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Art in the Garden shows off art from Southern California vendors

ESCONDIDO — Escondido held its annual Grand Ave Street Festival on, where else, but Grand Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 20. The event features art, vendors, food and entertainment. On the intersection of Juniper and Grand, the Art in the Garden art show took place.

The garden is a small park with a small gazebo serving as a de-facto hub (and as a stage for bands during Cruisin’ Grand), surrounded by green turf, grit and a few benches. Across the street is the now-obliterated movie theater that has been in a perpetual state of renovation for a while now.

Several art vendors had taken temporary residence in the garden and on Grand itself, such as Grand’s own Stone and Glass. Across from their booth was a tent occupied by Rich Briggs, a retiree who makes guitars and banjos out of salvaged cigar boxes, gas cans, biscuit tins and hubcaps. These objects make up the bodies of the instruments, and the necks are made from hand-carved poplar wood that he buys from hardware stores.

He acquires the cigar boxes from tobacco shops, and the hubcaps from junk yards. The only parts of the instruments that Briggs doesn’t salvage or otherwise make himself are the tuning machines on the headstocks, and the electronics that allow the instruments to be played through amps.

“It takes me four to five hours to make (an instrument),” Briggs said. “I make about five a week, and I sell about five a week.” He tends to sell them out in the open at events like this one, so potential buyers can test the instruments out for themselves. Briggs’ instruments were used in the score of the feature film “Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” “That was so cool,” he said, recounting how he sold some of his guitars to film and TV composer Jake Monaco.

Over at the tent marked “Maptometry,” assemblage artist Laura Kaslow was selling antique lenses with bits of maps placed into them. Kaslow has been a full-time working artist for 14 years, and she started doing assemblage art 10 years ago.

“My art aesthetic is I like to take things that people have forgotten about and people might not recognize are still beautiful, and rescue it and salvage it,” she said. “And the antique lenses really speak to me about being a visionary. I’m very fond of things that talk about vision and future. So that’s how I gravitated towards the lenses.”

In terms of the maps, she said, “Everybody’s from somewhere or wants to go somewhere. And I like that I can take things … because people don’t use maps anymore, it’s all iPhone technology, finding your way that way. And there are so many atlases sitting on people’s shelves and dying. And I like to take them out and show people how beautiful they are.”

Meanwhile, just a few feet away, Virginia Ann Holt sold fabric garments made of hand-painted silk, having started out by making scarves in 2014. While her day job is to work as a painter, muralist and faux finisher, by night she works on her silk clothes.

She describes her process as first buying white silk fabric, which “can be crepe de chine or silk satin; it just depends. Then what I do is cut it to size: two pieces to size, whatever I’m going to make. I do the tops in three different lengths, and then I do dresses or tunics and then jackets, and the jackets come in two different lengths. So, it just depends on what I need.” Afterward, she colors the fabric.

Holt said what she loves about silk is how the colors bleed together. “Then it’s always a surprise at the end, of what it looks like.”

“Curmudgeon Cards,” were also sold by former Hollywood casting director Elisa Goodman. She started making cards (not Curmudgeon Cards) in 2000, around when Los Angeles experienced a production slump when companies started shooting in other cities. She called making the cards — postage stamps set on top of textiles — her “mid-life crisis career.”

She eventually moved on to creating cards with digitally drawn, geometric characters with pieces of advice written under them, such as her late husband Ken Marcus’s motto of “Life’s Too Short to Spend with Assh*les.”

When Marcus contracted cancer that moved from his hairline down to his eye, she started drawing eyes as a form of therapy; the card with Marcus’s motto depicts Marcus himself with a large purple eye, in place of his inspiration’s eyepatch. “Really, the concept was, ‘Why is this in our lives? What aren’t we seeing? What are we looking at?’” she said. Her style of art has been compared to Picasso and Moreau.

“I can only say find as much joy as possible every day,” Goodman said. “Do what you love, because sh*t can happen.”