THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
All the Art front covers (issues 1 - 8)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-10) EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER AMY REIDEL
ACTING CREATIVE EDITOR SUKANYA MANI
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
WEB DESIGN AND ADMINISTRATION AMY MILLER
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS PACIA ANDERSON JOHN BLAIR LEW BLINK KATHRYN DIERKSEN YAEL EVEN SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH PAULA KLUMP
JOE KOHLBURN HOLLY SCHROEDER RICH VAGEN HONNA VEERKAMP AMANDA VERBECK SARAH WEINMAN NATALIE ZURFLUH
Though the loose theme of this issue is “Art and Religion,” the reviews always sit outside of that thematic directive. In this issue we offer you John Blair’s discussion of the black and queer male body as represented in Shabez Jamal’s photography exhibit at the all new Erica Popp Studio & Gallery. Katryn Dierkson brings us the latest from the Luminary and gallery hatchling MONACO. Margaret Keller’s message in her Surveillance exhibition at Gallery 210 will fit right in with your Black Mirror binge. Yael Even fills us in on the most recent local showing of artworks by Bryan Robertson. Joe Kohlburn talks about economy of line and the art economy as he reports on an exhibition of the abstract prints of Ken Wood alongside Arny Nadler’s abstract sculptures at Meramec Art Gallery.
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 11-15) Try reading Holly Schroeder’s essay on her interview with Belma Kundalic without shedding a tear or two. Impossible. Rich Vagen reports back on what Terence Dempsey SJ and Davis Brinker mean by “interfaith” at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA). Sarah Weinman interviews Donna Hasegawa about the intersection between her spiritual belief and art practice. Natalie Zurfluh talks with Gary Passanise who described himself as an “ex-Catholic forever in that religion's fascinating thrall.”
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 16-20) We learn that Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s 19th century woodblock print illustration of Hakamadare Yasasuke and Kidomaru Fighting with Magic at the Pulitzer holds an amalgamation of folktale, Imperial historical fact and Buddhist and Shinto animism. Lew Blink imagines the divine in found paintings. Paula Klump shares her love for a recently acquired illustrated Bible manuscript at the Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica. Amanda Verbeck, of Pele Prints provides a brief lesson in intaglio printing.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 21-22) Poet, artist and educator Pacia Anderson bleeds words for our readers in hopes of drawing us into conversation with her struggle to engage with Truths. Honna Veerkamp brings us thoughts from James Croft’s lecture on the cultural significance of eclipses. *Correction on Winter 2017/2018 issue: Aaron Banks’ photography credits were noted alongside those for Richard Reilly in our digital version but left off of our print copies. For this we are truely sorry.
Front Cover: Shabez Jamal, Clinton Walker, (image courtesy of the artist) Back Cover: Shabez Jamal, Shadbez Jamal, (image courtesy of the artist)
Honna Veerkamp, Eating the Sun, (image courtesy of the artist)
In the spring of 2015, we released the premier issue of All the Art and it was the culmination of a lot of people, a lot of hours and a lot of dreams. A group of people, including Sarah and I, started All the Art in an attempt to bridge our geographic, political and racial divides. In a city devastated by racial and societal inequality, we firmly believe that getting art in the hands of a great many people is a conduit for healing and growth among our communities. As Creative Editor, it has been an honor to proofread your words, arrange your images and promote your artwork through this beautiful, printed platform. Facilitating a physical space for your visual stories, alongside my wonderful partner and Executive Editor, Sarah Hermes Griesbach, is an experience I will cherish always. However, with the arrival of my newest family member, I am ushering into another new role beyond that of mother. In order to better grow and sustain All the Art, I will be filling the position as President of the Board and stepping down, or over, as Creative Editor. I am so excited to be a spokesperson and #1 supporter of All the Art while also creating more time to follow my other and most original of passions and dreams: To be an Artist. Like so many of you.
In order to find the best fit and perspective, All the Art has been hosting a series of guest editors. Please join me in welcoming these voices and offer support for what is sure to be an exciting time! With love. All the best,
Creative Editor and Co-Founder
p.s. from Sarah Griesbach and Sukanya Mani Don’t forget to submit your “Art and Travel” essays and articles for Summer 2017! Contact Sarah Griesbach and we’ll get you started getting art to the people and people to the art.
Executive Editor and Co-Founder firstname.lastname@example.org 314.704.8870
SUPERPOWER & ALTER OF COMMERCE
PARISH GALLERY & CATHY GREGORY STUDIO GALLERY
Two recent solo exhibitions in St. Louis by Bryan Robertson, The Art of Commerce at the Cathy Gregory Studio Gallery and Superpower at the Parish Gallery, present the artist’s ideas on the deplorable state of affairs in today’s world. The Art of Commerce included a series of what Robertson categorizes as ‘media-scapes.’ These are digital collages as laser jet prints with oil on panels, all measuring 11x17 inches. Each features a different kind of contemporary
Bryan Robertson, Sweet N’ Low, (image courtesy of the artist)
consumption, such as popular beverages and sweeteners like Kool-Aid, Equal, Sweet’N Low. Robinson’s sharp criticism of today’s commercialization condemns “the excesses of consumption” in privileged societies. Superpower revealed an equally powerful and sophisticated collection of art works. The exhibition theme reflects what Robertson sees as the totalizing forces of globalization. Using his signature format, logos are collaged to compose maps that emphasize political and
Bryan Robertson, The Kool-Aide, (image courtesy of the artist)
social ills. Robertson’s series of maps are rooted in his reaction to some of the plagues of our modern era, such neo-colonialization by corporate entities. Robertson’s images contain graphic design elements superimposed upon one another to both orient and disorient the viewer. His use of contrasting colors continues the work of the contrasting motifs. Robertson’s placement of corporate logos within his critique of American corporate media Babylon (Gall-Peters Projection) stand out, one against another, in a centrum of lines and arrows that appear to radiate out into the wide world. Symbolic patterns, like arrows and camouflage, provide visual interest while obscurely referencing their typical meanings. The scenes are compilations of disparate elements that form successful, readable compositions, like visual poems. The themes of Robertson’s collaged artworks are timely and universal. He criticizes many of the values and norms of today’s privileged nations, but the faults he points to around us corruption, greed, indifference to the plights of others - are reminiscent of other artists who once decried the horrors of their day. Like Käthe Kollwitz and Francisco Goya once did, Robertson addresses the wrongs he sees. His present-day protests against age old and newly emergent wrongs that plague our contemporary society treat those subjects with imagination and intelligence. -Yael Even
www.parishgallerycwe.com www.cathygregory.com www.bryan-robertson.com
Bryan Robertson, Babylon (Gall-Peters Projection), (image courtesy of the artist) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
IN REVIEW Bryan Robertson, Played (image courtesy of the artist)
Bryan Robertson, Equal, (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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MANE N’ TAIL & MALA NOCHE
MONACO & THE LUMINARY
Cherokee Street has held a reputation as a hub of up-and-coming St. Louis artists for some time now. Those who spent any part of the last decade in the area likely have a barrage of stories about storefronts and bars that have come and gone. These stories make 30 year olds sound like old timers, reminiscing on a bygone era, an era that ended only three years ago for influential venues like Art Bar and Fort Gondo, or even earlier DIY art spaces, such as Boots, Los Caminos, Pig Slop and Cranky Yellow. Businesses like Black Bear Bakery were once central locales for the local and traveling creative community. As time passes, the scene changes, tastes change, and the street changes too. While some truly DIY spaces flourish, new waves of venues and organizations sometimes appear to threaten gentrification.
artist-owned and organized, provide a membrane between the artists creating on the ground and more structured support that St. Louis’s rich arts community has to offer.
Perhaps development brings, in its natural progression, the NYC-influenced concrete gallery on the tail of punk collective spaces. Wherever there are houses spilling with art-punks, there are sure to be galleries coming up to represent their work in a concise context. In the fall of 2017, Cherokee Street saw the opening of The Luminary’s next door neighbor, Monaco. The addition of another gallery on Cherokee Street solidifies the progression from basement show to First Friday destination. The Luminary and Monaco,
The exhibition, Mala Noche by José Guadalupe Garza, also featured a very small TV set on the floor, animated with corrupted videos of a woman; the screen glitches in frightening bright colors as she moves in a kitchen space. A pair of battered steel-toed work boots, Los Novios (for M), are set on a pedestal. The boots are glued together at the toe, emphasizing their functionless pedestalization. The glued boots are like unnaturally conjoined twins, stuck together by force, but stuck solid nonetheless.
On a frigid January day, I discovered more about the concrete gallery spaces that have joined the menagerie of Cherokee by encountering the closed glass front of Monaco, an artist-owned cooperative. Though visiting out of hours I had a clear vista of a grid of bold and heavenly blue, purple, and pink photographs filling the wall; stills of Mexican-American singer, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, caught in motion during a stage performance. In each frame she is loosely recognizable to the fan’s eye, but devoid of individual features.
Plastic spray bottles, called Housekeeper’s Requiem, sit on a shelf with a mirror. They are filled with viscous liquids that resemble cleaning solvents. One is a raving toilet-cleaner blue, one is clear, and one’s content is so dark it certainly could not help with any cleaning, and, earthy and warm, resembles blood. Next door at the Luminary I was greeted with a padlock. But, after a ring on the bell, director, James McAnally, cheerfully greeted and ushered me inside the warm space. McAnally told me about the exhibit they were installing, Mane ‘n Tail, curated by Katherine Simóne Reynolds. The exhibition investigated the relationship between the consumers of beauty products and the people and spaces that sell and produce the commodities. Mane n Tail featured work from LaKela Brown, Pamela Council, Baseera Khan, Abigail Lucien, Narcissister, Yvonne Osei, Katherine Simóne Reynolds, SHENEQUA, Diamond Stingily, and Rachel Youn. Local and national artists participate in The Luminary’s resident program, utilizing every bare corner of the gallery as studio space in which they create work for traveling installations and exhibitions like Mane ‘n Tail. My encounter with the work, three days before the show, still in the process of being un-boxed, constructed and prepared was very direct, fun like a shopping spree at a bazaar. I got a good look at the beautiful collection of textiles, including a rug stitched with human hair and fringed with satin hair rollers called My Hair, My Crown by SHENEQUA. Another work, a modest ten-foot-long braid of false hair, called Kaas for Kat by Diamond Stingly, pinned with a bow to the wall, looping once on the concrete floor. An installation, called Tenderheaded by Pamela Council, composed of chocolate fondue fountain in the center of the room that flows with baby pink skin lotion while an oral sex toy, suspended eight
José Guadalupe Garza, Los Novios (for M), (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
According to an essay accompanying the exhibition, “Mala Noche examines the visibility and invisibility of the Latin/a/o/x experience in the United States—its tensions, contradictions and complexities. Images of celebrities, ‘Mexican’ food, album covers and cleaning products are abstracted, blurred and arranged mise-en-scène to demonstrate ways in which the body politic and mainstream media villainize, marginalize and idealize our collective and individual histories and culture.” The vision of domestic kitchen and vernacular work boots embody and subvert various stereotypes associated with drudgery.
IN REVIEW José Guadalupe Garza, Mala Noche: Set 1 , (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen)
feet from the ceiling, laps hungrily at the ever-pouring, soft liquid. Throughout the exhibition, Mane ‘n Tail draws attention to the comforts of beauty products. Outside of the context of their intended packaging and the marketing that accompanies the ordinary sale of these objects, the products as objects of contemplation can initially be frankly gross. Re-contextualized in relationship with their human use by the artists and curator, the products contorted into elegant sexy and powerful statements and in sum nicely warmed up a frosty day. -Katryn Dierksen
Pamela Council, Tenderhead, (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen) IN REVIEW
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SURVEILLANCE When I walked through Margaret Keller's Surveillance exhibit at Gallery 210 on the University of Missouri St. Louis campus, I thought back to the To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare group exhibition shown at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on Washington University’s campus in 2015. Then, a few days after getting hit with Keller’s visual warning, I found myself staring up, down and around at Thomas Struth’s unnervingly large photographs of contemporary technology that most of us never see at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and I again felt a current of dread in the face of technological engineering feats larger and more ubiquitous than I can comprehend.
commonly held link that ties most all of us to larger systems of information control. The unregulated eyes that watch us are made visible. Like an Altoid tin and it’s “curiously strong contents,” the devices Keller points to are becoming smaller and more powerful by the nanosecond.
The machines that we use to function are hardly an option we can unplug from. Keller’s photo-realistic fresco paintings of single eyes peering ominously out of little metal Altoid boxes in Proliferate, open and closed alludes to cell phones and their cameras as the most
Keller’s USofA Drone Carpet is a floor installation of 102 3D printed plastic miniature drones in grey and white. The toy-like drones are lined up to shape an American flag, pointing an accusatory finger at U.S. military surveillance programs. But that which we know
Keller’s focus on the personal cell phone and computer cameras that catch sight of us here, there and everywhere moves from those recording devices we’ve personally agreed to harbor to others that follow us through our lives in public buildings, farm pastures, neighborhood streets and who knows where without any sort of consent. The surveillance is seemingly inescapable.
Margaret Keller, Proliferate, open, (image courtesy of Galery 210) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
GALLERY 210 is watching us and others is only part of the many networks of tracking that Keller wants to provoke us into seeing. “On average,” warns Keller “we are recorded 75 times per day, with constant surveillance targeting our email, phone calls, texting, online activities like personal finances, photographs, social media and business communications, and movements through location-tracking services.” The prevalence of “beware of tech” themed art exhibitions speaks to a very common but typically suppressed fear. Keller’s message is one even she has to compartmentalize to function in 2018. But we cannot say we have not been warned. -Sarah Hermes Griesbach www.gallery210.umsl.edu www.margaretkellerstudio.com
IN REVIEW Margaret Keller, Propagate, (image courtesy of Galery 210) IN REVIEW
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EVIDENT Ken Wood and Arny Nadler’s exhibition Evident at Meramec Contemporary Art Gallery combined Wood’s gestural prints and Nadler’s alternatively bulbous and sinewy sculptural forms. The installation of contrasting and complementary shapes and lines is absolutely ripe for Wölfflin’s analysis. Heinrich Wölfflin was the OG 20th century formalist art historian, concerned not with the content of symbolism, or the biography of the artist, but rather the form, the unique visual language in which artists deal. Through this lens, Evident takes on a certain clarity, all due to Wood and Nadler’s ostensibly symbiotic partnership. Wood uses what he calls “an abstract language of line,” which actually has a lot in common with Jackson Pollock’s work, steeped as it is, presumably, in idiosyncratic gestures and methods. Where abstract expressionism tends toward the painterly, organic, and anxious, Wood’s work is almost sculptural, with serene and deliberate gestures and lines. Like a Japanese sumi-e painting in which a Buddhist monk has defined the essence of a monolithic hilly expanse through deliberate and careful brushstrokes, Wood’s artworks convey solidly-articulated masses in singular tectonic lines built up as layered prints. Wood’s artworks are self-contained, and when shown together
MERAMEC CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY
might be understood as a lexicon through which a singular line is elucidated. Nadler’s sculptures fall into two broad categories. The first, a series of weighty works with round protuberances that extend slightly from each voluminous host. These resemble bodies pressing against amniotic sacs. We, the viewers, observe as a transformation of body (or idea) contained within the sculpture resists and tests the limits of its metamorphosis. Based on Nadler’s earlier work, these pupae may be approaching a clear and brilliant new life. The vertical works, which call to mind Giacometti, stretch with their organic architecture to proto-figurative conclusions. One is reminded of the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, but built, perhaps, of blood and bone. These works are haunting, and read like skeletal arms extending from the earth. This body of work is refreshing in that it signals a return to the language of artists, which is to say visual language- not artist statements. Both Wood and Nadler seem comfortable in that regard. While it is true that academics and writers tend to understand the depth and breadth of an artist’s oeuvre through prose, the raw language of form, line, composition, and material insists on
Ken Wood and Arny Nadler, Evident installation view (photo credit: Richard Reilly) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
comprehension that is external to what we can speak, hear, or read - in so many words. The artists clearly understand this, and the exhibit is a reprieve from the inscrutable jibber-jabber of critical rationalization. Their aesthetic claims ring true, almost categorically, and fit within the context of what we know about seeing, about composition, and about understanding art as a type of communication. The conversation these artists are having is evident not just in the adaptation of each to the other that gradually appears through proximity, but in the juxtaposition of wordless aesthetic narratives. One has a sense that the visual rhyme present in this show is deliberate and focused, rather than serendipitous and organic. The artworks act as couplets that appear to be spontaneous without actually being so. Evident can be read as a supremely successful collaboration, or merely the codification of an ongoing discussion, the terms and phrases of which are obviously already intimately familiar to the artists. On the one hand, their collective strength is the clarity of their formal visual language. On the other, the conversation is curated and, as such, staid and institutional.
IN REVIEW Ken Wood, PBX 542, detail (left), Arny Nadler, untitled, (right) (image courtesy of the artist)
Ken Woods, Writ Large II, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Arny Nadler, untitled, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Art as abstraction tends to be built on one premise while it makes pretensions to others. What is abstract is lately quite safe, even as it points to the transcendent. Wood and Nadler are speaking to other artists, and to the audience in a specific way, but potential buyers in the crowd may not necessarily be picking up what these two are laying down. Abstraction remains a non-threatening arena for the moneyed collector, even if the artists are grappling with very clear and even subversive subject matter, abstraction does not demand the resolution of artworld cognitive dissonance. We want artists to be free-thinkers, but they must also be aware of market whims. We ask them to be philosophers, entrepreneurs, craftspersons, and intellectuals. Abstraction is pragmatically imprecise. It allows for some amount of critical projection (clearly), and is ripe for parallel narratives to exist simultaneously. -Joe Kohlburn
Ken Wood and Arny Nadler, Evident, installation view (photo credit: Richard Reilly) IN REVIEW
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A FREE SPACE BETWEEN INTERSECTIONS ERICA POPP STUDIOS + GALLERY
Shabez Jamal’s A Free Space Between Intersections, a solo photography show opened as the debut exhibition for the Erica Popp Studios + Gallery. The exhibit was an ambitious undertaking, rewarding for visitors who came out on a bitterly cold night for the jam-packed opening event. Jamal explores the intersection of African American masculinity and queer sexuality. Set against a backdrop of abandoned buildings in North County and North City St. Louis, his subjects are gay black men photographed in a range of stances from graceful ballet-like positions to poses demonstrating athletic prowess. Equally captivating are those subjects that are in static, non-poses reflecting simultaneously subjects lost in introspection but still emotionally available invoking associations with Auguste Rodin’s iconic sculpture The Thinker. Each of the photographs is an inkjet print on resin coated paper. Jamal asserts that his intention for his work emerged from a sense of advocacy for queer black men. His photography practice comes from his determination to “… free the black, queer body.” He asserts that, “All too often in the black community, we [queer men] are stigmatized because of our sexuality. And then, when we are in the gay community, we are limited to being sexual fantasies because of our color, because of our blackness. And so, I got sick of that, I got really sick of that, that I had to choose my queerness or my blackness.” For Jamal, his images manifest a sort of visual safe place, a perceptible sanctuary that would reassure him and presumably others “… to know there was a safe place where both could exist. These kinds of images [references to his photography] represent those places in myself.” The dichotomy between safe and vulnerable is demonstrated in Jamal’s artworks by correlating what he identifies as the abandonment of the black queer body to the abandonment of physical spaces in North County and North City. The backdrop for each of his subjects is a space or building that once was a place of activity but now stands empty and desolate from years of neglect. He personalizes each of the photographs by using the name of the model as the title. In this 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
way he recognizes the individual story of the model who, through an impromptu posture, helps to interpret the abandoned space from his unique experience. Jamal encouraged each model to “claim” the space as their own. Consequentially, each model makes a claim on the physical space where they stand while claiming their place in the LGBTQ community. His photograph of Markees Basset is taken in front of the discarded Children’s Palace in Halls Ferry (North St. Louis County). Shirtless and wearing red baggy pants, Basset is bent backwards at the waist with his shadow reflection at a near right 45 degree angle. One may envision the stance as an indication that Basset is being overwhelmed by the empty parking lot and the desolation of the abandoned structure behind him. The grace of the pose with the dull flatness of the building behind him is jarring and unsettling. The red of the pants evokes passion in an otherwise isolated place signaling the possibility of hope without identifying what that hope will be. Another example of Jamal’s work is his photograph of Lorenzo Lewis sitting on the ground in front of an abandoned Iggy’s building, also in Halls Ferry (North St. Louis County). Shirtless and wearing shorts, Lorenzo appears to be in contemplation, perhaps about the space or himself. Without the distraction of
others, the viewer is also forced to be still and join with Lewis in contemplation. Again Jamal presents a sense of the isolation of being both black and queer, and then presents us with the dilemma of finding belonging when seemingly out of place in both communities. Popp, an established St. Louis artist and educator, created her namesake gallery with the intent of providing a forum for emerging artists typically underrepresented in the arts community. In choosing Jamal to be the inaugural artist for the gallery, she shares, “I was struck by the idea of safe spaces where people can be their authentic selves. The work evolved over the year into the incredible photography exhibition in the gallery. I love the idea of exploring what it means, and more importantly, what it feels like, to be black and queer. This work celebrates bodies that are deemed unacceptable by some people…. This juxtaposition inspires a feeling that I can't put into words, and that's when I know the work is truly powerful. It goes beyond our ability to pontificate and reaches us at our core.” -John Blair
Shabez Jamal, A Free Space Between Intersections, installation view (image courtesy of Erica Popp Studios + Gallery) IN REVIEW
IN REVIEW Shabez Jamal, Clinton Walker (top), Shadbez Jamal (bottom), (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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A TANG OF EXILE By Natalie Zurfluh
By now it seems to be a commandment that memories of a Roman Catholic upbringing are best shared by those who have fallen away from the church. Such a background offers a natural insider-outsider position, promoting a voice both winningly intimate and reliably aloof. A tang of exile pervades. Immersed in pre-Vatican II memories of European-style Catholic tradition filled with ceremony and iconic imagery – Christ on the Cross, the crown of thorns, the saints, the angels, a golden chariot, a plague of serpents, incense, candles, and reverence of sacred places.
It is there Gary Passanise’s work innately begins. A rich inquiry of faith and paganism is the real engine of two recent installations, Portrait of God and Optical Heaven. “These pieces are a new experiment for me. They come after working for more than 35
years, making things, putting things together, using found materials, recycled materials, a resourcefulness with mediums I learned from my father.” The notion of the sublime is apparent. Like a giant wave that you see when on a beach, it’s beautiful but it’s frightening at the same time – looming, black, roaring – the entire sensation is a sublime experience. Portrait of God is imbued with symbolism. There are tactical qualities that are at once overwhelming and overpowering. “Building this piece was a cathartic act. It’s the very first painting I’ve backlit, using the element of artificial light. An element of nature commingled with the artificial. The tree represents a connection to what we might describe as god-like, from Mother Nature. But, as it is upside down and hanging from a strap it almost strikes like a lightning bolt. The
Gary Passanise, Portrait of God, (image courtesy of the artist) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
architectural remnants and debris are part of my personal history.” The power of Portrait of God is that it reveals a rough quality that doesn’t connect to an all-loving god. Some parts you can describe as beautiful and other parts are sharp and broken. The duality reinforces the dichotomy felt by that five-year-old Catholic boy long ago gaping at a statue of Jesus bleeding from his wounds. “In Optical Heaven, I wanted to light the piece and to force shadows into form, to give it an atmospheric quality. Shadows are mystical, fleeting things. I connect anything that is fleeting to life. It evokes the question: What is heaven?” Both pieces create dialogue, not only with the viewer but also within the piece.
“She is venerated and at the same time turned on her head, which to me, represents a twist of fate, it is not to degrade her in any way. To me, Mary is a beautiful form, a woman in a long flowing robe.” “Almost hidden in the piece is a tiny mirror. You can see her looking at herself in the mirror. What is she thinking as she sees her own likeness, her legacy, her life…not just as a woman but the “Mother of God”. This is part of the discovery process that I want to happen with all of my work. Not everything is obvious.” “High above our heads is a piece of Styrofoam, painted sky blue representing a place one wants to attain, like heaven.”
Both artworks carry forward Passanise’s internal struggle with religion in his work. “How it fell into the spiritual category is not something I set out to do. I don’t worship a god. I’m an agnostic. Everything in religion seemed hypocritical to me as a child. [I wondered] Did we create a god and heaven to justify our lives. I make art to be purposeful with my life. It’s something I share with other people, at its best it should be enlightening and inspiring. In acknowledging this solidarity with this notion of spirituality and in remaining alive to the persistent presence of his own formation as a Roman Catholic, Passanise has created works that are not so much the products of an ex-Catholic as of someone forever in the religion's fascinating thrall.” Gary Passanise, Optical Heaven, (image courtesy of the artist)
THE ART OF REMEMBERING
By Holly Schroeder
In the former Yugoslavia, cultural and religious difference once intermingled in seemingly seamless ways. Muslims lived peacefully alongside Christians. Serbian, Bosnian and Croat identities were secondary to Yugoslav nationality. Until 1991, when propaganda campaigns promoting ethnic and religious bigotry turned neighbors into enemies. Belma Pervan Kundalic is a photographer and mixed media artist. Her interactive art is a reflection on her experiences growing up in Bosnia, an act of catharsis helping her to heal from the heartbreak of war, and offered her a way to connect to home. My office is near the St. Louis Artists’ Guild and we decided to meet there for her interview. After quick hellos, I showed her a couple of my favorite artworks and she was visibly moved – with her hand to her heart she said, “They have so much feeling!” Her eyes moved around the room in awe. It’s a pleasure to be in the presence of someone with such compassion and enthusiasm. Both speak loudly in her art. From the time she was very small, maybe six years old she says, Kundalic has been making things with her hands. Culturally, as a Bosnian, it was expected for girls to learn to sew and embroider from a very young age. Kundalic says, “All moms teach their daughters. There
were always lacey things and cloth with embroidery all over the place – on the couch, tables, anywhere you could put one. We made all of them.” She said that after school the children would play outside, then when the sky went dark and they shuffled back to their respective homes, the evening hours were spent stitching -- a skill she has incorporated into her current body of work. Kundalic is from Zenica, a small city in the Bosnia river valley about an hour outside of Sarajevo. She has fond memories of her life there. A steel mill was the primary employer and Kundalic says, “Everyone knew someone who worked there.” Growing up she lived in a large apartment building where Bosnians and Serbians lived together under one roof. “I guess we knew that this person was Bosnian or that person was Serbian, it just didn’t matter and no one really thought about it much. That’s how it had always been.” In 1993, Zenica was the target of grenade attacks injuring and killing civilians – during the following year, half of the city was without water and electricity and it was even longer than that before basic utilities could be relied upon. During that time Kundalic was young and still in school. She remembers her family used plexiglass as a light source by burning it at night, “It burns really slowly, we had to be ARTIST INTERVIEWS
careful, but it was like gold if you found some.” Years later when she began experimenting with different mediums as a way to process the trauma, she used plexiglass as a substrate and etched images of objects found on the bodies of people who had died in mass graves. She stacked the plexiglass images on top of each other like the bodies piled in the graves. Her work isn’t just beautiful, it’s thought-provoking and emotional. Each component of Kundalic’s artwork tells a story with great intention. Eventually Zenica became a city where refugees from other areas fled for safety as Serbian occupants left for other territories; the city filled with people who had endured the horrors of the war and witnessed the systematic genocide of Muslims. Kundalic’s family in Zenica was fortunate to survive, but were hardly unscathed. Family members and friends were tortured, raped, abused, and some killed. Great efforts were made to try to keep the family connected, but contact was almost impossible until the war ended. Ever present was the pain of not knowing where loved ones were or if they survived. Letters were written and never received. Once her parents received an angry letter from her father’s sister who was understandably hurt because she thought she had been forgotten. “It hurt us so much and we felt so sorry for her. We had been writing to her, but she never got the letters.” Eventually, SPRING 2018 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 12
“There is an altar-like platform supporting the Virgin Mary, a quintessential goddess, turned on her head, adjacent to that, climbing up the wall is a twisted metal star, and two flowers buried in paint. Each element symbolizes innocence that is broken.”
once the violence subsided in Sarajevo, they were reconnected and began to build their relationships again. Her aunt sent her gifts of traditional embroidery and kits of supplies for her own needlepoint projects. This small act of love shared by her aunt would later weave its way into Kundalic’s art. After studying engineering for three years in Zenica, Kundalic applied to Webster University to study graphic design. She was accepted and made her way to the United States with a student visa. While at Webster, she was introduced first to photography and then later to printmaking. Over time her focus shifted away from graphic design and into visual art. Kundalic came to realize that her art practice allowed her to tell her story and be a voice for those who were unable to bear remembering. Unable to shake the horrors of the war, she immersed herself in the history and testimonies of survivors.
One day, quite unexpectedly, after a quick Google search for her father’s hometown, she stumbled across testimony given at The Hague by her own aunt. The same aunt who had been sending her handmade embroidery. She knew that her aunt had used embroidery as a way to cope and heal, but it wasn’t until then that she realized the extent of the horrors she had experienced. The chasm of loss from her own experiences and the shock of her aunt’s testimony inspired her to express herself in new ways. A pivotal moment in time, it powerfully shaped and informed her focus and purpose as an artist. Embroidery was no longer just a beloved tradition, it was a tribute to her aunt and other survivors. For Kundalic’s remarkable Unspoken, she embroidered upon a three by eight feet muslin canvas. The project took her more than 500 hours from start to finish. From a distance Unspoken looks like an abstract
Belma Kundalic, Untitled, installation view (photo credit: Amir Kundalic)
pattern. Closer inspection reveals the the lines and shapes are rooftops. Sprung from the memories of her childhood, Kundalic layers the languages of her art expression to capture the beauty and texture of the cityscape. She says it’s an ever-evolving piece. Now hung in her living room she confesses that she sneaks an extra stitch here and there when the mood strikes her. To complement that large mixed media piece, Kundalic exhibited an installation featuring two chairs squared off at a table. The scene represents survivors being interviewed. Atop the table was a cloth she printed with text that comes from the stories of survivors, including her aunt’s testimony. A single loaf of the traditional bread she has eaten and made throughout her life sat on the table. “In Bosnia, you are always making bread.” At her exhibition opening, visitors were invited to break bread and to sit quietly and contemplate
Belma Kundalic, Unspoken, (photo credit: Amir Kundalic) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
the experiences of others. A second installation constructed from muslin cloth edged with lace nods to the memories of her childhood. The delicate bits of old world ephemera lay draped over barbed wire forming a tent shaped awning. Each muslin panel was printed with photographs of mass graves in Bosnia. For this project she used the Van Dyke print method. The Van Dyke method of printing involves coating the canvas with ferric ammonium citrate, tartaric acid, and silver nitrate, then exposing it to ultraviolet light to produce a rich brown color. Kundalic’s artworks gently, but persistently call on the viewer to grapple with her remembrances of war. “Once in a conversation someone said that what happened was a civil war. I want people to know it wasn’t a civil war at all -- it was genocide.” She calls on us to remember so the atrocities are never repeated and to honor those who have suffered so much.
Belma Kundalic, Unspoken, detail, (photo credit: Amir Kundalic) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
MOCRA, INTERFAITH ART MUSEUM By Rich Vagen
As the first interfaith museum of contemporary art, MOCRA has a unique presence in the world of religious art museums. Other institutions focused on religious art typically operate within the framework of a specific faith. Dempsey explains the motivation for designating MOCRA as an interfaith museum thusly, “We didn't want to make this just a Catholic denominational museum at a time when so many of the world’s conflicts involve religion. We wanted this to be a place where people
from all faith traditions could have their work exhibited. And to include people who do not subscribe to a faith tradition, yet consider their art practice tied to their spiritual lives. I try to recognize commonalities in how people understand the spiritual dimension. Not just as an aesthetically pleasing experience, but as a search for something deeper than what our physical reality presents. We work to bring in artists from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and geographical locations whose art reflects a genuine inquiry into, and exploration of, the religious and spiritual dimensions. One of the themes that emerges in almost every one of these works is compassion.” Brinker also shared his thoughts on what interfaith means: “First of all, broadly speaking, interfaith is going to imply bringing together people of different faiths. The interfaith experience can happen here at MOCRA in a number of
different ways. The interaction between the artist and the viewer via the artwork makes possible a sort of conversation. And often you have the meaning that is born from the curatorial combinations of artworks that approach themes differently or similarly. The result is that museum visitors have the opportunity to gain insight into others’ traditions, or perhaps even their own, through the artwork.” MOCRA’s institutional mission presents a unique opportunity to draw connections that might not otherwise seem so obvious. These aesthetic and thematic associations can be found between ideologies that seem so far apart that the affinities may be challenging to accept at first glance. However, when thoughtfully examined, the dialogue between religious viewpoints as presented in complementary and contrasting artworks can be quite meaningful. Dempsey encourages open-minded curiosity,
Sanctuaries: Recovering the Holy in Contemporary Art (1993), installation view (photo credit: Cheryl Ungar, courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Religious Art) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
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Surrounded by artworks drawn from the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA), within feet of a conservator meticulously cleaning the many facets of Michael Tracy’s Cruz to Bishop Oscar Romero, Martyr of El Salvador, I discussed the idea of interfaith with Founding Director Terrence Dempsey SJ and Assistant Director David Brinker.
“I think of each exhibition as providing a bridge of understanding. For some of the artists whom we’ve given a platform and museum visitors who find their beliefs represented, the response is as simple as ‘Thank you for not making fun of our traditions.’ Other people tell us, ‘You’ve given me a whole new way of experiencing art.’
There is a conversation going on here, there is not one way to have a conversation. There are many voices here. And depending upon how we curate it, what we select and how we place it, what’s going to be next to the work, that sets up a whole series of conversations. We could take this show and rearrange it and people would get something different out of it.”
The painter James Rosen, when asked by Dempsey, why, as a Jewish artist he often paints Catholic imagery replied, “Terry, there are some images so powerful that they transcend particular traditions and speak to the heart of all humanity.”
ART AWAKENING By Sarah Weinman
Meditation and a deep spirituality infuse not only Donna Hasegawa’s life, but also her paintings. She was raised Catholic but was drawn to the teachings about spiritual awakening in Buddhism and Hinduism.
“These religions emphasize love, forgiveness, and compassion,” she said. “The book A Course in Miracles by the Foundation for Inner Peace really influenced me. It’s about how much sway our thoughts have over us, and achieving inner peace.”
The artist meditates before she begins each painting. She said, “I want to bring a high energy to the work. Making art is itself meditative; there’s real joy. When all the noise in your head clears, it’s joyful to get into the flow. My more successful paintings flow easily. They don’t feel like work.” Hasegawa paints mostly in oils. She said, “I like to do washes of oil on some areas on the canvas, so the white of the canvas shows through, and thick paint on other areas on the
Donna Hasegawa, Morning Light, (image courtesy of the artist) 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
same canvas. This play of thick and thin is like a combination of matter and spirit.” Her paintings explore themes of nature and spirituality. Ideas come to her from books she reads and art such as the Lascaux Cave Paintings, on which she based a series of pieces. She explained, “When I have an idea of what I want to express, I start with random marks on the canvas to break up the space. I’ll also begin
by writing down thoughts and ideas about the subject at hand.” One nonrepresentational piece, Winter, possesses a tranquil and contemplative depth. It features many shades of blue interspersed with golds and yellows. “I created this piece in the winter when it’s cold out, a time of reflection,” said Hasegawa. “Inner light can come out in the quietness of winter. This was an effortless, spontaneous painting.” Some pieces require more mental energy than others. Hasegawa needed a break from the nonrepresentational piece Morning Light. A burst of red, yellow, and orange seems to emanate from the center of the painting, along
with squiggles of green and blue. Dabs of bright blue paint nicely contrast with the warm colors. Hasegawa said, “I began by painting some lines from the center of the canvas, which, to me, correlated to the heart center. I felt joyful at the beginning, but eventually wasn’t sure how I liked the piece. The visual content needed more. I had trouble getting out of my own way.” The artist followed instructions in Mary Lenihan’s book Pause for Inspiration: Pause, step aside, step back, and let inspiration guide. When she came back to the piece, she added the depth it needed by removing some paint and reworking those areas.
Hasegawa always liked art and took art classes in school, but loved the outdoors so she planned to major in biology when she attended the University of Hawaii in Hilo. When she signed up for a painting class in college, that was it. She changed her major to art and psychology, then after graduation moved back to the mainland United States and earned an MA in art therapy. She hopes viewers are uplifted when they see her pieces: “When I go to the Art Museum, something in me shifts just from looking at art. I’m a different person walking out of the museum than I was when I walked in.”
PRINT 101: INTAGLIO By Amanda Verbeck
After exploring relief prints in our last issue, we’re turning our focus to intaglio. Intaglio is an Italian word meaning incised or engraved. The intaglio process encompasses many techniques, including etching, drypoint, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint, photogravure and collagraph.
In intaglio printing, the image is printed from incised lines or sunken areas that hold the ink. It is the exact opposite of a relief print. Metal plates (made of copper or zinc) are most commonly used, but the plates can be made of other materials as well. Once the plate is inked, a sheet of paper is placed on top and pressure is applied to transfer the image to the paper. The incised lines of an intaglio plate can be created in many ways. Drypoint, engraving and mezzotint rely on the mechanical process of drawing or carving directly into the plate, often scraping or roughening the surface. Etching, aquatint and photogravure utilize acid to eat away at certain areas of a metal plate to create the image. And collagraph involves gluing textures to the plate, building up the surface to create raised and lowered areas. With all of these intaglio techniques, ink is applied to the entire surface of the plate and then wiped off of the raised areas, leaving only the recessed areas holding pigment. Both relief and intaglio have strong religious roots in the Western Christian church. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was Benjamin Guffee inking a collograph print, Above, Around, Beneath, and Through series (image courtesy of Pele Prints Studio) COMMUNITY VOICES
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Rembrant van Rijn, Christ Presented to the People (the Ecce Homo), 1655 (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
created in the Holy Roman Empire in 1440. Then in the 1450s, the Gutenberg Bible became the first major book mass-produced using relief letterpress movable type. In the early 16th century, it was discovered that acid could be used to incise metal (creating an etching plate). From that point on, great artists like Rembrandt van Rijn and many others used the intaglio process to depict both religious illustrations and scenes from everyday life. These printing techniques became a major part of spreading the teachings of the church, making religious images and texts accessible to the masses.
relief together in many of our projects (as with our collaborations with artists Ken Wood and Sarah Hinckley). In our work with local artist Benjamin Guffee, we created prints using only collagraph plates. Using commercial grade vinyl, images of water, clouds and land were
intricately and painstakingly “glued” and hand cut on the plate. The result is a beautiful abstract view of the environment around us. www.peleprints.com
In the current world of fine art printmaking, intaglio is still widely used. Some studios are even setup to print etchings exclusively. In an effort to remain as non-toxic as possible, the primary intaglio process we use at Pele Prints is collagraph. We often combine collagraph and Intaligo cross section (image courtesy of Jack Mulvey Scott’s book blog) 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
THE LAST PAINTINGS OF EDWARD MENGES By Lew Blink
Divine providence is the playground of the muses. Was it serendipitous luck that put me in that DeMun alleyway? Of the souls that could have appreciated his work just days after his passing, mine is less than random as the creator of Dumpster Archeology, a platform for forgotten stories. Next to the brown dumpster was a bleak winter scene stacked on other paintings. The way the light shone through bare branches cascading outward in reflected lines of color, made me pause and
inspired interest like a metaphysical magnet. As I shifted through the dozen paintings covered in acrylic patterns, I understood the masterful aspects. Green merging into yellow pale dots, black twig lines overlaid on a field of transparent luminosity. One could be transported to a forest alive at dusk, or the waking spring sun and always with the hallowed emergence of light.
The mystery was solved a month later when I found myself at the same dumpster talking to an elderly woman throwing out her recycling. “Have you heard of Edward Menges?” I asked. Synchronicity exploded like fate as I met his widow, Jane. We shared tears and she showed me a tiny one bedroom, their home for
The story unfolded like a flower in bloom as a local told me, “an art professor who had dementia late in life” had painted these landscapes. After finding his signature, my obsession grew with each new element of the story added. Who was Edward? The archeology aspect of the project is a form of data mining and the random facts I collected started to paint a picture of a life. Edward Menges was a Professor of Fine Art at Florissant Valley Community College for 22 years retiring in 1986. He was born in University City in 1921 and spent his childhood playing in Forest Park. An accomplished artist with publications, gallery showings and a world renown status, it would take pages to explain his impact but this is not a biography piece, this is the story of his last paintings. Edward Menges, Title Unknown, (image courtesy of Lew Blink)
A reflection of the divine creation in the steady disciplined hand of an artist is neither dogmatic or specifically religious, but is an expression of a spiritual experience that transcends ideology. The act of creating art can be seen as a sacred endeavor. 96 years is the extraordinary amount of time during which artist Edward Menges honed his craft. This particular artist had a lifetime of creative output, that sadly ended last year. Now his paintings whisper their secrets in obscurely perceptible ways. Some feel his work resonates a visionary message, as if he had one more unfinished thought left to express in his light through the forest landscapes. His last paintings beg a larger question: How did they end up next to a dumpster?
Edward Menges, Title Unknown, (image courtesy of Lew Blink) COMMUNITY VOICES
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decades. Edward’s paintings still cover the walls. It was easy to imagine the old man, still vibrant, sitting on his front porch and painting landscapes, a block from his beloved Forest Park. She had hoped the paintings would be claimed when clearing the spaces she and her husband once shared. These dumpster paintings are not masterpieces, they are just a glimpse into his fading vision. Jane asks herself the big questions in the wake of her husband’s passing, like what is death, consciousness and what comes next?
Time seemingly has a way of erasing most if not all of our cultural impacts. Menges created hundreds of paintings that represent his overall perspective much more than my small collection of his little landscapes. The decades rolled by as he and his wife spent their days in DeMun, walking to the zoo, reading books and painting. He painted these scenes during his final years. When Edward was a man slipping into dementia, he painted that holy light shining through the trees of Forest Park.
“The Last Paintings of Edward Menges” is an ongoing Art/History experience, exploring a tiny fraction of his work and this story, Currently showing at the Kismet Creative Center on Cherokee.
POWERFUL PRINTS AT THE PULITZER By Sarah Hermes Griesbach
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation gave us a beautiful view of the 19th-century Japanese imagination this past winter. The ukiyo-e “floating world pictures” presented in the Living Proof: Drawing in 19th-Century Japan exhibition that closed on March 3rd put on display images from Japanese culture that come from a time when the supernatural and fantastic were becoming increasingly popular.
The delicate ukiyo-e prints that Pulitzer curators gathered from various collectors were commonly enjoyed throughout the Edo period in Japan. Some of the subjects pictured on mulberry pulp paper are historical figures whose stories were well-known to the artists’ contemporaries. Often, these subjects were imbued with a blend of myth and magic, fact and fiction. Sometimes the prints themselves were believed to be imbued with kami magic and worked as a talisman for the owner. Even the act of drawing the scenes that were printed was thought to be a ritual capable of producing powerful magic. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s illustration of Hakamadare Yasasuke and Kidomaru Fighting with Magic from 1887 holds within it an amalgamation of folktale, Imperial historical fact and Buddhist and Shinto animism. Loosely defined, this form of animism is an attribution of a supernatural power within plants, inanimate objects, people and the divine. There are also gestural elements of kabuki theater in the presentation of this scene. Two magicians stand in vertical opposition to each other. Hakamadare Yasasuke, shown as a magnificent samurai aided by a giant serpent, towers above Kidomaru who is flanked by winged tangu demons. The illustration is widely believed to be a depiction of two aspects of one individual, a follower of the 10th century warlord Minamoto no Yorimitsu. This concept of an individual holding distinct 19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
conflicting persons within himself is as foreign to contemporary American thought as the animist concept of kami, but was widely understood by Yoshitoshi’s intended audience. The real and the imagined were indistinct in the storytelling of 19th-century Japan. The visual tradition of Japan at the cusp of industrialization and modernization is worlds away from today, but fruits of that rich and fertile period remain. Today, many of the characters that were illustrated and celebrated on ukiyo-e prints can be found in contemporary Japanese culture. The transmission of traditional stories continues as these magical beings are born anew in their reincarnation as manga and anime art.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Drawing for Hakamadare Yasuke and Kidōmaru Battling with magic, 1887, (image courtesy of Worcester Art Museum and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation) COMMUNITY VOICES
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Hakamadare Yasuke and Kidōmaru Battling with magic, 1887, (image courtesy of Worcester Art Museum and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation)
In 1948, at the age of 10, Donald Jackson knew what he wanted to do with his life. Professions such as doctor or lawyer were not much of an option for someone growing up in the working class town of Lancashire, England. The boy seemed destined to become a metal worker or coal miner. Jackson’s father was a shopkeeper who expected perfection from his son, but not necessarily creativity. It was quite a surprise to discover that the boy had artistic ability. His remarkable talent was recognized by a teacher who gave him his first set of art supplies. When it came time to go away for school, Jackson received a scholarship to a technical school on the very same day that he receiving a scholarship to an art school. Much to his surprise, his parents allowed him to choose which school to attend. Thus, the artistic journey of Donald Jackson began.
love and attention to detail. The same love and attention to detail was employed by Donald Jackson as he designed his illuminated Bible. The word illumination refers to the play of light on gold. This is truly evident in the The Birth of Christ illumination within the manuscript. In that illustration, the figures of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds reflect the light of the Savior in the manger on their faces. In the nativity scene, instead of a tiny baby in the manger, a band of gold leaf descends from the top of the page to the manger indicating the divine presence coming down from heaven unto earth, an event known as the Incarnation.
Angels painted in gold leaf flit and fly in the night sky above the manger as the donkey, ram and ox look on. Squares of gold leaf are sprinkled throughout all of the illuminations indicating God’s divine presence because gold was a symbol of royalty and it better captures the essence of God. Words cannot do justice to the illuminations that Donald Jackson and his team created. The Saint John’s Bible is handwritten on vellum. It opens to two feet tall by three feet wide and holds 160 illuminations. This project was truly a team effort. It took a team of 22 people 15 years to create the 1,160 pages in this seven
One of Jackson’s first jobs was to paint the word “saloon” backward on glass. His career grew and he eventually ended up working as a calligrapher to the Crown Office Of United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. Our American culture does not celebrate the art of calligraphy to a great extent. But Donald Jackson has spent his career pursuing the most minute details of the historical art form.
Jackson writes that “Calligraphy is about the expression of people’s emotion in a world where emotion is kept to a minimum in public life. When we want to say you’ve really achieved something brilliant, you don’t type it on a piece of paper and send it to somebody, you ask somebody like me to put those words in a form that looks as if you really mean what you are saying.” When Jackson decided that he wanted to act as artistic director in the creation of a Bible manuscript, not many people paid attention. That changed after he taught a few classes in calligraphy at St. John’s College & Abbey, a Benedictine university in Collegeville, Minnesota. In the 1850s, Benedictine monks came from Pennsylvania to minister to Catholic German immigrants. Within the Catholic tradition, monks live in the world, but apart from the world, so they can receive God’s love and give it back to Him in a place without distractions. At St. John’s Abbey, 1,800 students typically live alongside 200 monks. Their chapel was built by Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer. Every brick was hand made by the monks with Donald Jackson, Birth of Christ, copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, (image courtesy St. John’s University, Minnesota) COMMUNITY VOICES
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volume work of art. E-mail facilitated an exchange of ideas between theologians in Minnesota and artists in Wales. Donors sponsored a page of script for $1,000; $10,000 for an illumination, and $250,000 for a whole volume. Without their support, this $4 million project would not have been completed. If the task of creating a unique illuminated Bible manuscript was as monumental as creating the Sistine Chapel, why do it? No monastery has attempted this feat in 500 years. The Benedictine monks who have a history of creating Bibles wanted to celebrate the coming of the new Millennium. Commissioning a Bible was a statement of their faith. This Bible, created for the 21st century, is written in English instead of the traditional Latin. A picture of the planet Earth from space is included as well as a picture of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York, alongside a contemporary telling of the story of the prodigal son. In The Saint John’s Bible, the prodigal son requests his share of his
father’s inheritance while his father is still living and squanders it on a hedonistic lifestyle. Finding himself unhappy and eating pig slop, he returns to his father’s house and asks for the job of a servant. Instead, the father, kills a fatted calf and throws his son a party. In this version of the Christian parable, the reader is brought to understand that just as God the Father sent his Son to forgive our sins, we, too, must forgive those who attacked the Twin Towers. The story of this project is chronicled in the film The Illuminator. The video describes how turkey, swan and goose feathers are transformed into quills after they are soaked in water, heated in a frying pan of hot sand, and sharpened with a penknife. The vellum or calfskin, was selected individually, rubbed, sanded and ruled before the first drop of ink was placed on it. The ink used was made from candle smoke by a company that closed its doors in 1876! Jackson bought these unwrapped and unused Chinese ink sticks and safeguarded them for over 30 years until his dream could become a reality.
Modern gold leaf foil,(photo credit: Maxine Ward)
We, in St. Louis can view this unusual blending of old and new for ourselves. A generous donor purchased a heritage edition that can be seen at the Cathedral Basilica on Lindell Boulevard during the Cathedral’s open hours.
EATING THE SUN
By Honna Veerkamp
St. Louis sits on the edge of an invisible swath stretching from Salem, OR to Charleston, SC: the path of totality for last summer’s solar eclipse. This was the first total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States since 1979 and the first in these parts since the Internet. Online and on the radio, you heard stories of how amazing it was to witness a total eclipse, and the awe that it inspired. NASA’s website offered an interactive map that would find the exact time and duration of the eclipse at your viewing spot. Wonder and excitement drew thousands of people to Southern Illinois, where the eclipse was at its peak, and grocery stores sold out of the glasses. You didn’t want to miss out. But, in ancient times, an eclipse would have been terrifying.
A few weeks before the August eclipse, James Croft, Outreach Director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, gave a talk called Eating the Sun: The Cultural Significance of Eclipses. He opened his lecture at the packed congregation hall with a story about ancient Egyptians, who worshiped the sun god Ra. When the sky suddenly darkened in the daytime as the moon moved in front of the sun, naturally they believed that Apep, the 21 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SPRING 2018
serpentine lord of chaos and darkness, had finally defeated Ra and taken a bite out of the sun. Croft went on to say that many cultures had similar myths. Mayans, like the Egyptians, believed a giant serpent ate the sun, while, in China, it was a dragon, and in Siberia, it was a bear. Vikings believed a wolf named Sköll stole the sun. Other cultures had different myths, but it seems our ancestors invariably thought of eclipses as bad omens or evil magic. They made appeasements to the gods with rituals including making noise and throwing magic stones. Often these were performed by priests or shamans, who gained status when the sun did, indeed, return.
The fear that surrounded eclipses is understandable, Croft explained. The sun, which is the giver of life in most cultures, is usually constant and unchanging, and unexpected and unexplained eclipses must have been dramatic and scary! Croft could
The foreboding associations of eclipses continued into more recent history and made their way into literature, Croft said. He shared passages from King Lear and Paradise Lost, in which they are blamed for maladies of the day and an Emily Dickinson poem that describes them as “unnatural.” Croft reminded the audience of a humorous plot twist in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where the time-traveling protagonist pretends to be a wizard and threatens to block out the sun, knowing that an eclipse is about to occur. Honna Veerkamp, Colander Eclipse, (image courtesy of the artist) COMMENTARY
only find one cultural association with a verifiable reference that countered the dread around eclipses: an Italian superstition held that flowers planted during a solar eclipse would be especially colorful and brilliant. In an interview after his talk, Croft told me he was excited and happy about the coming eclipse. “I feel the total solar eclipse is an extraordinary event that reminds us that we are all together on one planet and that we exist because of a set of cosmic chances,” he said, continuing on to talk about the significance of the fact that a solar eclipse is completely
beyond our control, and how rare and “edifying” that is. “We are not the most important thing in the universe. The universe doesn’t know about us, it doesn’t care about us. And that means we have to do a better job about caring for each other.” I spent the solar eclipse with a couple dozen friends on a piece of land in rural Southern Illinois. As the sky turned purple-orange, we sat by a pond, casting crescent moon-shadows through the holes of a colander on to paper, picnic blankets, and each other’s skin. My sweetheart shared her own origin story about
the eclipse, which recast the feminine moon goddess as the protagonist underdog of the story, momentarily triumphing over the patriarchy in a battle that continues to this day. After totality, which truly was spectacular, we walked along the bank of the pond, casting poppy seeds and hoping to grow the most beautiful, vibrant flowers.
By Pacia Anderson
Ever since I was young, I have searched for the meaning in existence. Dissatisfied with the answers I was given growing up in the Church, I sought those answers in other places, religious doctrine, affinity groups, ancient texts, science fiction novels, spiritual practices--until I sought none. At one point I resigned myself to rest in an understanding that there was nothing “else,” and used my five senses as the measure for what was “real.” I stopped short of calling myself an atheist because even that too felt dogmatic. For many years I didn’t see God or any universal principals in my life because its possibility had been stomped clean from my spirit by the trauma I had endured and the lack of any religion’s ability to lead me towards healing. Except when I was creating art. On stage, in the narrative, with a colored pencil. Whether I was speaking words or sketching images, I always felt connected to that “thing” for which I had been searching. In my world of creation, there were no rules, hierarchy or hypocrisy. No judgement. When I made art, I dropped all my guards and engaged with the fullness of myself--and in those moments I knew there was something more to this life. Art saved me on many occasions. And it was art, by way of a couple of poets, emcees, street artists, and storytellers that helped me to find what it is to Be without pretense or expectation. Making art was my meditation before I had ever explored a formal mindfulness practice. It took years of exploration, but I finally walked into the true knowing that without ritual or liturgy, we are divinity in flesh. That these vessels that house our spirits are not the
beginning nor the ending of us. That we are as ancient as the air we breathe, living symbiotically with other creatures and energies--our vibrations mending and melding with everything--that we all are the stuff of creation. I see these connections because the greatest art of my life has been the discovery of my spiritual path and recent recommitment to my spiritual practice--a practice that is more a patchwork than an organism, but informs everything that I create--words, poems, visual work. There isn’t a method or order, for I am guided by my spirit. And it all works together for the good when I listen to my guides and follow my intuition, both in my daily life and in my artistry. When I converse with all of my selves these days, we speak through the language of this process of becoming. Of myself, I have written that my poetic work is a charismatic blend of rhyme, layered imagery, and fantasy, all of which are used to explore a diversity of subject matter and to cocreate visceral, emotive experiences for readers and listeners alike. I like to think of my visual work as a conduit for channeling the infinite possibilities of reshaping language, ideas, color, space, and the imagination to both remind and affirm the greatness in us all. I love the written word; I am a certified font-nerd. So when I see beautiful phrases, such as aham brahmasmi, written in visually stunning script, such as sanskrit, my spirit leaps and the merger of these powerful tools of creation and communication--sound, script, spirit--move me to my core. Whether it is the ancient Mdu Ntr, calligraphy, or typography, I have always had a fascination with language as artform, in content and aesthetic. My expression of these forms are just an extension of what drives my proclivity for finding beauty in the so-called mundane. COMMENTARY
At one time I struggled with the idea of pigeon-holing myself. I did not want my art to be so esoteric, philosophical, extra-word-heavy that people could appreciate it, but not understand. Exploring the visual side of my word-artistry helped me to simplify some of the poetic ideas in my head--distill them down into one word/drawing. And it helped me come to terms with the fact that I can only Be myself. I can only release what is already inside of me. It helped me find gratitude that the words and phrases that spill out onto the page are words of affirmation, of higher consciousness--of less seeking and more “being.” Visual art gave me home for the seeds of my epic poetic outputs. I am still learning. Still testing the waters with my big toe in some areas of my art practice. There are writings and drawings that will never grace a wall or be breathed through a microphone, because in this process of becoming, I am also unlearning fear and self-recrimination. There are intensely personal parts of my story that I am not yet ready to release. But I do know that my paths, practices, and creations are part of my soul’s purpose--one of the reasons that I chose to incarnate into this life, under these circumstances--and I seek to honor that commitment to this lifetime by expressing all of my colors in all of their genres, through all of their forms.
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I have always sought a connection to what folks call a “higher power.”
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