Reaffirmed at the Texas State Fair: At Every Pause Along the Road Most Traveled, the Human Spirit Can Summon the Creative Spark

Sherry and I took our young grandson to the State Fair of Texas this weekend. The fair is a 277-acre behemoth of statefairism that not only boasts Big Tex, the three-ton, 52-foot-tall talking iconic statue, but the largest collection of art deco exposition buildings in the United States.

If you are into the (Clare W.) Gravesian spiral model of people’s portals on the world, state fairs are authentic places to observe mind levels 2 through 4 (and sometimes 5) at work and play. And since the State Fair of Texas is a genuinely outsized event, it offers a genuinely boggling array of people living out those worldviews.

The cookware demonstrations and the homegrown tomatoes quickly get old for me, so on those rare occasions when I go to the big Texas fair, I soon find myself in my favorite building, the Creative Arts hall. Again, using the Gravesian model as a reference, this is decidedly a level 4 kind of place. Level 4 is the worldview that Graves called absolutistic and what I’ve often called the Loyalist portal of the mind.

At Level 4, the human mind is not expected to be a paragon of creativity. And most of what is on view in the Creative Arts hall is as uninspiring as the acres and acres of unimaginative new Level 5-inspired cars on display a few yards away. But on all my visits there, I’ve eventually stumbled on unmistakable evidence of just how alive and well the creative instinct is at all levels of the mind, including this one.

This year, I found what I was looking for in a display case housing the winning entries for the Glue-A-Shoe Context.

The assignment had been to take an old shoe and transform it into a piece of art. I think even the late Andy Warhol might have been intrigued with the tennis shoe that had been splayed and metamorphosed into a manta ray. There was a dismembered high-heeled shoe whose parts were artfully rearranged in a salad bowl and labeled chop shoey. Two scale model sumo wrestlers were going at it on a discarded beach sandal. Another sandal had somehow been refashioned into a magical wagon in which a Tinker Bell-like character held the reins to a pair of dragon flies. And those were merely the blue-ribbon winners.

However, these were not the most captivating displays I saw at this year’s Creative Arts hall. That distinction went to a top winner in scale model dioramas. The scene depicted a Texaco gasoline station, circa the early 1950s. The scene was stunning in its imaginative completeness. Right down to the bottles in the miniature, battered vertical-door Coke machine inside the office, the electric clock on the wall (it read 10 ’til 2) and the outside trash barrel filled with empty, Chiclet-sized motor oil cans. Creating this had to have required several hundred hours of riveting, loving, creative attention to detail.

Of course, you can’t wade through 7,000 examples of Level 4 creativity without eyeballing a lot of kitsch. This year’s kitschiest display was also its largest. A bigger-than-life-sized, guitar-pounding young Elvis Presley and three hound dogs. Carved in butter.

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