The Artful Collector: The World Fantasy Convention 2014

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WFC 2014 program book with cover art "into the Fire" by Artist Guest of Honor, Les Edwards
WFC 2014 program book with cover art “into the Fire” by Artist Guest of Honor, Les Edwards

I have to confess, reporting on a convention is usually crazy fun for me.  It’s an occasion for legitimate name-dropping of all the new artists I met, and for describing all manner and sorts of program items, events and parties.  This report?  NONE OF THAT.  I didn’t go to a single con party, I didn’t go out for a single meal with anyone attending the con, I didn’t attend any panel or program event that I was not a participant in.  I met only one artist whom I didn’t know before the con.  And spent only an hour in the dealer’s room. And yet – I had a great con!  How can that be?

On a personal note, let me explain that the reason for my general “no show” is that I have been limping around since LonCon3 – and have since learned the reason for my pain is arthritis.  As a result, I could spend only a limited amount of time at the WFC – I showed up for artist “set-up” on Thursday, my interview with AGOH Les Edwards on Friday, my panel on Virgil Finlay on Saturday, and art display “take down” on Sunday.  My daughter, Erica– by happy coincidence/design – was in town and thus able to assist me with the hanging of (and packing up) the art.  That made my limited participation in the art show possible….

As for a “great con”….in one of those wondrous, serendipitous ways that only life in fandom can provide, this FORTIETH World Fantasy Convention was also a demonstration to me of what is meant by saying “SF community”.  And not just because Stuart Schiff (Guest of Honor) and the Franks (I and spouse, Howard) can remember attending the very first WFC in Providence, Rhode Island in 1975.

Stuart David Schiff, GOH, enjoying the Wyeths during a tour of the Kelly Collection - one of the highlights of the WFC (photo courtesy of Robert Wiener)
Stuart David Schiff, GOH, enjoying the Wyeths during a tour of the Kelly Collection – one of the highlights of the WFC (photo courtesy of Robert Wiener)

True, of the three of us, only Stu remembers it – because he took photographs.  🙂   But good thing ONE of us did because otherwise all we would remember is Fritz Leiber reading Lovecraft….at midnight.  Stu’s “Reminiscing on the First World Fantasy Convention” in the Program Book was a startling reminder of how much I’ve forgotten.  But I digress.

I was talking about “community.”

It’s not just because I have known some people attending and/or running this con for decades.  People who are part of the Art Show staff, in particular.  Who contribute their time year after year to make the Art Shows run smoothly.  Like the Atwoods, the Dashoffs, Shirley Avery and Martin Deutsch, Lisa Hertel and Andrea Senchy, the Zipsers (who this year, ran the Show).  And so many others, too numerous to list (get a copy of the Program, is all I can say!)

Beth and Mike Zipser, who ran the Art Show at WFC 2014 with first-time artshow participant and rising artist Matthew Mrowka, center
Beth and Mike Zipser, who ran the Art Show at WFC 2014 with first-time artshow participant and rising artist Matthew Mrowka, center

It’s “community” because even after knowing them for a short time, or even meeting them once (!), they – almost magically – become part of that community, for me.  In a way that makes it irrelevant that you’re not going to see them for another year or two.

It’s that way with me and the Edwardses, Les and Val (he, Artist Guest-of-Honor, she his wife and agent).  Doesn’t matter that I may not see them for 3-4 years.  Sooner or later, I will.  And then we’ll go out to dinner, and Val will order some nice wine, and those years will just fade away.  This WFC: I was honored to be invited to interview Les.  And his less well-known (but equally talented) brother, Edward Miller.

Jane Frank and interviewee, Les Edwards, AGOH at the WFC 2014
Jane Frank and interviewee, Les Edwards, AGOH at the WFC 2014 (photo by Robert Wiener

Although I was disheartened, at first, to see the low turn-out (why they scheduled this at 4-5 PM on a Saturday, when everyone was repairing to the bar for cocktails, I don’t know – and I even suggested we join them….), after a few minutes the room started filling up and we had a good time.

Les and Val Edwards react to a funny story at the WFC 2014
Les and Val Edwards react to a funny story at the WFC 2014 (photo by Robert Wiener

Les is a rather shy/odd guy, who isn’t known for public displays of emotion – indeed, I’ve come to respect his striving to be an exemplar of British Reserve  🙂  So I thought this was a really nifty photo, catching him smiling – until Robert Wiener sent me the one with Val.  Goodbye deadpan demeanor!

Les put on a great display of his art – panel after panel of great art by himself and himself (Eddie Miller).

Long-time Collector and scholar Alex Eisenstein gazes intently at the work of Edward Miller at the WFC 2014
Long-time Collector and scholar Alex Eisenstein gazes intently at the work of Edward Miller at the WFC 2014

And the souvenir program book had even more examples, all shown in beautiful detail (indeed, this was one of the most beautiful program books I’ve seen in a long time).  Some long-time, award winning, notable artists showed up: Greg Manchess, John Picacio, Ruth Sanderson, Michael Whelan, Charles Vess, sculptor Vince Villafranca – joined by rising stars like Galen Dara, Kristin Kest, and those known in gaming circles for painterly work who are broadening their audience, like Mark Poole and Armand Cabrera.

Sculptor Vincent Villafranca, in front of his display of works in bronze,  WFC 2014
Sculptor Vincent Villafranca, in front of his display of works in bronze, WFC 2014

But there’s no denying that the pool of artists the WFC has long depended on, has greatly diminished . . . not to be replaced any time soon.

In their place, comes the opportunity for major displays of art taken from private collections, such as the 80 (eighty!) works by Virgil Finlay – color and B/W – that Joe Siclari and Edie Stern (along with Doug Ellis) were able to corral and show at the convention.  It was a marvelous, incredible, exhibit and a major effort that rewarded viewers with the opportunity to see art they never would have been able to see, otherwise.

Finlay, born in 1914, was part of the Conventions’ 100th anniversary/WWI/Centennials theme, and as part of the celebration Lail Finlay (his daughter and only child) attended the convention.  I was thrilled to moderate the panel on Finlay (artistic influences and contribution), with Joe Siclari and Doug Ellis participating along with Lail  . . . whom I’d only spoken to on the phone before, years ago…and now got to meet for the first time!  She provided entertaining and informative anecdotes about her famous father – the kind of stories told in a way that only a daughter can tell.  What fun!

I haven’t spoken about my participation in the art show; I guess I should.  I represent artists who aren’t going to cons like these anymore, or who never have (hence the need for representation).

Worlds of Wonder display of art by Richard Bober: one of four panels
Worlds of Wonder display of art by Richard Bober: one of four panels (others Romas, Alexander, Oakes)

I usually take more than four panels, but this year that was just about all I could muster (even with help).  I showed work by Paul Alexander, Richard Bober, Romas (Kukalis), and Terry Oakes.  I’m pleased I was able to sell work for two of the four artists, though am always wishing it could be more!  🙂

I also haven’t mentioned the “After Party” that we threw on Sunday night, invitation only.  We always end up wishing it could have been bigger, but we decided to hold the line at 50.  Just about everyone mentioned in this posting showed up, plus a few more — that make up that special “community” of collectors, art lovers, and artists we’ve come to know over the years.  Having the convention in DC is all the encouragement we need to host it, it’s kind of a tradition.  There are no pictures to show you, we never take any at our parties, so you’ll have to rely on others who may have been there!  All I can say is: we had a great time!  For three hours, my pain almost went away  🙂

PS: yes, I am planning to do something about it.  A hip replacement is in my future, and so this will be my last posting until the first of the New Year – when a new, improved, bionic Jane will be back!

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