The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Fashion, pride at Creativity Explored’s ‘Fabulous’

by SF Gate


The curators wore glitter makeup and the artists, beaming, walked up to strangers, saying, “I made that!” Talk about pride.

Creativity Explored’s latest show, “Fabulous,” opened at the art center’s Mission District gallery just in time for Gay Pride weekend. Fashion, fun and freedom of expression were the themes for the works created by those with developmental disabilities.

Paper hats were the main attraction. San Francisco artist and fashion designer Victor Molina collaborated with the artists to create hand-painted pieces festooned with fabric bees, paper flowers, feathers, dangling discs, handwritten sayings, ribbons, bows, shiny metallic paper and Easter grass that outdid anything at Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. There was music, dancing, drag queen performers and karaoke. Hundreds of fanciful drawings and paintings were for sale in the large artist workshop behind the gallery.

Artist Antonio Benjamin comes in every day to draw the stick figures that live in a place he calls Strawberry City. What’s it like there? “Everyone’s skin is pink there, and all the beaches in California are there,” said the artist, who wore a hat decorated with his characters in summer attire. Camille Holvoet, one of Creativity’s star artists who sold enough work last year to help finance a cruise to Hawaii, has done it again.

Her “Shoes on Fire” oil pastel of a pair of red-and-white polka dot Mary Janes floating atop orange and blue flames, sold for $350 on opening night, along with her painting of black-and-white high-heeled sneakers she titled, “Shiny Assey Boots.” “Hawaii!” she yelled, rocking back and forth. “I want to go back to Hawaii over and over and over again!”

In addition to selling artwork year-round, Creativity puts on seven group shows each year, and the combined sales generate about 10 percent of the annual budget. Artists keep half of what they sell. With prices from $10 to $500, the shows draw amateur and professional art collectors alike who come for bargains from largely unknown outsider artists. Former art consultant Susan Kay, who has bought about 100 pieces over the years, went home with an $80 painting of a hefty woman in an orange bathing suit sitting next to a very small man wearing a Miss America sash against a background that includes an American flag. “This is art without any contrivance,” Kay said. “I loved the colors, the flag. I’m born on the Fourth of July, so that was part of it. Also, she has a mustache; she’s the first drag queen in my collection!”

Richard Leider, another frequent visitor, left empty-handed this time, but not empty-hearted. “I like coming here because this place fills me with life. It’s all about the diversity of human expression.”

Posted in: News