the words?”
“Yes. ‘The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flower.’ ~Basho

They told me how much they loved poetry and how much they loved flowers. They studied the photograph for a few minutes. And one of the women said she would like to get the photograph for her home. She also took home a meaningful art experience and an understanding of the story behind her new photograph.

That is the most beautiful part about being an art fair artist — the connection that can develop between artist and collector.


The above photograph is a close-up of the intricate beauty of the columbine flower. Photographed in a private garden in Madison, Wisconsin.

Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. No art fair this coming weekend, but I’ll be at the Leeper Park Art Fair in South Bend, Indiana the weekend of June 18-19. (Sherpa is thrilled–he gets to visit his Alma Mater.)




About Bo Mackison

I’m a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place – a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I’d love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It’s my gift to you.


  1. Very interesting, Bo!

  2. Joanne Keevers says:

    What a lovely story you shared with your customers at the art fair, Bo! I really like the line of poetry you quoted and it must have given your art work so much more meaning for them.

    Happy Anniversary to you and Sherpa! I’m sure you will have a wonderful weekend together. 🙂

  3. You must have made her day! What a perfect way to share many kinds of art.

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