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Art Harvest bountiful, even in rain

Scattered showers and overflowed lake banks at Highlander Park made Art Harvest somewhat soggy on Saturday, but they didn't dampen the pleasure of thousands of showgoers at the bay area's oldest top-tier outdoor art festival.

From the fun and functional to the seriously cerebral, Art Harvest seems to have it all. And that's in spite of last spring's judging at Gasparilla and Mainsail, the area's other major art shows, which raised a question: Is an outdoor setting appropriate for contemplation of weighty fine art? At those two shows, judges' selections of skill over substance seemed to say no.

Just a few esoteric artists offer works for viewers to take what they see, add what they know and build a personal aesthetic experience. They include:

Tony Eitharong's diptychs of warships on black seas, united by found objects such as rulers, a level and nails. Painted symbols of destruction contrast with real symbols of repair, in works that remain overwhelmingly bleak.

James Michaels' centerpiece painting juxtaposes elements of personal obsession in a tight composition: his wife, draped toga-like in a blanket, himself in prayerful pose, appropriated portraits and figures carrying wood beams.

Susan Livingston's sculpture uniting prehistoric bones (bought or personally dug) with her own contemporary clay. Livingston, who won acclaim for coil-built pots many years ago, has had a long search for a successful new direction.

"I worked, I struggled, but I couldn't stay with the same thing," she explained, in a classic statement of what keeps art challenging to both artist and viewer. This is not an issue of skill or medium, but of creation and change, a sine qua non of fine art today.

Others of note: Charles Parkhill's small and varied works of plywood and sheet metal, Anna Chen's watercolors, William Kwamena-Poh's serigraphs of African American subjects, Jack Ellis's intricate ink drawings and hordes of show winners from the past.

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