Young artists will get big exposure at Ann Arbor Art Fair

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
Jaymes Dempsey, 23, is in the Ann Arbor Art Fair for the first time with his up-close shots of nature.

It's no small thing getting into a juried art show as famous as the Ann Arbor Art Fair, which opens today and runs through Sunday, no matter what your age. 

But to do that while still in college -- or having just graduated? That's priceless. 

For Victoria Bornstein and Jaymes Dempsey, this is an opportunity to start playing in the big leagues.

Both got into the fair by applying to the New Art, New Artists program run by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. Any Michigan college student can apply, and if chosen by the jury, will exhibit without having to pay the standard artist's booth fee, which runs into hundreds of dollars. 

Additionally, the New Art program provides a mentor for each of the college artists, to help them through the process. 

Victoria Bornstein, 21, is exhibiting her paintings at the Ann Arbor Art Fair for the first time.

Bornstein, 21, a fine arts major who just graduated from the University of Michigan and now has a job at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, sees the four-day fair as possibly the first step toward a future as a working artist.

Dempsey, 23, by contrast, is majoring in biology and sociology at Eastern Michigan University and seized on the chance to see if his longtime enthusiasm for photography could be a route toward an actual career.

“Up ’till now it’s essentially been a hobby,” said the Ann Arbor resident, “but part of the reason biology interests me is because there’s an overlap between that and nature photography. You have to understand animal behavior to get the shot.”

Dempsey’s stock in trade is his gift for light and employing what photographers call low depth of field — where only a narrow slice of a picture is in sharp focus, with everything in front and behind dramatically blurry. 

It’s a technique that’s particularly effective with his striking, up-close flower shots. 

“I found there’s something very compelling about showing just a tiny bit of the subject in focus,” Dempsey said. 

Where his work relies on the visual contrast between in-focus and out-of-focus, Bornstein’s paintings all have a crisp, sharp reality to them.

“I would say my style is realistic,” Bornstein said from Boston on Tuesday, shortly before getting on a plane to fly back to Ann Arbor, “but not photo-realistic.”

U-Mich 2018 grad Victoria Bornstein's in-depth studies of household objects are in the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

There’s an amusing reality to her subjects as well. Stumped as to what to paint for her senior thesis, Bornstein’s advisor suggested sitting on her sofa and just starting to draw whatever she saw as a way of finding her subject. 

“I lived with 11 girls in Ann Arbor,” she said, “so I just took the absurdity of all the objects we had lying around the house, and created a series.”

The results are often-mesmerizing still lifes of, variously, wine and liquor bottles, fancy perfumes, hot sauces or whiskey in a tumbler. 

She often composes her still lifes on a mirror, to take advantage of the reflection of glass on glass. Then she photographs the arrangement, and paints from that.

Bornstein and Dempsey are big fans of the New Artists program. 

“It’s been very cool,” Bornstein said. “My mentor’s been helping me in terms of pricing, how to hang and display, and how many pieces to bring — so that’s been really helpful.” 

You’ll find the New Artists booth (No. WA801) — and Dempsey and Bornstein — on Washington and Thayer streets near Burton Memorial Tower and Ingalls Mall. 

(313) 222-6021

Jaymes Dempsey, 23, is in the Ann Arbor Art Fair for the first time with shots of animals and flowers.

Ann Arbor Art Fair 

10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Thurs. - Sat; noon - 6 p.m. Sun. 

All over central Ann Arbor