An edgier Village Art & Craft Fair

This weekend sees the return of the annual Village Art & Craft Fair in Biltmore Village. Now in its 36th year, the open-air show features some 125 exhibitors (34 of whom will show at the Cathedral of All Souls location for the first time). Works range from paintings, ceramics and sculpture to fiber arts, jewelry and mixed media.

Personally, I enjoy craft shows, and though I’m a hobby-peruser rather than a hard-core critic, I think this particular event — yet another creation by Asheville arts mogul John Cram — is one of the best around. And this year the show (branded by its cat-festooned poster) shows promise of a little edge.

Why? Because local outsider artist Gabriel Shaffer will be there. Shaffer (who shares his profession, though not his painting style, with folk artist mom Cher Shaffer) has a penchant for sexy female forms with alien-green visages, pop-culture references imposed on ultra rich-hued and vividly detailed backgrounds, nods toward anime, mythology and psychology, winged hipsters, demonic rockers and pathos-riddled antiheroes. His work rides the razor’s edge between troubling and compelling; Shaffer’s own demons channeled onto attractive, wall-ready canvases.

That Shaffer’s work will be for sale alongside cat art surely makes the trip to Biltmore Village worth the effort.

The Village Art & Craft Fair runs Saturday, Aug. 2, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 3, noon-6 p.m.

— Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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19 thoughts on “An edgier Village Art & Craft Fair

  1. rrrrrrrk

    sorry. i don’t buy shaffer’s ‘outsider’ pedigree. a little too educated for the hard and fast definition of the genre. he does nice work, don’t get me wrong, he’s just a bit too slick for this category.

  2. Alli Marshall

    “Outsider” is Shaffer’s self-definition. It’s funny that a term to describe someone working outside of artistic convention is cause for such derision. The phrase “outsider art” was only coined three decades ago and often refers to works created by those with mental health issues. I’m not saying Shaffer suffers from such a disability, but I do think that if an artist chooses to distinguish himself as an outsider, there’s probably a reason. I suspect that the fact that people balk at the idea of Shaffer as an “outsider” is a testament to his talent.

  3. Connie Bostic

    The term Outsider Artist has become problematic. Originally it refered to an artist who lived on the fringes of society: no travel, limited contact with the larger world and certianly no art school degree. There is an aura of romance connected to the term which makes it a great marketing tool.

  4. AshevilleObserver

    Robert Atkins’ “Art Speak, a Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements and Buzzwords . .” refers to “Outside Art” under the heading “Naive Art,” as “a virtual synonym for naive art.” “Outsider rt is sometimes regardemore narrowly as the work of those actually outside mainstream society, such as prisoner and psychotics.” “Naive art,” he says, “is produced by artists who lack foral training but are often obssively commited to their art making. It may appear to be innocent, childhlike and spontaneous, but this is usually deceptive.”

  5. Gabriel Shaffer

    Wow, i had no idea this conversation was happening until a friend alerted me earlier today. First of all, thank you Alli Marshall for the plug, it was a last minute,lucky break that i got into the show. I live right down the street, in Shiloh, so its like showing in my backyard.
    Regarding the term “Outsider artist”. ive had alot of experience over the last few years dealing with this label. basically there are many interpretations for it. Ive been called a number of them and then argued as a charlatan in the process. I dont regard myself as a traditional “Outsider Artist”, nor do i like the term “Contemporary Folk” or “Self-taught”. Ive been recently reffered to as a “visionary Artist”, but im not exactly comfortable with that either, because not all of my works are worthy of that term.I have never attended college.
    I can vouch for growing up surrounded by this form of art my entire life. my mom was deeply rooted in the folk art/outsider art scene from the late 70’s.Howard Finster carried me as a baby around paradise garden,when my mom first visited.Ive seen numerous major folk and outsider exhibitons since i was a boy. I was familiar with Jean Dubufett when i was in junior high. Ive been a major fan of Purvis Young and Thornton Dial since i was young.
    So it is safe to say i have been incubated inside the circles of “Outsider Art”. I dont know what that makes me. I know that im happy that im able to do what i love and its stimulating enough that folks pay attention.
    i could go on and on all day about this. Regardless thanks to everyone for their interest and support, come see me at the show if you are want to learn more.

  6. Eugene Williams

    I dont know if he is or isnt an “Outsider Artist”, but i think we all can agree , for never having any formal training,he is very talented. Really interesting art. Im happy to see they are putting a fresher face to this event. I look forward to seeing his art in person!

  7. Greg West

    Gabriels art is fantastic, the rest of the talk is secondary to this fact. He might not be mentally ill or fit the traditional “Outsider” molds, but his art is anything but traditional. He is one of Ashevilles brightest young artists and should be celebrated!

  8. Connie Bostic

    Gabriel is, in my opinion, a good painter. Is neo-expressionist a better and more accurate term for what he does?

  9. Martha Reynolds

    Intriguing artist and passionate work, to say the least. I dont know if i would call the work “Outsider” or “Neo-Expressionist” although i see connections to both places. I would maybe put his work into the “Low Brow” category which has become a popular subculture over the past few years. If there is so much trouble in finding a label for his art, that is probably a good sign its fresh.

  10. (acting for Jason Bugg, since he has not gotten around to commenting on this thread):

    A good painter is equally at home on all media, be it vinyl, aluminum siding, or wood.

  11. Suzy Phillips

    Wow, all this labeling! I am the biggest fan of Gabriel Shaffer and his wife and as much as he dislikes the labeling of what kind of artist he is he has no choice in the matter. So how about focusing on the ARTIST and his amazing work and less on labeling. I think to say that Gabriel is a “good painter” is an understatement and everyone that is familiar with his work will agree.

  12. Connie Bostic

    An artists work is enhanced by giving it historical context. That does not limit the work, it enhances its meaning.

  13. Gabriel Shaffer

    I swear this will be my last comment on this thread. First of all, id like to say thank you again to Alli Marshall and the Mountain Xpress for the support. The crowd was great this weekend and i definitely felt the love. Alot of folks that came to my booth had read this article, and i was happy they were able to see my art in person.The results were very positive.Also kudos to John Cram,the organizers and crew, everyone of you made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I love this town.

    Id like to reply to a few posts and then i need to try and sleep,ive got after show insomnia.

    Ralph,
    I love your shows on URTV, especially your road trips, i cant take my eyes off your GPS unit.

    Connie, i have been entertained by your comments.

    My works arent paintings, there are many other medias involved, some of those medias give my work a deeper meaning. Plus they are extremely driven by content, personal experience, dreams and yes, visions/hallucinations. I feel that discussing the whole issue of where i fit and dont fit, seems to be a way of avoiding discussing my content and my history as an individual, which is truly what my art celebrates. My experience in life.
    How would you be able to give me or my work a historical context, when you know little about me,or my art? Weve never had a conversation about anything other than the “outsider”art cliche, so i know you dont know my stories, other than what you might be able to read on the internet.
    I have an understanding for what you are saying, it just doesn’t reach me. Art is an experience, between me, an idea and a surface, the rest of the world gets the attractive leftovers from those moments.Words fall short in describing that experience, like most good things in life.

    Thats why the viewer is silent when they see something that hits just right, nothing needs to be said, just experienced. but then if that was the universal truth, i suppose the world wouldnt need art critics.

    Mark,
    Im coming to see you tomorrow punk, its my day off!
    Suzy might have sent a reply, but ive got a “sound bite” for you and everyone reading the list. “If You Want Blood”, which as im sure you know is a classic ac/dc tune. It sums up my current ethos in a lovely bright package.
    Its also the title of my upcoming solo show with the Satellite gallery downtown. The show opens September 12th and it will be my first solo show in Asheville since 2005. Im very excited to have a proper display of my work for everyone to do and say what they will.
    Carry on Asheville!

  14. Suzy Phillips

    I guess my comment to you mark did not go through, and to you Miss Bostic, Thanks for your wisdom, I don’t know what Asheville would do without you!

  15. Connie Bostic

    I’m so glad that you had a posititive experience this week end. I know that John and his competent staff work hard to that end. I would like to say,, though that there are no art critics in Asheville, because there is no publication to publish them. As to not knowing your “stories” I’m not sure that is important when writing about or appricating works of art. Van Gough’s life story is interesting, but you don’t have to know anything about that to know that Starry Night is a great painting! I wish you continuing success, no matter what you decide to call yourself.

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