Art Imitating Life or Life Imitating Art?

Does art imitate life or life imitate art?

Oscar Wilde opined in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying: An Observation, that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life."

It's up for discussion. Take the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. In real life, it is spectacular but the average fan may never be able to photograph it well in the wild. In art, you can depict it as you see it, or how you think it should be depicted. Either way, these butterflies draw attention.

Artist Roberto Valdez finds them fascinating, too. His Dixon May Fair entry in oils and acrylics, adult fine arts, won a well-deserved "best of show" in the Professional Fine Arts category.

No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dixon May Fair-- which dates back to 1876 and is renowned as the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California--canceled its 2020 and 2021 fairs. This year, however,  the fair accepted entries. Judges scored the entries on tables set up in Denverton Hall and images of the winning entries were posted online.

V. cardui has a colorful history. Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, writes on his research website that "apparently the entire North American population winters near the U.S.-Mexico  border, breeding in the desert after the winter rains generate a crop of annual Malvaceous, Boraginaceous and Asteraceous hosts. The resulting butterflies migrate north. In good years (lots of desert rain) they may do so by billions, interfering with traffic and attracting the attention of the media." 

Shapiro says that 2005 "was one of the biggest painted lady years in history--perhaps the biggest, but how can we know? At Sacramento at the height of the migration butterflies were passing in one's field of vision at the rate of about 3 per second!"

Valdez' painting depicts 13 painted ladies fluttering by him or stopping to nectar. That's something you don't see often except during the height of a migration. 

If you're an insect enthusiast, you'll enjoy seeing the online entries of insects depicted in paintings, photographs, drawings and jewelry. And you'll see bee condos or bee hotels (housing for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees) crafted by youth.

At the judging tables in Denverton Hall, we also admired a drawing of a friendly blue dragonfly, the work of eight-year-old Logan Rush of Vacaville. He nailed it! Future entomologist? Maybe! 

The Dixon May Fair, headed by chief executive officer Patricia Conklin,  supports the communities of Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Elmira, all of Solano County, and Woodland and Davis, both of Yolo County. The 2021 Dixon May Fair normally would have taken place Thursday through Sunday, May 6-9, ending on Mother's Day. However, vendors offered a taste of the fair ("grab and go" food) for fans to enjoy.

Pre-COVID, the fair hosted community and agriculture-related activities throughout the year. The UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology plays a role in the annual four-day fair by providing exhibits. Next year!