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Culture Watch

Everything under the sun: It doesn’t matter if you are looking for jewelry, sculpture, paintings or photography, you can find something that fits your taste at one of the myriad art shows during season.Finding the Art of My Dreams … and Wallet 

Stereotyping always gets you into trouble.

As soon as you make a blanket statement, someone is quick to prove you wrong. (And surely someone has a retort waiting about my using two such statements back to back.)

Having a conversation about art in Naples tends to lead middle-class enthusiasts to bemoan the fact that they can’t afford anything good. And certainly, it is a small group of collectors who passed through the Naples Museum of Art’s Manolo Valdez exhibit this spring and were able to write a check for the $20,000 prints on the wall. Not everyone heads to the luxe art expositions that have popped up in the last few years with a plan to do a little shopping.

But because Southwest Florida is a region that loves art, it finds ways to democratize the process of art buying. Chiefly, we have a lot of art fairs and festivals.

From downtown Naples to Mercato to Coconut Point and beyond, these fairs offer a chance to find beautiful, thought-provoking works, many for less than $500. The great strength of these gatherings is the sheer diversity of the art. My wife and I prefer photography above all else. At a big fair, such as the Naples National, there might be a few dozen photographers whose works range from shots of European architecture to coastal landscapes to images of urban decay.

But if your passion is water colors or oil paintings or sculpture or wood carvings, you’ll likely find several examples of stellar work each time out. And as you step into each booth, you’ll likely get the opportunity to talk to the artist, understand his or her inspiration and choices and maybe even negotiate a bit on the price.

That’s how we got the art now hanging above our living room sofa (sort of the center point for most people’s functional art collection). We saw a series of photographs of a tree, each manipulated in Photoshop to change the color of the leaves and the sky. Individually, they are lovely images. Together, they make a stronger statement. After a bit of horse trading, we agreed on a reasonable price for a set of four.

This is just one of my success stories from these fairs. I found a lovely giclee print of a close-up shot of a delicate yellow flower. I gave it to my wife in lieu of a bouquet after we’d had a spat. My mother-in-law became briefly obsessed with images of roosters, so we went to an art fair and found her a whimsical screen print that now hangs in her kitchen.

I’ve purchased photos of Il Doumo, lemons, a church outside of Tampa and a row boat floating in shallow water with the words "Row vs. Wade" painted on its hull. I’ve spent as little as $30 on a piece and as much as $500 and always felt like I got a great deal. And that’s really the beauty of the local art fair circuit, be it the Bonita Springs National Art Festival or Art in the Park, there’s something to fit almost every taste and budget. If you look hard enough, you’ll find something that speaks to you whether you can spend $50 or $50,000.

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