THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
Cynthia Richards, Contact (image courtesy of the artist)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-08) EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER AMY REIDEL
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
WEB DESIGN AND ADMINISTRATION AMY MILLER
SOCIAL MEDIA AND OUTREACH MANAGER SEMILLA BLAND
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS PACIA ANDERSON ROMAN BEUC JOHN BLAIR WILLIAM BURTON JR MARILYN CALLAHAN JASON GRAY SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH EILEEN G’SELL ALEX JOHNMEYER AMY MILLER TANYA M NEVIN MARK PACK
AMY REIDEL NANCY NEWMAN RICE CYNTHIA RICHARDS SUSAN STANG EMILY STREMMING WIKTOR SZOSTALO PAULNA VALBRUN RICH VAGEN SARAH WEINMAN MAXINE WARD RON YOUNG
SPECIAL EDITING CONTRIBUTION ELEANOR HEARTNEY
PRINT AND PROOF CONTRIBUTOR PAT CUSUMANO
Front Cover: Adrian Cox, Bird Gardener as Mystic Healer (photo credit: Richard Reilly) Back Cover: Adrian Cox, Veil of Summer (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Exhibition reviews printed here are independent, critical analysis written by your neighbors. It is our ambition to cover art events occurring in every area of our region. If you wish to see coverage of an exhibition, let us know and get involved! All are welcome to participate in this documentation of our local art happenings. But don’t expect to write about artists you know and venues you already love. We hope you’ll go across town to an area new to you and seek out artists’ work you haven’t seen before so that your review is fresh and focused!
STUDIO VISITS AND ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 09-10) All the Art, Winter 2015 focused on art and money in St. Louis. The interviews included in this issue revolve loosely around the topic of education programs in St. Louis art museums. Amy Miller asked a few of our regional museum educators to weigh in on questions about what can be taught in a museum. Their responses go deep.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 11-18) We explore “Art and Education” from many angles this season. Pacia Anderson, Marilyn Callahan, Philly Alex Johnmeyer, Nancy Newman Rice, and Paulna Valbrun present art education programs that invigorate schools and neighborhoods. Gail Lauth tells Sarah Weinman about her own experience of recovery through art. Eileen G’Sell waxes poetic in prose about the education space that exists in the art collection of the great dancer Katherine Dunham. Roman Beuc brings us his research into the educational experiences of 19th century painter William Merrit Chase while in St. Louis. This issue has a giant spread of artists’ contributions of images of their work alongside their own interpretations of the lessons they learned through the production of their artworks or the lessons they’ve embedded within the art itself. Artists reading now, consider contributing to our upcoming Summer, 2016 issue with images of artworks that you perceive as responding to the theme for that season: “Our Fractured Geography” or “Invisible Borders” or something along those lines. You’re artists, you tell us what we are trying to say.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 19-21) Jason Gray makes a passionate (and persuasive) case for the philosophical approach he takes in his art classroom. Ron Young decries the mostly white male canon of artists as go-to art history and makes suggestions for a more inclusive curriculum. And our editors suggest an exhibit you won't want to miss!
Horace Pippin, Sunday Morning Breakfast new acquisition at the Saint Louis Art Museum (image courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum)
Toddlers start to scribble at around eighteen months and, it ends up, these marks are a big deal. Drawing nurtures hand-eye coordination, recognition of cause and effect, spatial understanding, conceptualization and, most importantly, it provides joy and pride. If the fun of making things isn’t supported at school or at home, then POOF goes the motivation to create. What would a civilization be without the visual expression of philosophical concepts and without the ability to imagine and create what doesn’t yet exist? A bleak prospect for sure. On July 16, 2015, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The arts and music are now included in a definition of a “well rounded education,” replacing the term “core academic subjects.” This adjustment to the prior No Child Left Behind act makes art eligible for the use of Title I funds, cementing a state’s obligation to support arts education programming in public schools. The ESEA is a small but important step toward supporting strong art programs for our young people. But the need is great! All of our neighborhoods need public art centers where people of all ages and abilities can create and then share
what they’ve made. We also need access to the artistic productions of our contemporaries and our ancestors so that we can consider the ways others have and currently are thinking about life on Earth. Lucky us, that latter need is fulfilled in our many free museums and galleries. Though unfortunately, like so many aspects of our region, art access is not equally distributed, not in the schools or through the reach of niche educational programs. But we do have classroom teachers who are determined to bring the magic of art into young lives, professional artists who are making huge efforts and museum educators taking art opportunities out to the people. Some of those stories are told in this issue focused on “art and education”. We print All the Art instead of allowing it to solely exist online because we want it in your hands. We hope you will be inspired and seek out art events and new art venues. By distributing this printed publication in your neighborhood space, we are asking you to go see art, maybe even with a friend or a child. All the Best!
Executive Editor and Co-Founder
Creative Editor and Co-Founder
CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM ST. LOUIS
Between 3:15 and 3:30pm daily, Arcangelo Sassolino’s Not Human exhibit explosively announces itself to the Contemporary Art Museum. While the exhibit only physically occupies one room towards the back of the museum, the violent sound of a glass bottle exploding rings throughout the space, to the front door, the café, the mezzanine. Violent sounds and actions tie together several of the pieces in the Italian artist’s first U.S. solo museum exhibition.
system. The system slowly releases a steel arm, which pushes against the block of wood over the course of several hours, but with enough force that the wood slowly splits. The slow pressure of the arm actually causes the wood to emit a sort of sweat as it cracks. As the wood cleaves slowly, it gives the impression of life, as if the moaning and creaking sounds were independent of the systematic force of the steel arm.
The piercing explosive sound is the result of an actual explosion in D.P.D.U.F.A. (dilatazione pneumatica di una forza attiva), the piece at the center of the room. A green glass bottle balances top down onto a nozzle inside a bulletproof glass cube. The nozzle feeds into a steel tube, which in turn feeds into a pressurized gas tank, which, when turned on, fills the cube with pressured gas, causing the bottle to explode, coating the walls of the cube with a green dust and the bottom of the case in a layer of small shards. The sound of the explosion is quick and loud, gunshot-like. While viewers can hear the gas passing from the tank to the case, there is, notably, no visual warning; the glass bottle does not expand, the gas is not visible. The explosion comes as a surprise—mostly because it appears to happen of its own accord, as if it were an accident by a machine in a factory.
A viewer, walking through the exhibit, may not even notice the movement of the hydraulic system until the wood suddenly cracks. They may then hear a drop of blood hit the floor under FIGURANTE, a large metal jaw that slowly ‘eats’ a cow humerus over a three-hour period. The jaw is mechanical, but like Sassolino’s other pieces, does its work over the course of several hours, drawing attention to the result of the movement rather than the machine itself. FIGURANTE is visceral and grotesque as it painstakingly crushes the humerus, still covered in flesh. Throughout the process, blood drips from the bone onto a puddle on the floor in front of the piece. The jaw is the most animalistic of the pieces, not only in its motions, but in that it ‘eats’ a real bone with real flesh on it—the only organic material in the exhibit. The museum even calls the daily placement of the bone in the jaw “Feeding Time,” as if the jaw were an animal in their care.
The sculptural event Untitled puts mechanical destruction in a different timeframe. Untitled is comprised of a large piece of wood, railroad tie-like, held by two steel ropes attached to a hydraulic
In contrast to the violence and surprise of those three sculptural events, Macroscopic and Domestic is the least startling, least violent, but perhaps most lifelike piece in the exhibit. The piece consists of a
Arcangelo Sassolino, Figurante (photo credit: Richard Reilly) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Arcangelo Sassolino, Macroscopic and domestic (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
gas tank attached to a tube, which periodically inflates and deflates a crushed plastic bottle. The inflation of the bottle imitates lungs, and the breathing motion couples with the sound of the plastic expanding and crumpling, giving Macroscopic and Domestic a quiet life of its own. Yet, like all the pieces in the exhibit, composed from steel, plastic, explicitly mechanic, it is not human. Wood splits and moans in the corner, the glass bottle explodes against its case, blood drips into a puddle on the floor, the plastic bottle slowly breathes—until the museum closes for the night, and the machines sleep. -Amelia Himebaugh Not Human: Arcangelo Sassolino will be up at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis through April 3rd along with the following exhibitions: Lisa Yusksavage: The Brood, Peter Sutherland: Forests and Fire, Arlene Shechet: Urgent Matter, Ned Vena: Paintings Without Borders 2, The Propeller Group: Fusion (After a Universe of Collisions) and ArtReach: Entwined. 3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis 63108
SHAPING THE GARDEN BONSACK GALLERY
One needed only step into the Bonsack Gallery to fully appreciate the wildly vivid imagination of Adrian Cox. In Shaping the Garden, viewers found themselves caught amidst a shifting, otherworldly existence. The grotesque cast of characters portrayed in Cox’s paintings, known as Border Creatures, along with their environment, the Borderlands, are in a constant state of flux. Continuously transforming, these characters take on multiple aspects of their environment, from flora and fauna to crystal-like structures and glowing mineral deposits. In Cox’s paintings, there is an undeniable symbiotic relationship between the creatures and the natural landscape. The inseparability between these life forms and their physical environment raises interesting questions, interrogating age-old dichotomies of man versus nature and culture versus wilderness. Cox’s fictional world defies any distinct system of categorization, dispelling traditional notions of landscape painting and portraiture. Each of Cox’s paintings attests to his technical finesse. Moments of thick, impasto relief contribute dimension and variation, while the shimmer of a smooth glaze emphasizes a highlight here and there. Regions of intense detail contrast with loose, sweeping brushstrokes, creating the illusion of depth and dramatizing subjects in the foreground. Most notable is Cox’s manipulation of light and color. In Borderlands (Observatory), lit by the faintest trace of moonlight, a fluorescent glowing organism seems to illuminate on its own accord. The painting seems to radiate light into the gallery space. While Cox’s Border Creatures may seem grotesque at first glance, their vibrant colors, along with the flora and fauna that adorn them make them strikingly seductive. In Shaping the Garden, the difference between the grotesque and the beautiful becomes indistinguishable, pushing the viewer to reconsider what exactly warrants either descriptor. Cox’s technical treatment towards his subject matter displays a certain level of seriousness, but also elements of humor and wit. In some paintings, Cox gives an art historical nod. Such is the case in Amniotic Paradise, a narrative scene depicting two Border Creatures pulling up one of their own who seems to be tied quite literally to the landscape.
Adrian Cox, Borderlands (Observatory) (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Adrian Cox, Snake Gardener (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
An entanglement of moss and organic matter, functioning as an umbilical cord of sorts, connects the figure to the tree canopy above. The posing of the figures is a direct reference to Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ. In an ironic twist, the scene in Amniotic Paradise could very well be one of death or of birth. Perhaps in this case, it is both. In The Scenic Painters, one Border Creature stands painting a large propped canvas while the other character sits adjacent, posing on a nearby log. In this particular tableau, it could arguably be said that the landscape paints itself. While an amusing concept, this painting provides further commentary on socially constructed ideas of mankind and the untamed wilderness. In Snake Gardener, two unlikely critters, mouse and snake, predator and prey, peacefully cohabitate within another organism/ecosystem. This painting, among others, underscores a level of dependency IN REVIEW
between the fauna and the ambiguous life forms they inhabit. Cox’s paintings reference the existence of an equilibrium of sorts, a continuous feedback loop between man and nature that seems to be at the core of the artist’s work. As Cox plans to further develop these characters and the world they inhabit, the Borderlands will surely become an even more fertile territory worthy of exploration and admiration. -Seth Lewis
Bonsack Gallery, John Burroughs School – 755 South Price Rd, St. Louis 63124 For more on the artist: www.adriancoxart.com
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EVERYWHERE AND ELSEWHERE
MERAMEC CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY The two-part exhibition Everywhere and Elsewhere was on view at the Meramec Community College Contemporary Art Gallery in October 2015 (Part I) and January – February 2016 (Part II). All of the work in both exhibitions shares the theme of place, of a location in time and space. The pieces appear common or ordinary (Everywhere); but in fact they exist just beyond our assumptions about them (in other words, they exist Elsewhere). In Everywhere and Elsewhere Part I, five artists—Cheonae Kim, Howard Jones, Tim Liddy, John Sarra, and Ted Wood—displayed work which shared “thoughts, emotions, memory, and observation…personal expression through the manipulation of physical materials,” said Margaret Keller, curator of both exhibitions. Ted Wood’s The Time It Takes is oil on panel and depicts a sharply angled, steep face of craggy reddish-brown rock. From atop the cliff, green plants spring up. The painting’s lines are so sharp that at first glance viewers may believe it is a photograph. “As a painter,” says Wood, “I am more interested in developing the technical narrative than I am in any interpretive meaning. Maintaining an emotional detachment is, for me, a way of extending the moment.” The creation of these images is almost meditative for the artist, who remains in the here and now as he works. Thus a landscape worn down by time turns out to be a rumination on the present. Time’s erosion of objects is also the subject matter of Tim Liddy’s board game boxes. His work seems to be a series of old games mounted on the wall, but
in fact he recreated the boxes by hand, staying true to their colors, sizes, and shapes. They are a treat to behold. To create Circa 1961 (Monopoly), Liddy applied oil and enamel to copper. He painstakingly reproduced such details as cracks along the top of the box, old Scotch tape residue, and even the fading Parker Bros. logo. Liddy describes his art as “elaborately enameled copper sculptures, each seemingly printed word and every abraded strip of masking tape made by the artist.” In contrast to Wood and Liddy’s art, Howard Jones’ work is only found Elsewhere, in a parallel universe where he imagines a use for his hybrid pieces. For example, Saw-Handled Brush is made of wood, metal, and bristles. The artist attached the handle of a saw to the brush part of a paintbrush. The piece is mounted on a beautiful wood pedestal. Jones explains, “For the last few years I have been interested in everyday objects and tools, trying to create unexpected new uses for them in keeping with, but enlarging upon, their first intended purpose.” Most of the pieces consist of paintbrush handles mounted to objects many people would never expect: typewriter keys, a lightbulb, and a glass block in the shape of brush bristles. Paintbrushes can represent home-improvement projects or the creation of art. Saw-Handled Brush offers perhaps a new, more ergonomic way to paint; the lightbulb possibly evokes psychological illumination and new ideas; and the typewriter keys may imply the written expression of an unwritten expression like a painting.
Curator Margaret Keller distills Part II’s complex themes: “All five artists in this exhibition have paintings that are extremely strong. They share a powerful sense of composition that uses a strong presence of shapes and color.”
Ron Laboray, Poppies (image courtesy of the artist)
Ron Laboray’s piece Poppies references The Wizard of Oz film. “My paintings are in the form of charts and attempt to archive cultural effect,” he says. On an aluminum sheet, Laboray painted an “out-offocus” background scene from the film: the field of red poppies and blue sky with white clouds. In the “foreground” (if that term is appropriate here), he poured four round shapes made from surfboard resin and auto urethane. The shapes represent, from left to right, the Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy, and Scarecrow. The artist pared down the four main characters to their essential colors and mapped them onto a location within the movie. The idea of place and mapping is central to Laboray’s work: “Popular culture disseminates information that leads us to believe Metropolis and Gotham are the homes of Superheroes. Through similar means, we come to see any town bearing the name of Springfield as a potential residence of The Simpsons. Many locations enjoy a simultaneous existence in both fiction and reality.” The intersection of fiction and reality is a perfect description of Dan Gualdoni’s work. He is inspired by North Pacific Coast images but doesn’t create any of his oil-on-canvas paintings from photographs; they all come from a mixture of memory and imagination. The piece titled Fata Morgana #4 is part of a series of landscapes he calls Coastal Redux. Rather than a painting, the piece looks more like an old discolored photograph, complete with red tint and smeary surface, but that blurring of media only testifies to Gualdoni’s mastery. Fata Morgana #4 depicts a sandy shoreline with the
Howard Jones, Saw-Handled Brush, (image courtesy of the artist) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Everywhere and Elsewhere Part II, the second component of Everywhere and Elsewhere Part I, continued the artistic exploration of place. Artists in this exhibition included Mike Behle, Angelina Gualdoni, Dan Gualdoni, Ron Laboray, and Nancy Newman Rice.
Dan Gualdoni, Fata Morgana #4 (image courtesy of the artist)
ocean in the far distance. A fata morgana is a type of superior mirage that distorts ordinary objects which lay just beyond the horizon. A sailboat may appear to float in mid-air above the horizon line, while the true sailboat remains unseen. The piece’s title may imply that this image of a beach can be considered a mirage, something that seems real but in fact doesn’t exist. Like Laboray and Gualdoni, Nancy Newman Rice also experiments with reality and imagination. Her oil on panel work Blue Ash Wednesday depicts an
interior space as though seen through a pane of glass. Bright reflections of exterior architectural elements cloud the interior space; it’s difficult to tell which elements are inside (a spiral staircase and a catwalk with a handrail?) and which are outside (a section of a brick or wood-paneled wall?). The color palette is cool and mostly made up of purples, greens, and blues. Rice says, “My paintings present the viewer with a delineated path towards a portal or a stairway.” She continues, “The floating architectural elements…are intended to produce a spatial collection of specific places identified by IN REVIEW
remembered architectural artifacts. They…become unique memories of past journeys and journeys yet to come.” -Sarah Weinman
Meramec Contemporary Art Gallery of St. Louis Community College-Meramec 11333 Big Bend Blvd, 63122. Humanities East Bldg, Rm 133
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ART SAINT LOUIS GALLERY
Creatures at Art Saint Louis featured 51 artworks ranging from the playful and fanciful, to the mystical and haunting. Two- and three-dimensional artworks were installed throughout the downtown Art Saint Louis gallery space. JoJo the Dogfaced Boy by Andy Van Der Tuin, a plywood dog face with its tongue and a cigarette hanging from his mouth, is held together with zip ties. Its smooth, unfinished, unpainted wood and angular shape mimic the modern aesthetic and do-it-yourself assembly of IKEA. The temporary nature of zip ties suggests the sculpture might be disassembled and put back together, perhaps in a new form. Alex Paradowski’s Birch Mask 1, hung close to JoJo, a sculptural collage of found birch tree bark and twigs arranged to form a face, connects the human form to the mystical qualities of nature. Nicole Cooper’s watercolor, Ancient Roots 01, makes a similar connection, showing a woman’s face transforming and evolving into a fish. Often in Creatures, the fanciful world created in the mind of the artist showed a world anyone would be lucky to visit. Michael Albers altered photographs to create two delightful digital prints. Albers’ faces of little animal creatures placed inside flowers invent new life. Debi Pickler’s two wool and wire sculptures, small creatures Kokee and KaMel are colorful, charming, surreal, and perhaps humorous. Alaska Adams’ creature Lump is both disturbing and adorable. Made of found fur, antlers, teeth, and bones, Lump begs to be played with, despite the risk of a bite.
Paul Ivkovich’s bright, acrylic Kasey Kikapoo Meets Christy Columbus shows scenes full of characters: abstract birds, blending into each other and made up of geometric shapes and patterns. Ivkovich plays with perspective. We can see the up and down, but there is no in and out. We have foreground and … other ground. Along with Ivkovich, another technical standout was Justin Henry Miller’s Steed. Miller’s impossible beast is comprised of natural materials - skull, bones, organs, and hair - assembled with man-made objects - airplane hull, car fender, metal spikes. The result is a Frankenstein-inspired machine. Andrea Coate’s photomanatage, Light of the Constructed Objects is haunting. Coates shows a bust, solitarily floating in a vastness of black space, the head covered, draped in red cloth, bound at the neck by necklaces made of pearls and metal. The face of the woman behind the cloth is hidden, trapped behind a veil, surrounded by the paraphernalia of beauty. The black expanse surrounding the woman’s form creates a space for the viewer's reflection, placing the viewer directly in the work, forcing participation.
Paul Ivkovich, Kasey Kikapoo Meets Christy Columbus. (photo credit: Richard Reilly) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Andrea Coates, Light of the Present Moment (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Creatures presented worlds imagined and real. Each piece as part of a story, just a quick glimpse. This disparate group of artists presented an array of creatures – some we might want more of, others presenting a world one would be hesitant to enter. -Rich Vagen
Art Saint Louis is responsible for many visual art programs in and around the city. Learn more at www.ArtStLouis.org 1223 Pine, St. Louis 63103
Andy Van Der Tuin, JoJo the Dogfaced Boy (photo credit: Richard Reilly) IN REVIEW
WORK BY ST. LOUIS ARTIST DAVEY ROCCO PEARL GALLERY
Davey Rocco's solo exhibition Heartstar is a moving tribute to his fiancée, Michelle. Each photo captures a different glimpse of her ranging from mundane images of her hair to her jovial social interactions on the beach in Florida. Rocco's compositions reflect an intimate “mise-en-scene,” a visual engagement of his viewers through interplay of light, composition, and occasional props through which he offers an intimate narrative of his relationship with Michelle. Rocco's exhibition ran from December 4, 2015 to March 25, 2016 at the Pearl Gallery in Grand Center.
Davey Rocco, silver gelatin print scanned negative (image courtesy of the Pearl Gallery)
The title Heartstar originated from a spontaneous song by Michelle to Rocco: “You are my heartstar, to gather, we'll go far….” Rocco identifies Heartstar as their shared theme song. For his photography series, he offers this definition: [It] is a collection of gelatin silver photographs that will forever reflect the relationship we have built before our marriage… Our travels, our quiet moments, our shared experiences that have all been recorded with the power of gelatin silver photography. Our daily lives have been enhanced by our constant collaboration. We worked together to create these images.” While the initial series was conceived as creating photographs of them together, the chosen images are all affectionate portraits of her. Rocco aligns himself with the tradition of “Straight Photography.” It is a style emphasizing a documentary approach to photography capturing the honesty of his subject with minimal to no editing of the photography itself. He notes, “I have never cropped an image. I will never crop an image. I believe in the full aesthetic, black borders, which prove the absence of the crop. Everything within the rectangle is fair game if you can make it happen within the light that exists between the subject and the negative, and again in the darkroom, between the negative and the paper.”
For Rocco, it is important to be in solidarity with his subject matter, as underscored by his attempt to capture it without manipulation. In Heartstar, he invites his audience to engage with Michelle. He wants his viewers to know her, be it from pictures of her shoes to her record collection. By sharing his pictures without edit or filter, he is encouraging his audience to interact with her with the same sense of respect and awe that he has for her. Another unique aspect to his photography is that each silver gelatin print is one-of-a-kind. He makes only one print from each negative. For each photo sold, buyers receive a punctured negative to prevent the printing of further images. This particularity underscores his devotion to a purist perspective both in the content and creation of his photography. Rocco understands himself to be continuing the tradition of the photographer as a documentarian without succumbing to the impersonalization of digital technology. He reflects, “I have decided to base my process on the least amount of technology without it getting in the way of the actual message.” He continues, “by choosing the lens and camera, developing each roll by hand, and printing each negative with a specific enlarger lens, I have what I consider to be as much influence over the final piece as a single person can have in the particular medium. This renders a discussion about digital photography meaningless.” -John Blair The Pearl Gallery is a new exhibit space in the Montessori Training Center St. Louis and Lab School 3854 Washington Blvd, St. Louis 63108
YOU ARE LOOKING GOOD, A REAL GOOD LOOKER CHICAGO ARTISTS COALITION
You Are Looking Good, A Real Good Looker, is a conversation between Chicago and St. Louis artists showcasing the magnetic attraction between seemingly disparate works. A photo within a photo within a crateOut. Pack, unpack, gloves, walk, talk, call-it, hang. “Is this ok?” “Higher?” Ok. Curator/authorship bullshit-dance. + Chemical compound on a window a chilly little plant down below. Gray windowsill, gray crate, Glass and glass, growEven with your satin canteen. + Rectilinear but smooth, purple and teal. Seems to have had its period just for me. It’s right there, reflected in its belly-up mirror,
Perfectly balanced yet teetering, I see Sage’s flag. Surrender red. No, purple. Staking claim to this land of doppelgangers. + One Nation under greed, that indivisible bomb-whip. Zeitgeist dancer in a strip twirling lonely for Schnucks customers. + Airplane drain to the plate. Airplane drain to nowhere. Why are you watching me? -Amy Reidel
St. Louis Artists: Brandon Anschultz, Lyndon Barrois, Jr., Michael Byron, Sage Dawson, Lily Randall, Deborah Alma Wheeler. Chicago Artists: Jeffrey Michael Austin, Hideous Beast, Jessica Caponigro, Snow Yunxue Fu, Andy Roche, Rafael E. Vera. Co-curated by Allison Lacher and Cole Lu
Sage Dawson, Not Unlike a Buried City, (photo credit: Amy Reidel) SEASON YEAR ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 06
BRUTALITY AND BEAUTY PROJECTS + AND HOFFMAN LACHANCE CONTEMPORARY GALLERIES
guise of progress. Sometimes art that falls into this broad category is decoratively beautiful, but with no apparent critical analysis of the politics of the period. Two St. Louis art exhibitions tapped into this aesthetic theme recently, showing how scavenging through history’s visual display can tell us a bit about our present era.
Fantich and Young, Apex Predator Ceremonial Attire (photo credits: Sarah Hermes Griesbach)
Fantich and Young, Apex Predator Gladsonte Briefcase (photo credit: Sarah Hermes Griesbach)
19th century themed art objects are popping up in galleries everywhere. European colonial ethnography is all the rage in contemporary visual art display. What does contemporary art with a 19th century European imperialist flavor look like? Think - lavish
materials, like plush fabrics with elaborate brocade patterns and leather with the fur attached, paired with mahogany wood cabinets with warped glass panels, catalogued corpses of insects or other gnarly objects under glass, and textbook illustrations of scientific hierarchies. Often the art is presented in what appears to be an historic library setting, so that these contemporary- to-look-old “artifacts” might elicit thoughts of “scientific evidence.” The replicated motifs are used with and without explicit mention of the historic reality of global 19th century white colonial violence conducted in the
Christopher Burch, One Who Sings installation view with artist (image courtesy of Hoffman LaChance Gallery) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Christopher Burch is an African American St. Louis artist, now living and working in San Francisco. His exhibition One Who Sings With No Tongue Is Either Damned Or Divine at the Hoffman LaChance Gallery in Maplewood re-imagined Br’er Rabbit folklore and the tales of individual men and women (especially women) resisting enslavement in the American South. Burch describes the greater body of his artwork as a nonlinear graphic novel. He has pulled from the Br’er Rabbit mythology for the last few years. Each exhibition further develops the characters he has manifested in his paintings, envisioning a back-story for portraits. His portrait on a silver serving platter of African American Southern folk character Sue Eshuyae depicts the protagonist in a terrible story. Just after giving birth to twins, Sue falls asleep though ordered to clean her enslaver’s house. As punishment, she is
Christopher Burch, One Who Sings installation view (image courtesy of Hoffman LaChance Gallery)
driven to a field far away from her cabin, forced to race back by foot, too late to feed her newborn children and save them from starvation. Burch’s story of Sue Eshuyae takes something from folklore and changes it a bit. He builds flesh onto the bones of a tale to bring it new meaning. Traditionally, Burch reports, she was “Crazy Sue,” so devastated from her loss that she lost all semblance of sanity. In his telling, Sue becomes powerful and wise. The suffering is recounted, but the character endures. She has a valued afterlife. Objects that are both grotesque and beautiful enrich the vision of Burch’s installation - harmonicas fitted with straight razors, tongues tattooed and framed then presented as catalogued specimens. But Burch does not leave it to his audience to interpret his artwork unassisted. His highly decorative display is just part of his effort to engage his audience. Burch describes what he is doing with his on-going art as narrative project as “unflattening what has been flattened”. He wants to unpack the tightly told histories of African American experience under European American slavery. These visual interpretations articulate complex emotional and historical context we have been squeamish about. To provide support to his art production, Burch collaborates with videographers, poets and writers whom he pulls into his art education campaign. His multidisciplinary arts team compiles details to accompany the visual art installation and to further the stories he has developed. Typically, artists are present only at their exhibit opening, if then. Burch spent multiple days engaged with gallery visitors while his work was up at Hoffman LaChance, organizing (by demand) a second viewing of the film, still under development, that he’d made to further his art stories.
Last November, Projects + Gallery incorporated an exhibition of 19th century-ish luxury objects belonging to an imagined power couple into Saint Louis Fashion Week. Each of the objects was lined with faux (ceramic) human teeth. Two throned figures dressed in a disturbing sort of haute couture sat at the center of the Apex Predator | Darwinian Voodoo installation. The artists describe these tongue-in-cheek fantasy elites as “neoliberal alpha predators.” The figures were dressed in grotesque fashion attire, amidst bizarre accoutrement. Purposefully provocative, what was conjured in this transformation of the Central West End gallery may depend upon the viewer and the promotion (or lack of promotion) of critical analysis. The exhibition was extended into late January. A white European husband and wife team, Mariana Fantich (Ukraine) and Dominic Young (UK), collaborating as Fantich & Young, produced Apex Predator | Darwinian Voodoo. St. Louis Magazine included the exhibit in a spread entitled "Stylish Exhibits to See Over The Holidays” and the exhibition was widely covered by local press. It could very well be that the artists’ intention was to display their viscerally alluring horrors as a warning against the fetishization of consumer cruelty. Certainly there is satire in their “fierce fashion” installation. But any nod to that message is excluded from critical writing about the duo and their “lifestyle brand.” Descriptors like “primal” used by Saint Louis Fashion Week in promotional materials seem to relish in the celebration of these allusions to a bloodthirsty class.
Many published discussions exist around the common practice of labeling black artists as African American artists and their art content as coming out of African American traditions or history. Yet, the role of whiteness in the creation, curation and IN REVIEW
interpretation of art goes largely unexamined. European American artists also come from a cultural framework that shapes ideas, material choices and presentation devices. If we say "white" in reference to artists and art exhibits, do we see the artwork differently? Artists are not typically identified by race if they are white. Artists and their art are only considered relatable by racial experience when the art is associated with non-white people. Black artists are almost never written about without a discussion of how their work refers to black experience. For examples, see any discussion of Kerry James Marshall, Rashid Johnson or Nick Cave - my own reviews of the first two for The St. Louis Beacon are Google-able examples of what I describe. Why, then, is whiteness seemingly never used to explain the production/well-spring of art? Christopher Burch and Fantich & Young made visual statements about colonialism, about imperialism, about brutal human oppression and inherited power in their art installations. Recognizing the impact of white/European cultural heritage on art production and art interpretation may enrich our art experiences and our art conversations. If you will excuse the pun, we all have skin in the game. -Sarah Hermes Griesbach
For a 15 year old, yet completely relevant, discussion of “unquestioned whiteness” readers should check out the “Forum on Whiteness” in Art Journal Winter 2001. Hoffman LaChance Gallery 2713 Sutton Blvd, St. Louis 63143 Projects + Gallery 4733 McPherson Ave, St. Louis 63108
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MAKING MUSEUMS RELEVANT RIGHT NOW BY What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of education in a museum? If you’re like most people, you may be envisioning a lecture-based tour, with a docent leading a group from painting to painting and providing information while they listen. While docent-led tours are certainly a part of museum education, they are by no means the whole. To get a better sense of what, exactly, museum education is—and why it matters—I spoke to four St. Louis-area professionals: Kristin Fleischmann Brewer, Director of Public Projects at Pulitzer Arts Foundation; Tabari Coleman, Education Project Director at the Anti-Defamation League; Tuan Nguyen, Director of Education at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; and Sarah Sims, Manager, K-12 Education Programs at the Missouri History Museum.
so they can be financially literate) and museums are a good space for students to practice critical thinking and see how skills they learn in school can help them understand their world. I was giving a tour for 4th graders and asked them what the main idea in a gallery was: “Do you do main idea in your Language Arts class?” They all got excited and said they did and explained how. It was great to make that connection and say, “Here’s how you use it in the classroom, and here’s how you can use it in the museum.” It makes it more relevant. AM: What can museum education do that other forms of education cannot?
KFB: When developing projects, we ask, “How can we get different publics to experience art?” Our biggest challenge is to get people through the door, make them feel comfortable, and create an environment in which they are open to learning. During the last exhibition [Calder Lightness] we commissioned a designer to create pillows so people could lie down and look up at the hanging mobiles. One day I saw two young women hanging out on a pillow with an older woman they hadn’t come with. Those people wouldn’t have had a conversation if it hadn’t been for the pillows. SS: The wonder that is sparked by real objects is important for students to experience. When students see real objects created by real people, it can spark their interest in a subject and help them make connections to their own lives. Also, students need to see institutions outside of school caring about them and about their development as a person. Museum education can be kids’ first entry point into a museum. Once they have that first stepping stone, we hope they see the museum as a space they can come back to.
The following interviews have been combined, condensed, and edited for clarity. Amy Miller: Why is art education important? Why is museum education necessary? Tuan Nguyen: That points back to, “Why is art important?” and for me that’s easily answerable. What would the world be like without art? Art is about being able to imagine possibilities and have a space for things that don’t fit anywhere else. That’s really important for human development. Art is such a rich and meaningful part of life that I want to make sure everyone has access to it. Museums can act as a generative hub and create connections. We can experiment and do a lot of other things other places can’t. Kristin Fleischmann Brewer: Education is needed at every cultural institution, art or otherwise. That’s why we put together exhibitions. Education is at the core of our mission. At the Pulitzer, we try to think about our programs as ways to enter an exhibition, because I think for some people there can be a lot of barriers. If you don't have an art or art history background, art institutions can be intimidating. Tabari Coleman: Museums don’t appeal to everyone. They don’t often appeal to me, to be honest. I don’t often see myself or people who look like me in a museum. But it’s beneficial for people to engage with art in a way they might not otherwise. With the World of Difference Institute, we’re asking people, “How do we make connections? “Why does this matter now?” And that’s really powerful. Art education offers a unique environment and tools to facilitate conversations around issues of identity and bias. We all have different perspectives; we can use art to open the door to these conversations. In some ways it’s a safe ground. We can look at a piece of art and have different opinions and neither is necessarily right. Sarah Sims: A lot of teachers talk about transdisciplinary skills (teaching students to be good readers so they can be good citizens, teaching them math 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Aristide Maillol’s The Mountain at the south enterance of the Saint Louis Art Museum (photo credit: Richard Reilly) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
TC: Museums make choices about what they're going to bring in, which creates opportunities for audiences to say, “Wow, we need to go check this out.” There was an exhibition downtown about guns [Guns in the Hands of Artists at the Des Lee Gallery] that I shared with several of my schools, and it was a draw for a lot of reasons. We have a fascination in our society with guns and there needs to be dialogue about why. The exhibition was an entry point, and it’s an entry point other institutions don’t necessarily have. Museums can be more provocative. They can open a space to have conversations not easily had in other places. TN: In CAM’s youth and teen programs, students are encouraged to get out of their comfort zones and be allowed to fail. In school, it’s test-based and
risk-taking isn’t emphasized. I’ve been thinking a lot about the museum as an ecosystem. What are all the components unique to a museum and how can they work together to create more than the sum of its parts? Education is traditionally thought of as serving a public. You’re giving them something. But while thinking about the ecosystem I’m also invested in integration. How can the people we serve become part of the fabric of the museum? How can they change it for the better?
Visit these museum education program websites to learn more about the Anti-Defamation League (stlouis.adl.org), the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (camstl.org), the Missouri History Museum (mohistory.org), and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (pulitzerarts.org).
Richard Serra, Joe (detail) at Pulitzer Arts Foundation (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Pulitzer Arts Foundation exterior view (photo credit: Richard Reilly) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
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ART TO TEACH US Compiled by the Editors
Mark Pack’s artworks are neither paintings nor sculptures in the typical sense, but bare characteristics of both. He thinks of each as an opportunity to spark thought in the mind of the viewer as they work to shape what he has made with their own logic. Here he explains a bit of how he conceives of his acrylic formations as tools for reflection and even revelation. I define my artistic process as one of cultivation rather than manufacture. Through this cultivation, I seek to explore the ways we relate to nature. This alliance manifests itself through painting, sculpture, and installation. In this materialization, I am discussing the duality between chaos and control, both as they relate to nature and to the creative process. I invite views to examine the relationship between themselves, my painting, and the environment. Like an inkblot test or cloud watching, a viewer’s own personality and experiences will shape their interpretation of the complex shapes and forms that grow from the canvas. The strong emphasis on control throughout the chaos also calls for contemplation and for the viewer to find order in the disorder – a common occurrence in the natural world and often mirrored in our carefully cultivated lives.
William Burton Jr is a St. Louis treasure. He and his mentor and friend Robert A Ketchens have long worked to provide opportunities to young artists in their Raw Canvas art internship program. Both Burton and Ketchens have storied art careers. Their most recent exhibition, for the Regional Arts Commission, concentrated on their shared love of the Blues and their dedication to making sure that the history of African American music is recognized and held in the light by this and future generations. We’ve spent years making trips through the Mississippi Delta as research for our African American music history project. Robert was born and raised in New Orleans. So, it was natural for us to begin there. New Orleans is like no place else. Music is in the air. Children play classical jazz, the roots of this great music. Kids are playing in a brass band by the time they are five years old. By the time they are adults, the talent is amazing. We [Burton and Ketchens] showed some of the paintings that came out of this research in November of 2014, at Mississippi Valley State University for a conference on the “Cultural and Economic Impact of The Cotton Kingdom.” As we learned, met pivotal people, and visited important places in the history of American Music, we focused on those
WIlliam Burton Jr., A Deal in the Delta (image courtesy of the artist )
New Orleans brass bands, St. Louis Ragtime, the Mississipi Delta Blues and, of course, St. Louis Jazz. It hasn’t been easy. It’s difficult to imagine success when creating from within a hole. We keep making work despite repeated rejections for funding. We can’t stop. And we really can't stop working with the children. It’s been proven through studies exposing children to creative expression supports healthy development. We’ve witnessed real changes in behavior after students work with us. Art guidance provides the right kind of attention. Nobody comes into this world wanting the kind of life condemned by others. A member of the Polish Solidarity Movement, jailed for five months by the communist regime in 1981, Wiktor Szostalo is no stranger to controversy. The large-scale biomass sculptural work Szotalo most recently completed focuses on the perils of climate change. Following is an abridged collection of his thoughts on what he surmises about the nature of creating public art that emphasizes unpopular contemporary subjects.
Wiktor Szostalo, Emoticon # 1, (image courtesy of the artist) Mark Pack, Fibonacci (image courtesy of Duane Reed Gallery) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
When creating public art, the clearest message may be on the surface. This does not mean that the work is without layers. Artistic responses to challenges in the world are often political, but a persuasive project will respond to these problems with complexity. The art must be approachable at varying levels of understanding. And, of course, the artist must find financial support simply to begin. Sadly, I have learned that previous successes do not assure future ones. Critical writing matters little to collectors and to many art venues. Yet, what of the contemporary art we see around us will last? Most likely the answer is - artistic expression that breaks rules. Fashionable political themes will diminish over time. There is no point in commercially rewarding banality at the expense of art that communicates honestly and originally. If you look at it and you think you've seen it before – something observed in New York or Miami - that isn’t exciting. We are not better off when limited by the tyranny of the committee, by safe choices. Artists often serve as subcontractors to curatorial vision. This is a reversal of the relationship once expected. When discomfort sells, we will know we have achieved our status as a relevant art hub. Cynthia Richards is an autodidact when it comes to photography. She came to making photographs in adulthood, while living and working for a period with her adult daughter in Spain. Though she has only taken her photography seriously for a few years, Richards’ photographs have been included in national exhibitions. While in Valencia, I was inspired by its mix of ultramodern and historic architecture: Calatrava's amazing, other worldly 'City of Arts and Science,' and the old quarter with its stunning examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles -- and all of it interacting with that wonderful Mediterranean light. There I was, in the middle of this, experiencing it every day. My eyes were opening. My way of seeing was shifting. It didn’t happen all at once. Actually, although the change in my perception was gradual, I can remember when I first gave myself permission to take photographs. I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment where we were staying. I became aware of the lines of the metal bars on the empty laundry rack in front of me, the shadow lines that they cast on the tile floor, and the juxtaposition of those lines with the grout lines between the tiles; I also noticed the shiny metal lines of the balcony guard rails, as well as the shadows they created, adding to everything that was happening on the floor.
Cynthia Richards, Contact (image courtesy of the artist)
Emily Stremming, Powell Square (image courtesy of the artist)
Suddenly, I remembered “'I have a camera. I can photograph this.” Photography was not something I thought I could do prior to that moment. It wasn’t that I didn’t have examples of photographers in my life. I just didn’t have a belief that this was an option available to me. Now, I wake up every morning with excitement about the photographs I will take. I have chosen not to participate in workshops or to seek formal instruction. I’ve interwoven academic study with career pursuits for much of my life and have found that sometimes the voices of others are counterproductive. I don’t mean this to sound as if I know better than others or that educational programs in the arts are not worthy (I strongly believe in the importance of arts education in our schools). But I am simply too happy with the current state of my photography practice to seek the guidance of experts. Maybe down the road I will, but not in the near future. The reality is that I am constantly learning. It's a get-up-in-the-morning thing for me right now. I wake up eager to see what the light is doing--how intense it is--where the shadows are. I’ve become a student of light, the way it shifts quickly and cues me into the passing of time. And I see lines, shapes and patterns differently now because I am organizing them, so to speak, with the camera. I look to frame things in a way that will result in totally ambiguous photographs. I want the viewer to ask, “What is up? What is down? What is real--the object or its shadow? Is light the subject, or is the subject the object the light reflects upon?' It's become a mindfulness practice. Emily Stremming is a photographer who employs a traditional weaving technique to create truly one-of-a-kind images with inkjet prints. Ideas and theories about photography influence her as she challenges the medium's qualities and limitations. She envisions her urban landscape weavings as provocation to perceive the temporal nature of our built environment. COMMUNITY VOICES
I create images that go against the notion of photographs as reproducible objects. The evolved digital age of photography has made me question the ways in which a photograph can be constructed. By combining old and new techniques, I am able to slow down the process of building an image, resulting in an actual art object rather than merely a flat print. Weaving the images also allows me to slow down the entire process of creating an image. I deconstruct two photographs, either identical or similar, cut both prints, and then reconstruct them into one final distorted image. I use both film and digital processes to create these images. I use a large format camera, 35mm or an SLR, edit my images and print them on a variety of photo paper. Recently, I have been shooting street scenes in St. Louis and, more specifically, buildings which are under deconstruction and in the process of change. There are so many old factory buildings and warehouses being reconstructed for different purposes. I am drawn to the history of the places but, even more, to the idea that the building will no longer exist, supporting my idea of an image being unreproducible even further. This particular image, Powell Square, is a good example of our city’s diversity and evolution. Built in 1916, it has changed multiple times over the course of a century. I blew the image up to 4 ft x 6 ft. It is made up of 32 (13” x 19”) inkjet prints. I shot the building with a large format camera half way through demolition. What appears to be a fragile, tiny Arch, sits aside this massive pile of colorful rubble. Naturally, I would always make a comparison when driving in-between the two structures. The Arch, in its sleek modern glory, symbolizing the “Gateway to the West,” sits directly across from this skeleton busted out graffiti-tagged warehouse which to me is equally appealing. Susan Stang, now the proud publisher, editor, designer and author of a fine art limited edition book, looks back at the experience for lessons in how to market and promote a beloved art project without the guidance of a professional publishing SPRING 2016 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 12
company. As she exhibits her photography, she now also shares the hard won knowledge she has garnered about self-publishing.
I was ill-equipped to deal with the magnitude of poverty, desperation and need I witnessed while in Uganda. After the first visit, I returned home shell-shocked and remained in a state of despair for nearly a year. I was very angry and depressed, unable to understand the disparity of the two worlds - the one I lived in, and the one I’d just fallen in love with. My pain, memories, and confusion have come out in these paintings, which formed a series quite unintentionally as I continue to work through it all. As I look back, my artwork shows the juxtaposition of these two conflicting worlds - worlds that co-exist but will never be reconciled. Not in my lifetime.
I began my Kickstarter campaign to get my book project off the ground after I was told by several photography publishers that in this publishing climate they could no longer publish smaller market books and that every photographer they knew was publishing independently. "Have you considered a Kickstarter campaign?" asked one. So that is what I did. I launched the campaign in May of 2015 once funded successfully, I began the design and pre-production phase.
Cindy Chafin’s Thrill of the Hunt was part of a larger installation she exhibited as a graduating MFA student at Fontbonne University this Winter. Chafin began her art study as a painter, but had found herself most able to express her nuanced art theses through ceramics.
“reAPPEARANCES” is a sequence of 52 photographs that takes the viewer on a journey through the uncanny coherence of the look of the world. Shot using a small digital toy camera with a plastic lens, the series includes photographs taken of numerous iconic sites and symbols, from the Empire State Building and Tower of Pisa, to Marilyn Monroe, baseball, gondolas, and drive-thru wedding chapels. making apparent the serendipitous connections between different places and cultures. The self-published book will become available this March, in conjunction with an educational event at the Sheldon Art Galleries where I will speak about the project, my experience with crowdfunding, design, pre-press, and the challenges of publicity and marketing when publishing independently. I want to share what I’ve learned with others who are considering going the same route in the future. And I suspect many are. Tanya M. Nevin attributes a great deal of personal growth to the process she moved through while completing the series of paintings from which “Hans Wegner In Gulu” is taken. Her artistic choices are as much a reflection of her own introspective state as they are a comment on the world around her. In each painting in this series, she presents two crossed images that, together,
Tanya M. Nevin, Hans Wegner In Gulu (image courtesy of the artist)
represent a complex problem. The dissimilarity of her painted subjects – in this case, Ugandan women carrying stacked basins of laundry alongside a sleek mid-century modern chair on tile - allows her to present her interpretation of a perplexing dilemma as a truth to be untangled and discovered by those viewing her artworks. Naturally, my upbringing and my life up until now affects my artwork and shapes who I am as an artist. I am in the process of exploring some of those experiences in more depth through my paintings. A few years back I made several trips to Uganda, Africa. I was able to travel around the country, visiting orphanages and refugee camps, meeting hundreds of children as I taught art.
Cindy Chafin, The Thrill Of The Hunt (photo credit: Sarah Hermes Griesbach)
The woman on the plate represents how women are hunted down and consumed by men. Originally, I had sex slavery in mind. It also came to represent physical, mental and emotional abuse, rape and child sexual abuse. She has been killed in spirit and the man feeds off her. Society feeds off her. She is diminished simply because she is a woman. She makes less money and has to work harder to get ahead than her male peers. She is expected to be mother, maid, housewife and lover/whore in a relationship. She is objectified by society in the media and served up on a plate. In most religions, she is required to submit to her husband. She does not have complete autonomy of her body. The ways of consumption of women are countless and are accepted, justified or denied in large by society. But it is a hopeful work of art. I hope that the reality represented sparks introspection and conversation and maybe even some change. For more information about Mark Pack visit: www.packartgallery.org This winter, William Burton Jr’s A Deal in the Delta was included in A Song from the Field, an exhibition of his and Robert A Ketchens’ paintings at the Regional Arts Commission: 6128 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis 63112 Wiktor Szostalo is wiki worthy, he also has a website: wwwszostalosculpture.com Cynthia Richard’s photograph shown here exhibited at the St. Louis Artists' Guild recent national competition entitled "Elements of Abstraction.” Her photography is available at www.carichardsphotography.com The St. Louis Artists’ Guild is now located at 12 N Jackson Rd in Clayton, 63105 Emily Stremming’s “Powell Hall” was most recently part of a group exhibition in the lobby of the Mercantile Exchange (MX) at 610 Washington, St. Louis 63101 To hear Susan Stang’s artist talk at the Sheldon Art Galleries on Tuesday, March 29 contact Paula Lincoln via phone/email 314.533.9900 x37 OR firstname.lastname@example.org Tanya M Nevin’s painting shown here was part of the recent “Best in Show” MySLART showcase at the Chapel 6238 Alexander Dr, St. Louis 63105 Fontbonne University Fine Arts Gallery 6800 Wydown Blvd, St. Louis 63105
Susan Stang, Observation Deck, Empire State Building (image courtesy of the artist) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
ART FOR RECOVERY Sarah Weinman
“The accident was my low point,” says art educator, PhD student, and artist Gail Lauth. A devastating car crash in October 1999 left her with a traumatic brain injury and changed the course of her personal and professional life. Lauth planned to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs after high school. She was artistically inclined, but math and science were her best subjects. Everything changed when she began a road trip from Carbondale, Illinois to visit the Academy. Just outside Carbondale, Lauth swerved off the road (probably to avoid a deer) into a ditch and hit a tree. The impact crushed her ankle, broke her nose and orbital bones, and punctured her lung. The force of the airbag caused intracranial fractures. “It took emergency workers an hour to get me out of the car,” she says. “At SLU Hospital, doctors put me into a coma for six weeks so my brain could heal.” But days later, Lauth suffered three strokes. The left side of her body became temporarily paralyzed. Though doctors didn’t set any broken bones in her face because of pressure on her brain, Lauth’s bones healed by themselves. “I don’t even look like I was in an accident,” she says. With regard to her traumatic brain injury, most of the damage occurred in the frontal lobe because of the airbag. Lauth has difficulty with language, vision, balance, and short-term memory. After she woke up, the real recovery work began: “I had to relearn everything: how to hold a pencil, tie my shoes, and do math.” She underwent many months of physical and art therapy. A career in general seemed out of the question, but especially
in the fields of math and science. The direction of Lauth’s professional life shifted when her mother gave her a sketchpad while she was still in a wheelchair. Only a few months after she left the hospital in spring 2000, she took an Art for Elementary School Teachers class. Her teacher suggested she major in art education. “I read about how art helps the brain recover,” she says, “so I took art classes at Southwestern Illinois College and transferred to SIU-Edwardsville.” There Lauth received a B.A. in K-12 art education. She began teaching in the Belleville Public School District after graduation, and has now taught there for ten years. Though Lauth loves her job, she runs into plenty of difficulties such as restrictive budgets. “The district has no money,” she says. She teaches at two elementary schools and every week sees 850 kids, ages five to twelve. “The best part of my job is the kids. They’re so appreciative and excited to learn.” Lauth brings passion and an eye for detail to her art as well as to her teaching. In 2009 she began her Tree Series, comprised of artworks that reference her accident: “By then, the tree had taken away ten years of my life. I wanted to reproduce it so it would lose its value.” That same year, she created Anniversary Tree as a commemoration. She cut out two silhouettes of the tree from tin (a traditional ten-year wedding anniversary gift) and attached them to butcher paper over canvas. “This represents something I worked really hard for,” she says. “It’s a celebration.”
REACH TO TEACH! Pacia Anderson
Roosevelt High School student Brittany Taylor is focused. Working diligently in the school’s cafeteria, the RHS junior delicately applies bright red latex paint to a wall mural in progress. With an almost singular awareness, the teenager works in silence, blocking out the sounds of the wrestling team practicing on its portable mat a few yards away, the drumline banging out repetitions in the hallway on the other side of the cafeteria door, the Junior ROTC group running through rifle drills, and the ever present cheerleaders somewhere in the basement screaming out chants of “R-H-S!” Taylor is part of the RHS Mural Art Club, one of three after-school programs facilitated at the school by the arts-based youth program, Cherokee Street
Reach, which was founded in 2014 in the Cherokee Station Business District, just a few blocks away. The group also facilitates crafting and poetry/performance art clubs at the high school. Cherokee Street Reach works with youth in the communities where they live, as well as with elementary, middle and high school students in places like Roosevelt, and Froebel Elementary in South City, and Most Holy Trinity Catholic and Vashon High on the city’s north side. The program was founded by performance and visual artists Eric “Prospect” White, Shareca Reynolds-White, Erika Johnson, and Pacia Anderson (graduates of the Community Arts Training Institute) and Basil Kincaid (Artists Connect International Alumni). From the start, the group’s mission has been one of access and exposure, self-awareness, and economic COMMUNITY VOICES
Gail Lauth, Anniversary Tree (photo credit: Sarah Weinman)
She constructed another poignant piece, Ghost Tree, by silkscreening a negative of a photograph of the accident site onto a mirror. Then she painted the tree over the silkscreen. Viewers can see themselves in slivers of mirror between the brushstrokes. Lauth explains, “Here, I can still see fragments of who I am.”
empowerment through experiential art-based learning. A key component of the group’s programming structure is to work with other local artists and activists to bring the transformational power of art engagement to the youth in the places where they live and learn. As a result, the organization has established an annual free summer art camp and large-scale community art festival, and has facilitated poetry, crafting, crochet, mural art, character building and leadership classes at area schools, at times supplementing (and other times wholly providing) art-based learning opportunities to students from marginalized communities. Each team leader is a multidimensional artist poets, singers, musicians, crafters, business owners, writers, curators, organizers and so much more. Such diverse expertise brings the flexibility to open up project opportunities. Each program includes a performance, gallery exhibition, sale, and/or community engagement component through which the students can showcase their created work.
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The Cherokee Street Reach programming takes a variety of forms. Each leader teaches from their individual specialization. Kincaid recently created a mini-installation of his yearlong work in Ghana so that camp participants could experience a studio artist’s process from conception to installation. Projects have used collage and “city building” as a form of group-centered collaboration. Local guest teaching artists are often invited, such as Charisma Blue, who teaches “food art,” and Damon Davis, who discusses inspiration through art as social practice. The Cherokee Street Reach learning dynamic is rooted in youth-led creativity infused with academic components such as creative writing to forward literacy, technical lessons to improve math skills, physical fitness to engage with the healing arts and healthy lifestyle choices. The group recently hosted a public-school beautification project, bringing together administrators, civic leaders, business leaders, students and their parents to clean the grounds, plant flower gardens and connect people to the school that often anchors a neighborhood.
Cherokee Street Reach (photo credit: Pacia Anderson)
The group works with educators and administrators to meet the overall goals of the schools, yet holds tightly to its tenet of “With Not For,” ensuring that
students have a voice in what type of art they are creating, how it is presented, and (when applicable), how profits from that art will be divided. The group also holds tightly to the ideal on which the program was founded: to “reach” out to the “street,” meeting the young people on their own terms, with language that they understand and without expecting or pressuring them to conform; that people who look like these students can create beautiful, engaging art, poetry, music, food, crafts, and durable goods while traveling the world, enacting positive social change, using their voice, and creating magical experiences for themselves and for others. And just like RHS junior Brittany Taylor and her mural contribution, the group remains focused on the task at hand: working with youth in the neighborhood and in the school system to mesh art, academia, and real-life situations in ways that build community and reflect the infinite potential inherent in us all.
Follow the Cherokee Street Reach Program on Facebook or contact 314-338-3277
THE ABCS OF ART THAT BUILDS COMMUNITY By Paulna Valbrun
Central Print had an impressive 2015 and this nonprofit has no intention of slowing down. Next year's Midwest Regional Wayzgoose Printing Press Conference will be held in St. Louis, hosted by Central Print and Firecracker Press, in association with the Letterpress Society. From June 23rd -26th, printmakers from all over will gather to hear guest speakers and to observe and participate in the sale of traditional printing press equipment.
cards. More complex equipment. such as the Chandler and Price clamshell press, takes some expertise to use, requiring members to take an advanced class before operating it independently. Central Print offers a variety of free printmaking classes and workshops to youth in the area. Each Saturday, the studio offers a free printmaking
workshop during the Old North Farmers Market. Open studio tours are also available through appointment for schools and youth groups. Oberkirsch has given tours and provided workshops to a neighborhood Girl Scout troop, students from Ames Visual and Performing Arts School, preschoolers from the University City Children's Center and children living at the Karen House
Central Print owes so much of it’s success to Marie Oberkirsch who established the nonprofit in July 2014 in the Old North neighborhood with a mission to help preserve and promote letterpress printmaking and spread knowledge of historic printmaking equipment. Oberkirsch began her own love affair with printmaking at the Firecracker Press on Cherokee Street in 2010. With a background in textile design and screenprinting, she immediately fell hard for the old equipment used in printmaking. Reflecting on that love, Oberkirsch explains that, “It's the mechanics; it’s the precision with which the tools and instruments function,” that pulled her in. Central Print’s work to preserve traditional printmaking techniques led to their open studio program. For a small fee, printmaking enthusiasts are afforded a membership allowing access to the shop equipment every Wednesday and Saturday. Letterpress equipment such as the Vandercook 215 and Kelsey Excelsior tabletop press is easily operated by beginners. The Vandercook 215 is a flatbed press used to print large posters. The Kelsey Excelsior can be used to create greeting or business 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Central Print exterior view (photo credit: Paulna Valbrun) COMMUNITY VOICES
Paulna Valbrun mentions the Wayzgoose Printing Press Conference: The term “wayzgoose” comes from a traditional European celebration organized by a master printer for his workmen every year marking the end of summer and the start of the season of working by candlelight. Today, the Wayzgoose conference for letterpress printers and historians is organized by the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Shakespeare in the Streets (SITS) takes place again Sept 16-18, wwwsfstl.com Central Print 2624 N 14th Street St. Louis, 63106
Vandercock (image courtesy of Central Print)
Shelter. Participants in the Old North After-School Program create all sorts of seasonal decorations and greeting cards. When Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis held their Shakespeare in the Streets play in Old North, Central Print played an essential role, drawing in the community. The two nonprofits collaborated to create this unique opportunity for neighborhood children to learn one of the great bard's most esteemed comedies, Twelfth Night. Summer camp participants helped rewrite the play to appeal to a modern audience. They learned auditioning skills,
filmmaking, acting and playwriting in the process. They also had a chance to learn printmaking (of course!) while making a promotional poster for the official performance. Many upcoming Central Print projects revolve around the Old North community, including a sticker making class and art workshops—courtesy of the Whitaker foundation—offered to neighborhood children every Saturday starting in summer. Still in its nascent phase, Central Print is already a proven powerhouse in the Old North artists’ community! Wood Type (image courtesy of Central Print)
MARILYN, MARILYN, HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? By Marilyn Callahan and Philly Alex Johnmeyer Created by Marilyn Callahan, the Blooming Artists Project pairs talented students (K-12) with professional artists to encourage the exchange of perspectives and techniques. Students share original artwork with their mentors who, in turn, create their own artwork inspired by their counterparts.
February, jewelers, sculptors, painters, fiber artists and photographers will meet and interview their selected student artist. Each master artist, defined as an individual who has developed their creative skills and who works professionally in the visual arts, reviews student pieces and from these selections,
the professional chooses one with which they feel an artistic connection. By mid-February, the Project invites the participants to meet and interview each other. During this initial meeting, each artist has the opportunity to discuss
Philly Alex Johnmeyer, a master artist in last year’s Blooming Artists Project, has joined Marilyn Callahan as a co-coordinator. “Last year, I was invited to be a part of the Project by fellow artist, Adam Long. I was enthralled by the concept. Having the opportunity to be inspired by a young artist’s work, and then to create an artwork based upon that child’s work is such a beautiful idea. Now in my second year of involvement, I’m so excited to see that we have even more St. Louis area school districts, teachers, and professional artists eager to be a part of the Project. I feel it is so empowering, for a child to see that growing up to be a professional artist is an attainable goal. If I can help a child to gain confidence, and realize that their ideas and inspirations, translated into art are important and can affect others, as well.” In January, art instructors from the Pattonville, Mehlville, and Lindbergh school districts, and the Hogan Street School selected students who demonstrated passion, talent and potential. In early
Artworks by student Camryn Korte and master artist Kyle Lucks (photo credit: Philly Johnmeyer) COMMUNITY VOICES
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his or her work, ideas and medium. The students share their creative rationale while the master artists share their techniques, expertise and philosophies. After the meeting, the seasoned artists return to their studios to produce creations, inspired by the students’ art. The Project encourages an on-going communication between the two artists as the work progresses.
In response to last year’s Project, metalsmith artist Lee Richards remarked, “It was a joy to participate. The lively exchange of ideas and conversation about the art my student was doing was exciting and fun. I came back to my studio energized and ready to put my feelings into a project that would reflect our interaction and her artwork. I felt the Project allowed me the freedom to express myself in a way I was not able to do in the regular day to day work in my studio. I felt less like the Master Artist and more
WILLIAM MERRITT CHASE’S ST. LOUIS EDUCATION By Roman Beuc
By the mid 19th century, St. Louis had become a regional fine arts center of note. Successful and nationally known artists resided here. The city served as a jumping off place to larger national art centers as well as the wider world. One such artist, the great American impressionist painter William
Merritt Chase (1849-1916), arrived in St. Louis in 1871 at the age of 22, never expecting to become a permanent resident. His aim was to join his recently arrived family, assist his father in their support and advance his own art career.
like a child who had been given permission to play and create something beautiful that would speak to the student’s artwork as well as the audience who would view it.” This year’s Blooming Artists Project culminates in an opening reception and exhibition on June 10th, 6 to 9pm, through June 18th at the Old Orchard Gallery 39 S. Old Orchard, in Webster Groves 63119 The Blooming Artists Project is sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Artists Association and ArtMart.
While in New York City to further his education at the National Academy of Design, Chase discovered that his father’s shoe business had failed. The senior Chase moved the family to St. Louis and the younger Chase followed. In search of a place to create and showcase his art, he found a studio, first in the downtown Insurance Exchange Building located at the corner of Broadway and Olive and, later, at a more affordable location on the same block, 414 Olive Street, the local YMCA. To reduce costs, he shared the facility with another artist, James Wilson Pattison, a landscape painter and the head of the art department at Washington University. A metal sign on the YMCA building advertised their studio.
William Merritt Chase, TheTenth Street Studio, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum) 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
Pattison introduced Chase to other aspiring young artists along with some that were better established. These included Conrad Diehl, Paul Harney and John Mulvaney (all of whom had studied at the Royal Academy in Munich) and landscape painter Joseph Rusling Meeker. Struggling to survive financially, trying to break into the St. Louis art market, Chase was facing another problem - his father’s continuing disapproval. He tried to please his father by clerking at the store of Dodd, Brown & Company, but, simply wasn’t interested in a business career and quit after a short time. The studio partners hosted interested visitors. Chase placed some of his work in store windows around the area. He apparently did find some patrons for portraits. But, while in New York, Chase had developed a detailed and linear style and was painting still lifes, showing groups of flowers or fruit. He would bring this style to its technical perfection while in St. Louis. Chase’s still life paintings and self-promotion efforts were about to pay off. His rich, complex fruit arrangements exhibited at the 11th St. Louis
Agricultural & Mechanical Association (A&MA) Fair and at the St. Louis Mercantile Library garnered significant notice by local collectors. He won several awards at the fair and stood out from most of the other entrants. St. Louis collector of American art Samuel A. Coale, who donated the awards, took notice of Chase’s talents, as did other local businessmen. These men were soon to become his life changing patrons. These successes are said to have impacted his father’s attitude. One day when father and son were on the street together, his father encountered an acquaintance and introduced his son as “my son, the artist.” A group of seven St. Louis art collectors banded together, each contributing $300, and offered him $2,100 to pay his way for study in Europe for three years. His patrons stipulated that he provide a painting for each and sent European art works back to St. Louis for their collections. It was 1872. He left for the Royal Academy in Munich telling his patrons “God, I would rather go to Europe than go to heaven.”
ART IS AN ANSWER
For more information on William Merritt Chase, Roman Beuc recommends: Keith L Bryant’s William Merritt Chase: a Genteel Bohemian (1991, University of Missouri Press, Columbia & London); the Saint Louis Art Museum Documents Files, Object # (48:1933) for The Tenth Street Studio; Katherine Metcalf Root’s The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase (1917, Charles Scribner’s Sons); Barbara Dayer Gallati’s William Merritt Chase (1995, Henry Abrams Publisher, National Museum of American Art – Smithsonian) and Alicia G Longwell’s William Merritt Chase, a Life in Art (2014, Parish Art Museum)
The studio is staffed by facilitators who are practicing artists. Each has experience working with disabled individuals. Facilitators are assisted by loyal volunteers, most of whom are teachers and care givers.
Nancy Newman Rice
At Artists First, individuals with disabilities are encouraged to express themselves through art. Operated on the contention that creative self-expression is an indispensable element of individual and societal wellbeing, the Artists First studio maintains the importance of recognizing and promoting the contributions each individual can make in society. Executive director Sheila Suderwalla maintains that, “Too often barriers are created among different abilities, ideologies, races and socio-economic status. With each Artists First exhibition, myths about individuals with disabilities are challenged.” The work is idiosyncratic and often described as “outsider art”, but it is no less compelling. Artists at Artists First find inspiration in a place where everybody can be him or herself.
Chase’s story does leave unanswered questions: How well did Chase fulfill his commitments to create and procure art for his St. Louis patrons? What were these works and where did they ultimately end up? The record of one of his paintings is known. In 1879, back in the United States, Chase took residence in the famous New York 10th Street Studio Building. He began a series of paintings depicting the interior of his own exotically furnished studio. The most famous work from the series, The Tenth Street Studio, includes both himself and a client or student. In 1881, Chase sent the painting to Samuel M. Dodd. In 1912, Dodd gave it to Albert Blair who willed it to our Saint Louis Art Museum in 1933 where it can currently be viewed in Gallery 333.
walls are covered with bright, colorful, challenging, hopeful, soulful, expressive pieces of art. Music, laughter, light and serious discussions fill the studio, along with words of explanation and encouragement. Some of the artists work around a table, others engrossed in specific projects work close by. Limitless professional-grade supplies are provided paper, paint, fabric, yarn, clay, and beads.
Sheila Suderwalla knows that art can transform lives. She sees it happen all the time, “Every day in the studio we see inspiring works that not only depict challenges, but, most importantly, also hope and resiliency.”
Artists First was previously known as the Turner Center for the Arts. 7190 Manchester Rd, St. Louis 63143 www.ArtistsFirstStL.org
Some individuals participating in the studio have acquired brain injuries. Others have intellectual disabilities, pervasive psychiatric illness or post-traumatic stress disorder. They are not defined by their disabilities. They are… artists first. Artists come to draw, paint, sew, sculpt, bead jewelry and just be a part of the warm, safe camaraderie that defines this studio. “I didn’t know I could do art,” remembers one of the regular artists, “but now I know I can!” Some of the artists have their own, unique style that they repeat, improve and gradually perfect each time. Others explore new mediums – “inspired by all the art around here” – and then move on to the next project. The first impression one has when visiting Artists First is the hum of purposeful activity. Artists fill the studio, painting, drawing, sewing, sculpting. The
Artists First Exhibit at Foundation Grounds, installation view (photo credit: Sarah Griesbach) COMMUNITY VOICES
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DON'T MISS IT! AN EDITORIAL RECOMMENDATION Three months before the opening of The Carpet & the Connoisseur, Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) staff and educators were treated to a tutorial by Walter Denny on the tremendous global story of exchange around Islamic carpets. It seems that there is a LOT to learn about Islamic carpets. SLAM-goers now have the opportunity for a world-class crash course. Islamic carpets are the only art historical medium that were produced for the use of all classes. These fantastic objects have a zillion chapters to their geographic history. And that history intersects with a badrillion human stories. They were protection from sand storms for Bedouins. They were covers for camels in the Sahara. And, of course, they were and are places for prayer. They served as proof of travel and wealth in the palace of French Louis XIV. They appeared in Italian Renaissance paintings and photographs of the 20th century American White House.
The exthibition curators encourage us to consider the labor required to make such an object and the fate of those connected to its production. This exhibition does not shy away from the suffering caused when intricate handmade carpets are woven for contemporary consumers, in far-away markets, who will happily pay less for what child hands weave. The invisible and subtle attributes of art objects on display are best understood when dedicated
experts, and Denny certainly is one, expand our understanding of the material world to encompass all the human questions. The Carpet and the Connoisseur is guest-curated by Denny, University of Massachusetts distinguished professor in Islamic Arts in collaboration with Philip Hu, SLAM associate curator of Asian art, and SLAM textile conservator Zoe Perkins. On view in the SLAM Main Exhibition Galleries March 6 - May 8 Saint Louis Art Museum 1 Fine Art Drive, St. Louis 63110
It isn’t difficult to fall for the carpets on display. They are simply spectacular. But, of course, beautiful objects are never just an assortment of design motifs. The patterns and motifs tell us all sorts of things about the lives of the artisans who wove them. Our cultural production, especially that which is so beloved as to endure over the course of centuries, carries multiple levels of meaning. The carpet patterns are keys to deciphering the interests and values of the cultures they sprang from. The innovative ideas behind each tradition are the ancestral inheritance passed down to the artisan. And now, examining the geometric patterns that mirror architecture and the Arabic script formed from the weft and warp, we get a deeper appreciation of this complex, yet ubiquitous, luxury. Rectanglular Pavilion Tent, carpet detail, (image courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum)
CONSTRUCTIVISM IN THE ART CLASSROOM Jason Gray Art instruction offers unique conditions for testing pedagogies. Within the discipline, the educator may be expected (depending upon grade level) to cover content ranging from practical or material techniques relating to painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography, design, performance, video and film, and more. Additionally, art education practitioners might be called upon to teach art history, art theory, or creative strategies. Given the myriad of possibilities for lesson planning, it goes without saying that the educator needs to have a firm grasp upon what they teach, why they teach, and who they teach. A big part of making thoughtful artwork is understanding how to make connections between things that initially appear unrelated. Understanding this, the art teacher should accept that what they teach is unique to each student. Unlike in mathematics, where the instructor follows a set of concrete 19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
steps and the student’s role is to memorize and utilize, in art, the art educator is a guide to whatever world the student unfolds. Constructivism applies favorably to this tendency because it encourages alternative thought (for content delivery) and individual approaches (for student engagement). In the Constructivist classroom, the teacher must feel accountable to the student. The student learns the wide gamut of “art” by navigating choices, with the aid of a community of peers, toward a dynamic and fluid curriculum. For the teacher, this means assuming the role of the student (to a degree). The Constructivist realizes that the goal of education is to produce individuals with the self-efficacy to become moral and cultural contributors (not necessarily compliant) to society; content alone is meaningless in the face of this. However, the educator is not alone in responsibility, as the student has obligations as well. Primarily, the COMMENTARY
art student should feel compelled to engage in a manner that they feel is worthwhile. Since the Constructivist proponent offers choices, the student should make decisions, and offer opinions and suggestions, all along, working with his/her peers to do so. Within assignments, the diligent pupil should feel inspired to explore along the lines of ratiocination. The classroom helps with this process. Inside the classroom, this approach lends well to many non-traditional practices. The art teacher should not assume the traditional role as chairman. The art instructor’s desk (if there must be a desk) should be integrated into the students’ workspace or else located in an area out of prominence. The students’ seating should be arranged for dialogue and collaboration, as opposed to private study. Presentations and lectures should not be delivered exclusively by the teacher. Students should have the opportunity to shape the discussion as the presentations unfold, and should be empowered to augment or argue points made. To offer an example of how all of this works, the instructor might begin a lesson on “identity in art” by
showing a Ted Talks presentation by the artist, Cindy Sherman. Afterward, the instructor would moderate a classroom discussion on Cindy Sherman and “identity in art”, allowing the students to introduce new talking points and to frame their points of view. Next, the instructor might ask the students what kinds of paintings they would make to express the idea of “identity in art”. From this, possibly three approaches would be popular to the class, and the class would vote or debate the merits of which one they would like to pursue as an assignment. Working individually or in groups, the instructor could offer constructive feedback as the students execute the assignment. When finished, each project would be presented before the class for a critique. The teacher’s aim is to introduce the students to the idea of identity as a potential topic to be explored in
TEACHER TALK Ron Young
Ron Young leads workshops on Diversity and Inclusion in the Visual Arts for the Fort Zumwalt School District. He has compiled a few easily adopted ideas for art educators. As an undergraduate, my daughter Miranda took an art class that required her to do a report on an artist. She chose to do a report on a black artist and was surprised to find out that her college professor didn’t know of any African American artists. All students want to see themselves represented in the curriculum. Especially in the visual arts.
art. Instead of telling the students what he or she thinks “identity” to mean, the instructor presents a framed speech on the topic by a working artist and invites responses from the students. By asking the students for their thoughts, the educator places them within the topic and encourages the pupils to think creatively about how to relate the information to their existing perspectives. By asking them for their opinions, the teacher is making the students aware of their opinions, which is a powerful incentive toward intellectual and social growth. After the class discussion, the students are able to apply their self-discoveries regarding the topic to an assignment that introduces another way to express what they have learned. The successfulness of their work is then debated in front of the class, which informs their approach to the next assignment. The teacher manages all of this progress by keeping the students motivated and involved.
Fact: If your students don’t see themselves represented in your classroom, they will almost certainly loose interest in whatever you are teaching. Most art programs and books used in art classes emphasize white male artists. But there are things you can do to create diversity and inclusion in your art program. Start with the local arts community. Many of our museums have great artworks by black artists in their permanent collections. Be sure not to miss those by Kerry James Marshall, Eldzier Cortor, Glen Lignon and Julie Mehretu all of which are currently up at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Visit local galleries where black artists’ work exhibits. Put the Vaughn Cultural Center at the Urban League of St. Louis on the top of your list for galleries to visit.
Identity Installation (photo credit: Jason Gray)
Another great field trip? Visit some of the many outdoor murals throughout St. Louis that celebrate black history such as the music legends mural on Vintage Vinyl in the Loop or the St. Louis Wall of Fame mural on Manchester in the Grove. Or have your students bring in photographs of murals near them. Perhaps they will be inspired. Murals are an excellent medium for teaching basic design skills and building confidence. The process of designing a mural and the lasting results instill a sense of community among the students as they beautify their school walls.
Here are a few important local organizations to enrich your art program: Vaughn Center at the Urban League 3701 Grandel Square, St. Louis 63108 The 10th Street Gallery 419 N. 10th Street, St. Louis 63101 www10thstreetgallery.com For a great program that can support you and your students: Collagesstl.org
Mary Moore and Leah Dixon’s Saint Louis music legends mural on the exterior of Vintage Vinyl in the Loop (photo credit: Maxine Ward) COMMENTARY
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TO LEARN AMIDST THE COLLECTED TREASURES OF AN EAST ST. LOUIS LEGACY By Eileen G’Sell
Afro-Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire penned the following in his 1947 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land: “My lips shall speak for miseries that have no mouth, my voice shall be the liberty of those who languish in the dungeon of despair… And above all my body as well as my soul, beware of folding your arms in the sterile attitude of spectator, for life is not a spectacle, for a sea of pain is not a proscenium.” I was reminded of these words traveling down Katherine Dunham Place on a sunless January afternoon. In the absence of any autumn foliage, the neighborhood appeared desolate. Even the familiar green of street signs seemed to fade away, with many roads unmarked just blocks from the winding interstate. In keeping with Césaire, the terrain quickly took on a Surrealist bent. A street of spread-apart buildings, divided by patchy plots and lots, lead to a stately brick and greystone mansion, a pastel “Cakeway to the West” sculpture at the corner of its lawn. Pulling up to 1005 Pennsylvania Ave was to stumble upon sudden treasure: the Katherine Dunham Dynamic Museum, last concrete sign of the great legacy bequeathed to our city when Dunham left this world but ten years ago. After over eighty years of performing, choreographing, art-collecting, painting, writing, teaching and, essentially, proving a preternatural powerhouse in the 20th century, the woman who practically
invented African-American modern dance passed along a bastion of cultural artifacts. “Dynamic” seems nearly an understatement. Six years prior to Dunham’s death in 2006 at age 96, a million dollars was awarded from the Library of Congress to fund her teaching programs and the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities (KDCAH), located less than ten minutes way from the Arch. As the sole functioning center today, the museum faces constant threat of closure; its public viewing hours ended a year ago for lack of staff, volunteers, and resources. In the two hours I spent touring the stunning building with KDCAH Chairwoman, the unsinkable LeVerne Backstrom Wizard (who, upon meeting me, enthusiastically shared that I have her middle name), its visual, architectural, and educational riches left me overwhelmed. An East St. Louis native, Wizard radiates a passion for the museum that becomes a force all its own; every detail of the interior has at least one story, and often many more. With an entry bookended by two ancient travel trunks marked “Dunham” in all-caps, the center houses a vast collection of symbolic and functional art—including more than 250 African and Caribbean objects from more than 50 countries. In her time touring and teaching with her troupe over the better half of a century, she amassed drums, sculptures, ceremonial costumes, tapestries and more only a portion of which is on display for lack of space, staff and security.
Katherine Dunham Museum interior (photo credit: Sarah Hermes Griesbach)
I’d first heard of Dunham during grad school in an elective on the history of modern dance, but never realized how much her talent and intellectual curiosity extended into virtually every imaginable field. Born to an African-American father and mother of French-Canadian / Native American ancestry, Dunham didn’t simply epitomize “exoticism” in her day but keenly seized upon its marketing potential to spread her signature aesthetic to every corner of the globe. She was also a painter, and one room on the second floor is devoted to a selection of Dunham’s own canvases. Across the hall, hundreds of books line the shelves of a wood-paneled meeting room. Another room contains a library archive of VHS tapes chronicling a seemingly endless catalogue of performances. Heading out to my car at nightfall, it is cold and eerily quiet. But behind the gravel parking lot, a modest two-story building lights up from within. “Go on, knock on the door. Tap on the window!” LeVerne cheerfully implores a few yards away. I approach the dance studio where Ruby Streate teaches the Dunham technique twice a week. My breath a fog on the pane, I watch eight child bodies stretch out on their backs across the floor, legs curled up to their chests, eyes softly smiling. I decide not to disrupt their focus.
To schedule a visit to the Katherine Dunham Dynamic Museum, contact LeVerne Backstrom Wizard at (618) 795-5970 Donations to the center can be made via Paypal by visiting: http://kdcah.org/membership-giving/
Laverne Backstrom among art collected by Katherine Dunham (image provided by) 21 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2016
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Corrections and Clarifications for All the Art, Winter 2015 Page 20 about sculpture on campus at SIUE, Sarah Bonn should read Sarah Bohn.