Downtown Nashua to welcome 150 artists for this weekend's ArtWalkBy EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader October 11. 2017 1:04PM
Casey Batten of Merrimack says sometimes people are shocked to find out that she’s an artist.
“ ‘Oh, my god. I didn’t even know you did that. You did that? What?,’” Batten says, laughing. “That’s kind of fun. It’s a nice boost for the ego.”
Batten and other artists will get the chance to illicit more enlightened reactions during the 13th annual ArtWalk Weekend festival in downtown Nashua on Saturday and Sunday.
According to ArtWalk project coordinator Nona Alexander, about 125 to 150 artists will display their work at venues along Main Street, Factory Street and Pine Hill, with the main site located at 30 Temple St. About 1,500 people are expected to attend and get the opportunity to purchase what they like.
Alexander said the artists range from eighth-grade students up to professionals, and the artwork includes visual arts, ceramics, jewelry and more.
“Over at The Picker Building, there’s a couple that does beautiful stained glass, and a gentleman who does all woodworking with no power tools, all by hand,” she said. “So, it really just runs the whole spectrum.”
New this year, local chefs will participate in the festival, presenting creative appetizers and drinks as culinary art.
“A lot of times chefs and bartenders, they have to stick to their menu; they have to stick to the theme of the restaurant,” Alexander said. “This is an opportunity to let them have some fun and showcase their artistic talent. So it’s really an all-encompassing arts event.”
Though Batten attended Rochester Institute of Technology years ago for illustration and was a graphic artist for a time, she’s been working in customer service for the past 15 years. But she’s kept her love of painting as a side project. Only this year did she take things to the next level.
In January, Batten’s friend mentioned an upcoming art show in Merrimack. Batten says she told herself, “Really? OK. I’m gonna do it.’” Over several months, Batten created nearly 20 pieces of art for the July event. From there, she signed up for Artwalk in Nashua, and another show in Bedford, and she hasn’t looked back.
Batten says while ArtWalk didn’t require artists to come up with a theme, she already had one picked out.
“I’ve had a love of anything ocean-related or anything marine life. When I went to school before deciding to go into illustration, I was interested in marine biology, so there’s always been that kind of little love affair of it,” she says, adding she’s also fascinated by doing detailed face portraits.
Batten uses pen, pencil, colored ink, pastels and watercolors, but pen and ink is her favorite medium for what she calls “line work.”
“Some people might think it’s kind of repetitive, but there’s just a lot of detail that can be done, a lot of little features,” she said. “There just is so much you can get into, and the lines can be really beautiful.”
For Batten, reactions to her work don’t necessarily have to be positive.
“It doesn’t have to be this great, ‘Oh, my god, I love it.’ Maybe it reminds them of the time they went on vacation with a family member,” she says. “I just hope that, maybe, it brings you back somewhere cool in your life, or brings you to a place you want to go, that you have some emotional reaction to it or intellectual reaction.”
One of Batten’s favorite parts of being an artist is realizing when a project really is going to work out.
“Sometimes they’re a failure, but you just see it transforming, and it’s really kind of cool,” she adds of hatching an idea and being sketch work.
When artist Mandy Halford was a child, she says she drew “little kid things,” like flowers, trees and buildings.
These days, the buildings she paints might have vivid graffiti on the walls or appear as abandoned edifices left to decay.
Originally from Mississippi, Halford attended Meramec Community College in St. Louis, then went to Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she focused on painting and sculpture.
Halford left school early, knowing she was going to be an artist whether or not she got a degree. She worked as an artist in St. Louis before moving to Nashua about a year ago. She joined ArtWalk to get more involved in the community, and will exhibit oil paintings and smaller watercolors during the event.
“I want to start painting buildings where you ... get your fortune told, a little series of those,” she says about recent work. “And then my other ones are of abandoned buildings in St. Louis. So, there’s a lot of graffitied walls and piles of wood.”
She said those scenes, which she calls “art on the walls,” are often overlooked or ignored.
“It’s something that most people don’t really look at. It’s usually really colorful. I think I’m just interested in things like stacking and layering,” she says.
“I’ll play around with the first layer of color and then build upon that, because it’s different than when you paint just directly on white canvas. (I’m) trying to show people what I see when I look at something, why I’m attracted to it, and maybe enhance the colors that I have been drawn to,” she says.
Halford hopes her art helps people see beauty in things that might, on the surface, appear traditionally unseemly or ugly.
“I’m painting buildings that some people tend to not like because there’s graffiti on them, (or) they’re abandoned. I guess I’d like them to not be so afraid of them, or maybe see something beautiful in them too,” says Halford.