Studio Proof: Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition is impressively enormous

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

When most people think about the Ohio State Fair, things like fried foods, the butter cow, lots of livestock, and pig races come to mind. But they usually don't think of a massive fine art exhibition featuring artists from all across the state. Well, that's a shame, because the annual Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition is quite an incredible collection.

This year's exhibition features over 300 professional and amateur artists exhibiting in every medium imaginable. Organized in a salon style setting, anyone who enters the Cox Fine Arts Center (near the 11th Avenue entrance) will be immediately overwhelmed - in the best way possible.

It would be impossible to cover the breadth and depth of this exhibition in this space, but hitting some - some - of the highlights is doable. First and foremost, the exhibition, along with a number of Columbus and Ohio arts organizations, awards over $10,000 to professionals and amateurs with Augusto Bordelois earning $2,000 in the Best in Show Professional division.

The Best in Show Amateur division award-winner also ranks as a highpoint. Shelley Bird's collection of found-object sculptures - quirky robot-looking figures with human smiles - contain the right amount of kitsch and whimsy. Columbus photographer Ralph Corriveau was awarded the Ohio Arts Council's photography award for good reason - his four images linger with the viewer long after viewing.

While it would be easy to focus on the award winners, there is an embarrassment of creative riches throughout. Taylor Beltz's ethereal "Light Painting" photograph is technically masterful. Ginny Baughman's large, circular"The Spiral of Life" installation - a vibrantly colorful collection of everything from Muscle Men and Matchbox car toys to office supplies and makeup - has a pleasing what-else-can-I-find-in-there quality. Honestly, there are dozens upon dozens of pieces worth spending extended time observing.

Lastly, the exhibition is a fantastic showcase of Columbus artists. While some of the pieces have been featured at previous exhibits here, it'll expose the immense and diverse talents in Columbus to a new audience.

The Fine Arts Exhibition is on view during fair hours through Aug. 9.