THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
An Archeologist inspects the head still encrusted of a black stone queen on site underwater in Thonis - Heracleion, Egypt, Ptolmaic Period (photo credit: Christoph Gerigk, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-14)
EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR SUKANYA MANI
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
WEB DESIGN AND ADMINISTRATION AMY MILLER
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS MICK DE BITZKO JOHN BLAIR KEITH DECKER KATRYN DIERKSEN ROBERT DORR SHARON ELLIOT BERNADETTE LISE HOOPER FERNANDES SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
DAVID JOHNSON TY DE LA VENTA HOLLY SCHROEDER MARK STEINHOF JOEL SJERVEN RICH VAGEN PAULNA VALBRUN SARAH WEINMAN OSCAR REID WRIGHT
In this issue, Bernadette Hooper Fernandes and Keith Decker report on important exhibitions currently up at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Pulitzer, respectively. See them while you can. Joel Sjerven describes a traveling exhibition centered on American gun violence. Sharon Elliot discusses postpartum artworks by All the Art co-founder Amy Reidel. We see Emily Elliot’s sculptural installation at the Duet Gallery through the visual interpretation of Oscar Reid Wright. You’ll find a few words on Jim Conway’s decades of envelope illustrations at the University City Library. John Blair interprets the artist Triggy’s portraits of familiar female figures flaunting their strong sense of self. Rich Vagen reviews Melissa Stern’s The Talking Cure at the Kranzberg Arts Center. And our Sarah Hermes Griesbach imagines a world in which Wendy Wees and Milo Duke defy all the rules of our reality in their paintings of places and beings strange and fantastic.
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 15-18) In keeping with the Travel theme loosely present in this issue, our interviewers looked to artists whose methods of finding subject material made them take to the streets. Katryn Dierksen sat down with Judith Shaw to discuss the year long process of collecting and learning to control her very unusual art medium. Sarah Weinman reports back about her talk with Scott Petty, who sometimes has to arrange the scene he wishes to appear he’d just come upon. Holly Schroeder has still not gotten over the delight of spending a day at the utopic art farm with the couple whom she got the chance to visit for our readers.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 18-21) David Johnson wants you to know what an artist in residency experience can mean to those who take the trip into their unknown. He reflects on his own time in Stuttgart and brings news of goings-on between Paul ArtSpace and our sister city in Germany. Robert Dorr takes us to the moon!
COMMENTARY (PG. 22) When Paulna Valbrun visited her father’s home in Haiti, she brought back an artwork that reminds her of that place she loves and knows. And though Valbrun is a broke student (is there another kind?) with little cash for extras, she wonders aloud if bargaining for another’s life’s work is always appropriate. Front Cover: The Awakening of Osiris 26th Dynasty, (photo credit: Christopher Gerigk, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum) Back Cover: Stele of Thonis - Heracleion 380 - 362 BCE, detail, (photo credit: Christopher Gerigk, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
Sukanya Mani, Origin Stories (image courtesy of the artist)
Look through this issue of All the Art and you probably won’t guess that we’d offered “Travel” as our theme for contributors to all of the non-review sections. It isn’t obvious, but Travel is subtly threaded through. We ask the same loose adherence to the new theme to those of you submitting writing for our Fall 2018 issue. This season, we are talking STEAM, as in Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math. This theme is particularly apropos as we’ve added Sukanya Mani to our executive editorial staff and Mani, though educated as a scientist before finding her way to visual art expression, credits the realm of art for her insatiable love of the STEM subjects she once studied: I remember mixing orange and pink to create the most beautiful sunset hue and telling myself that it was I who had discovered this process! Art and science are both means of investigation. Both involve ideas and practices where the mind and the hand come together to test out theories and hypotheses. Both artists and scientists have to transform ideas into something more tangible.
Integrating science into my art practice is a natural fit for me. My formal training is in chemistry, the most visual of sciences. Astrophysics, the study of the cosmos, continues to be one of my passions. I voraciously consume podcasts and articles on the study of this frontier of science and weave what catches me intellectually into my sculptural artworks and my paintings. Not everyone considers STEAM when they blend colors, choose oil over watercolor or make artworks condemning or celebrating the technological world we live in. We invite you to take this opportunity to make connections between visual art and the STEM subjects. As always, send your ideas in. All are welcome! All the Best!
Executive Editor and Co-Founder 314.704.8870
TERRA INFIRMA For over two decades, the work of Palestinian born, London based artist Mona Hatoum has confronted the complexities and contradictions of contemporary global society. With subjects from Beirut to Brixton, Hatoum’s work, ranging from performance art to sculpture, explores themes of war, displacement and authoritarianism, as well as identity and the subtle menace lurking within the domestic. Early in her career, Hatoum utilized performance art to bring attention to timely political events, such as the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the exercise of police-involved violence before and during the 1985 Brixton riot. The Negotiating Table, a response to the Lebanon massacre, featured Hatoum laying on a table covered by
animal entrails and red paint under plastic sheeting, surrounded by empty chairs. Roadworks, featured a barefoot-Hatoum pulling a pair of Doc Marten boots behind her as she strolled down the bustling Brixton streets. (Doc Martens were, at the time, notoriously worn by both police and skinheads alike.) Hatoum’s performances were undeniably influential on other artists eager to merge politics with performance, as demonstrated by French artist Veronique Simar’s Absolut Hatoum.
her body’s interior, explores notions of ‘’alienation’ for both the subject and viewer. In Present Tense, Hatoum uses red beads and hundreds of bars of a traditional Palestinian soap to create a map of the Palestinian territories defined by the 1983 Oslo Accords – an installation that is as deeply personal as it is political. (Hatoum was born into a Palestinian family in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952.) Other works, such as Hot Spot and Map, explore political and geographic uncertainty and instability on a global level.
Later on, Hatoum shifted her focus to sculpture and installation, relying on both minimalism and surrealism to drive her political messaging. Corps étranger, an installation incorporating endoscopic camera footage of
Terra Infirma, the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States in 20 years, represents an exploration of the ‘uncanny’ – that phenomenon which is simultaneously familiar and foreign, playful and dangerous – and at
Mona Hatoum, Greater Divide, (image courtesy of Pulitzer Arts Foundation) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
PULITZER ARTS FOUNDATION
As one of Infirma’s centerpieces, La Grande Broyeuse dominates the main exhibit hall, towering on three legs over viewers underneath it. Broyeuse invokes the idea of a large scale household vegetable slicer, complete with interchangeable discs that lay on the gallery floor. Other largescale pieces,
such as Grater Divide, Daybed, and Homebound similarly explore the uncomfortable and, at times, painful experiences of everyday life. Through Hatoum’s design, a typically banal domestic object is transformed into a massive scary thing. Other art works, such as Quarters and Cell, invite the viewer to ponder, both literally and figuratively, the concepts of surveillance and imprisonment. Despite being brutally honest in its portrayal of the complexities and challenges of contemporary life, Terra Infirma insists that our past does not necessarily define us and that hope is, indeed, within reach.
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma is on display at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation until August 11th. This Pulitzer exhibition is curated and organized by curator Tamara Schenkenberg in partnership with Michelle White, curator at The Menil Collection. -Keith Decker
Mona Hatoum, La Grande Broyeuse, (image courtesy of Pulitzer Arts Foundation) IN REVIEW
SUMMER 2018 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 02
times even terrifying. (The concept of the ‘uncanny,’ was articulated by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay Das Unheimliche and later explored in the work of the early 20th century Surrealists.) Consisting of large-scale pieces, the exhibition is intended to evoke both familiarity and discomfort – at once coaxing and unsettling the viewer.
I.M.A.G.I.N.E. PEACE NOW CRAFT ALLIANCE CENTER OF ART + DESIGN
What do Facebook executives, Dr. Frankenstein and Rick Morranis, inventor of the kid-shrinking ray, all have in common? They have all watched in dismay as their journey for strength left them gawking at the destruction that they cast upon humanity. Similarly, metalsmith Boris Bally asserts that gunsmiths share a responsibility for the harm done through the development of the gun. Bally curated the I.M.A.G.I.N.E. Peace Now exhibit co-presented by Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design and Maryville University. Participating artists disassembled guns collected from a buy-back program and repurposed them as art. Several themes quickly emerge in the collection of artworks that made it into this highly acclaimed juried exhibition: death, guns as surrogate genitalia, and a connection between gun culture, American Christianity and Capitalism. Artist Nancy Fouts replaced the bowl of a Native American peace pipe with the handle of a pistol, Tom Muir attached a shiny, pink dildo to the barrel of a revolver. Hoss Haley’s Pinch toys with the idea of disarming the police by clamping shut the barrel of a police Colt. Other artists designed jewelry out of triggers and random gun pieces. The collection of neutered weapons is simultaneously alluring, revolting and demanding of attention.
Biba Shutz’s Another Day depicts a gun shooting out the classic “Bang” flag. Instead of “Bang,” Shutz replaced the flag with stats of gun violence in America: “Daily in 2015, 297 people shot 89 dead, 30 murdered, 53 suicides”. The exhibition organizers held several events around St. Louis through spring, focused on the theme of gun violence. Bally hosted a panel discussion centered on gun violence. He was joined by Geriann Brandt, a former police officer and current professor of Criminal Justice at Maryville, Jessica Risenhoover from Mothers Demand Action and Becky Tingle, a child therapist at ALIVE, Inc. Brandt spoke more from her former experience as a cop than her current position of professor. She explained the rationale for police shooting of an unarmed person. “You have to assume that everyone is armed all the time, until they prove you wrong, that they’re not.” She then shared a story about how her police officer daughter arrested someone with three guns on him. “Those guns could be used to steal your cellphone, your car, rob your house or kill you.” She finished up by inviting the crowd to go on a police ride along, then casually mentioning that, “We are all, sitting in this room, soft targets, so we need to be prepared.”
Risenhoover explained the founding of Mothers Demand Action and discussed the uphill battle they will have in Missouri to get reasonable gun laws passed. She championed a bill by Missouri state representative Bruce Franks Jr. to mandate reporting the theft of a gun by the owner. Tingle talked about how children are exposed to shooting violence on the news and reported that children are often hypervigilant due to violence they witness in the home. She relayed the alarming statistic that victims of domestic violence are 500% more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser has access to a gun. The panel discussed gun buyback programs, such as the one recently forwarded by Mayor Lyda Krewson. There was agreement on the panel that such programs generally do very little to get guns out of the hands of violent criminals. Since viewing the traveling exhibition, I have compiled a list of other objects of mass destruction that Bally and his curatorial partners might use for future themed juried art shows: prison cells empty of the police that have not being indicted for killing unarmed black men, Keurig coffee pods flooding our oceans, lobbyists’ gifts and donations drowning our voices, confederate flags and statues rousing latent xenophobia. Like the visionary conceptions of our artists, the paths to our destruction are legion. -Joel Sjerven
www.craftalliance.org www.maryville.edu/imagine-exhibit/ Sandra Enterline, Baby Bones (In Memory of Sandy Hook), (image courtesy of Fleur Bresler and Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
Emily Elliott’s collection of sculptures entitled I Know You Are But What Am I exhibited last spring at Duet Gallery. Duet is slightly hidden in the hip intersection of the KDHX Radio headquarters, Magnolia Cafe and the jazz, theater and art world of Grand Center. In the center of the single storefront gallery room, the figure of a female body stood - a white blanket draped over her, limbs spread out like a puppet on strings. The woman appeared semi-conscious. An army of red monsters surrounded her, the type of monster that has six arms and no legs. They seemed to be charging, although it was hard to tell since they slug across the floor so slowly that an observer couldn’t see them move. One had jumped high enough to catch and hang from the corner of the woman’s white blanket.
On the other side of the center female figure, whose skin and nails look as alive as yours, sat two busts in the same grey as the angry hand, and equally lifelike. One bust featured a sculptural someone with a towel wrapped around presumably wet hair. A towel covered the eyes of the yawning (maybe drooling) head and so I doubted she knew that anyone was there. The other could be the same head, but covered, instead, in a paper bag. Elliot received her MFA from the University of Southern Florida and was an Art Fabricator in New York until recently deciding to continue
her art practice in St. Louis. Her work is masterfully constructed and elegantly composed. Her use of color and material guide the viewer’s focus from any perspective. The fidelity of the artworks captures the humanity of the people that each is built around. These works convey modern anxieties in a fresh way through the wonderful ancient art of sculpture. -Oscar Reid Wright www.duetstl.com www.emilyannelliot.com
At a side angle from this figure, Elliot, the artist, placed a male head in a ski mask. The man and his mask, frozen in a blank stare, unnaturally green and glittering with fools gold, didn’t look very friendly. We looked at him looking. Aimed in the same direction as the masked man’s gaze was a hand flicking off the viewer, the world, or something else. The middle finger, active in the best understood hand signal, held a monster upon it. The hand, matte grey and lacking many details about the owner, made a dry but clear statement. The monster perched there was clearly a mere finger puppet but the same species of monster as those in the mob on the Duet Gallery floor. This monster, wide eyed and aggressively postured, shares the same anger as the hand it lives on.
Emily Elliot, I Know You Are But What Am I, (detail) (image courtesy of the Duet Gallery)
Emily Elliot, I Know You Are But What Am I, installation view (image courtesy of the Duet Gallery) IN REVIEW
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I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I
SOULARD COFFEE GARDEN
The one woman exhibition of Jessica Orso’s abstract acrylic paintings was impressive. Though Orso is a relative newcomer to the art scene, she has an artistic voice that is versatile and original.
Orso’s paintings are full of vibrant color. The artworks are characterized by a sense of movement in the great waves of color that cover the painted surface. Her technique may not be new, but her results are captivating.
Abstract art is often misunderstood. It is not about the dead pigments on the canvas, but about how the artist makes the viewer feel. Orso’s work makes you feel. -Ty de LaVenta
Jessica Orso, He and She, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Jessica Orso, High Low, (photo credit: Richard Reilly) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
Jessica Orso, Shape of Water, (photo credit: Richard Reilly) IN REVIEW
IN REVIEW Jessica Orso, Overlap (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
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SMILE Triggy described her solo exhibition Smile, at Third Degree Glass Factory, as a response to women repeatedly being told to smile by men, be it by colleagues in the workplace, lovers in intimate relationship or strangers in unfamiliar settings. Triggy has centered her series of portraits for Smile around the societal command for women to consistently appear pleasant. Triggy intended to give attention to this cultural expectation in order to spark conversation around its negative impact. Smile ran through both Black History Month in February and Women's History month in March. All of the artworks included in the series are of recognizable contemporary black women. The women in the series are as follows: Beyonce, Chloe and Halle Bailey, Ava Duvernay, Lupita Nyong'o, Yara Shadihi, Amandla Stenber and Traci Ellis Ross. The subjects for Triggy’s portrait series represent women who have risen to stardom in popular culture for varied reasons. She selected them because of the way they are engaging fame from an attitude of promoting respect for themselves and others, as accomplished black women.
THIRD DEGREE GLASS FACTORY Interestingly, although all of the celebrities represented identify ethnically as black, they are also a very multi-ethnic grouping. They are, notably, Kenyan and Mexican, black and Jewish, black and Danish, black and Choctaw, as well as black and Louisiana creole. In this regard, Triggy’s portraiture may invite consideration into the range and notion of blackness, as more than an identification of racial specificity, but also an aesthetic informing socio-culture, gender and political awareness. Smile is premised on exploring what it means to be identified as a woman in a patriarchal social system. She asserts, “Society has put a stigma on women that we must be in character at all times. A smile is recommended regularly to adorn our face. If we are not smiling, we are harassed or accused of every type of negative stereotype. We must have a smile on our face at all times despite anything we may be dealing with. Making a smile a requirement for women in society to be accepted is an insult."
harassment, sexual assault and women's empowerment. Triggy’s use of black and white stippling to paint each of her portraits provides a uniformity that makes them an undeniable grouping. Stippling is a technique of painting or drawing with dots that is similar to pointillism but uses a single color (pointillism uses dots of different colors). Metaphorically speaking, the audience is invited to "connect the dots" of the various women to see their distinctiveness emerge past the black and white composition. The audience must look to see the subjects beyond the dots in much the same way Triggy asks men to see the distinctiveness and personality of women beyond their appearances. -John Blair
The timing of this exhibition of Smile is, sadly, relevant. Has it ever not been? Could it ever not be? The social-political commentary of her work is reflective of the conversations that society at large is having with regard to sexual www.thirddegreeglassfactory.com
Triggy, Halle Bailey (image courtesy of the artist) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
Triggy, Yara Shahidi (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
THE TALKING CURE This spring, the gallery at Kranzberg Arts Center showed drawings and sculptures by acclaimed artist Melissa Stern in The Talking Cure. A series of figures, either single or set into groups, are accompanied by drawings and, in a further use of multimedia exploration, audio recordings accessed via QR Code. The sculptures, ceramic clay works painted or drawn on, are stark and minimal in their detail, creating a vague and earthly quality that gives a sense of both empathy and uneasiness in relating to the figures. The figures are painted shades of grey, black and subtle earth tones, void of any bright colors. Most of the sculptures are a few feet tall, ranging from 18.5 inches to 40 inches tall, small enough to feel disconnected from reality, but large enough to demand attention. The Talking Cure, named after a term coined by Freud to represent psychoanalysis, shows figures that are often missing something, a limb or two, or otherwise disfigured or suffering. Sternâ€™s If The Shoe Fits presents a lone figure, standing and holding out a shoe with its only arm. The figure is smooth, seamless, but with hints of an assembled past. The remaining arm is connected by a bolt, mirrored on the other side by a bolt protruding from the shoulder, a vestige of an arm long lost. Its face is composed of a mouth roughly drawn in, a sign of a maker concerned with the inner workings of a mind more than getting the appearance finished. Like the assembled arms, one eye is made of a mechanical gear, another indicator of his constructed birth. While the figure is not of this world, in form nor color, the shoe it holds is familiar. Brown with laces, it is the only connection to a real world. That connection, and the transition between fantasy and reality, can be seen in the figureâ€™s feet. As the shoeless foot has toes and the form of a foot, the other, presumably shoed foot, is smooth with no indication of a shoe. It is as if once the displayed shoe is slipped on it too would cross over to another realm. It is hard to tell how one should feel towards this figure. It appears proud to show its shoe, but perhaps there is a sadness to its pride.
noses, giving the viewer plenty of opportunity to construct a narrative. Like the other artworks in the series, Double Bind can be taken in and interpreted differently every time it is viewed. It is easy to see joy, even without any expression, in the group of three figures titled Friends. No two figures in this trio are alike. Some of them have animal qualities, one is more humanistic, one is painted black, one is etched creating a fur-like texture. All three face the same way, the smallest one in front, as if posing to be photographed. Is this a snapshot of three friends, capturing their happiness together despite their differences? Following the lead of the stories, or the other way around, it is hard not to think beyond what is shown. Beyond the sculptures, Stern offered drawings and audio recordings of stories, each written and then performed by a writer and actor.
Double Bind presents two armless figures, standing back-to-back, and bound together with a rope. Their heads slightly bent down and painted black, hiding any trace of expression or facial features other than their
KRANZBERG ARTS CENTER
They provide an accompanying element, another contribution to understanding her artworks beyond the visual plane, or a guide to how viewers might interact with the sculptural forms. While the stories are well written and insightful, another of their achievements is providing guidance for viewers to develop their own stories for the figures. The characters are so dynamic and bright - in emotion if not in color - that it is not difficult to connect in some way with them and imagine their stories. To me, they are a gang of misfits and outcasts, each containing a piece of everyone. -Rich Vagen
Melissa Stern, Friends, (photo credit: Richard Vagen) IN REVIEW
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63130 The University City Library presented pen and ink drawings on first-day-of-issue envelopes by Jim Conway in his decades-in-the-making exhibition titled 63130. Conway’s motivation, personally and artistically, was to lovingly craft Mail Envelope Art complete with time capsule letters to his two sons. These were not intended for public viewing at the time of their making, but drew great interest when displayed. Each individual artwork corresponds with its envelope’s stamp. Conway’s varied interests are on display in the subject matter of each drawing. His homages to Josephine Baker, Copernicus and many film and art themes show recognizable cultural icons. He used images of Bayeux Tapestry, album covers, political scenes and other striking and timely subjects.
UNIVERSITY CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY Conway’s technical skills as a painter, illustrator and draftsman are of the highest order. He studied art and graphic design at Missouri University Columbia, and this prevents Conway from the status of “outsider” or “self taught” artist. However, his endlessly varied and diverse stylistic approaches are quirky and idiosyncratic, to say the least. We, the authors of these words, felt compelled to see this recent exhibit three different times in order to digest the entirety of an effort that was 25 years in the making. The exhibit was dense. It was reminiscent somewhat of the great Jim Shaw exhibit My Mirage held at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1991. Another artist Conway’s work has kinship to is Ray Johnson, who was featured in the documentary film, How to draw a Bunny.
-Mick de Bitzko and Mark Steinhof
Jim Conway, 63130, installation view (photo credit: Mark Steinhof) 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
While attending the University of Missouri at Columbia, Conway came across an issue of Graphis magazine where he saw an illustration of a duck on an envelope addressed to someone with their name drawn to look like ripples of water under the duck. The seed was planted for this project. The letters that followed served as time capsules to each of his sons.
IN REVIEW Jim Conway, Nosferatu (top), Grant Wood (middle), Bayeux Tapestry (bottom), (photo credit: Mark Steinhof)
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WENDY WEES AND MILO DUKE HORSLEY ARTS
Life and art partners Wendy Wees and Milo Duke do not so much collaborate with each other as complement one another. Both work in styles that are tightly their own - painting artworks that are perfectly recognizable as parts of a whole. Yet, when viewed as two collections merged into one, there is a lovely synthesis of colors and lightness. Both Wees and Duke’s paintings live in a humor filled universe that teases the senses with odd combinations of the familiar and
the unknown. Wees paints birds rooted into the ground with tree trunk legs. Her birds sometimes wear whimsical houses and bear floating cities. Hers is a fantasy land of clear crisp sunny days, a fantasy land of possibilities.
artists’ modeling mannequins to represent humans who wear animal masks as they move through impossible landscapes that represent an alternative St. Louis here or a Dreamtime Florence there.
Duke, too, is the master of a playful universe unhinged from the rules of the place where we live. Time is conflated or reshuffled in his paintings. Recognizably iconic scenes are rendered weird and wonderful. Duke peppers his paintings with symbols and signs, using
This dynamic duo comes to St. Louis by way of Seattle, where they’d built their careers alongside Horsley Arts Gallery director Linda Horsley. Horsley’s own paintings, semi-permanently installed (until each is purchased, that is), are visible to Gallery visitors as they look upwards toward her living quarters on the second floor. Unsurprisingly, seeing as the three have maintained a thick friendship across time and space, Horsley’s own paintings add a third part of the complementary combinations celebrated in the exhibition of Wees and Duke’s oeuvres. The three of them interpret life in technicolor palettes without a care for what makes dull, logical sense. It would be fair to blame Seattle for these artists’ carefree tone and see their many-layered scenescapes as a West Coast phenomenon. But, they are here now. So we will claim them as part of a St. Louis school. One in which birds are rooted, houses fly, while Mississippi gar swim and masked mannequins ride Asian carp across North St. Louis factory grounds. -Sarah Hermes Griesbach
Milo Duke, Memories of the Florentine School, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Wendy Wees, installation view (photo credit: Richard Reilly) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM
Thonis-Heracleion (one city with two names, Thonis if you’re Egyptian, Heracleion if you’re Greek) and Canopus, once great cities standing on solid ground in the Nile delta, were discovered about 30 feet under the deep blue sea by French maritime archaeologist Franck Goddio deep in Aboukir Bay off the coast of Alexandra. Each underwater picture of Goddio and his team facing off with barnacle-laden 6th century BCE wonders makes real that long-ago history. Each discovered and loosed object is visibly something foreign and strange. How can this world have existed on our very own planet? It is fantastical, but not fantasy. The discovery of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, helped reveal new context about yearly rituals celebrating Osiris. Murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth, Osiris was reassembled and brought back to life by his sister and wife, Isis. (Gods are exempt from the
incest laws ya’ know) Osiris’s death story held a vital place in Ancient Egyptian religious belief. Millennia ago, pilgrims came to these cities to participate in the yearly Mysteries of Osiris. The Mysteries were wildly elaborate ceremonies full of secrets with events that culminated in the cities of (you guessed it) Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus. The objects underwater-unearthed by Goddio’s team, with support from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology and in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, include engraved texts, temple carvings and archeological riches enough to inspire PhD papers for the next millennia of Egyptologists. -Bernadette Lise Hooper Fernandes
Stele of Thonis - Heracleion 380 - 362 BCE, (photo credit: Christopher Gerigk, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
Discovery of a Pharoah, 664 - 38-BCE, (photo credit: Christopher Gerigk, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum) IN REVIEW
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SUNKEN CITIES: EGYPT’S LOST WORLDS
ENJOY EVERY MINUTE
FLOOD PLAIN GALLERY
Amy Reidel’s exhibit at the Flood Plain Gallery, Enjoy Every Minute, was an unedited, raw immersion into the emotional and physical experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Upon entering the gallery, I encountered a group of paintings titled 72 Weeks that offer snapshots of pain, shock and wonder through vivid colors applied with strong lines that often radiate around a womb or vagina or fetus. Colors are sometimes arranged in ROYGBIV order, indicating a range of emotional and physical heat. Glitter suggests the intensity and potential beauty of the experience and also makes the womb into the fetus’s starry
universe. White faux fur suggests human hair and also the delicacy of the fetus. One surreal snapshot-like artwork shows the fetus screaming from pain or anger, and in another, the fetus is smiling while cradled by its mother, or by the moon. A snapshot of a bleeding vagina includes a rainbow of pain on one thigh, medical tape on the other and a line above the vagina suggesting an incision made for a Caesarean delivery. The blood is blue, a reference to the Kotex commercials which use blue liquid to simulate menstrual blood. Reidel aims to comment on the way women’s bodies and their functions are often not allowed to exist in their truth.
Reidel’s work is illuminated by a poem of the same name that accompanies the exhibit. Are the tumors she mentions in the poem actual tumors, or do they represent the societal, cultural and psychic forces that accompany pregnancy and childbirth? I think they are both, and also a reference to the baby as tumor. Just across the street from the gallery, the Love Tumor Nursery was on display in the window of the Golden Gems building for a period around the exhibition opening. The colorful tumors are both hard and soft, made of crystals, feathers, geodes and fabric. They make me think of fetish objects. Among the larger works in the gallery’s second room, two paintings stand out. The mother in Bikini Line and the baby in Baby Rainbow Year are depicted as saints, with halos cut from computer-generated heat maps pasted on the wall above their heads. At the bottom of Bikini Line, a vagina is fashioned from fake fur and glittery paper, and above the vagina is a styrofoam, “bumpy scar-shelf.” The mother’s eyes are downcast and her face is surrounded by radiating lines. The baby’s eyes in Baby Rainbow Year have rays coming from them, as if baby is a powerful hypnotist or controlling alien. In PPD (postpartum depression), the lines do not radiate; they are thickened and obscure the image in the center of the canvas with horizontal blinds or bars that are splattered with red paint. Enjoy Every Minute presents the variety of emotions and experiences had by pregnant women and mothers in a direct, visceral manner. Reidel gets our attention and holds onto it with her powerful use of symbol, metaphor, color and poetry in order to bring us along on the journey. -Sharon Elliott
Amy Reidel, 72 weeks detail (image courtesy of the artist) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
IN REVIEW Amy Reidel, 72 weeks, installation photo (image courtesy of the artist)
Amy Reidel, 72 weeks detail (image courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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ON FINDING (AND COMPOSING) THE
By Sarah Weinman “The bicycle is a good tool,” said artist Scott Petty, referring to his method of scouting outdoor locations to paint. “On a bike you can travel a couple miles in only a minute or so and stop anywhere to sketch or take pictures.” Petty is a dedicated rider and a lifelong artist. Once he biked from his home in Webster Groves to Alton, Illinois and back in a day. Riding and painting happened to come together and enable him to efficiently find scenes. “I’m always looking for something to paint,” he said. “On the bike I’m moving slowly enough where I have a chance to really see things.”
He takes a sketchbook and pencil on bike trips so he can make sketches. If he wants to go
back to a location and paint there, he notes the time of day and the weather so he can paint under the same conditions. When he returns, he drives and brings supplies. “There’s a time crunch when I work from life because the light and weather aren’t static. I paint quickly,” Petty explained. “It takes me one to three hours to do a painting. My outdoor style in oil is looser, impressionistic, because of the time limit.” The artist also brings his phone when biking, which he uses to take pictures of landscape scenes. He later makes paintings from these in his studio. He noted, “I paint in my studio a lot because it’s comfortable and convenient. My indoor style in oil is tighter, more naturalistic.”
Scott Petty, Tom with Hive Boxes, (image courtesy of the artist) 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
Though he enjoys creating landscapes, cityscapes and portraits, he said, “I’m not really subject-oriented. I look for color, the balance of light and dark, contrast, composition and the way the light hits things.” With regard to portraits, he likes to pose his subjects casually and depict them writing in a notebook or typing at a computer, things they’d do naturally. In the portrait titled Tom with Hive Boxes, Petty painted his son next to empty beehive boxes under a tree. Tom wears a white T-shirt and the boxes are light-colored. His folded arms are above his head and his stance echoes that of a classical or Renaissance sculpture. The beehive lids piled on top of the boxes seem to imitate Tom’s raised arms.
“This was a satisfying piece to paint. Tom and the boxes are ‘posed’ similarly, and symmetrically. The boxes are almost anthropomorphized,” said Petty. He painted a number of portraits of his daughter working outside with laundry. Washday, one piece in this group, portrays his daughter standing between two clotheslines
and hanging up a white sheet. She wears a white shirt and gray skirt, and the laundry that surrounds her is white and gray as well. Despite its sense of ease and timelessness, “this scene was completely posed and set up,” said Petty. “I had to build clotheslines and borrow white sheets because we didn’t have enough. It was also cold out!”
Petty has been drawing since age four or five. In school, he was introduced to watercolor, tempera and oil. He majored in fine art in college and also earned a teaching degree so he could teach art. During school breaks, he creates his own work. Most of the drawings he now makes are sketches, but he still considers painter Andrew Wyeth to be a major influence. “Wyeth drew almost everything and I could really relate more to his sketches than to his finished paintings,” said Petty.
Petty often thinks about how viewers look at his own work. He said, “When I paint, I’m helping viewers notice things they’d never see otherwise.” Petty’s cityscape Tower Grove Alley is a perfect example. Most of us never think about these areas of the city, but Petty liked the composition as well as the repetition of garages and telephone poles stretching away into the distance. Early-morning shadows from the garages cross the alley in a series of dark bars. “I paint what’s invisible,” Petty added. Scott Petty, Tower Grove Alley, (image courtesy of the artist)
Scott Petty, Washday, (image courtesy of the artist) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
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Another influence is local watercolorist James Godwin Scott (1931-2015) who painted scenes of life on the Mississippi River. Petty remembered, “I once attended a workshop he gave for other artists, in which he painted a piece so we could see his techniques. He was so fast. That changed the way I worked with watercolors.”
A CONVERSATION WITH JUDITH SHAW By Katryn Dierksen St. Louis artist Judith Shaw’s exhibition, Moving On, exhibited this last March at the Duet Gallery in Midtown’s Grand Center. The exhibit was made up entirely of tire treads that had been frayed up and arranged on the walls of the gallery, on pedestals, and on crates set on the floor. The wires from some pieces had been pulled out into curls. The metal cords inside the tires were cut up and splintered. Some pieces had been uniformly curled and trimmed. A pile of about ten tires were arranged in a heap, each was a perfect circle cut from the center of a tire. Others seemed to be living and crawling on the wall. Some were cut in crescents, that resembled a lemon wedge, a moon and a fingernail all at once.
On the night of the exhibition’s reception, all of the pieces in their flat monochrome blackness became like the Rorschach “ink blot” test. One had only to project their psychological state onto the shapes to find their meaning in the viewer’s subconscious and in declaration of their finding, define something about their own nature at the same time. Many people disagreed about the objects they saw in particular pieces. Katryn Dierksen: What made you decide to collect tire treads, and when did you know you wanted to transform them into art? Judith Shaw: Found objects form the basis of my sculptural practice, so I am always on the look out for interesting materials. […] When I saw the rubber pieces abandoned by the
highway, they called out to me. I was riveted by their raw emotionality and vulnerability. Their dynamic energy was striking. When I finally got up the nerve to collect the tire fragments, I knew I wanted to use them in my artwork but had no idea or visual imagery for what they would become. I sensed the expressiveness of the material would translate well into the kind of pieces I create and themes I investigate. KD: How long did it take you to gather the tires for this exhibition? JS: I collected the tires for several years before starting to work with them. It took a while to figure out the safest way to get them off the highway. While the potency of the tires attracted me right away, I had no idea how to approach the material and fashion it into anything. Gathering the tires for as long as I did gave me the chance to contemplate their meaning and consider fabrication methods. KD: How did you decide the shapes of the final pieces? How much did you manipulate the tires? What were your favorite tools? JS: The raw material dictates my creative process. When I begin, I do not have a vision of a finished piece nor do I have a specific shape or design in mind. A direction gradually emerges as I handle the material. I follow it through until the tire pieces reach their full expression. Instead of manipulating or reconfiguring the material, I set out to release its organic flow. Few tools are used in the
Judith Shaw, Moving On, installation view (image courtesy of the Duet Gallery) 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
process. Cutting and slicing tools disrupt the tires’ innate movement and integrity so I work primarily with my hands. Each sculpture is influenced by the emotion and mood I am trying to capture. The rubber has its own current. I look for pieces that embody the energy of what I want to convey. I do have a favorite pair of wire cutters used to snip off unruly sharp ends. When I do not have the strength to pull and peel the metal belting that runs along the underbelly of a rubber piece, I use a needle-nosed pliers to start off the gesture. A pneumatic staple gun and power drill used to attach pieces to the wall, a base or to each other are other favorites. DK: Did anything go wrong in pursuit or manipulation of a tire? JS: The biggest hazard of working with the tire pieces is that they are sharp and heavy. Even though I wear gloves, unprotected parts of my body end up with scratches; wrists and ankles in particular and occasionally my face. The exposed, sharp metal cords and fibers in the tires catch my hair and put holes in my clothing. When collecting the raw material, I get so exhilarated by my finds that my adrenaline kicks in and I do not appreciate how heavy the pieces are until I lift them later. After installing the Duet show and the creative frenzy that preceded it, my whole body ached. KD: Did you have any help? JS: Yes, I collect most of the tire material with a dear friend. She drives while I scout. We pull over when we see a good patch of tire scraps ahead. I get out and gather, throw the pieces in the back of the car and we move on. Most of the work in the Duet show was created in Joe Chesla’s sculpture studio at Meramec Community College where I take classes. Since I did not know where or how to begin, Chesla, head of sculpture and design at Meramec, encouraged me to play and experiment with different approaches. When I needed guidance or ran into a construction challenge, he helped me resolve it. Other students were generous with feedback which also spurred me on. Since I like working big, I realize that I will need more help if I continue with large scale pieces. I recently started making some that are small and lightweight which are more manageable to maneuver.
KD: What is your favorite story associated with the project? JS: There was a huge, long piece that sat along Forest Park Parkway for months waiting for me. I checked it out numerous times but it was too big and heavy to drag home alone. It lay there through several seasons, continuing to tempt me. I visited it repeatedly. A friend agreed to get it with me but somehow we never did. Eventually, I went to pick it up with my car and it was impossible to hoist so I gave up. The snake-like scrap kept tugging at me as it lingered along the roadside. Another friend with a truck promised to get it. That never happened either. Determined to have it no matter what it took, I finally grabbed it myself and got it in my car. The piece is relieved to have been rescued and I appreciate its beauty and resilience.
JS: They have the personalities when I find them. My job as I work with the tires is to uncover their unique character and bring them back to life.
SISTER CITY ARTISTS OF ST. LOUIS & STUTTGART By David Johnson
Time and space for an artist to focus on their craft is the real gift of an artist residency. It might not be how you thought you’d spend your days and hours away from home, but the daily distractions that take you away from the workbench or easel begin to subside. The residency creates time to go somewhere and get to work, to learn lessons, to be challenged, to be changed and to break your own creative rules. But you can’t forget about the secondary gifts; the relationships formed, the food shared and the creative tangents that bubble up to the surface and surprise you. St. Louis and Stuttgart, Germany have been sister cities since 1960, something I was not aware of until very recently. I’d never really thought about what a sister city meant until Julia Wenz emailed me about doing a photographic postal exchange. As the conversation grew, I proposed to invite Julia, along with artists Christian Eickoff and Peter Franck, to come to St. Louis and stay at Paul Artspace during a photography conference I was co-chairing with Gina Grafos. The board of Paul Art Space agreed it would be a good idea and was excited about where this new connection would lead us. Since Julia’s original
email in late 2015, we’ve hosted the three German artists at Paul Artspace, and accepted invitations for Alena Tunprasert-Ahrens and myself to stay at the GEDOK Artists Community in Stuttgart, culminating in five exhibitions featuring artwork from 14 artists representing the two cities. The exciting part? There is more to come! The exchange will continue to grow. This Summer, Paul Artspace will welcome Eva Schmeckenbecher, an installation artist utilizing photography, video and drawing from Stuttgart, and in August, Paul Artspace in turn will be sending Katherine Simóne Reynolds from St. Louis to GEDOK. This type of cultural exchange is a perfect example of the importance of maintaining and celebrating our relationships with our sister cities. Inspired by the wealth of opportunity for artists that has sprung form the Stuttgart exchange, Paul Artspace hopes to construct similar models with other sister cities of St. Louis, in the hopes of providing more and more opportunities around the world for St. Louis artists. Of course, this will also help Paul Artspace continue to bring the world to St. Louis through hosting international artists through exchange.
What can an artist expect from a Stuttgart residency? I’ll try to cover some territory here. After spending some time researching at Documenta in Kassel and gallery/museum hopping in Berlin, I arrived at the studio in the GEDOK ready to do my work. I was prepared to react to the experiences I had taken in during my journey, even though I had burned through my budget for film before I had even set foot in the studio. This brings me to lesson one, the first thing I learned from Peter- the Swabish (more on Swabia later) saying, "zuerst fragen...dann einkaufen," translation “Ask first, then buy!”
David Johnson, Warm Courtyard Study, (image courtesy of the artist) SUMMER 2018 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 18
KD: I have heard you personify some of the final pieces--do they develop personalities in your mind as you create them, or do you feel that they already have these personalities when you find them?
Judith Shaw, Moving On, instllation view (image courtesy of the Duet Gallery)
This saying was reiterated many times as I hunted for materials, tools, and supplies to realize a project- it even got me a discount when getting my film processed. I experienced a staggering amount of graciousness while in Stuttgart.
thought that having a studio in another building from where you lived was a necessity to have a productive practice; GEDOK showed me I was wrong. In Stuttgart, I learned how to live and work in a roughly 350 square foot room.
Lesson two, you can work where you stay. The Studio at GEDOK in Stuttgart is within a 1956 modernist building designed by Grit Bauer-Revellio. The GEDOK centre is a historical women’s collective started in 1937 that houses 22 studios as well as a gallery, ballet hall, and courtyard. The residency studio now hosts artists (without gender restrictions) from around the world within similar exchanges.
On the most productive days, I spent my mornings reading or editing digital photos, often taking lunch in the courtyard, mastering the soft boiled egg and eating cheese with fresh bread and a tomato spread (I've yet to find back in the States) from one of five small groceries within a short walk. I spent the afternoons walking around, exploring and photographing public spaces and urban designs, and nighttime would be time for documenting the courtyard or drinking excellent local German beer and wine with the other artists in residence while a bluetooth speaker filled the night air with music.
The studio opens directly to the shared courtyard and features a lofted bed, kitchenette and large bay windows for plenty of natural light. Since graduate school, I
Other nights there would be visits to Café Galao or one of the three stellar Jazz clubs for music, or Marco’s gallery for a film screening or exhibition reception. This brings me to lesson three: Stuttgart offers a lot of things to do if you’re not feeling the studio that day. The GEDOK is a 15-minute walk or three short tram stops from the historic city center which features museums, live music venues, and many restaurants including the region’s best Swabian dishes (think French inspired meat, pasta and savory potato dishes). Swabia is the cultural, historical and linguistic region of Southwest Germany in which Stuttgart sits. Enough with the Rick Steves guide, it was time to work at the GEDOK! In Europe, I was taken by the urban greenery in both public parks and private courtyards, places where the community forms organically. The parks were filled with people, not cars; trees and bushes blocked the vanishing points of city streets. It seemed like an escape and I felt the familiar sentiment surrounding It Can Be This Way Always, my ten-year documentation of an 18-day music festival in central Texas. I spent most days hiking, observing, and photographing how the green public spaces were utilized and transformed by occupants. I kept thinking of Fragonard’s paintings of Rococo gardens, but featuring a dude playing covers on an acoustic guitar, a hacky sack circle, and a camp grill burning bratwursts. At night, still tied to the natural setting of urban greenery, I would photograph in the courtyard, thinking about the materials we choose to work in or how we experience natural elements.
These projects are still in the works and continue to be considered as this new body of work develops, but they would not have become a path of creative inquiry if I had not gone to Europe or Stuttgart. I’m grateful that this opportunity found me through Paul Artspace, and to our sister city for making the world a bit smaller. I think it's vital for an artist to go and get lost in a new place to find stimulation and create further questions. The opportunities and ideas are out there; it's just about being willing to meet them halfway.
www.GEDOK-stuttgart.de www.paulartspace.org www.davidjohnsonstudio.com
David Johnson, Stadtbibliothek Stutgart (image courtesy of the artist) 19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM SUMMER 2018
A VISIT TO HEMMINGHAUS FARM AND STUDIOS By Holly Schroeder
Matt is a maker of many things, but his bread and butter is fine art photography of hens from his flock. A path he probably could never have imagined, combines his passion for art and birds of every feather. Matt has always been intrigued by birds and as a young boy, would study them with a field guide in hand. After his father passed away, Matt and his brother purchased a piece of property as a tribute to their dad who had planned to retire in the country. He jumped in with both feet, learned about land management, how to native crops and raise various birds of his own including experimentation with breeding in hopes of producing the most variation in color
and features. As he explained his experiment to me, we jokingly titled it his “rainbow animal husbandry project.” His photographs aren’t just pictures of pretty birds, Matt painstakingly creates elaborate scenes as a backdrop for the birds using primarily found objects from the farm. As a former backyard chicken owner, I know from experience that getting a hen to sit still when you want it to is a lot harder than it sounds. Being a clever guy, he wisely works at night -- hens have very poor night vision and are pretty heavy sleepers. Using an infrared headlamp, he retrieves his model from the coop and carries it to his studio, a converted grain silo, where he places the bird in the scene and waits for it to slowly wake up, hopefully in a good mood. He says he’s had to rebuild more than one background set when a startled bird woke up and trashed the set, but usually if they seem too fussy he can quickly turn off the lights and calm them down and try again in a few minutes. The results are stunning and continue to evolve into more complex compositions of color and texture all while working with a live animal. It’s quite a feat and probably one that could only be accomplished by a shy, introverted hen whisperer. Matt has worked in a variety of mediums over the years from acrylics and watercolors to photography, but birds as a subject remain a constant. Victoria’s visual art practice began with yarn, a crochet hook and YouTube videos. She crochets soft sculptures using colorful yarn, leaving the end as a surprise for herself. “You never know exactly what it will look like until you put the wool in. Your mind just can’t exactly imagine it.”
sky, they represent what is in the eye of the beholder. When I asked if I could touch them, she encouraged it, also rendering them a tactile treat. “I want people to touch them! Look, this one even has a little pocket you can put your finger inside.” Grouped together they are a lovely, wild, brightly colored species of soft, delightful things. When Victoria decided to paint, she was quickly pleased with the outcome. Already competent with pairing color, texture, and composition in her sculptural artwork, she is now mastering a second medium. Her subject matter is primarily abstract and captures the same energy and movement evident in her sculpture. Matt is a good-natured, good-humored, gentle soul. He is drawn to hard work and his attention to detail and patience is evident in all that he does. Victoria buzzes with energy. She is extroverted, talkative and adventurous to the very core of her being. The notion that all good relationships require a balance of gifts and strengths certainly gets credibility from the Artists Hemminghaus.
One Saturday afternoon, I packed Evie, my littlest dog, into our tiny car and headed north on Highway 70 to visit artist friends for a day of adventure and art. Off a gravel road, in a sleepy little rural town, surrounded by Amish farmers, live two unconventional, delightful, and immensely talented artists. St. Louis native, Matt Hemminghaus and his wife, British ex-pat, Victoria Hemminghaus, reside on a 100+ acre farm where they spend their days making art, tending and turning the earth, hunting for sustenance and caring for various creatures from guinea fowl to their three dogs. Matt constructed a metal barn to serve as both workshop and living quarters. The light filled interior is lined with art made by friends and artworks of their own. Matt is now adding on another room to the south side of the barn so they can grow their own food year-round and enjoy microgreens in December. They hunt for all the meat they eat and Victoria, a long-time chef prior to her immigration to the Untied States, cans like a madwoman in the summer to ensure an artful table throughout the winter. Sprinkled amongst the farm work, they travel to local and out-of-town art festivals to sell their artwork.
Victoria’s sculptures don’t have a clear up or down, right side or wrong side. Like an inkblot test or the game of finding pictures in a cloudy
Matt Hemminghaus, Sisters (top), The Outsider (bottom) (image courtesy of the artist)
Victoria Hemminhaus, Boiling Point (left), It’s in the DNA (right), (image courtesy of the artist) COMMUNITY VOICES
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Eldzier Cortor, The Eviction, 1939-40 (Gallery 333) image not included due to copyright restrictions.
By Robert Dorr
The moon hovers over Chicago, observing the struggles of a lone, but proud woman, who suffers the displacement of eviction. She holds all her belongings as she steps into the night.
Robert Dorr lives his (supposed to be retired) professional life guarding our public art collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum. He offers us a tour of the moon among the paintings he protects. The moon has been represented in art since ancient times, often viewed as a God, or the home of Gods. As science, and our understanding of the nature of the celestial bodies developed, a more pragmatic view of Earthâ€™s satellite became the accepted standard for everyone. Everyone, that is, except those groups that saw another value for the nightly visitor. Farmers, navigators, painters, hunters and yes, even writers have relied upon the moon to substantiate their craft.
Robert Salmon, Moonlight Coastal Scene, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum Gallery 338)
Salmon is noted for his rendition of moonlight in the moist sea air.
MARVIN'S LAMENT By Robert Dorr
Maximilien Luce, Camaret, Moonlight and Fishing Boats, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum Gallery 218)
Dancers in the night Pirouette so gracefully One shows all, now dark, now light The other, one face out of sight Heaven's lovers, meant to be. Hold each other tight Wedded by love's gravity Stars bear witness with their might Loversâ€™ universal flight Hold me close... eternally.
Luce renders this harbor scene using the Pointillism style. The subtle depiction of the fleet at anchor is illuminated by the moon. From our point of view, it seems as though the Earth is rotating off into the stars. Willard Metcalf, Old Homestead Connecticut, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum Gallery 335)
A pre-revolutionary house stands in the stark moonlight, stripped of all color, and yet, hauntingly surreal.
Giovanni Antonio Canal, Canal, An Island in the Lagoon with a Gateway and a Church, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum Gallery 202)
Joseph Vernet, A Harbor in Moonlight, (image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum Gallery 202)
Vernet plays with light sources in this harbor scene. There are four sources of illumination in the work. The lighthouse, the bonfire, the moon and its reflection.
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Canal traveled around Venice, making highly detailed sketches of dreamlike buildings. John Rogers Cox, Cloud Trails, 1944 (Gallery 333) image not included due to copyright restrictions. Cox places the moon amidst the cloud formations, as it shines down on the works of man. But, there are no humans present.
Holly Childress, Marvin's Lament, (image courtesy of the artist)
COLLECTING ART ABROAD By Paulna Valbrun
The Haitian artist is a testament to Haitian perseverance. In a country with limited resources and inconsistent electricity, it can be daunting to do something as simple as purchasing groceries or gas. I experienced this firsthand during my two weeks there visiting my family. I had a paper proposal due but had to push the date back--feeling like a spoiled American-- because I could not cope with the infrequent internet and electricity access, and of course the heat. Before departing from my father's country, I managed to bring back a painting depicting a typical scene of the countryside: Cuban royal palm and jocote trees with boats float on a river in the background, possibly gathering fish to be sold in the marketplace. Women in vibrant colored dresses sell grains, fruits, vegetables and other essential needs. The night before catching my flight from Port-au-Prince to Miami, I decided to stay in a hotel within a ten minute drive from the airport to make sure I couldn’t miss my flight. One of my cousins helped me to my hotel by finding two motorcyclists in her neighborhood, despite my offering to pay for a normal, American taxi complete with air conditioning. She insisted on taking a motorcycle taxi, it’s faster and far cheaper (five dollars for both of us for a 20 minute ride). When we reached Avenue Maïs Gaté a busy street that runs directly to the Toussaint Louverture airport (named after the general that helped gain independence for France), I was startled by the scene before me. I had spent most of my time in Bombardopolis, Haiti the commune that my father was from, that is located in the Northwest region of Haiti. There are beautiful beaches, palm trees, coconut trees, mango trees and greenery all throughout the region. It was where I wanted to be as soon as I arrived at the airport in Port-au-Prince, which like most cities is full of pollution from cars and far removed from the beautiful--and often ignored--mountains, beaches and skyline of Haiti.
quickly changed once I spotted a long stretch of artists selling paintings, jewelry, bowls, cups, hats and other miscellaneous items. I’ve always been particularly fond of the Haitian art that depicts everyday life in the countryside, often with mountains and beaches in the background. Of course, it was all painted in brightly colored hues. Although there were several vendors and artists on Avenue Maïs Gaté, I decided to approach the artist standing before an assortment of paintings hanging on a clothesline. There were a few dozen paintings depicting the countryside and domestic scene paintings of a typical day for a Haitian. I can only speak some French at this point so my cousin discussed price with the artist in Haitian Creole. I told her to ask about the painting with the Cuban royal palm and jocote trees, with the river in the background. I listened attentively, recognizing some Haitian Creole words. The artist’s name was Victol. He told her that the painting was around 1,500 Haitian Gourdes (around 20 USD.) I was thrilled at how cheap it was, but my cousin grimaced in disbelief. She began the haggling process, which initially enthralled me. Then, I quickly regather my senses. I am American, I make at least five times as much money as he does in one day. Not to mention the painting
I stopped my cousin from haggling with him once she got the price down to $15. She stared at me incredulous. What could I possibly want with the painting? But I couldn’t imagine paying less for it and I would feel guilty every time I stared at it hanging in my graduate school student office if we went down another dollar. It definitely brought up a question worth revisiting, is it ethical to haggle with artists living in impoverished countries? In America, it’s rare to find any painting of this size for $20, so why should I expect him to settle for less? Is his work not worthy of the same American dollars that I would give an artist here?
The ride down Avenue Maïs Gaté was definitely a stark contrast. We passed people standing outside the Chilean and Brazilian embassy seeking work visas in South America (one of my uncles and six of my cousins recently secured a work visa in Chile) due to Haiti's failing infrastructure and lack of jobs. The avenue was littered with garbage and mud. It was the last thing that I wanted to see before leaving my father's country. But this
was definitely worth more, when one considers the trouble he must have gone through to paint a detailed portrait in a country with limited access to electricity, to name only one of many obstacles. I have no idea how much it must cost him to buy paint, even in the United States that can be an expensive endeavor. He later revealed to us that he used old denim as a canvas to paint on.
(photo credit: Paulna Vulbrun) COMMENTARY
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