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Meadow Vistan’s off the wall art wins State Fair’s ‘Best of Show’

Kurt Barton’s “Water Leak” judged tops among 1,500 fine art entries
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A quirky creation by Meadow Vistan Kurt Barton is the star of the California State Fair’s soon-to-open fine art show.

The State Fair opens July 13 and Barton’s “Water Leak - Building 7” will be on view as Best of Show at the prestigious exhibit.

The California Fine Art Show will display 180 artworks chosen from 1,500 entries. Barton’s creation topped all entries in all categories. He also is receiving a juror’s award for top 3-D artwork.

Juror Clay Jensen, who teaches sculpture at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, said that Barton’s playful use of crystal-clear plastic bottles as water was artfully concocted as well as thought-provoking.

“(It) gives us pause to think of our need for water and encourages us to consider the consequences of how we use water,” Jensen said. “Not only is this a well-crafted, whimsical sculpture, it is also a serious reminder of the critical issues that face us all.”

Jensen praised the sculpture, which will be displayed about 15 feet above the Building 7 floor at  Sacramento’s Cal Expo fairgrounds as “an outstanding example of simplicity of materials and imagery creating a powerful statement regarding our environmental impact on the planet.”

Barton has been wowing Auburn-area residents for more than a decade with entries in the Auburn Community Festival scarecrow contest, regularly winning first-place honors. His works, like the State Fair entry, make use of recycled materials and Barton’s ability to meld humor with a message.

The State Fair Best of Show honor is a first and Barton said that he’s looking forward to picking up the coveted Golden Bear statuette at opening ceremonies July 13.

“I don’t think it’s quite hit home,” Barton said. “I’ve just kept plugging away. The Golden Bear is definitely going on the mantle.”

While Barton’s art has won raves locally and regularly been displayed at the Auburn Library each fall after the autumn festival, he said he’s never sold a piece and much of his output over the years lies disassembled in his garage. One sculpture – a large, metal ear of corn made from old Pennzoil cans and other recycled materials - was loaned a few years ago as an Earth Day display at the Sierra College library – and is still there, he said.

Barton added that his house contains no evidence of his creations either.

“There are no scarecrows standing in the corner,” he said, with a smile.

Barton, 62, a retired Placer County Facility Services Department project manager, said he started creating his sculptures because they provided a creative outlet outside the workplace.

“When I was working, it was a release,” Barton said. “I could go into the garage to tinker and there were no rules.”

Barton’s mirthful world of scarecrows marching en masse, recycled tin men and, now, plastic water streaming out of buildings, is about to get a more widespread viewing at the State Fair.

It’s a world of wonder that Auburn-area residents have been able to share in for a much longer time.