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Circus Living presents
Featured Artists Round-Up (Holiday Edition)

Melissa Belanger's snow angels, 8"x24"

Over the past few months, I have met several wonderful artists, each with their own distinctive style. As to be expected, just in time for the Holidays, they have been busy creating magnificent Holiday-themed artwork. These artists are a true testament to the notion that creative minds do not rest.

My selections presented here will likely say more about me than the artists themselves. So, I urge you to visit their websites, respective pages and shops in order to view more of their fascinating works.

I also have a confession to make. This past week, I have been consumed with trying to become more extroverted, and more expressive about myself - about who I am. This revelation that I tend not to toot my own horn so to speak, or that I am a more guarded sort of individual became more apparent to me after a work-related meeting. The individual I met with mentioned that we needed to work on making me come out of my shell. One of my work references who I have only corresponded with through e-mail and online, and who I have grown to respect and admire greatly, jokingly asked for a picture of me so that he would recognize me when we met because my blogs did not contain any. I suppose you could say I am a paradox of sorts - I formulated these blogs to give myself an opportunity to speak and to be heard, and yet I may still remain a mystery to some because I focus on my family and the artists or attractions I feature. Others would argue my entries say a lot about me as a person whereas others may say they still do not know who I am.

I am both extroverted and introverted and I cannot help that I am. Like these artists, I choose to express myself through my work and let it speak for itself. So, as you can imagine, these artists are not just artists to me, and their artworks not just artworks - in their works, I find myself at home. Both telling and mysterious, the works they create are a reflection of the unknown and fascinating aspects of this world which cannot be explained by rationality or logic - the creative mind does not rest and it cannot be compartmentalized into something one can categorize or explain. So when someone asks me or any of these artists who we are as individuals, do not be surprised when our answers have us pointing to our creations because this is who we are, and this is ultimately how we express ourselves. 

With that in mind, and without further delay, it is time to meet Circus Living's featured artists and their works, 

Melissa Belanger. I have always loved Melissa Belanger's art work. Whimsical with a retro modern edge describes her artwork to a tee. I chose to showcase this particular artwork of hers because who can resist cute snowmen?? Hailing from a small town, Melissa's artwork imbues the charm of one and yet still manages to convey the sophistication of  big city life. Living in close proximity to a big city, it is no wonder Melissa's artwork conveys both the simplicity and comfort of a small city with that of the dazzling character of big city life. Living in a small town myself in close proximity to a busy metropolitan city, I understand how these two opposing sensibilities can converge in one's work and in one's identity. And this is perhaps why I love her artwork so much, the graceful consolidation of these characteristics is a reflection of my own experiences, and my own identity.

Jerry and Darla Arnold. Jerry and Darla's artwork incites that warm fuzzy feeling in the belly bringing with them memories of cozy Holidays long past. Having been brought up in a household where Christmas trees are decorated with the latest and greatest glass balls (the more fragile, the better), it has been refreshing to discover Jerry and Darla's quaint Christmas ornaments made with spun cotton. Now, do not get me wrong. I love my father's Christmas trees. His tree would put any of Martha Stewart's decorated trees to shame. Decorating the tree like my father, however, has only ever caused me stress. Concerned about placing the lights just right, and the ornaments in their right spots just so the tree did not look lopsided etc never proved to be fun. I was too busy telling my kids where to place the ornaments instead of actually enjoying spending quality time together decorating the tree. And that's where Jerry and Darla Arnold come in. Their ornaments have ignited a spark in me which made me realize the tree is about creating memories. Just look at their tree in the picture - so inviting, so lovely, so warm, and their ornaments so incredibly full of character. Each one just screams 'ask about me, where I came from, and what memories I carry'. Whenever I see their ornaments, I cannot help associate them with the true meaning of the Holidays.

Susan Tharp Bartolucci. Susan describes herself as the 'oddball' of the group - her works of art vary greatly from the other artists she attends shows with. With a loyal following of fans, one can say her artwork is of an acquired taste. It is probably safe to say you will either really really hate her art, or really really love it. It's no big mystery I love her creations. Some have fascinated me, some have baffled me, some have inspired me, some have disturbed me...whatever feelings they have incited, one thing certain about her artwork is they have the incredible power to bring forth an array of emotions. It is no surprise Susan herself is vibrant, full of character and has the natural penchant to find the humorous side in all things. She has the uncanny ability of not taking herself too seriously and makes jokes frequently at her own expense. An edgier version of Stevie Nicks, I find Susan bears a remarkable resemblance to the Fleetwood Mac star. I am a big Fleetwood Mac fan and perhaps this is why I feel I can identify with her and the reason why she carries a comforting familiarity to me. Regardless of the reasons, what I do know for sure is that her artwork enthralls me, and I find each one serves as just another means of experiencing what goes on inside Susan's ingenious and eccentric mind.

And of course, I could never forget Debra Klopp of Cumberland Arts. Before I talk about Debra's work, I have to digress and explain that life has been harder than usual the last few days. Let's just say the investment in time and effort I placed on the last few days completing and preparing for a project did not pan out. And it got me thinking about wasted time (time I just cannot afford to waste) and a whole myriad of issues that is wrong with this world - too many pretenses, too much insecurity, too many egos...egos are rampant everywhere and it makes my head hurt. I got to thinking that the artists in this feature are probably the most humble people I have met. Artists tend to be self-deprecating, hard on themselves, and always wanting to improve. And that is perhaps why I can relate to them so much. I am just not the type of person to toot my own horn. I will never come out of my shell especially if it means I have to talk myself up and call myself an expert on anything - no one is an expert, there is simply far too much knowledge out there on any given topic to presume you know everything or even enough about whatever you think you are an expert on. Like these artists, I would rather let my work speak for itself. So with that in mind, I can honestly say that Debra Klopp is probably one of the most unassuming people I know. When she shows me her new works, she shows pride in her creations and yet I am convinced that she does not know how truly enchanting they are. Always so grateful for complements, Debra is a breath of fresh air in an egotistical world, and her charmingly macabre artwork always proves to be a source of comfort for me. Just take a look at her Franken-Santa, who can resist him?? Not the typical stuffie, Fraken-Santa is delightfully weird and wonderful at the same time. Hey, to some, Franken-Santa may not have a pretty face but that is precisely what makes Debra's beloved stuffies true works of art - they are distinctive, unusual, and undoubtedly imaginative.


If you are looking for a unique gift to give someone (or yourself...hey, we all need to spoil ourselves at some point!) for the Holidays, I suggest you check out their works - you will not be disappointed. They are also always busily creating new works of art so check their pages and websites frequently for new creations!