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Allentown eclectic; DJ setup adds spice to Baltimore artist's mixed-media works

Among the more than 400 white booths lining Delaware Avenue and the surrounding streets this weekend for the 55th annual Allentown Art Festival, one in particular seems sure to draw double takes from passers-by.

For more than a half-century, veterans of the art fest have learned exactly what sort of work to expect from the granddaddy of all Western New York festivals: traditional oils, watercolors, architectural photographs, decorative sculptures and many-splendored trinkets of all imaginable types. But this year, at least one artist is inserting a bit of unexpected flair into the staid proceedings of the festival.

Jess Pfohl, a self-styled neo-Pop artist, sometime DJ and St. Bonaventure University grad who works out of Baltimore, will be going in a slightly different direction in her booth on Delaware Avenue between Allen and North streets.

Visitors to Pfohl's booth, which is decorated with hundreds of shiny compact discs, will see the artist manipulating a turntable and laptop set atop a table partially constructed from Campbell's Soup cans. The DJ set, she said, is designed to complement her exhibition of mixed-media works hung on both sides of the booth, which tell stories from her life and relationships in a wild range of whimsical colors and eclectic styles.

It's all part of a project Pfohl calls "Pop Logic" and describes, in a card advertising the show, as "an extra-large multi-mixed media art expose and DJ set."

"I am prepared to stick out, and frankly I'm quite used to it," Pfohl said in a phone interview from Baltimore when asked about how she thought she'd blend in. "It's nothing new to me, and I think it's nice to be different."

Pfohl casts herself as an artist straight out of Warhol's Factory -- hence the cans of Campbell's Soup, which, she said, has signed on as one of her several corporate sponsors. She didn't start making artwork seriously until about 2008, when a friend encouraged her to turn the tentative pieces she was making in her Brooklyn apartment into fordder for a career.

"I knew off the bat that if I wanted to do this and take it seriously, I wasn't going to be able to afford it. I had already done many starving artist years living in New York and once I moved back to Baltimore, I couldn't do it anymore. I kind of thought outside the box and got in touch with some great companies, and they were into it."

With a background in marketing and videography and experience touring with several rock bands, Pfohl parlayed all her interests into an artistic/musical persona that seems to be as stylistically diverse as the work she creates.

"Unlike most artists, where they kind of find a process that they're comfortable with and they make many pieces in a similar fashion, these paintings are all mixed-media," Pfohl said. "And when people ask me what I do, I just say, 'Oh well I glue stuff to other stuff,' to be kind of coy. But it's much more involved than that. The fashion and the style of each painting, instead of following suit, they're all different. The way they relate is within the story, not within the style of the work."

Amid the serene watercolors and bejeweled lawn sprinklers that have come to characterize the Allentown Art Festival, Pfohl's work is sure to raise some eyebrows. And that, the artist said, is exactly the idea.

Out of all the booths at the festival, she said, "I'm pretty confident in saying that I'm probably going to be the most unique."

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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PREVIEW    

Allentown Art Festival    

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.    

WHERE: Delaware Avenue between West Tupper and North streets; Allen Street between Elmwood Avenue and Franklin Street; Franklin Street between Allen and Virginia streets. The concurrent Allen West Festival takes place along Allen and Wadsworth streets between Elmwood Avenue and Hudson Street.    

ADMISSION: Free    

INFO: 881-4269, www.allentownartfestival.com, or pick up a festival program at the Allentown Village Society offices at 435 Delaware Ave.