THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
Resist, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-10) 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 HOWARD BARRY ROMAN BEUC JOHN BLAIR KAT DOUGLAS SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH EILEEN G’SELL ALEIDA HERTEL AMELIA HIMEBAUGH JOE KOHLBURN
LAURYN MARSHALL ROBERT N MORRISSEY JESSICA POSCHEL ERIN MCGRATH RIEKE RACHEL SACKS PAULNA VALBRUN SARAH WEINMAN ADRIAN WRIGHT OSCAR REID WRIGHT
PRINT AND PROOF CONTRIBUTOR PAT CUSUMANO HILARY HITCHCOCK
The list of exhibitions reviewed this season is long, but not as long as the list we could write of what went up and came down without us finding space to mention them. Read what our writers thought about the artworks exhibited in a myriad of venues across our region’s neighborhoods like the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Laumeier Sculpture Park, The Dark Room and Reese Gallery. Then, consider joining our team of reviewers and widening our understanding of what artists and art workers are bringing to the fore in our community.
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PG. 11) Sarah Weinman talked with photographer Kristi Foster about her border crossing into Cuba at a time that seems to be at the cusp of unknowable change. Several other contributors’ interviews turned into Community Voices articles this issue. In these cases, the interviewer couldn’t help but interject thoughts and, poof, we had a story that was equal parts author and interviewee. See that authors’ voice in Oscar Reid Wright’s take on Mitch Bierer’s genre-bending spray paint mural at Saint Sk8 Liborious Church skatepark.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 12-17) Our intended theme of “Borders” became “in-betweens” in the writing of our contributors. Antique gallerist Robert Morrisey writes about painter Mark Horton’s place in-between styles and genre. Rachel Sacks’ “good-bye” to Fort Gondo and Beverly galleries takes a long look at our in-between moment as these loved art homes shutter their doors and their hosts take new root in other venues and projects. Like Oscar Reid Wright, Jessica Poschel seeks to understand an unexpected mural that connects places and people divided by seen and unseen borders. Erin McGrath Rieke brings us her Aria Rising, an art object and a message that travels. And Roman Beuc again dives into an art historical tale, this time the paintings of migratory birds by John James Audubon, now on display at the Mercantile Library.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 18-20) Joe Kohlburn, Howard Barry, and Adrian Wright teach and preach in their spot-on and timely art-accounts. Joe Kohlburn gets to the heart of this issue’s theme. His argument for seeing artists as natural transgressors serves as a great summary of the points made in the many contributions we received. Howard Barry tells us why he paints mugshots in his “Heroes or Criminals” series.
Covers: Amanda Nutter, Azure Currents #1, (image courtesy of the artist)
Daniel Shular, A Protester Burns an American Flag at the DNC in Philadelphia, PA, (image courtesy of the artist)
Borders. Could we have picked a more timely subject for this Spring 2017 issue? It was pure serendipity that in the fall of 2016, pre-election, we selected this theme. Who knew our country was about to erupt in a series of protests fueled by the border-building rhetoric of a new president? We publish this issue in an important moment - one that could be the beginning of a more segregated North America, in which safety looks like fortressed, militarized parcels of land. We hope not. The wish to build walls and perpetuate divisions threatens the safety of livelihoods and dreams. And determines who may and may not have them. So often, when artists identify what separates us, they find a new way to transcend that separation, that border. Of course, there are also unseen borders layered throughout our lives. We humans of St. Louis often divide ourselves by city/county, rural/urban. black/white, progressive/conservative. But those invisible borders are all mixed up inside us too. The same is true with art borders. They emerge without warning sometimes. We form group allegiance that help our art homes serve as inviting art incubators. We also build art institutions and groups that function along the same obstructive lines as the Delmar Divide and the city-county line. Like most things, grouping up isn’t all bad. Art movements can happen both in geographic spaces and in like-minded circles that branch out over continents and across oceans. New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago during the Great Migration. The Hudson River Valley during the Romantic Period. Paris in the time of Impressionism. Cherokee in the era of Fort Gondo and Grand Center with Bruno David Gallery at its center.
Such niche art thinking and thriving can work toward great creative goals. Collectives and art communities in St. Louis often support each other, through inspiration and group promotion. But even these porous borders can become restrictive if we aren’t careful. Do we work to invite in and venture out of our art zones? Outside critiques refresh and vitalize creative projects. Too tight a stricture around any endeavor is likely to leave the movement stale. Many regional responses to our borders theme describe art that breaks out of “the box.” Questions like “Where does art belong?” and “Who makes art?” set up restrictions that artists will always look to break. Mitch Bierer’s mural spray painted in a church turned skate-park is definitely … outside the box. We see our regional artists doing this constructive destruction all over the place. They are breaking borders, upsetting norms. Hey, reader, we’ve had a heavy many months. Our thematic choices have reflected that reality. So who here could use a laugh?! In our upcoming summer 2017 issue, All the Art puts “Art and Humor” on stage. As comedians often do, maybe we can find some humor in the dark state of current affairs and laugh a little. As always, we hope you’ll join in! Help us identify artists, illustrators, and venues that showcase the art of humor. All the Best!
Executive Editor and Co-Founder
Creative Editor and Co-Founder
MOHAU MODISAKENG LAUMEIER SCULPTURE PARK
Laumeier Sculpture Park’s on-going New Territories: BRICS (2015-19) project concluded the S segment of the series this past January. BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. Usually, this acronym is used to refer to an investing concept for the five large emerging markets identified by name. The six self-portraits and short video by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng that were installed in Laumeier’s Whitaker Foundation Gallery did not, however, celebrate the economic boom that led to South Africa’s inclusion in the economic concept. Modisakeng’s Endabeni photo series and short video, To The Mountain, are a tribute to the plight of black South Africans who are subjected to terrible conditions while working as coal and platinum miners. Mining has long been a driving economic force in South Africa, beginning with the fateful discovery of a diamond on the banks of the Orange River in the nineteenth century. Today, resource rich South Africa is the world’s third largest coal exporter and the first in platinum mining.The prosperity of South African mining corporations accounted for in those statistics belie the human rights abuses suffered by those who work in the mines.
the effect is alarming. That visceral response is Modisakeng’s way of presenting the world with his account of the exploitation and dehumanization of miners in South Africa. The butcher’s coat and horse blinders perhaps juxtapose the cruel treatment and exploitation of animals to the injustices of South African miners, or make the more obvious statement of black miners being treated like animals. The choice of the butcher’s coat also offers commentary on the destruction of the earth due to mining. The black South African miner is forced to slaughter and bring destruction to his homeland in unsafe conditions for poverty wages. Instead of the subject’s butcher’s coat
Modisakeng’s work is a response to the “political, economic, psychological and spiritual” violence that black South Africans face. His self-portraits are composed to communicate these various forms of violence. The black-and-white photographs are laden with symbolism that is embedded within Modisakeng’s attire and choreographed poses. In his Endabeni series, Modisakeng’s character is pictured in front of a desolate landscape resembling the coal and platinum mines of South Africa. His character is sinister. He holds either an axe or two machetes. There is no way to read what he will do with these weapons, but they carry a definite threat. Filling in for the typical miner’s uniform, Modisakeng’s character wears an apron resembling a butcher's coat. The butcher's coat is sprinkled with dirt and mud from the mines and oil, which drips like molasses, resembling blood. He wears a black traveler's hat. His head is encapsulated by white horse blinders and his mouth is covered with a surgical mask.
Mohau Modisakeng, Endabeni 1, (image courtesy of the artist and WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery)
Modisakeng buries meaning into each of these props. He has chosen each element of the macabre attire to represent the various forms of violence to which black South Africans are subjected. The symbolism is well-executed and 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
shielding him from the blood of animals, this apron protects the subject from mud and other debris while he slaughters and dismantles the Earth. Typically used to prevent horses from seeing what is beside or behind them, the blinders prevent Modisakeng’s character from gaining a full understanding of his current situation or from finding a path to flee.
Mohau Modisakeng exhibition, 2016 (photo credit: Peter Wochniak) IN REVIEW
THESE PEOPLE ON MY COUCH URBARTS
William Bristol’s first solo exhibit, These People on My Couch, opened at UrbArts in January, a gallery and venue for music, art, poetry, and community-based events in Old North. These People on My Couch is a collection of portraits of influential leaders who have fought oppression around the globe, specifically celebrating the achievements of Black leaders, Native American leaders, Latino/a leaders, and more. Bristol’s idols range widely, representing a variety of vocations, from political revolutionaries to performers, and span several hundred years. The portraits range from small and face-sized, to paintings of several feet tall and wide. One larger painting of Nelson Mandela looks like a
reproduction of a press photograph taken of Mandela giving a speech. Mandela looks up and out towards the crowd, one finger raised authoritatively, caught mid-sentence speaking into the mic in front of him. The crowd behind him is a colorful blur of dots, like a camera out of focus. In other pieces, Bristol works less from photography and more from collage. The piece adjacent to the large portrait of Mandela giving a speech is a colorful collage of several figures, backlit from either side. The background of the image cycles from orange to yellow to green to blue to purple, encompassing within it figures like Muhammad Ali, Geronimo, Frederick Douglass, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the black power salute at the 1968 olympics. The
composition draws all of these leaders into formation to make up the figure in the front, acknowledging the history of past leaders that influence each new leader. In a talk at the exhibit’s opening, Bristol spoke about the exhibition title. He stressed the importance of acknowledging “our more human side...that side that cares about people...over our own ego, our own bank accounts.” Bristol explained that the people he painted for the exhibit “represented that to [him].” Because of the human empathy they practiced in their public lives, Bristol’s idols, ranging hundreds of years and miles, could still be someone on his couch next to him. He concluded with “the best change we can make for ourselves sometimes is who we hang out with,” implying that we should endeavor to surround ourselves with people we admire as we admire those whom Bristol portraitizes. Visitors to UrbArts (short form name for the nonprofit’s formal title: Urban Artist Alliance for Child Development) come for a variety of reasons. The exhibition opening also included a session with the new artist advocacy organization, Citizen Artist St. Louis. It was fitting for that audience, brought together to “identify priority issues” in the 2017 mayoral race, to do so in the midst of Bristol’s paintings of leaders who fought oppression. The UrbArts mailing about the January exhibition states that Bristol was one of the top-selling artists at the gallery in 2016. His collection of portraits of the people’s leaders resonates with a public looking for societal progress. That message to buy local artists’ work is a major directive of the UrbArts organization, and they want us all to know that Bristol’s work is “priced affordably to adorn your walls” -- maybe above the couch. -Amelia Himebaugh
William Bristol, Nelson Mandela #1, (photo credit: Richard Reilly) IN REVIEW
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PLATINUM BONDS BULLIVANT GALLERY
My first visit to the Bullivant Gallery on Washington is christened with a sudden rush of thunder and rain — an opportune climate for checking out Greg Stroube’s Visions in Platinum. Upon arrival, I am greeted by a number of gallery staff and served a dark Americano. Two fluffy cats, one black and one gray, float towards me as though mimicking the outside clouds. The foremost third of the airy space is devoted to exhibitions; the center comprises its own printing studio and workplace. To the left of the entrance, a series of nine platinotype prints beckons like an enchanted forest, which is also what they seem to depict. Twisted roots, voluptuous trunks, encroaching limbs — like fantastic stills from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth but in gray scale. One tangle of trees grips the swamp below like a corps of modern dancers. Another trunk resembles a giant fist pounding the water. The
storm beats against the Bullivant roof; this is no typical walk through the woods. What we’re seeing are Cypress trees in the swamps of Savannah, Georgia — but captured through Stroube’s alchemical process that, quite literally, exposes a haunting depth. Shadows serve to shadow other shadows. The long tonal range — from the darkest blacks to the lightest white — offered by platinum contributes a looming, glorious gloom to every image. It is no surprise that Stroube, a veteran photographer with a commercial studio downtown, once studied English literature alongside cinema and photography. Gothic poetry, perhaps? Ironically, these gloomy images demand sunlight to come to be. Platinum is not very light sensitive — and so exposures need to be very long. After brushing the “chemistry” (a platinum / palladium emulsion) onto absorbent
Arches Platine paper, Stroube lets it dry, exposing the negative to ultraviolet rays. “What Greg is doing,” photographer and master printer Robert Bullivant carefully explains, “is combining two photographic processes — the digital and the historical. Historically, the negatives have to be the same size as the prints you make. Stroube shoots with a digital camera, then creates the negative with an ink-jet printer onto Mylar, and that becomes the material that helps create the platinum print.” As a result of platinum magic, the midtones in these prints offer greater definition than other monochromatic processes. On the east wall, Stroube’s narrative series is reminiscent of Vivian Maier and Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom he counts as influences. In hazy glimpses of everyday life — a book-lined windowsill in an empty Nebraska church, a woman in white covering her mouth, two Maine sun-bathers whose faces we cannot see, the silhouettes of men in matching fedoras, a Florence hotel room — the gradient of grays suggests an endless ambiguity, or gray area, in what seems the most blatant pedestrian moments. A local image of the KDHX Grand Center building hangs aside one of a Venetian gondola; no place lacks
Greg Stroube, Burano Italy, (image courtesy of the artist) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
Toward the end of my Bullivanting, I learn that the hand-mixed and hand-coated emulsions that catalyze Stroube’s prints are called “sensitizers” — a fitting term for both the
subtlety of detail and content that each of his visions reveal. Once the rain at last abates, the Grand Center is every layer of quiet gray, puddles lustrous and streetlights ghostly.
Greg Stroube, Nebraska Church, (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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mystery, just as no place can ever be totally mysterious.
CAMPAIGN OR CAMP PAIN?
THE DARK ROOM
Leading up to the presidential inauguration this past January, the TDark Room in Grand Center exhibited photographer Daniel Shular’s series of images documenting a hardly concluded misery. He entitled his series 2016: Camp Pain. The exhibit emphasized the stress and misery of the preceding year of political campaigns. Camp Pain’s curator, Jason Gray, lined Shular’s photographs along fittingly dimly lit walls. After all, post-election, we are all still not quite sure what just happened or what will happen next. Shular's images predict the current state of dischord. His heady sequence of photographs shows varied emotional responses. His subjects are enraged by inequality, overcome with dread and giddy with optimism. What crosses through all of the photographed subjects, despite geographic site or the subject’s political affiliation, is intensity. This was a very intense campaign season.
The photographs hit hard. One photograph shows a child in full business suit attire--from collared shirt and a tie to leather dress shoes--holding a sign that reads “Look Mom, No Future.” Ouch. Naturally, the statement is alarming, but what is most startling is the context in which it is set. This little boy, most likely brought out by his parents to a Bernie Sanders rally, is already subjected to questions of whether or not his life will have purpose. People seem to lose their humanity when disagreeing on fundamentals of living. That, too, is on view in Shular’s photographs. Some seem to gain pleasure from others’ pain. One photograph of a pro-Trump rally shows people clearly agitated, while yelling for their candidate, holding middle fingers in the air. Whom their words are directed to is uncertain, but I cannot imagine it being a friendly exchange.
Daniel Shular, Look Mom NO Future at the DNC in Philadelphia, PA, (image courtesy of the artist) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
Like the campaign season we barely made it through, Camp Pain stirs up emotion. Shular intends to elicit responses from his audience (negative and positive), but also to spark a conversation. I'm sure everyone was exhausted by the end of the election year, but seeing what we looked like in the midst of it - may serve as a lesson for all of us to remain civil. Our failings spur from our emotions but our ability to feel and care is also humanity’s greatest gift. The very same emotions that bring us to heap insults on those who disagree with us can also be tapped to hone the skill to connect with others. Shular makes clear the duality of our emotional ties to political influences. -Lauryn Marshall www.thedarkroomstl.com www.danielshular.com
PULITZER ARTS FOUNDATION
The name Medardo Rosso (1859- 1928) is relatively unknown outside the scholarly canon of art history. When compared to the stoic work of his contemporaries, like Auguste Rodin and Antoine Bourdelle, Rosso’s work seems like a sculptural sketchbook. Roughly textured and only half-formed, it is easy for someone to miss the incredible skill and influential scope of Rosso’s expansive body of work. Luckily for St. Louisans, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation has curated an exhibition which not only introduces the largest US exhibition of Rosso’s work to date, but also allows the viewer to explore his thoughts and concepts. The Pulitzer has created a showcase that plays with the very spirit of Rosso’s art. Experimental and defiant in nature, Rosso was an outsider from an early age. Expelled from the Brera Art Academy at 24, he moved to Paris and created his own foundry. While that may sound reasonable today, it was relatively unheard of for sculptors in 1890. Every significant sculptor of that time focused solely on their initial creation and had little to do with the casting process. Rosso’s contemporaries would create their originals in plaster or wax and send them to an established foundry where professionals would cast their work. At his small, private foundry, Rosso engaged the casting process as an art form with results as individual and important as the sculpting process. He considered each work as its own original. In this way, much of Rosso’s work was experimental. Unlike other sculptors, he kept and even highlighted what others considered flaws in the casting process.
space, behind the grand stairwell in the main level, holds a sensory wonder Ecce puer (Behold the Child). Visitors are given a large remote with which they can subtly or acutely alter the intensity of multiple lights. The sculpture at the center of the room becomes one thing when lit from one angle and something else altogether when lit differently. The dramatic shifts in what is visible demonstrate the value of Rosso’s explorations with light. Upon experimentation, it is easy to see how completely light affects his work. In Rosso’s sculptural works, we see that no figure is fully unearthed from its material. Rough metal quickly flows up and over the features of a face. The slight curve of a nose, the open, crying mouth of a child, dissolve once again into coarse bronze.His ideas are, perhaps, more relatable for audiences today than those of his own time.
A work of sculpture is not made to be touched, but to be seen at such or such a distance, according to the effect intended by the artist. Our hand does not permit us to bring to our consciousness the values, the bones, the colours - in a word, the life of the thing. For seizing the inner significance of a work of art, we should rely entirely on the visual impression and on the sympathetic echoes it awakens in our memory and consciousness, and not on the touch of our fingers. -Kat Douglas
Light was often the crux of Rosso’s work. He broke through contemporary norms by recognizing that distress in the form allowed for more variation when exposed to light. In 1907, he wrote: Light being the very essence of our existence, a work of art that is not concerned with light has no right to exist. Rosso was known for obsessively controlling and manipulating the light for his sculptures and documenting the process through photography. He even manipulated and distressed his photographs of his sculptures to explore fragmentation and obfuscation in his work. Many of these photographs are shown with the accompanying sculptures. The Pulitzer Foundation exhibition realizes Rosso’s vision as only a modern museum could, facilitating opportunities to glimpse his intentions for each individual work. A gallery
Medardo Rosso, Ecce puer (Behold the Child), (photo credit: Robert Pettus) IN REVIEW
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The Pulitzer building itself, a Tadao-Ando design that emphasizes natural light, allows for the distinct and the inconspicuous external light shifts to continuously manipulate the sculptures throughout the day. The exquisite impact of great swaths of sunlight drenching the Pulitzer’s interior draws the spirit of Rosso, who professed:
HATS: LEAPING BORDERS, BREAKING BOUNDARIES
SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM AND MILDRED LANE KEMPER ART MUSEUM
Throngs of visitors to the Smithsonian’s National African American History Museum have encountered a gorgeous installation celebrating the wildly successful millinery career of Mae Reeves. Reeves’s story of hat making shows how, even in relatively recent times (mid-20th century), niche markets allowed entrepreneurs to transcend pressures of racism and sexism. Like St. Louis African American sheroes Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker, who built beauty supply empires, Mae Reeves became a business giant despite a mountain of constraints meant to keep black people and women from participating in commerce. The theme of women rising up to build business careers that brought them independence and clout despite social and legal restrictions (everything from holding a private bank account to signing a contract) is there for the finding in the beautiful hats displayed in the paintings and prints found in the Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) and the sister exhibition held at Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha, this spring. Along with paintings and drawings that fall into the millinery theme, the SLAM exhibit provides examples of the
professional craftsmanship found in this global trade product, presented on authentic hat stands rather than the typical museum pedestals. Degas’ intimate portrayals of women stitching and trimming hats from tulle, chiffon, feathers and felt, along with portraits of shop girls and elegant customers in conversation, show that the millinery industry offered a place for creativity, community and entrepreneurship. In 1909, Madame Anna Ben-Yusuf, a German-born milliner who emigrated to the United States, wrote “The Art of Millinery: Practical Lessons for the Artiste and the Amateur.” A century before that, Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin became the world’s first celebrity fashion designer, making hats for Marie Antoinette. Like so much of our historic cultural production, this niche market product tells stories far grander than could be surmised at first glance at these bonnets, top hats, bowlers and fascinators.
Pablo Picasso, Woman with Blue Hat (Jane Avril), (image courtesy of © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
Who knew that hat making served as a tool for overcoming obstacles here or in France and for centuries? Who knew that hatmaking could be a slender pathway leading to financial independence and social standing? SLAM curator Simon Kelly and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco’s Esther Bell knew. As Kelly and Bell explored the documentation of millinery work in the paintings of Edgar Degas and his contemporaries, they observed that the choice to highlight this profession was not just an aesthetic interest for these artists. No. Like Degas’ dancers, his milliners lived in a woman's world. - Sarah Hermes Griesbach
Edgar Degas, The Milling Shop, (image courtesy of The Art Institue of Chicago) IN REVIEW
IN REVIEW Mme Georgette, Womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hat, (image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) IN REVIEW
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ANYTHING FAMILIAR HERE? HOFFMAN LACHANCE CONTEMPORARY
In mid-January, Artist Tom Lang opened his intriguingly titled Anything Familiar Here? exhibition to a full house. Lang is the chairman of Webster University’s School of Art. His students and colleagues attended with anticipation and were welcomed by a bright selection of new prints and drawings that, as the title cleverly states, differ from previous works of the artist. This is Lang’s first formal exhibition since a heart attack in early 2016. Awareness of that fact informs the viewer and changes the artwork. It then seems especially fitting to see bright blocks of color that excite and highlight stenciled masculine figures, figures that are strong and vulnerable all at once. The majority of the works presented are named after the late famous and prolific Portuguese poet, writer, and philosopher, Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Lang admires the poet and found inspiration in the writing of Pessoa whose genres and styles are a result of the poet’s decision to use four alter egos he describes as “heteronyms.” Lang described the origin story of this new body of work to an audience at his gallery talk the day after the opening. For Lang, the studio
is a very personal space where visitors are rarely allowed. A solitary place for contemplation. After many years of working in the midst of his earlier work, he began to look through it. Looking through those many prints and drawings, some that he had in fact forgotten, and seeing them again turned old ideas into new ones and set him off, to begin creating. The masculine figure Lang chose for the Pessoa series kept pulling at his attention, standing out among the many pieces he pulled out of drawers and cabinets. He made a connection between how he, as an artist, had the opportunity to portray a single moment, or man, from different perspectives, and the task taken on by Pessoa the poet. With Pessoa as his muse and the artistic influence of his son Martin Lang, Lang moved toward this new body of work. The signature feature of the exhibition repeated silhouettes of the masculine figure, flexing his muscle - portrays a juxtaposition between the vulnerable nature of our bodies and the amazing healing ability that can allow a recovery from heart failure. Lang’s men, quietly observing themselves in their self-conscious pose, are also, when shown as a series, reflections of one another. Lang reflected on
Tom Lang, Anything Familiar Here?, Installation view (image courtesy of Hoffman Lachance Contemporary) 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
the peace that these prints offered him as he worked in his studio. The repetition of form, quietness of color, and his own time spent in observation, even taking a moment to notice the effect of seeing the images presented flat on a work table or vertically on the gallery wall, brought calm and comfort. For Lang, the exhibition is very personal. As a current student of Webster University, it made me reflect on the importance of being in the present moment to catch those fleeting opportunities to see new things even in old works that we ourselves created, mining our own minds, letting associations inspire and inform the way we work, to be honest enough to create from a place of curiosity, awareness, difficulty, and vulnerability. -Aleida Hertel
AMANDA NUTTER AND VINCENT STEMMLER REESE GALLERY Mixed media artist Vincent Stemmler and photographer Amanda Nutter reflect on the ambiguity of the meaning of the self and symbolism of the self throughout their joint exhibition, Passage, at the Reese Gallery. Both artists explore notions of unconscious meeting. “The work often comes from different places in my mind. I am hard to pin down, even for myself, because I am often working with different mediums and themes,” admits Vincent Stemmler regarding his sculpture work. Stemmler describes his sculptural work as a form of collage. He integrates ceramics, found materials and sculptural moulds. Through these various materials, he creates a repository, a collection of memories, that while defining a singular explanation, still invite engagement and personal identification. In this regard, his sculptures are physical symbols, material archetypes, reflecting a dream-like state, both pleasant and disturbing, that capture the non-narrative stratum of unconscious experience. Stemmler's investigation of unconscious experience has led him to explore spirituality. He incorporates religious symbols into his work to further investigate the meaning of spiritual experience and to reference his own personal experiences. Search of the Divine Mother is a
mixed media sculpture that references the divine feminine, and serves as a reflection on his own mother, whom he lost at an early age. As such, the making of his work evokes a sense of catharsis. Light sources play a major role in Nutter’s work. Her body of work consists of photographs (film and digital). Nutter explores her fascination with light and color in her Azure Currents series. Her primary subject in these exhibited photographs is women. Along with eschewing traditional model poses, she photographs her subjects in different stages of movement. She reflects, “A lot of my photographs have the ghost images, the transparencies, capturing people mid movement” to disclose the individual distinctiveness of her subjects.
world is mediated by our sensory awareness and how that awareness can be shifted, depending upon the light. Ruth Reese, director of the Reese Gallery identifies Stemmler's work as discovering meaning by examining the past and Nutter's work as pointing towards the future. Both artists use their chosen media to work toward understanding themselves and, in-so-doing, bring their audiences to reflect on the concept of “self” itself. -John Blair
Nutter's photographs capture more than what is immediately obvious. She identifies with the Surrealists and it shows. She explains that the mystery within her light-altered images points out that there is more happening in a moment than may be physically apparent at the time. For her, “the unconsciousness opens up so many possibilities. There is a world around us that is occurring and I don't think we fully understand the physical world and what we see there as completely as we think we do.” She uses blue television light in her work. That light is a metaphor for the filter through which the
Vincent Stemmler, Search of the Divine Mother, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Amanda Nutter, Azure Currents #2, (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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BETWEEN HERE AND HAVANA
By Sarah Weinman
Webster’s Dictionary defines “borders” in part as a dividing line. Though the United States and Cuba do not share a physical boundary, a number of other borders separate the two countries in terms of economics and culture. A closer look at these borders reveals some surprises.
store in Commerce has concrete walls and nearly empty shelves behind a wooden counter.
Photographer Kristi Foster experienced some of these surprises when she took a seven-day cruise to Cuba in February 2016 with the international travel organization People to People.
The items that any store sells seemed random. We couldn’t figure out a pattern. One store might have only rum and toothpaste; another might have only socks and shampoo.
Kristi Foster: I was in awe of being there, of seeing how different things are.
Equally surprising to Americans are the intricacies of Internet access in Cuba. Internet access is available but strictly censored by the government. People must go to certain places like park squares and pay to get a passcode to log on.
A visual person, Foster liked taking pictures even as a child:
KF: I love having something to look back on, to remind me what I saw and felt. Photography is a way to feel.
KF: The bare shelves are typical, I liked that this store had the Cuban flag on the wall. Cubans have pride in their country.
KF: Cubans have smartphones but they aren’t married to their technology like we are.
I photograph what interests me; I take pictures from my gut.
Perhaps the most poignant difference is twofold: poverty and happiness.
Like many people drawn to Cuba in the past year, Foster wanted to see the country before things change between it and the U.S. At the time of her trip, charter and commercial flights from the U.S. weren’t yet an option. Tour participants boarded the cruise ship in Jamaica and sailed to Cuba.
KF: People are very poor but very happy.
They went to Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. People to People scheduled activities in each city, such as visiting museums. As part of the tour, two Cuban professors gave daily lectures on the ship about the country.
With poverty in mind, People to People requested that tourists bring granola bars and crackers as gifts, as well as coloring books and crayons for children. KF: In Cienfuegos, a very poor city, kids would run to greet the tour bus because they
knew tourists would have gifts for them. We brought candy, T-shirts, and hats. Children and adults are friendly and curious about Americans. Many Cubans know about the St. Louis Cardinals because of Cuban players on the team. KF: Cubans are well-educated; they know the geography of the U.S. and they know about our politics. This curiosity goes both ways: KF: Most Americans I talk to are very interested in Cuba. They ask how I was able to go and if Cubans are welcoming. Perhaps the most pressing border question is: What happens if or when the borders between the two countries begin to dissolve? Cubans are quite concerned about this. KF: They’re happy to have Americans come, but don’t want the U.S. to change anything. Now, everyone is poor and there isn’t much income disparity. Cubans worry that American businesses opening in Cuba will upset that balance. KF: Cubans are afraid of what we consider to be freedom. If the government doesn’t take care of them, they’re afraid they won’t be taken care of.
The differences in everyday life between Americans and Cubans are perhaps the most striking. One of Foster’s favorite photographs, Venga, depicts a colorful staircase inside a private home. KF: Venga represents so much of the lives of Cubans. This is someone’s house, where they live, sleep, eat, she said. Often when we were walking on the street, people would invite us in and offer us food. This hospitality becomes much more meaningful when considered in the context of another of Foster’s photographs titled Commerce. The Cuban government distributes food vouchers for residents to buy items from stores. The Kristi Foster, Commerce, additional info (image courtesy of the artist) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
BREAKING DOWN WALLS OF SILENCE: ARIA RISING By Erin McGrath Rieke
An aria is a powerful singular musical melody that captures the heart and story of an opera. Surrounded by scores of music and supported by powerful vocal moments, an aria is the passionate crescendo of an operatic performance which can leave its audience forever changed.
and repurposed materials, most notably a broken mannequin, aluminum blinds and white plastic tubes. Like an operatic aria telling a story, Aria Rising symbolizes the singular voice of a sexual assault survivor supported by scores of compassion, support and understanding from the communities that interact with her.
In the Spring of 2016, the Angel Band Project, a St. Louis based nonprofit organization that uses music therapy to promote hope and healing to the survivors of sexual assault, commissioned an art installation from our Divinemoira Studio design team, St. Louis artists Erin McGrath Rieke, S. Jewell S. McGhee and Megan Hutt came together and created Aria Rising, a dynamic, interactive installation piece created from entirely recycled
Though Aria Rising has no arms, her wings, prominent and beautiful, give an impression of strength and stability. Evident in the patterns and texture of her dress, Aria seems to be swirling and rising-about to take flight, perhaps like an angel. The use of recycled materials brings beauty from things abandoned and broken and reflects the powerful process of healing and renewed hope.
Aria Rising is a rotating exhibit and in each installation viewers are invited to write a positive message to survivors of sexual assault on colored pieces of paper which are inserted in the vessels on Aria’s gown. These messages are collected after each exhibit and shared with survivors of sexual assault in an online format. With each installation, Aria’s physical presence powerfully changes as the colored papers uniquely represent her connection to the community she engages with. The response within the communities is essential not only to the healing process of the survivors of sexual assault but to the entire community engaging in positive change. “Our goal is nothing short of bringing an audience from denial to advocacy. This is the kind of barrier breached by the gentle power of art.” - S. Jewell S. McGhee
We think of the magical, long life of a beautiful opera. Each production shares the same compelling story, but changes slightly with every performance. There is a rebirth of the score and script with the introduction of a new supporting orchestra or a different cast of performers. The soloist who sings her powerful aria brings her own voice to the series of voices that have come before her. Aria Rising, is an artistic symbol of a sexual assault survivor, reborn, continually changing and empowered by the love, support and compassion of those withwhom she engages.
Erin McGrath Rieke, Aria Rising, (photo credit: Erin McGrath Rieke) COMMUNITY VOICES
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Aria Rising was first introduced to the public at Soiree with the Angels in November 2016 at Majorette in Maplewood. Throughout 2017, Aria will rotate between local schools, universities, and corporations. The sculpture’s movement and transformation throughout the region is part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness to the issue of sexual assault and to engage new audiences. In each new location, audience participants are able to support survivors of sexual assault through their interaction with this interdisciplinary work of art.
THE INTERNATIONAL ENTERPRISE OF
PAINTING NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS
By Roman Beuc Until June 2017, visitors have the opportunity to view a bibliographical wonders of the nineteenth century. John James Audubon’s (1785-1851) oversized Double Elephant folio volume of Audubon’s Birds of America was published as a set of four bound volumes in the early 1840s. Volume 1 of the massive folio set, that contains 435 hand-colored reproductions of Audubon’s paintings of native North American birds, can be viewed at the St. Louis Mercantile Library, on the campus of the University of MissouriSt. Louis. The folio is the centerpiece of the Mercantile Library’s special exhibition, Audubon and Beyond – Collecting Five Centuries of Natural History at the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
pay-as-you-go basis. The British could not get enough of his ornithological images, and he met with great acceptance by the scientific, artistic and patron community. He raised enough money from these tours and subscription sales to begin reproducing and, finally, publishing his work.
One of the key features of Audubon’s technique was his unique use of support armatures of wire and string to fix the bodies of the dead birds into their natural, life-like, in-the-wild orientations. This was accomplished before rigor mortis set in and it gave the images a dramatic, dynamic and still-alive
The artist and author of that tome was born to a French naval officer who owned a sugarcane plantation in the French colony of Saint Dominque (now Haiti) and his French chambermaid, Jeanne Rabin, who died a few months after his birth. His father brought him back to France in 1791, fleeing the Haitian Revolution. Then, in young adulthood, the fledgling ornithologist emigrated to the United States to escape conscription into Napoleon’s army and took up the management of lead mines on his father’s estate 20 miles outside Philadelphia. In 1808, Audubon married Lucy Green Bakewell (1787-1874) and they set off for Kentucky to make their fortune. During their 43-year marriage, the itinerant family made countless moves due to business failure and Audubon’s search of birds. The naturalist artist committed himself to finding and painting all the birds of North America. His goal was to paint one page every day. In 1824, Audubon went to Philadelphia to find an engraver to reproduce and publish his portfolio of bird paintings. He was rebuffed by the scientific and publishing communities. However, Charles Bonaparte, the French ornithologist, admired his work and recommended that he go to Europe to have his drawings reproduced. In 1826, at age 41, Audubon took his still-growing portfolio of over 300 paintings to Britain. He went on tour around England and Scotland and to Paris soliciting subscriptions for his prints to be engraved, published and sold on a John James Audubon, Stanley Hawk (Falco Stanleii), (Public Domain) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
impression. The process also had the benefit of fixing the bird in position so the artist could observe and paint the subject over an extended period of time. He used a grid-patterned board behind the fixed birds to assist in capturing the precise dimensioning and foreshortening for the composition. Critical to the production process was the need to find artisans skilled at reproducing the original images on copper plates and teams of artists to hand color the many resultant prints (at one time, he had a team of 50 colorists working in a production-line fashion, each artist doing only one color). The reproduction techniques used to create the plates were etching with aquatint and engraving. The
resultant product was individual single-sheet prints of the birds, all illustrated life-size. These were made and released to subscribers in sets of five as the individual plates and the prints emerged from the publisher between about 1827 and 1838. The production costs of later full sets were mostly paid for from the earlier subscription sales. A set cost about $1,000 in 1841. The volumes contain images of over 497 species, including 25 new species identified by Audubon, and today, we find six birds which are now extinct. Audubon was never one to be constrained by geographical, scientific, financial or artistic limitations. After the success of his bird projects he embarked on a similar endeavor
related to the four legged mammals of North America. This resulted in a second major scientific publication, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. His treks around the continent covered most of the eastern and central United States, all of Florida down to Key West, Canadian Labrador and the Missouri River Valley all the way to its upper reaches near Yellowstone.
GOODBYES TO FORT GONDO AND BEVERLY GALLERIES By Rachel Sacks
It was a weird, special night to be engaging this space and the artists in it. The travels of the artists—through pastorals of migration and gender—form a vital piece of their journey, exquisite and poignantly representative of the emergent artist niche that this space has served for a decade and a half. Dzegede’s path to Fare Well took an unusual route, beginning with gallery director Jessica Baran asking her to close Fort Gondo with a solo exhibition, then planning her visit to Iceland with this intention and the exhibition title in mind. She separated “farewell” into two words, she said, to make the words more meaningful, and because the phrase speaks to both sadness and hope, through the promise to fare well.
Dualities and juxtaposition figure heavily into Dzegede’s work. “I like blending different places together,” she said, citing driftwood she found on Skinker Boulevard two years ago and recently repurposed that found a new home in Weighted Net. Perhaps reflecting the unique starting-off point for this show, Dzegede noted the departure that the exhibit marked for her. It felt refreshing, she said, to make less didactic work, to play with materials like clay. The energy seems to reflect the energy she encountered in Iceland, which surprised her upon her arrival—feeling free, open, friendly and accessible. The racism she encountered there, she said, was from other international visitors, and within fellow Americans’ refusal to
discuss the unfolding police violence happening during the course of the visit. Their active ignoring disturbed her. Befitting her multiple experiences of migration, home is not a place for Dzegede, but is paradoxically tied to feelings of belonging and Otherness. Dzegede feels more at home, she says, where she is not supposed to feel at home, like in Iceland, because [her Otherness] is a given; versus here, at “home” in America, where she doesn’t feel at home. The domestic aspects of the art objects in the exhibit—plates and kitchenware, textiles—reinforce the theme of home.
Despite the directionality of this exhibit’s process, Dzegede maintained her characteristic, anthropological openness, arriving in Iceland without materials or plans, with just the title in mind. The resulting artworks reflect that intention, drawing from Dzegede’s exploration of the Icelandic environment, and local traditions like the turf house and the craft of tying fishnets. Like the invasive lupine plants she uprooted from Iceland to weave into Local Color (Icelandic Kente), Dzegede has repeatedly transplanted her own roots, and unearthed them in her travels. Phillip Matthews/David Johnson, Reading from Wig Heavier than a Boot, (photo credit: Cole Lu) COMMUNITY VOICES
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January 7 - The closing nights of two exhibitions, Fare Well by Addoley Dzegede and Wig Heavier than a Boot by Philip Matthews and David Johnson exhibited in the neighboring galleries, Fort Gondo and Beverly.
Phillip Matthews/David Johnson, Installation view of Wig Heavier than a Boot (photo credit: Jessica Baran)
Wig Heavier than a Boot, the collaborative installation and performance project by Philip Matthews and David Johnson in the Beverly Gallery offered a multimedia dive into a consciousness named Petal. Matthews’ and Johnson’s collaboration was always going to be about Petal, a persona of Matthews. Matthews’ early poetic explorations of Petal were what inspired Johnson to propose the collaboration. But the introspective investigation featured in A Wig Heavier than A Boot, culminating their two-year partnership, was not what they initially had in mind.
They had envisioned creating and documenting a “room” for Petal, “a Mad Hatter-type thing in a forest” where guests could “activate the space with Petal,” her character manifesting in the makeup of the space and her social interactions. When asked about how the project pivoted, Matthews noted how the pastoral persisted: “the photographs we have now are, indeed, of Petal in natural, outdoor spaces, but her character is revealed by how she interacts with the space as it already exists, and with the photographer's, Johnson’s, gaze. Those other elements -- of the ‘set’ and the additional collaborators -- weren't needed, ultimately.” Ultimately—influenced by the slowed-down pace of Johnson’s/the photographic process, as well as the richness and vulnerability within Petal herself—a party was not necessary to explore and reveal Petal’s intra- and interpersonal textures. All of this speaks to the ways in which the exhibition and collaboration seem to function like a multi-pronged study of a self (*a self, not the, not only, but part of many). Listening to Matthews read, and take on pieces of Petal in the process, a kind of un-exorcism seemed to
URBAN BORDERING URBANE By Robert N. Morrissey
Robert Morrissey is the proprietor of the Antiques and Fine Art gallery that bears his name in Clayton. All the Art was struck by his decision to host an exhibition of contemporary paintings in the context of his wares. A man who knows what makes a classic, Morrissey makes his case for the paintings of Mark Horton. The urban environment has inspired American artists for well over a century. With few notable exceptions (St. Louis’s beloved Paul Cornoyer being one), the city is usually depicted in a less than favorable light. From the gritty paintings of the Ashcan School to the lonely depictions of Edward Hopper, the American city is often portrayed as a dangerous and foreboding place.
hardscrabble factories and steel mills. By 1990 he discovered rural and small-town America, which he painted for nearly ten years. Around 1998 he discovered the urban landscape that occupies his brush to this day. He moved to St. Louis in 2007 and has thoroughly assimilated the local landscape into his work. Uncompressed II, whose title is a nod to analog record albums, depicts the landmark Vintage Vinyl on Delmar in the heart of the University City Loop and typifies his engaging approach. The agreeably cluttered aisle draws us in to
take place: a transfiguration against the narrowness of a single creed, gender, or plane. There's risk involved in seeking commonalities, yet finding commonality is itself featured as a theme in Dzegede's work (bread plates, symbol). Both exhibits featured tactile textures found within pastoral settings, and featured artists searching for identity on the margins, of place and home, gender and body. Blending and bending appear key for both as well, as Petal portrays her powerful feminine being while persisting to be Philip; Dzegede blends north and south, in dyes and proverb, tradition and innovation, in recreating objects and transforming them anew, alongside found objects. Both play and experiment and, within their honest experimentation, achieve moments of transformation.
join the other patrons and browse among the well-stocked bins, with their signature yellow artist labels. Meanwhile, the cashier stands at the ready beneath the border of vinyl albums and 45s. Horton strives to convey the identity of a place without necessarily replicating it. City with Blue Sky and White Building, for instance, features the Continental Building on Grand Avenue, just north of Lindell. Situated near the geographic highpoint of the city, the building does indeed dominate the Midtown skyline, but Horton, to borrow his phrase, “plays fast and loose with the facts” in his effort to convey the sense of the place. The bright sunlight on the Continental and its fictitious subordinates
Enter Mark Horton. His bright, expansive paintings offer a different take on life in the city. Working exclusively in oil, Horton celebrates the urban environment. Born in Saginaw, Michigan and raised in Minneapolis, Horton earned his law degree in 1979. Four years later he closed his practice to become a full-time artist and he never looked back. Horton’s early work centered on the aforementioned industrial landscape, depicting 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
Mark Horton, City with Blue Sky and White Building, (photo credit: Robert Morrissey) COMMUNITY VOICES
anchor the right side of the painting, while the colorful clouds and brick warehouse balance the left. Horton places us on a rooftop between the two, overlooking the majestic scene as the sunrise lights the buildings of the foreground with brilliant flashes of orange and yellow. The ascent continues with a series of “aerial views,” none of which is rooted in an actual place, all of which capture the essence of the American city. In City in Red, Black and Ochre, we seem to circle in a helicopter looking down on the busy streets below. The short shadows cast by the buildings in the foreground suggest an early afternoon time of day: it’s lunchtime in the metropolis and the streets and sidewalks teem with activity. From our vantage point, we observe the liveliness within the order and structure of the built environment. Buildings dissolve into abstract shapes as the eye moves up the picture plane, anticipating the next step in Horton’s explorations. Mark Horton, City in Red, Black and Ochre, (photo credit: Robert Morrissey)
across the canvas, conveying the energy and activity taking place so many miles below. Life in the American city is a complex proposition, and few artists have explored it quite like Mark Horton. For nearly 20 years, his lively renderings offer a refreshing and invigorating view. With sophisticated compositions that engage the mind and harmonious
colors that delight the eye, Horton's love of urban America manifests itself in every painting and illustrate his unwavering belief that the glass is always half-full.
ART AND HISTORY BRING OUR REGION TOGETHER By Jessica Poschel
The small town of Pacific, Missouri sits on the borderline between St. Louis and Franklin Counties. Signs leading into town boast its designation as an official Train Town, USA. Most buildings are one or two stories. One of the tallest is the McHugh & Dailey Mercantile Building, at three stories. That building stands out as unique, mostly because of a fantastic mural painted on the section serving as the Pacific Opera House. As I approach the building, afternoon light gleams off the mural’s glossy paint. The majority of the mural appears to be painted on a paneling material painted to mimic white and red bricks. A block away a train clatters over its tracks. The façade of the building is composed of three separate tributes. From the top, the first commemorates the history of the building as a
music hall. The second, the most fanciful and robust of the three, is a tribute to the 1904 World’s Fair. The third, a painting mounted on the wall of the building, enshrines the only President of the United States to hail from Missouri, Harry S. Truman. The oval-shaped music hall tribute depicts a pianist on stage wearing tails at a black baby grand. He plays to an audience in shadow, some wearing hats festooned with feathers. Behind the pianist, the backdrop of the stage advertises local businesses, a set of billboards in miniature. At the center of the background is a verdant nature scene. The golden edges of the oval are ornamented with images from the hall: instruments, wine bottles, barrels and martini glasses. At the top of the oval is a shamrock painted in green. Near the clover reads “McHugh and Dailey Opera House.” COMMUNITY VOICES
Given that the St. Louis County and Franklin County border lines meet in Pacific, it’s only fitting that the largest and most colorful of the scenes, attributed to artist “Spitball Charlie” Darling, is of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. A yellow sign imprinted over the activity of the painting explains the building was constructed with materials from the World’s Fair and opened in 1908. The center of the mural reads “Worlds [sic] Fair” in bold black lettering highlighted with golden borders. A delicately shaded yellow ribbon floats above and below with the words “St. Louis Missouri” and “1904” in black. The Cascade Gardens and Grand Basin from the fair are replete with gondolas and fountain spouts. A fountainhead sits in front of a yellow and blue cupola, surrounded by two larger-than-life figures crouched near it, prepared to protect it. Water cascades down SPRING 2017 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 16
In 2011, Horton began a series of City Map paintings which, if taken out of context, qualify as nonrepresentational art. Gone are the cars and people. We look straight down, perhaps from a satellite, at the infrastructure which forms the skeleton of every city. Countless buildings and warehouses attach themselves to intricate networks of roads, railways and canals. These highly abstract paintings engage the eye and imagination. Horton’s brush, loaded with bright colors, moves quickly and confidently
tiered levels into the blue lake below. Fairgoers carrying white parasols walk the promenade around the basin. Above the cupola of the building, festive hot air balloons fly through wispy clouds over a bright blue sky. One rider leans out of the basket to look down at the fountains. At the front of the promenade, an open carriage automobile sits with four well-dressed men inside. The car sits at the far left and lowest portion of the fair section above the green stage door of the opera house. This section of the mural also depicts George
Ferris, Jr.’s Observation Wheel, rising out of greenery on the right side of the mural. The Ferris Wheel spokes are painted red and the cars painted red, blue and yellow. Below the fair, President Truman’s portrait is framed in a goldenrod color. He wears a dark suit and a striped blue tie. Beneath his signature round glasses, his crinkled eyes belie a small smile. Behind him a woman is draped in a lavender gray gown with matching jacket. She leans casually in the background and wears a wide brimmed hat. Her eyes are focused on the floor as she smiles. Above the portrait
hangs a yellow sign that reads “Tonight” with a white lantern above, celebrating that our 33rd president once played on the piano housed inside while campaigning for his seat in the US Senate.
THE GRAFFITI GRIND By Oscar Reid Wright
The art of graffiti, like skateboarding, is best practiced on a large cement canvas. Not everyone has one of these at home, so skaters and street painters have to make the most of their city’s bridges and abandoned buildings. One building in St. Louis that has been completely taken over by the two is Saint ‘Sk8’ Liborious Church. Around the ramps and rails, the walls of the church are painted with symbols and faces. One of the faces smiling from a wall of the church is Ryan Brinkmann, a well known St. Louis skater who died in January 2016. Brinkmann was painted by Mitch Bierer.
Street art, for Bierer, is about communicating something. I can imagine that his mural of Ryan Brinkmann communicates a lot to those who knew him. A mural in a public place can be an inspiration to countless passers-by. Some pieces, however, Bierer does for himself. Recently he sprayed a massive figure on a wall at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. But, he says, the painting is far from any path to be seen. Bierer has been working with spray paint for long enough to be looking for a change. He plans to put more time into traditional painting
in the future, and bring some of the skills he learned doing graffiti to the medium. He is planning to attend the Pow! Wow! mural festival in Hawaii this February, but you can see his work in downtown St. Louis, Sk8 Liborious, and the Internet.
Bierer doesn't skate, but when he asked if he could paint a mural in the church, the group that runs the church requested that he commemorate the passing of their friend. Bierer, who didn't know Brinkmann personally, spent the next days composing a spray-painted portrait from photos the group gave him. Before getting into spray paint, Bierer worked with traditional painting media. He studied at Lindenwood University and received a BFA in painting. He finds inspiration in the work of master painters and street artists, but also from his grandfather who was a muralist. A few years ago, Bierer wanted to try working with a new medium. Bierer got started doing street art with another local artist Peat Wollaeger. In contrast to Wollaeger’s work, Bierer doesn't use stencils. With a couple of cans he creates lifelike images with a colorful, graffiti flavor. While his training is apparent, he told me he works largely off intuition. Mitch Bierer, Mural of Ryan Brinkmann, (photo credit: Danny Florian) 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
HEROES OR CRIMINALS? By Howard Barry
St. Louis-based artist Howard Barry has painted a growing collection of artworks using coffee as his medium. All the Art asked him to provide our readers a bit of context behind his current series of famous mugshots, his “Heroes or Criminals” paintings.
many would be considered a “hero.” On the other hand, I’m quite sure that those who support and/or engage in activity that oppresses others and denies them their inalienable rights, would view such “freedom fighters” as criminals.
When citizens take a stand or speak out against the oppressive, unjust laws imposed by their governing body, are they heroes or are they criminals? The answer depends on whom you ask. To the oppressed, anyone who would fight on their behalf, sacrificing their own comfort and freedom for the liberation of the
The answer to the question of hero or criminal also depends on whom you ask. Most of the time, those actively engaged in fighting for our freedom(s), are mislabeled, misunderstood and underappreciated. They threaten the status quo. They challenge us to stand up and fight. They shake things up. It often looks
like they may be making things worse for us, and we don’t always see the value of what they are trying to accomplish until much later. As I ponder this question, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind. He stated that we have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. Dr. King, a Freedom Fighter who practiced what he preached, was arrested on multiple occasions doing just that, disobeying unjust laws. Dr. King, a passive, nonviolent freedom fighter and messiah of sorts (hero) to some, was still viewed by others as a troublemaker and a terrorist (criminal) while he was alive. Now in 2017, 31 years after the establishing of a National Holiday in his honor, 49 years after his assassination, many people around the world, government leaders and common citizens alike, hail him as a hero.
www.howard-barry.pixels.com Howard Barry, Martin Luther King, Heroes or Villians series (image courtesy of the artist) COMMENTARY
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Heroes or criminals? I can’t answer that question for everyone, because the answer is subjective and depends on a host of factors including the two I mentioned. For me, personally, I can honestly state that the last few decades of my adult life have involved me personally revisiting those (freedom fighters) who have been labeled as criminals and terrorists, especially those who were fighting for civil rights, equality and freedom for all people, and determining for myself whether I will view them as “hero” or “criminal”. While at the same time challenging myself to actively pay attention to what is going on in the world around me, observe people’s actions, not be so quick to rush to an opinion and, most importantly, refuse to blindly accept any narratives the “powers that be” try to force me to believe about who they feel are heroes and criminals…might I suggest you do the same.
ON TRANSGRESSION By Joe Kohlburn
Addoley Dzegede’s exhibit Fare Well was a viking funeral for Fort Gondo, beloved local art-space. On the evening of January 7, the place was packed. Dzegede’s talk began with her residency in Iceland. She described fashioning nets from seaweed and found objects, the détournement of driftwood and flotsam into yet more marvelous work. The audience listened intently as she explained the yarn, dyed with Icelandic plants, and woven into Kente cloth. She acknowledged the recurrent duality of her work, with regard to identity, to race, to the didactic and the generative. A young man stepped into the center of the room where the artist was speaking. Dzegede smiled at him as she pointed out two objects on a central table: Bread plates with proverbs carved in mirror-writing into the surface. The first read, ‘When the crow travelled abroad he came back just as black.’ The man asked after her ancestors. The artist nodded and replied. She weaved the threads of his question effortlessly into her work, speaking to a room full of people and a single person all at once. Artists are transgressors, in that they are intimately acquainted with crossing borders. They acknowledge fellow travelers they meet in-between, cultivating understanding that is both wondrous and admirable. Artists subvert authority, beauty, intention, materiality, convention: each limit and every norm. It is therefore disappointing that the St. Louis art world is so compartmentalized, so insular. Why, for example, is our vibrant community art scene only lately reflected in our larger institutions to any extent? Some bordercrossings are more problematic than others, it seems.
As I drove home, I watched the snowy highway wind between neighborhoods. Unfurling like the spine of a great bitumen dragon, 64-40 divides two estates- the south from the north. The highway is interstitial, built to carry us between destinations without meeting, without crossing over completely, without transgressing. Artists may be set on particular paths by environment, race, class, gender or simply luck. Those who manage to make their ways, respectively, under these mandates, rebel against them, defeat, as James Baldwin once said, “All labels and complicate all battles by insisting on the human riddle.” Anyone who participates in local art happenings will understand what I mean when I say that you tend to see the same faces in the crowd, night after night. Where is this elusive larger ‘public’? Gallerists will tell you that we need to cultivate more collectors. People at funding organizations will tell you that artists need to hustle, need to organize, need to do x, y, and z or need to build their ‘brands’. Seasoned artists frequently say that you need to get your art out of St. Louis to make any money. I can offer no such certainty. Perhaps we need to think about art differently. Maybe we need to break down these rigid barriers surrounding our communities, and let some air in. What about actually addressing the alienation imposed by the very institutions we aspire to cultivate as allies? Let’s think about the insularity intrinsic to our own habits and views. Consider how the canon of art and the art market differ, if indeed they do. Isn’t it clear that the blindness and hegemony of the canon of ‘[western] art’ excludes the very same
COMMENTARY Addoley Dzegede, Fare Well, installation view (photo credit: Jessica Baron) 19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2017
Addoley Dzegede, gallery talk (photo credit: Cole Lu)
people as the market itself? Isn’t it strange that for every Kerry James Marshall, Cara Walker, or Ai Weiwei, there are ten Kelley Walkers? ‘Rediscovered’ artists like Artemisia Gentileschi or any number of prominent female surrealists are incorporated into the conversation, not intentionally, not through the zeitgeist, but almost accidentally, as eminently important as their work may be. Consider the Prado, where it took a curator’s wife pointing out to him that his institution had never once had a solo show for a female artist in its nearly 200-year history before Clara Peeter’s got hers, a mere 395 years too late. The ‘luck’ part of the equation is hard to accept, particularly if some artists have more of it than others simply by virtue of their access to the “series of yeses,” to quote St. Louis artist Kahlil Irving. Is the market, with its constant omissions, shortcomings, and biases, driving this? Is it academia, so thoroughly impoverished by neoliberal administration, that it can only yield to the droll mechanizations of art-acquisition? The system we have for codifying ‘good’ or ‘relevant’ art is so arbitrary, so fickle that anything we could imagine to replace it would almost certainly be better. Taste is a cudgel carved from the root of the problem. Addoley’s second plate, in the Icelandic tradition, is inscribed ‘When the snail travels abroad, it takes shelter with the tortoise.’ Meaning perhaps that those who carry their complete world, wherever they go, tend to end up in the same places.
THEY KILL ART, BUT ONLY IN SELF DEFENSE By Adrian Wright
At first glance you might wonder what all the fuss was about. It’s just an unframed acrylic painting hanging on a wall, one of 435 works of art hanging in the long underground tunnel that connects the U.S. Capitol to the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. This one painting by David Pulphus, a graduate of Cardinal Ritter High School, gained national attention, and not in a good way. Controversy arose when several police associations raised complaints about images shown in the work. Fox News commentator, Eric Bolling aggressively called for its removal. In early January 2017 Rep. Duncan Hunter (R. California) removed it from the wall. He delivered it to the office of Rep. Lacy Clay (D. Missouri) who sponsored it. Rep. Clay quickly rehung it. It was then taken down by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R. California). It was later rehung. Then taken down again and so on. It had already become a national news story by then So why were Mr. Bolling and his allies so offended? Well, David Pulphus’ painting deals with passionate issues of race, police and the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
The artwork is called Untitled #1. It features a crowded colorful street scene, a large but organized mass of people and protest signs marching towards you. The Arch is shown in the background. In the foreground, several police officers are aiming their guns at an unarmed youth. This is the source of the controversy. The uniformed cops are portrayed with animal heads.
the black crow and the white dove represent racial conflict or violence versus peace? Perhaps these were uncomfortable questions for some critics. Was it really about defending cops or was a black man crucified on the scales of justice too much? Well, it might explain the hypocrisy of some critics who claimed to support free speech while calling for Untitled #1 removal.
Some critics interpreted the animal heads as pigs, which they saw as offensive and hurtful toward all police officers. Others disagreed as they interpreted the heads to be of a warthog and a horse, while the unarmed youth is depicted with the head and tail of a snarling black wolf. Few people seemed to notice or care about that fact. A black crow and a white dove face off overhead. Finally, there is a powerful image of a bare-chested African American man crucified. He wore a graduation cape. The cross he hung from was also depicted as the scales of justice. Few news sources included these facts in their reporting.
For example, Eric Bolling complained on Fox News that Facebook was censoring material of conservative patrons on their social networking site in 2013. Even though the material was considered racist or obscene by Facebook handlers. Rep. Rohrabacher (R. California) had also accused the Google franchise of censorship in 2014. It concerned the conservative film documentary America by political commentator Dinesh d’ Souza. It would seem that they’re only concerned by free speech when they agree with the speech.
These provocative images should invite questions and dialogue, not censorship. Were the animal heads meant as a slur against all cops? Or did it say that some people involved in the Ferguson unrest were losing their humanity? Was that true of both sides? Did
Let’s juxtapose Untitled #1 against another controversial painting entitled The Forgotten Man by Jon McNaughton. McNaughton is known as the Tea Party’s artist for his right wing propaganda. The Forgotten Man features former President Barack Obama as an arrogant tyrant literally trampling the Constitution under foot. He ignores a poor, depressed Caucasian man sitting nearby. Former Republican presidents look on in despair.
This oil painting is said to be very popular with President Donald Trump. There was speculation that it would hang in the White House one day. If that were to happen, offended Democrats would certainly call for its removal. Would Republicans hypocritically call that censorship? The chances are likely.
David Pulphus, Untitled #1, (photo credit: Maxine Ward) COMMENTARY
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