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Contemporary Art Fair combines creativity and functionality

Books, glass, audio speakers, wood, felt, paper, metal, yarn. You really can make art out of anything, and so artists have done, for your viewing (or purchasing) pleasure, at this spring's Contemporary Art Fair.

Mary Jean Canziani book art
Jennifer Eberhart

A not-to-be-missed show, CAF is one of the best-run fairs in town and consistently offers unique hand-crafted items that appeal to everyone.

The show, which runs all weekend long from May 8-11, displays the wares of independent artists and designers, some of whom are actually manning their own booths. One of the greatest appeals of CAF is getting to speak directly to an artist about why a work looks the way it does (Brian Josselyn wants you to actually experience what he paints through his impasto scenes), or how they molded their material in just such a fashion (Kino Guerin's twisted-wood pieces are extraordinary), or just what was going through their mind when they came up with the idea for their art (Mary Jean Canziani was in the shower when she realized an ape's head is shaped the same as a doge's hat - hence her painting on a book about Venice). In fact, the Contemporary Art Fair "is the only event during Frieze Week where buyers can purchase directly from the artists."

Frieze Week takes place every spring, featuring a number of art fairs new and old, this year, in addition to the Frieze Art Fair and Contemporary Art Fair, including NADA New York, Pulse, cutlog, and the new Downtown Armory Fair. Each fair has something different to offer visitors but none except for the Contemporary Art Fair will offer you the diversity of functional and creative works that are also affordable (most only a few hundred to a thousand dollars) and aesthetic.

One hundred emerging and established artists have art here in The Tunnel (Chelsea's latest exhibition space at 269 11th Avenue at 27th Street) and each one is worth a second look. Here are our highlights of the show:

• Mary Jean Canziani doesn't read all of her books. Instead, she finds a title she likes, then paints the front and back covers to fit accordingly - like The Outcry with a painting of the famous Scream figure on front.

• The glass used by Gallery 66's Carla Goldberg is painted on both sides with paint and oil, giving the aqua-tinted artwork a 3D effect to make it look like bubbles of water.

Kino Guerin's art is both fun and functional, featuring wood twisted into knots that transforms into bookshelves, benches, tables and other items - and by Friday afternoon, the artist was already selling artworks.

• The fibre art by Elana Sigal look, from a distance, like modern art painting, but upon closer inspection, we see that it is actually made of felt. Made entirely by hand from her own dyed, color-mixed wool, these wall hangings are a real treat for the eye.

Brian Josselyn's art is all made of super-thick impasto - the paint almost jumps off the canvas so much so that his Heli View of Central Park looks like a 3D model of bird's-eye Manhattan.

• Verne Yan, who was making a piece as visitors walked by his booth, has embroidered silk into landscapes and flower stills that are so precise they look like paintings from afar.

Fair director Richard Rothbard had his own gallery, An American Craftsman, displaying works as well, which included trick wooden boxes, contemporary art glass, and more.

The CAF never fails to impress and this year, it is exceptional. Every item presented by the artists and designers - from jewelry and furniture to painting and mixed media - is so obviously lovingly created and wants to find a home - perhaps one belongs in yours!

Check out the Contemporary Art Fair this weekend - the fair is open today until 7pm and on Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission for adults is $12 (compared to Frieze's $43 ticket (!) this entrance fee is a deal!), $10 for seniors, and $8 for students.

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