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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wearing Art on their Sleeves, Three Decades of Artsy T-shirts at the Wyoming Art Show

By Nancy Averett

Picasso, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, even Banksy and Andy Warhol have shown at the Wyoming Art Show. Not the originals, of course, or even reproductions. Rather the works of these world- famous artists have adorned the event’s annual t-shirts every year for the past 28 years.

“We started the t-shirts in 1992 with one that featured the Mona Lisa,” says Kathy Kessler, Chairman, who has volunteered for the show for three decades. The committee brainstorms ideas and catchy phrases at meetings early in the year. “And we’ve continued featuring great artists throughout the years. We don’t have any rules about which artists to select, but we tend to use artists whose work is recognizable, has been produced in many ways and seems to be public domain.”

Dana Ridenauer Wack and her family sporting their 30th Anniversary t-shirts.

The colorful t-shirts, which are sold at the show and given out free to participating artists and volunteers, speak to some of the show’s history, the community, and its residents throughout its 34 years (there were no t-shirts during the first six years). 

Pat Painer, a local artist and one of the founders of the show, drew the images for the first 17 years of T-shirts, from 1992 until her death in 2008. The first few had playful elements - the Mona Lisa holding a slice of pizza, Michelangelo’s David clutching an ice cream cone - with references to the previous years’ designs (On the 1993 t-shirt, Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple holds a photo of the Mona Lisa). Occasionally there were deviations from the “famous artists” theme such as in 2005 when the t-shirt design resembled the front page of a newspaper and was emblazoned with “Wyoming ArtQuirer” and in 2008, with Painer’s final contribution. “Pat’s last design was a peace symbol perhaps signifying that she was at peace,” says Kessler.

Monica Gerstle and Sandy Zuefle celebrate the Wyoming Art Show and the 2016 election year t-shirt.
After Painer’s death, art show volunteer Dana Ridenour Wack stepped in and designed the t-shirts with the help of computer software. Her designs included paintings by French impressionist Georges Seurat and Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. Then, in 2012, Wyoming High School art teacher Carrie Smith took over. She has featured street artist Bansky’s monkey, pop artist Wayne Thiebaud’s cake slices, and this year’s Drawing Hands by Dutch artist M.C. Escher.

“We like to feature a famous artist that people can relate to,” says Smith. “Sometimes with a fun little twist.” The 2012 t-shirt, for example, had Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night on a VW van that read “Gogh to the Wyoming Art Show.”

Occasionally contemporary issues converge with the t-shirts. In 1998, the t-shirts featured Warhol’s soup cans and long-time art show volunteer Mary Corley bought a bunch because her daughter’s last name is Campbell. In 2004, Painer added the image of a cicada because the cyclical bugs were everywhere. And in 2016, a presidential election year, Smith used one of abstract expressionist Jasper John’s paintings of American flags and the phrase “Vote Art.” 

Kessler isn’t sure that the t-shirts will always be part of the show but as long as they are, she’ll keep adding one to her collection every year. “I like to look back at all the designs,” she says. “They trigger a lot of happy memories.” 

Christine Guillory, sporting her Van Gogh t-shirt, hugs her daughter Katie while she makes her own t-shirt at the Imagination Station.
The Wyoming Art Show is always held the third Sunday in May in the village (booths along Worthington Ave and the juried show in the Civic Center) and features approximately 125 regional fine arts exhibitors. The event also offers music, food, and free children’s art activities. The juried portion of the show offers more than $5,000 in awards, including a $500 Best of Show award. The show is free to the public, and this year will be held on Sunday, May 19 from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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