Filled with weird art and weirder people, the Kentuck Festival of the Arts is like a different world. With over 270 artists, there’s so much art that a full day isn’t enough to peruse it all. And of course, you have to take breaks to enjoy the fair food and live music, or take the time to do the activities scattered around the festival.
Halfway down a congested walkway that led to food and music was Karen Fincannon’s booth. Fincannon, who grew up in Buffalo, New York but is now based in Tucker, Georgia, has been making art her entire life. From selling paper dolls on the school bus to drawing stars on her desks, she has always been an artist.
Karen Fincannon’s booth was simply used to display her works, which stood out against the black-felt walls, rather than being transformed into the art, like the nearby teepee that hosted a shrine of morbid pieces or the walkway of metal sculptures. When I arrived to meet her, her husband produced a director’s chair for me, and I joked that I felt professional as I settled into it. I sat catty-corner to Fincannon’s chair, with my pen at the ready. The questions I had prepared were quickly thrown aside as we derailed, the interview being wrapped up by a discussion about my plans for college.
Karen Fincannon graduated at 36 from SUNY Potsdam with degrees in art history and photography, but after attending a workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she put down the camera and started making relief tiles. A few years later, she attended another workshop in Gatlinburg, and now her art is mainly whimsical, animal sculptures.
Fincannon’s characters are inspired from parts of her life. One of her new characters is Jazz Hands, inspired by an old friend who walked around doing jazz hands in the restaurant where they both worked. Many of her pieces have punny names, such as a llama with the label: Como Se Llama. Though she is not not an Alabama fan, one of her pieces is a ceramic fish with houndstooth print named Roll Tide. She had to learn the difference between Auburn and Alabama football when she moved to Georgia from Buffalo, a place with NFL, NHL, and NWHL teams but no college football.
Aside from the Alabama fish, others of her pieces reflect her interests. Despite listening to mainly audiobooks and election news this year while working, Fincannon’s love of folk songs and old bands like the Grateful Dead is shown in her art. She laughed as she told me the names of the folk artists whose lyrics she used, telling me they were probably before my time. Mexican folk art is also a source of inspiration for her, as she has a series of sugar skulls on her website.
As we finished, I asked my last question, the one most important to me: “How are your cats?”
“They’re my inspiration,” Fincannon said immediately. There are three pictures of them velcroed on the back of the booth, including one of a cat named Monkey Bat posed next to a painting that looks strikingly similar to him, despite the painting being in the Fincannons’s possession for six more years than Monkey Bat.
“I love your cats,” I said, and her husband laughed and told me he’d pass on the message. He pointed to the picture of a white cat who he called Purreese, because he purred all the time.
Fincannon’s husband joked about leaving them in charge of the house, which probably wasn’t the best idea, given how cats love to push things onto the floor. As I talked with her husband, who is a college advisor at Georgia Tech, he told me I wasn’t allowed to freak out until I was thirty.
I objected, of course, because freak-outs are allowed at any age.
After leaving Fincannon’s booth, I wandered the festival with my friends Chamberlyn and Mason, and bought french fries and cotton candy, the latter I called kettle candy because I kept getting the two foods mixed up.
We ended the day at a tie-dye station, where I got a green splotch on the back of my hand despite not tie-dying anything. By the time we left, my feet were aching and I was ready to take a nap in the backseat, but it was a good day.