The Los Angeles County Fair Through the Eyes of Ten Artists

This is the final weekend of the fair. See it like a surrealist does

This weekend is your last chance to enjoy the Los Angeles County Fair. You might think the fair is all corn dogs and roller coasters, but there is so much more. The fair can get really weird. Acclaimed painter Mark Ryden made a short video of his recent visit and it got me wondering…what does the fair look like through the eyes of an artist? Ryden and his wife Marion Peck are hosting a “Surrealist Ball” with Baby Tattooville at the Mission Inn next weekend, and they probably have a very different experience in Pomona than you and I do. This year the fair even adopted the slogan “a natural mind bender.” Here are the some of the favorite county fair experiences of some of my favorite L.A. artists.

Video by Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden
“I always marvel at the explosion of color and graphics in the main carnival concessions: the massive images of frightening foods, meats proudly displayed larger than life dripping in grease and cheese, chocolate covered bacon.”

Kenton Nelson
“Generally I like seeing the livestock, and farm equipment.The simple things…”

“I like the big model train setup at the fairgrounds! It’s huge – very elaborate.”

Danny Heller
“I love that there are still exhibition halls, showing photography and other artwork.  I remember growing up as a young artist, having friends’ drawings exhibited and winning ribbons.  It’s a nice quiet departure from all the flashing lights and sounds coming from the rest of the Fair.”

“The last time I went to the L.A. County fair, I was eight years old. It was a September night and it was terrifying. They still had a lot of those lurid exhibitions like headless women and mummified gorillas, and vendors selling t-shirts with entendre-filled graphics that I was too young to understand at the time.  I went on the Ghost Train and the highlight of the ride was a real live carny dressed as a ghoul who would actually reach into the train car and grab little kids, which is probably a felony now.”

Mimi Pond
“The San Diego County Fair has a whole “hobby” building where people had their collections of stuff on display. Everything from guitar picks thrown from stages to the frosted Shamu cookies made by a kindergarten class to a collection of single shoes found by the side of the road.”

Kent Bash
“In visiting the Los Angeles County Fair, you’d have to mark me down for the Flowers and Garden Building. As an artist, plant life and nature are often integral aspects, and not by chance, as they have a way to relax the spirit. It is also hard to ignore the beauty of the life, that brings us life.”

Allee Willis
“I want to spend a whole day there doing nothing but going from one food concession to the next. All I think about is that glorious fried food. I love the fair.”

Peter Shire
“The real stand out in my (childhood) memory was the Japanese Boy Scout troop from Gardena, because they had the most exquisite bamboo superstructure that housed all of their pots and pans in the most wonderful display.  Who knows how much that visual experience influenced my life and work?”

Syd Mead
“I have never been to the fair before and am going specifically to see the Popnology exhibit. It has my illustrations for a future Los Angeles. For now, that is my favorite place at the fair. Definitely not crafts and flowers.”