Posted Online: Dec. 01, 2012, 11:22 pm

Edgy art brings bit of big-city life to Davenport

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By Jonathan Turner jturner@qconline.com

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Photo: Jonathan Turner
Irene Rivera-English of Kewanee made herself up as Sally from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" for Saturday night's art event, "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas" at the Village Theatre, Village of East Davenport.
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Photo: Jonathan Turner
Abbie Sawyer of Davenport got her body painted for the first time Saturday night by artist Sarah Robb at the Village Theatre, Village of East Davenport, during "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas."
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Jonathan Turner
Abbie Sawyer of Davenport got her body painted for the first time Saturday night by artist Sarah Robb at the Village Theatre, Village of East Davenport, during "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas."
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Jonathan Turner
Ashlie Evans of Davenport has her body painted Saturday night by artist Carolyn Krueger at the Village Theatre, Village of East Davenport, during "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas."
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Jonathan Turner
Abbie Sawyer of Davenport stands patiently Saturday night while being painted by Sarah Robb at the Village Theatre.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Jonathan Turner
Staci's Happy Hoops was among several performers Saturday night at the Village Theatre, Village of East Davenport, for "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas."

DAVENPORT — When you think of an artist's body of work, you don't normally think of it walking around.

But using the female body as canvas was exactly the point Saturday night for female artists who took part in the second annual "Candyland," with the Tim Burton-inspired theme, "Twas the Artmare Before Christmas" at the Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport.

"It's another aspect of who I am," Davenport artist Sarah Robb, one of the event organizers, said of body art, which she's also done at Pride Fest. "You'd be amazed at how easy it is to get models."

The hardest thing about painting on a person is "realizing the interpretation of what's in your head on skin, coming to life," she said. "The most exciting part is creating the illusion, as if they're a walking canvas. I'm trying to challenge myself this year, to get a little more detailed. That's the exciting part of it -- the final product and seeing people's reactions."

Ms. Robb's subject was Abbie Sawyer of Davenport, who teaches at Scott Community College, and works with the artist's mother, Jennifer. Saturday was the first time she was body-painted, echoing the Tim Burton film, "Corpse Bride," and her blue base coat ideally complemented the bluish hue of the moon that hung over their corner of the theater.

"Why not?" Ms. Sawyer said of modeling for a few hours, in just her underwear. Last year, she was part of the event's vintage fashion show. She said body art may be shocking to some people, but..."It becomes really beautiful as an art form. I think it's interesting to see people's reactions."

"You have to be OK with being a little cold and patient," said Ms. Sawyer, who had a spooky tree painted up the length of her body.

"Sarah is like family to us," said Ashlie Evans, who lives across the street from the theater and was the model for artist Carolyn Krueger. "I begged to be part of this. 'Corpse Bride' is my favorite movie, and 'Beetlejuice.' I've always loved Tim Burton. It's very intriguing."

There was definitely a spooky, Halloween-ish flavor to the venue, as the artists spent a week transforming the theater into a hip entertainment spot with glossy white-paper covered walls adorned with bats, gnarly trees, and artwork by Ms. Robb and Nicole Cisne Durbin, who also did live painting at the event.

There were bare trees and white-light decorated trees along the stage, which featured occasional performers, including a fashion show from Unforgiven Vintage, the band BustedChandeliers, Bottoms up Quad City Burlesque, poet Mona Ritemon, and Staci's Happy Hoops. Many of the artists who performed also had their products displayed for sale. The adults-only evening included a fully stocked bar and hors d'oeurves.

"It's very important to support local artists," said Irene Rivera-English of Kewanee, who came colorfully decked out as Sally from Mr. Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas." She spent four hours Saturday getting herself done up in the ghostly makeup, and made her outfit, including a patchwork dress and red-yarn wig.

"I love to do makeup, and I love to be creative and create the whole ensemble," Ms. Rivera-English -- who moved with her husband from New York City to be close to his family -- said. "Being from a big city, you get used to that lifestyle. Living in Kewanee, this is where I have to come to get that kind of ambiance."

While last year's "Candyland" was more strictly based on the children's board game, this year kept the name (for continuity) but went with the scarier, edgier look, which thrilled Ms. Krueger.

"This year is more creepy, which is pretty cool," she said, noting Mr. Burton's "design work is phenomenal."

The artists spent hours applying face paint before the event to other participants, including the burlesque girls and bartenders.

The night (which concluded at midnight) was capped by Tera Conine being body painted on stage wearing nothing but a thong.

Matt Hoffmiller of Bettendorf, admired the alternative entertainment for bringing a slice of larger-city nightlife to the Quad-Cities.

"I wanted to support the local art community," he said. "It's something that's special about the community. We need to make it a larger picture and make it a bigger venue."

"It is different," Mr. Hoffmiller added."I'm glad we have something like that in our community."