THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
Fred Requadt, Untitled (courtesy of the artist)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-12) EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER AMY REIDEL
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
WEB DESIGN AND ADMINISTRATION AMY MILLER
SOCIAL MEDIA AND OUTREACH MANAGER SEMILLA BLAND
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS ORNELLA BAILEY ROMAN BEUC JOHN BLAIR SAVANNAH BUSTILLO KEITH DECKER VICKI KAHN SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH EILEEN G’SELL TOM HUCK
LAURYN MARSHALL AMY MILLER SHAWN OWENS AMY REIDEL FRED REQUADT PAULNA VALBRUN JASON VASSAR SARAH WEINMAN MARIANNE WILSON
PRINT AND PROOF CONTRIBUTORS DANIEL BALLESTEROS PAT CUSUMANO
Covers: Corrine Wasmuht, Llanganuco Falls (courtesy of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum)
Our contributors had difficulty choosing between St. Louis area art exhibitions to review and we couldn’t bear to cut any of them out. As a result, you are reading an expanded issue of All the Art. For the most part, our reviews cover exhibitions that have closed or will close soon. Our documentation continues the work of the art and curation in our midst as writers think through the significance of the exhibits. We hope some of our new readers will be inspired to add their own voices to this artist-> art object-> display-> reception project!
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 13-16) Interviews in this issue take on the theme “Art, Artists and Identity.” Marianne Wilson talked to participants at Artists First about how their lived experiences intersect with their art practices. Jon Bonin tells Shawn Owens about his motivation to make a Cartoon Land for himself and for others. And Amy Reidel gets art duo WORK/PLAY and artist Jess Dugan to talk about what “identity” means to them.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 16-21) Artists’ explanations of what parts of their identity they express in their art objects dramatically differ. Roman Beuc tells the art historical tale of how Chester Harding made himself popular among his patrons by “branding” himself as a portrait artist for the reputable. St. Louis photographer Fred Requadt relays his experience of finding something new in himself when exposed to the wildly dynamic Alaskan sea scenes he captured with his camera. How we self-identify is clearly a subject considered through each responder’s unique vantage of what is important about them, what is rejected, celebrated or unchanging.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 22-25) Paulna Valbrun offers our readers a summary of an ongoing regional art conversation about racial identity, artists’ authenticity and holding each other accountable. That serial conversation began with the Kelley Walker exhibition held at the Contemporary Art Museum. Tom Huck responds to those events by discussing how his sense of his identity relates to his art practice.
Heaven Isla Uhuru, ME (photo credit Amy Reidel)
This past fall, our region played host to far too many interesting visual art exhibitions and events for us to cover. All the Art formed specifically because of this wonderful problem. Much of what we have included in this issue demonstrates the critical role that our artists and art venues play in shaping much larger conversations. There is evidence of our vitality as an art center in both our reviews section and within the remaining magazine sections which focus on our theme for this season: “Art, Artists and Identity.” Many readers will have followed the long thread of call and response critique between our Contemporary Art Museum and area artists and activists. In our commentary section, Paulna Valbrun provides a succinct description of the events that took place around the controversial exhibition and reflects upon the value of listening to and learning from those willing to stand up and ask for more from our beloved art institutions. The nation has learned that artists and art workers in St. Louis insist upon authenticity and accountability. When other art hubs pass the buck and give the nod to status quo art production and curation, we demand more. In other news, our region lost a visual arts asset when White Flag Projects closed this last October after ten years of innovative exhibitions and clever programming. Gallery director Matt Strauss published a public goodbye in which he stated that the gallery’s valiant efforts to educate could not be sustained “without the interest of the community” and that “it proved to be a poor fit for this locale.” These are statements with which we disagree.
We know well that efforts to gift one’s interests or one’s creative work to others are fragile endeavors. Such gifts are rarely received exactly as hoped for by the giver. In fact, White Flag staff once stated that they did not want to be covered in a magazine about visual art in St. Louis, explaining that, “White Flag does not identify as a St. Louis gallery and does not want to be known as a St. Louis gallery. White Flag has a national and international audience.” Perhaps that fear of association with our region better explains diminishing audiences at White Flag than anything lacking in the local make-up. Our region values our art venues even when there are facets with which we take offense or decisions made that we do not agree with. The relationship is, however, a two-way street. If our institutions operate as islands, out of touch with or ashamed of their populace and geographic surroundings, this issue of their sustainability in St. Louis will never end. St. Louis artists and art workers are sharp-eyed right now, demanding authenticity from themselves and others and inspiring the greater art world to ask new, albeit long overdue, questions around what’s on view and what it means. Knowing that, we are eager to read submissions in response to the thematic prompt for our Spring 2017 issue: “Borders.” Do you have something to say around artwork that centers on natural, political or personal borders? Or perhaps you see borders between art genres, periods or media that you would like to explore? Decide what “borders” means to you and get in contact so that you too can participate in documenting the visual art display of our time and place. All the Best from All the Art!
Executive Editor and Co-Founder
Creative Editor and Co-Founder
SUDARIOS | ERIKA DIETTES MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY RELIGIOUS ART, SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY
Their eyes are closed. Swaying and rippling in the circulating air, they seem almost to be speaking, tears running down their cheeks. The faces of twenty women fill the central gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, their portraits printed on thin silk panels over seven feet in height. Each panel hangs suspended, some close to the high ceiling and others almost reaching the ground. A social anthropologist as well as an artist, Colombian photographer Erika Diettes interviewed and photographed women who had been forced to witness the torture and murder of their loved ones during long-running conflicts between the Colombian government, a rebel group, and rival drug cartels. This installation, Sudarios, is part of a larger series of projects memorializing their losses. I. Around their necks are religious medallions, crucifixes, and rosaries. Many have faces raised or bowed in a posture of prayer, their lips parted in pain or supplication. Sudario is Spanish for “shroud”: a length of cloth in which a dead person is wrapped for burial. The word is also used in reference to two particular religious relics believed by many to be miraculously imprinted with the face of Christ: El Santo Sudario (known in English as
the Shroud of Turin) and the Sudarium (also known as the Veil of Veronica). Diettes’ Sudarios are similarly imprinted with the faces of those who are suffering, their likenesses absorbed into the fabric and preserved as a tangible memorial to their anguish. A sacred object meant to be regarded with reverence, relic derives from the Latin reliquae, meaning “remains,” and relinquere, “to leave behind or abandon.” Witnesses to horrific acts of violence, the women included in Diettes’ Sudarios are the survivors left behind. Their portraits can also be read as religious icons; their grief-stricken faces parallel representations of the Virgin Mary as Mater Dolorosa, Mother of Sorrows. There is a rich tradition of veneration of the Virgin Mary in Latin America, and by aligning the women’s suffering with hers, “Diettes elevates [her subjects’] burden to a spiritual one, their suffering acknowledged and dignified.” II. Behind them looms a monumental altarpiece. Rusty brown, it is bristling with pottery shards and shattered glass, nails and human hair. A hammered tin corona adorned with roses and rays of light frames the arid, abstract expanse. While Diettes’ Sudarios dominated the space, they were not the only works on view. The
Erika Diettes, Sudarios Installation View (courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art)
back wall was almost entirely covered by Michael Tracy’s Triptych: Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Stations of the Cross for Latin America: La Pasión. The Stations of the Cross are a series of fourteen images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion. The title of the immense triptych references the three penultimate Stations: Jesus is nailed to the cross. Jesus dies on the cross. Jesus is brought down from the cross. However, none of the panels include figural representation, instead evoking a wracked and desolate landscape, the seeming aftermath of a catastrophic event. Like Diettes’, Tracy’s work is dedicated to victims of violence in Latin America. The Sudarios are often displayed in churches where Diettes’ subjects live, and the work becomes an instrument of mourning and healing for them and their communities. Tracy’s altarpiece emphasizes the Museum’s religious architecture—it was originally a university chapel—and creates a similar sensation of being in a sacred space.
Erika Diettes, Sudarios Installation View (courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
In the Museum’s side chapels, works from the permanent collection exploring themes similar to those evident in Diettes’ Sudarios were on display, encouraging visitors to consider the installation from a variety of perspectives and contexts. Themes of loss and rebirth, family and motherhood, violence and trauma, memory and remembrance recurred throughout.
III. Their grief cannot be contained; their bodies push beyond the boundaries of the cloth and their eyes are closed, holding back memories, looking in. Diettes subjects “were left to survive so their stories would serve as cautionary tales.” When violence has been committed in order to produce images or stories meant to be shared, viewing those images or hearing those stories can make viewers complicit in the violent act. But not looking—disregarding tragedy—is not a morally defensible option. Diettes describes
her work as “a space where [survivors] can bear witness to the horror.” We viewers are then given a space to witness this witnessing. We cannot see what they are seeing. We can only see them remembering what they saw. Another artist who has explored the conundrum of how to express extreme violence and its aftermath to viewers desensitized by exposure to graphic imagery is Alfredo Jaar. His Rwanda Project, created between 1994 and 2000, addresses the Rwandan genocide. Part of this project, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita (1997) consists of a brief yet poignant description of Emerita’s experience, forced to watch as her husband and sons were murdered in church after their mass was interrupted by a death squad. The text concludes, “I remember her eyes. / The eyes of Gutete Emerita.” and a closely cropped photograph of Emerita’s eyes flashes briefly across the screen. Jaar’s “artwork haunts the viewer, not because it shows images depicting brutality but because it alludes visually to brutality only by implication.” The same could be said of Diettes’ Sudarios. Both Jaar and Diettes focus on the eyes of those who have witnessed horrific violence, inviting viewers to see beyond the abstract idea of a violent conflict and empathize with the individuals affected. Without access to
images of the violence, we are left to grapple with the complex humanity of the survivors, resilient yet irrevocably changed. In her portraits, Diettes consistently reveals “that instant when a person needs to close her eyes as the pain of a moment that divided her life in two again makes itself present.” So do these photographs aestheticize and desensitize, or do they help viewers understand and empathize? At the back of the space, there is one portrait hung low to the ground, at eye level with the viewer. Unlike the others, this woman has her eyes open, looking into an unfathomable distance. Her suffering is intensely personal, yet in the gallery it becomes communal. -Amy Miller
Erika Diettes, Sudarios Installation View (courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art) IN REVIEW
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A direct comparison can be made between two works, Luis González Palma’s El Santo Sudario, a photograph of a Maya elder wearing a thorny crown printed on linen, and Metáfora, a hand-painted photograph of a Mayan woman framed by gold leaf panels, and the potent symbolism of the sudario (shroud) and the icon. Others, such as Peter Ambrose’s Lazarus, an abstract collage crafted from translucent slices of mica, were more obliquely related. According to the biblical story, when Lazarus was resurrected he emerged from the tomb wrapped in a shroud; he was alive, but only with the help of others could he remove his grave-clothes and go back to living.
NATURAL FORCE JACOBY ARTS CENTER
In the glow of the late summer-early autumn light, visitors to the Natural Force exhibition were presented with the nature-inspired and derived sculptures of Illinois-based artist Danne Rhaesa and Missouri-based artist Megan Singleton. Curated by Jane Sauer, the exhibition demonstrated the versatility of found materials while also highlighting environmental crises. Rhaesa and Singleton collected plant fibers, stone, driftwood and other art materials provided by the planet and reconstructed them into objects reminiscent of Mother Earth’s creations. Both artists bring a focus on environmental issues into their practices, but their approaches are uniquely their own. Singleton’s artworks are laden with meaning that she doesn’t conjure up lightly. Her practice is guided by intentional, deliberate consideration of her own role in the making of her artwork and of her message. She describes the process of making as coming from a scientific approach. She completely immerses herself in
nature, in order to live within the art. She takes inspiration from the landscapes she has ventured into--whether on land or at sea--and explores the environment around her as part of her art making. Her exploration leads to observations, research, and interpretations that materialize in her artworks. Rhaesa, on the other hand, integrates her established artistic process into her daily life routines. She devotes 20 minutes every other day to making paper from plant pulp. Rhaesa also forms ecological connections within her work. She, too, considers the sources of her materials, how they are obtained, transformed, and presented as integral to each artwork. Rhaesa relies on experimentation to reach the envisioned end result and recognize a sculptural artwork as complete. She is a big believer in the humanizing power of art and encourages viewers of her artworks to tap into their own individual emotional connection with the Earth.
Both Natural Force artists believe that contemporary art should fill a purpose. Each art object installed at Jacoby sheds light on environmental concerns, perhaps even promoting social action. Their iterations of contemporary art mean one thing in their curated totality but hold different meanings in the details of each individual artwork. Their artworks pose challenges and reward the viewer for coming up close. -Lauryn Marshall
Installation View of Natural Force (courtesy of Jacoby Arts Center) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
Installation View of Natural Force (courtesy of Jacoby Arts Center)
ART AND WAR IN MODERN JAPAN (AND OTHER WAR-WORKS)
SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM Exhibited in the East Wing of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan, illustrates Japanese political history from the 1868 Meiji Restoration through Pearl Harbor in 1942. A variety of visual materials including folding screens, hanging scrolls, drawings, color woodblock prints, lithographs, books, textiles and more, depict a period during which Japan fought and defeated its two imperial neighbors, China and Russia. Artists used visual imagery to actively construct and assert Japan’s identity as a modern military power during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through flat, saturated color, calligraphic lines and stylized imagery, war time is recounted near-poetically, almost without the gruesome realities inherent to fighting. In between fiery tales of battle, power and sacrifice, moments of quiet, snowy landscapes and satirical interpretations of the “enemy” are discovered, lending to an overall, psychologically balanced retelling of these histories. Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan is thematically accompanied by The Disasters of War by Francisco de Goya in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs gallery in the main building. This series of 80 etchings,
Kobayashi Kiyochika, Great Fierce Battle in the Snow near Niuzhuang, (courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
during and immediately following the Peninsular War in Spain (1808-1814), is grouped in three topical sections: the war itself, the resulting famine in Madrid, and what Goya called “emphatic caprices.” The first series portrays the intensity of war acts through Goya’s use of sharp detail, making these renderings of violence like black and white horror movies, but without the comforting distance of fiction. The second group illustrates the aftermath of such
atrocities including famine, destruction and people reduced to their lowest selves. Completing the series is the third group, a dark and twisted depiction of some kind of fantasy world filled with animals, hybrid creatures and faceless humans. Also on view, further rounding out the theme of war, is an additional print series ranging from 1633-2006. Historic examples like The Miseries and Misfortunes of War, from 1633 by Jacques Callot, Max Beckmann's WWI-inspired portfolio, Hell and the contemporary work, Amman Portfolio by Daniel Heyman, are exhibited within the same gallery emphasizing this timeless and sickening facet of the human experience. These artistic, constructed histories of war were/are a form of journalism in their contemporary era, better able to evade censorship and provide methods of memorializing a moment. At times this meant documenting horrific violence and the most base reactions of the human race. It is amazing that in our contemporary era of watching cities burn and prisoners of war getting decapitated on television, the power of drawing and the print can churn a stomach just as much, if not more. The space between real life and the transcendence of art leaves room for heightened emotional reactions. -Amy Reidel
Harada Kōkyo, During a Battle with Our Third Naval Squadron, the Enemy Battleship Petropavlovsk was Surprised by the Sudden Appearance of Our First Naval Squadron and Retreated to the Harbor, in the Course of Which It Struck a Mine, Killing Admiral Makarov and over Seven Hundred Officers and Men, from the series "Illustrated Reports on the Russo-Japanese War", (courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum) IN REVIEW
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CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILDRED
KEMPER ART MUSEUM
“Love set you going like a fat gold watch,” opens “Morning Song” by Sylvia Plath. When the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum christened its new Fumihiko Maki building ten years ago, I couldn’t help think of this line every time I walked through its southern entrance. To the left of the foyer is a tasteful portrait of Mrs. Kemper herself, blonde and poised against a verdant landscape, a gold watch cinched around her left wrist. When I started working there a year later, Mad Men had just premiered on AMC. I couldn’t help
smiling on the walk to my office at the thought of a pencil-skirted Mildred dutifully typing away. Of course, Mildred Lane was never a secretary, and there was nothing ostentatious about her wristwear: it was delicate, austere, just like her wedding band. “The beloved wife of James M. Kemper,” a big-shot banker from the mid-1950s, she was, according to the plaque beside her portrait, “a lifelong advocate of higher education and patron of the arts.” Born
Anna Gaskell, Untitled #61 (courtesy of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
in the 1920s, Mildred entered adulthood at what was arguably the most conservative period of the twentieth century, her pearls peeking demurely from a button-up blouse. Checking out the Kemper’s newest exhibition—Real / Radical / Psychological: The Collection on Display—I wondered how Mildred would respond today. Separated into three galleries to correspond with their respective time periods, “The Long Nineteenth Century,” “Modernism and the
Corrine Wasmuht, Llanganuco Falls (courtesy of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum)
Twentieth Century,” and “Contemporary Moments,” the show is to date the most ambitious display of the museum’s permanent collection. Curated by Sabine Eckmann, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator; Meredith Malone, associate curator; and Allison Unruh, associate curator, Real / Radical / Psychological may ring academic, but is far from staid. Mildred’s collection has never looked so fresh, so bold—not least because so many of the new acquisitions are by international female artists. The largest space, the Barney A. Ebsworth Gallery, features contemporary artists from the 1960s on, and shall remain the focus of this essay. In the first section, dubbed “Subjective / Political,” the 1968 video piece Touch Cinema by Austrian artist Valie Export (b. 1940) predates “pro-sex” feminism by a good 25 years. Exposing a culture that insists on justifying male violence with the pathetic “she asked for it,” Export literally asks for it, wearing a makeshift “movie theatre” box around her naked chest during a performance in a city square. As a man announces the “attraction” with a bullhorn, Export maintains a detached, insouciant smile, at once annoyed and amused that her breasts could prove such a turn on. To watch the sideburned menfolk eagerly push their hands inside the box is to cringe at their entitlement, but also (perhaps) chuckle at the oversized glee that accompanies such a rare opportunity. Export stares right at her veritable Viennesse “handlers,” but in a way that suggests that they are duly judged. Export is less Girls-Gone-Wild as she is consciously
blurring the line between sex work and performance, a grab-and-go that grips us almost fifty years later. In the “Radical / Uncanny” section of Ebsworth, Untitled #61 (by proxy) (1999) by American photographer Anna Gaskell (b. 1969) proves more dreamlike, but equally disquieting. Capturing a scene that feels a cross between Frozen and The Virgin Suicides, four young women in long white gowns form a semi-circle in sunlit snow. At their center,
In another sensual, if more exuberant turn in the next section, “Real / Digital,” German artist Corrine Wasmuht’s oil painting Llanganuco Falls (2008) assumes epic, almost orgasmic proportions—as though the 117 1/4 x 153 1/2" canvas is visibly erupting into Lisa Frank fountains flowing vertically in both directions. The dusty dirt and grass path at bottom center leads into a fairytale wood in which glaciers, waterfalls, and tree canopies pour onto and into each other. What first seems a kind of frisky fractal becomes a visual romp through the wilderness, achieving a psychedelic sense in its lack of exact repetition. The painting may resemble the actual falls in Peru’s Huascaran National Park, for which it is named, but in any case remains one of the most enthralling contemporary pieces the Kemper calls its own—cerebral eye-candy, as sexy as it is strange. Passing Mrs. Kemper’s portrait on my way out, I had to crack another grin. Milly could be rolling over in her grave or landing heavenly handsprings. I prefer to imagine the latter. -Eileen G’Sell
Valie Export, still from Touch Cinema (courtesy of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, © 2016 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /VBK, Austria. Image courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.) IN REVIEW
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another girl—face bent down as though in prayer—vomits up a thick, dark cascade of human hair, hair matching the tresses on her own head that are held up gingergly by the girl at her side. Cult-like and creepy in nurse-white sneakers, Gaskell’s girls stage a coming-of-age ritual that leaves one longing for a lozenge.
(RE)PRESENTING THE MEDIEVAL BODY: THE ROLE OF CLOTHING AND TEXTILES
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTION IN PIUS XII MEMORIAL LIBRARY Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library at Saint Louis University, curated a lively assemblage of objects and information about Medieval European dress on the second floor of Pius XII Memorial Library. A small labyrinth of panels and objects on display made this exhibition something like a walk-through textbook, perfectly suited for its university library context. Medieval text and images relay dress codes and cultural dress norms, revealing a great deal about the beliefs that surrounded the manuscript authors. Catholic, Jewish and Muslim identities are often legible because of hair and clothing. Differences between class groups - nobility, merchants, professional occupations, working class - are also illustrated through clothes. It doesn’t take an historian to recognize a peasant's coarse wool as a fixture of poverty. But an art historian is definitely needed to point out ostentatious colors or vulgar color combinations in 11th century Spain. L’Engle invited Désirée Koslin, expert in the history of
fashion and textiles, to discuss subjects touched upon in the exhibition in a lecture entitled: At Face Value: Visual Representations of Fashion In the Middle Ages Koslin pointed out that sumptuary laws were local, but that some constants could be found from place to place. The use of gold and silver thread, the color purple, and other luxurious materials were typically reserved for royalty. Costly foreign craftsmanship of clothing was not just out of price range for the lesser masses, but illegal to wear if your social standing was not high enough. These laws, reports Koslin, were often not obeyed. Men wearing shirt jackets were scorned as shameless. The wide sleeves on many women’s dresses were referred to as “the devil’s windows.” Too much fabric on a garment, or overuse of buttons was thought to be wasteful. Arabic inscriptions along the sleeves as decorative detail on a Venetian court dress betrayed worldliness. Knowledge of these visual cues meant that clothing in art could be used to convey any number of things otherness, pride, purity, status… Images of fabrics and textiles display complex cross-cultural context to the readers of these illustrated manuscripts. Materials, dyes, and weaving technology moved with merchants across continents. Medieval Iberians in important cities, like Córdoba or Toledo, lived in relatively close contact with people who practiced different religions, spoke different languages, ate different foods, followed different customs. The practical and theoretical purposes of various garments were complex enough in such cities that guides were devised for the wearers. Rules of dress were described in illustrated texts like the Medieval Housebook of 15th-century Germany. L’Engle displayed a contemporary publication with images from that manuscript, which is no less interesting than the centuries-old hand painted facsimiles, though unlikely to make you tingle from contact with a long ago world.
Detail from facsimile The Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry (courtesy of Saint Louis University Special Collections) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
Much of the (Re)Presenting the Medieval Body exhibit materials demonstrate a concept through digital images, but several of the manuscript facsimiles that those panel images came from are there in glass cases, total eye candy for bibliophiles. The manuscripts on view can be seen any day that the Pius XII Library is open. This world-class collection is free to view for the public, by appointment. Each Book of Hours — a Christian devotional book popular among the wealthy in the Middle Ages in Europe — holds lavishly decorated illustrations of jewelry, accessories, dress patterns and hairstyles that compete with any contemporary fashion magazine. Along with practical dress guides for the “good” man or woman, clothing authorities could provide metaphysical reasons for garments to be worn. Guillaume Durandus (William Durand)’s Rationale Divinorum Officiorum provides notes on the clothing of clerics. Apparently, priests wore very powerful garments: What is the purpose of pontifical gloves? The answer: "That he will avoid vainglory.” But, then also: "So that the left hand will not know what his right hand is doing." The maniple, a cloth that is laid over the left hand of a minister, "wipes away the sweat of the soul and shakes off drowsiness of the heart, so that the minister can stay awake doing good works, pushing away sluggishness and sleepiness." The amice, which looks to me like a headscarf, "restrain[s] [the cleric's] emotions and thoughts, his throat and tongue, so that his heart will be clean and he can receive in his innermost parts, the righteous spirit that renews him.” The cleric puts on the long alb (tunic dress) so that he “can be steadfast in preserving purity of the flesh.” And the Belt/Cincture so that he “can curb the impulse towards illicit behavior.”
Our culture also punishes some wearers of some garments. Think about those “no
hoodies” signs at bank and gas-stations - it’s pretty unlikely that a white woman in her yoga gear was ever called out for her hoodie. Or consider the timeless desire to convey rules of dress for the "virtuous woman." Humans have always devised methods to denote who’s in, who’s out, who has power over whom.
-Sarah Hermes Griesbach
Detail from manuscript known as The Crusader Bible, The Morgan Picture Bible and, alternatively, the Shah 'Abbas Bible (courtesy of Saint Louis University Special Collections) IN REVIEW
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Like every well curated exhibition of visual culture, these manuscripts and artifacts display truths of the human condition, social constants that help us know ourselves. English sumptuary laws elicit easy comparisons with contemporary demarcation of status. We, too, wear social signifiers.
CRAIG CARLISLE All the Art contributor Jason Vasser poetically responds to paintings by artist Craig Carlisle exhibited at Houska Gallery last fall. It was raining in September there were fading awnings, gray and sad in the overcast an unusual chill in the morning I needed sunshine on this otherwise dismal day the Eyes caught my attention and to me the heads were seeds planting imagination innocence in simple, bright colors and usual shapes.
Flower 4 had a single stem in vibrant green on pastel blue with two buds reaching for the sky Flower 3 had a single stem, strong like a tree, set in lush grasses, sprouting blushing petals bulbous, with full lips Flower 1 like a grand green trunk, held life at its center
HOUSKA GALLERY Flower 2 was an earthen shoot reaching for clouds, in brilliant magenta as offspring rested below in shadow. I moved from flower to flower to Carlisleâ€™s signature heads a Reflection of non-gendered features, devoid of ears or hair observing me as I observed ... it standing there. Alluring was another face but in its gaze there was no place to hide and to my surprise â€“ Serenity, the only blue face had shadows around its eyes, nose and lips its shoulders drifted away like tide out to sea it was Peaceful a garden of flowers and heads, blossomed from the inside and in a way, the sun came out. -Jason Vasser
Craig Carlisle, Alluring (courtesy of the artist and Houska Gallery)
Craig Carlisle, Serenity (courtesy of the artist and Houska Gallery) 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
Brandon Barnesâ€™s exhibition Frail at Intersect Art Center explored biology and physics through the use of galvanized steel wire and medium density fiberboard, paper clips and dry board. Eschewing recognized forms, Barnes constructs art objects that are not obviously readable. His aim is to draw viewers into engaging and relating to his artworks in a three-dimensional way. "I like that you can interact with [the sculpture]. You can walk around it, look under it, and love over it. You can explore it without there being a back or a front to it." He describes his work, as being "...influenced by a variety of sources including architecture, machinery, and biology." He combines these influences to create works which "break the barrier between two dimensional and three dimensional objects." While avoiding ascribing any specific meaning to his sculptures, Barnes does identify them, as "...caricatures of physics, interpreted as the secret scaffolding that holds together the universe. The plane of existence is wrapped around them, and gives them an understandable shape. The smooth facades break and reveal the inner structures that govern the shape of the sculptures." While his explanation
INTERSECT ART CENTER may not be readily apparent to the casual onlooker, his sculptures imply this rationale through his use of various geometric design and symbol making prevalent in his work. There is a clear but unreadable architectural structure underlying each. He fashions his work intentionally to imitate his perception of an ordered mechanism akin to the operative mechanism of the human central nervous system and brain. "I am interested in the way that the intangible and the artificial meet the tangible and the natural. I'm fascinated by the idea that thoughts, ideas, and senses can be broken down into a physical state of neurons, synapses, and electrical signals. I imagine them as tiny machines that, when assembled in exactly the correct order, create consciousness." He adds, â€œI seek to create imagery that evokes the idea of universal machinery." Interestingly, while Barnes defines the theoretical meaning of his sculptures, he insists that the aesthetic value of his work should be determined by his audience's response to it. This is consistent with his desire to involve his audience in his work, and without
Brandon Barnes, Installation view (courtesy of the artist)
directly saying so, there seems to be a suggestion that his audience will co-create the meaning of his work. "Art changes when it is something you can't get just by looking at a picture of it. A lot of people nowadays just look at art as something on their phone or computer screen. Or you go to a museum and the art is on the wall, and there is the occasional sculpture. Not that I disapprove of that, but there is something to be said for having an object that exists in the world with you as opposed to a painting or a drawing which is an image. I like something real, something I can interact with, something that can exist in the same space as me." This idea of his sculptures occupying space underlines a sense of the fluidity of their existence, from one place and time to the next. His sculptures appear tenuous, almost fragile, and have a playful characteristic to them. The impression is that while this work is serious, Barnes does not want his audience to take him, his art, or life too, too seriously. -John Blair
Brandon Barnes, Fracture (courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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CHARLIE WOULD… PROJECTS + GALLERY
The exhibition of Paris-based artist Charlie Le Mindu’s Charlie Would… at Projects + Gallery makes me think of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, except reimagined as a drag show in Mad Max’s Thunderdome. Le Mindu uses hair, both natural and synthetic, as an artistic medium to mesh the primal and the contemporary, the ancient with the modern. Le Mindu skillfully manifests ways we define ourselves as uniquely human and set apart from the natural world while intricately connected to it. These artworks offer an
exhilarating exploration of the human psyche, using sculptural wig artworks as a platform from which to challenge normative boundaries of art, life, and style. Regardless of such heady content, one could enjoy the show for nothing but the delight of it as it was as visually appealing as it was thought-provoking. A little background on this Charlie, who would: At the age of 13, hair styling prodigy Le Mindu began his career at the French Hair Academy. He went on to build his reputation as resident hairstylist for various Berlin nightclubs. He then
set up shop in East London, establishing himself as a versatile stylist with a proclivity toward the outrageous. His loyal client base included the B52s, Peaches, and English record producer Adamski. In 2009, he launched his first large-scale wig collection at London Fashion Week becoming London’s French Master of Haute Coiffure. Le Mindu’s clientele includes Kap Bambino and Ayumi Hamasakim, but he is best know for his bombastic sculptural wig ensembles worn by Lady Gaga. In Charlie Would…, Le Mindu paid tribute to haute European fashion, African tribal culture, and the sublime wonders of the natural world, while also giving a nod to subcultural influences – namely gay culture and underground dance music culture - that were present throughout his career. Through absurd and, at times, playful forms, the collection uses hair as an exaggerated medium to push the boundaries of form, function, and style, while also serving as an aesthetically vibrant expression of human history – a sort of rendering of cultural anthropology as art. Le Mindu combines hair with other organic and inorganic materials such as leather, metal, cotton and plastic, as a formidable extension of the human body. The collection often builds on the contributions of his predecessors. Le Mindu draws inspiration from previous artistic movements to explore the mechanics and drivers of social interaction. With Pearls, an artwork inspired by the 1920s Surrealist movement and featured at last year’s A Male Gaze exhibition at Paris’ Crazy Horse Cabaret Club, Le Mindu focuses on the idea of the gaze as an important vehicle for both communication and the ability to anticipate and assess personal interactions and situations. Sculptural wig artworks from the oceanicinspired Stronger Series Collection (2014), such as Octopus Mask and Jellyfish Wig (both constructed of human hair and polystyrene), illustrate humans’ age-old fascination with the natural world and our preoccupation with finding our place within it. In addition to sculptural works, the collection also includes a video installation depicting hair in movement. The video, titled Barbershop Pole Girl, jovially reimagines the iconic barber pole girl as an overgrown hair figure moving synchronously on screen with clones of itself. -Keith Decker
Charlie Le Mindu, Octopus Mask (photo credit Suzy Gorman, courtesy of Projects + Gallery) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
IN REVIEW Charlie Le Mindu, Jellyfish Wig (photo credit Ines Dieleman, courtesy of Projects + Gallery) IN REVIEW
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Q&A WITH JESS T. DUGAN AND WORK/PLAY By Amy Reidel
Inspired by the freedoms and limitations inherent to actual and perceived identity, Amy Reidel briefly interviewed St. Louis-based artists Jess T. Dugan and WORK/PLAY for insights into this current All the Art theme. Jess T. Dugan’s various photographic series reveal issues of gender, sexuality and community often through intimate portraits. WORK/PLAY is an interdisciplinary duo pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, design and printmaking, using both minimal and experimental approaches.
Amy Reidel: Can references of personal identity ever be truly divorced from an artist’s work? When is it appropriate/valuable to attach personal artistic identity to the work itself? WORK/PLAY: Yes, one's personal identity can be separated from the work itself, but many viewers will look at the subject matter and then categorize it as they see fit. Neither one of us
are really concerned about the nationality, ethnicity or sexual preference of the artist making the work. We like to decode the message provided, study the materials used in context to the work and the quality of the pieces. Yet—when it comes to black artists—the same level of measure does not always apply. Our gender and racial background come into play. When emerging black artists make contemporary work, it's deemed black contemporary work. However, when white men make contemporary work, it's just that and race is not an added prefix to the genre. For this reason, we explore materials and think deeply on how we will thematically and stylistically produce our pieces so viewers can focus on the work, the message, and not the maker.
eted and, in some ways, highly subjective. My work does have a social and political element, and some of my projects are more inherently political than others. I don’t think issues of identity need to be divorced from artists’ work, but rather I think they need to be expanded. Even though my work comes directly from my own specific experiences, I am aiming to engage with more universal issues. We need to be able to allow for a complex reading of work rather than trying to reduce it to an easily digestible label, such as “queer art.”
Jess T. Dugan: This is an interesting and complicated question. My work stems heavily from my identity as a queer person and is informed by my own experiences in the world. Through the act of making portraits, I am able to speak about issues such as gender, sexuality, family, and community, all of which are multifac-
Jess T. Dugan, Sky, courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery
WORK/PLAY, Malcom X, (photo credit: Demond Meek) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
Jess T. Dugan, Gloria, courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery ARTIST INTERVIEWS
AR: Can you describe your artistic mission a bit and how it relates to our theme of identity in artwork? Jess Dugan: My mission is actually fairly simple: I aim to make portraits that facilitate an engagement between the viewer and the subject that goes beyond the surface to engage with deeper psychological or emotional issues. Particularly when depicting people from marginalized communities, this engagement has the power to lead to empathy, understanding, dialogue, and hopefully, social change.
Since I began making pictures, I have been trying to tease out the various layers of universality versus specificity, of tapping into a relatable and important aspect of the human condition without sugarcoating or homogenizing the details of individual experience. I am committed to making formally beautiful portraits; my aim is to fuse a very contemporary subject and a classical style in order to draw in the viewer visually before allowing the political elements to register. WORK/PLAY: We use our artistic practice to shed light on a variety of topics. Oftentimes, those works are inspired by institutionalized
oppression and political corruption. We are constantly trying to challenge those that are quick to identify or pigeonhole the type of works we create. Yes, we are black artists and lately the bulk of our work revolved around topics of racial disparities but it's art first no matter what. We despise being put into boxes which is why we work so hard to break beyond mere labels.
A WORLD WITHOUT WORRY
By Shawn Owens Shawn Owens went to the Pancake House in Clayton to interview artist Jon Paul Bonin. Bonin is in his 30s. Like Owens, Bonin was born completely deaf. They sat for an early morning interview on a beautiful, sunny day. The two chose seats across from one another where they could understand each other in American Sign Language, enjoying the wide viewing window between their breakfast and conversation. Shawn Owens: Do you conceive of your art practice as a solo work or do you involve other people? Jon Paul Bonin [hesitates in a moment of thinking.]: I am something like 50/50 percent between solo work and team collaboration. I can involve other people if they want me to draw as part of a project. I do like working on some projects independently, mainly due to copyright issues. I stay away from people who try to steal my ideas. I'll know if I sense something wrong. I often go to art galleries to find some inspiration. Sometimes, I compare my artwork to others. SO: When you present your drawings and paintings to others, what do you learn from their feedback? JPB: It’s useful. I constantly improve my drawings and paintings after getting criticism. I always want to do my best. I'm not just a lovely face, I’m also a really good listener!
Owens and Bonin laugh. SO: What kind of art do you make? What are you mediums of choice? JPB: I always use Winsor & Newton (Winton oil paint) and generally work with acrylics. I create illustrations of my abstract ideas, trippy visual ideas. I often fashion them to serve as themed gifts and cartoons. I dream about adventuring around on the Earth but unfortunately I haven’t managed that. So I think about adventure to the Cartoon Land! I wish to create in my images of Cartoon Lands a world where we don’t have to worry about Fear, Struggle, Suicide, and Death…. Cartoon Land is the most enjoyable place. It is fun, full of laughter and freedom! SO: When did you begin to think of yourself as an artist? JPB: My family moved to Saint Louis in 1986. I credit the teachers at the Spoede Elementary School for my lifelong interest in art. My art is also tied to my love of hiking and being in the outdoors.I love exploring in unseen forests, any natural environment. It helps to place my ideas into some perspective. I graduated from National Technical Institute for the Deaf in 2010 where a graphic designing class helped push me toward the art I now make.
Jon Bonin, Adventure (courtesy of the artist)
JPB: Yes, sometimes. My drawings fit into the Deaf Visual Arts Movement known as De'VIA for Deaf View/ Image Art, but my art is as varied as my interests. I love kayaking and every kind of adventure. I love to walk around on the roads and be free.
SO: Are some of your artworks about your deaf identity?
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A CONVERSATION BETWEEN SHAWN OWENS AND JON PAUL BONIN
FINDING THE HONEY STORED IN THE SOUL INTERVIEW OF ARTISTS AT ARTISTS FIRST STUDIO IN MAPLEWOOD, MISSOURI.
By Marianne Wilson
Who told you that one paints with colours? One makes use of colours, but one paints with emotions. – Jean-Baptise-Simeon Chardin
[now] to spot my own mistakes.” In an abstract work where the design seems to lead the artist, what constitutes a mistake? For one thing, “too much of one color in one place,” he explained.
Chaquetta Nichols paints on both stretched canvas and cardboard. She draws in pastels and works with other media as well. Her paintings pack an emotional punch. She has been coming to Artists First for less than a year and was not doing any artwork prior to this. She remembered how emotionally charged the colors of crayons felt to her as a child. Doing no art in the meantime, that affinity with color quickly came back when she began painting at the Artists First studio. She discussed the process of having made an abstract painting one day when feelings of depression were getting the better of her. Painted in mostly darker hues, it has a few streaks of light; those were lighter feelings “coming from somewhere.” She described finishing the painting and feeling that something emotionally heavy had been lifted from her. The positive feeling remained with her.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Scott Adams Alehra Evans has always known herself to be creative. As long as she can remember, her family has encouraged that self-concept. She has used the Artists First studio for about three years. Prior to that she knitted, painted, crocheted, sewed and made jewelry. At Artists First she learned to make pottery and has improved her sewing abilities. Her jewelry design has matured.
Evans has difficulty responding to the question of where her creative ideas come from, probably because for her it is a continuous, natural process. Giving the question some thought, she said she gets ideas “from everywhere – magazines, nature, looking at people, the jewelry that people are wearing. I look at what’s out there, then I find the materials, and that’s what I make.” Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of mystery and travail. – Theodore Dreiser Priscilla Miller combines art and poetry on canvas and paper. Her pictures often feature eyes peeking out from unexpected places. Her poems refer to eyes, looking, seeing and
“Art comforts me. It gives me peace. It gives me motivation.” Nichols’ inspiration and ideas come from several sources: books, “things I see,” and music among them. “Whatever I’m listening to goes straight into my work. Music could influence what colors I choose, what style I want to go with.” …what we truly are is private, and almost infinitely complex, and ambiguous, and both external and internal, and… multiply-natured, and largely mysterious even to ourselves. Phillip Pullman David Walter comes to Artists First nearly every day and creates geometric illustrations made up of lines, triangles and dots on many surfaces – paper, canvas board, furniture, a slatted wood window shutter, a bicycle, a wooden bench, a mailbox. Parts of his drawings look like cells multiplying, each with its own nucleus. Prior to beginning an artwork Walter feels anxious, explaining that “it’s like something is trying to get out of my head.” Once he starts, relaxation replaces anxiety, and once finished with an artwork, he feels “complete – it’s like a relief.” He works at, and can see, cumulative improvement in his technique. He strives for compositional balance and believes “it is easier 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
Artwork by David Walter (photo credit: Richard Reilly) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
Now, at 26, Miller has been painting for only a year. Putting poetry and painting together doubles the emotional impact – on herself and on her audience. “If I’m feeling sad, when I finish I feel better because I guess I put all my emotions into the artwork. It’s the same way I feel when I write poetry.” Her paintings are striking – abstract, bold, rich with color, each different and fresh. At first she had difficulty believing she was doing anything other than playing with the art materials. “When people started telling me I had a gift, at first I didn’t believe it. I thought they were just trying to make me feel good.” At some point she started to believe the feedback and began to identify as an artist. She now unambiguously identifies as such.
What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. – John Updike
becoming…It is so self-sustaining that our recognition of it is not required. – T.F. Hodge
Jujuanna Goodrich creates polished drawings of stylized, cartoon-like people - a hula girl, a punk-looking girl - within environments populated by small creatures such as frogs and spiders with tiny thoughtful details. Her tools are paper, canvas, paint, markers, pens and colored pencils.
I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art. - Madonna
Goodrich’s ideas sometimes come from her dreams. It’s not unusual for her to wake up in the morning feeling ready to create a drawing and knowing how it will look. In addition to her dreams, her creative ideas are fed by all sorts of things “from all over.” “I see something – a picture – and wonder how I would do it differently.” But her polished style is distinctly her own. Deep within, there is something profoundly known, not consciously, but subconsciously. A quiet truth, that is not a version of something, but an original knowing….it is there, guiding us along the path of greater
Steven McGee is a quiet man who comes into the studio day after day to draw and paint faces on canvas. He only works in portraiture – sometimes of himself, though not by looking into a mirror as artists typically do for this kind of endeavor. McGee draws the outlines; the details then reveal themselves to him as he works. Each drawing is then made into a fully composed painting rich with color, and each is distinctly different from the last one. McGee is adamant that this work is important and necessary to his wellbeing. Perhaps he is getting ever closer to something he is seeking along that ‘path of greater becoming.’
THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN IDENTITY AS A CONSTRUCTOR OF IDENTITIES
(OR HOW CHESTER HARDING MADE HIS CAREER AS A PORTRAIT ARTIST)
by Roman Buec If you happened to have had legal business in the early 1850’s, you might have been called to the St. Louis Civil Court House at 4th and Market (The Old Courthouse). After entering the building’s central rotunda, you would have observed a large painting portraying a life-sized standing figure of William Clark, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, conducted from 1804 to 1806 from St Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The portrait was painted by the itinerant eastern artist Chester Harding (1792-1866). This depiction of the historical figure, given to the St. Louis Civil Court in 1845, no longer resides there but is now at the Saint Louis Mercantile Library, located at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. It was given by the Court to the Mercantile Library in 1854, when the library’s first permanent building opened at Broadway and Locust. In 1813, Clark was appointed Territorial Governor of Missouri, a vast territory which included the northern half of the original
Louisiana Purchase land area. Interestingly, Clark is not depicted as a roughly dressed woodsman on the expedition, but instead, is represented in the formal dress of an 1820’s gentleman. This is consistent with the image Clark wished to convey. To paraphrase Julie Dunn-Morton, art curator at the Mercantile Library, the painting is of the grand manner portrait style. It invokes Gilbert Stuart’s iconic 1796 Lansdowne Portrait of a standing George Washington. Compositionally, it is identical to Harding’s portrait of the standing Chief Justice John Marshall (c 1830). Clark is clothed in black, contrasting with the vivid red curtain behind and above him. A bright white ascot draws attention to his face. The column provides a classical touch. The book and objects on the table support the overall dignified atmosphere and indirectly refer to Clark’s career. This reference is not just to him as an explorer, but as governor, and to his diplomatic role as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The viewer, looking past Clark to the left, sees the confluence of two rivers, ARTIST INTERVIEWS
undoubtedly the Mississippi and the Missouri, with the latter offering a path to the great northwest and used as a water highway by his expedition. Harding had painted several Clark portraits in 1820 on his first visit to St. Louis. He painted this retrospective portrait of Clark, and gave the work to the St. Louis Civil Court in 1845 to honor of his son-in-law, John Marshall Krum, then serving as a Civil Courts judge, and later the eleventh mayor of St. Louis. Judge Krum was married to Harding’s second daughter, Mary Ophelia Harding Krum. Chester Harding was born in Conway, Massachusetts, one of twelve children, to a very poor family. They later moved to the wilds of western New York in 1806. At age 12 he was hired out for two years, at $6 a month, to work for a Mr. Graves in Hatfield, Massachusetts. During the War of 1812, he served as an army drummer. After leaving service, he lived in Caledonia, New York and In 1815 married Caroline Woodruff with whom he had nine WINTER 2016/17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 16
sometimes in tears. In some of her paintings, the paint has been allowed to drip downward like tears of various colors, or blood. Other paintings are more joyous expressions. A seizure at age 13 sparked her creativity. The experience resulted in her first poem: The Storm is Over Now.
children (two of which moved to St. Louis as adults). By 1816, Harding was working in Pittsburgh as a chair maker, house-painter, and sign painter. After watching an artist paint his wife, Harding attempted a portrait of her himself. It was surprisingly good. With his first remarkable success, the self-taught artist went on to use his natural talent to devote himself to portrait painting for the rest of his life. Critics wrote that a major feature of his portraits was the seeming ability to capture the sitter’s character and his use of “straightforwardness over flattery.” Harding, with assistance from William Clark, set up a very successful portrait business in St. Louis. He received so many local commissions based on Clark’s endorsement that he was able to raise his portrait fee from $25 to $40. During mid-1820, he struck out from the town, found the famed pioneer Daniel Boone in the Femme Osage Valley and painted two portraits of Boone from life. One was a half-length version and the second a full-length life-sized portrait painted on oil cloth. This was only weeks before the national hero’s death. Harding then went further up the Missouri River and stayed at an inn in Franklin, Missouri. Here he set up a temporary studio to finish the Boone portraits. The inn was run by the parents of the nine-year-old George Caleb Bingham. The boy was so impressed by Harding and his craft that he vowed to also become an artist.
The year 1820 provided very favorable results for Chester Harding and his contributions to Missouri art, but great heartbreak for Clark. Clark lost his beloved wife Julia while he was away from her. His extended absences from St. Louis to visit her in Virginia and his perceived pro-Indian policies as territorial governor resulted in his crushing defeat in the gubernatorial election for the office of first governor of the new State of Missouri. A fascinating feature of Harding’s career is his ability to avoid succumbing to the “starving artist syndrome.” Upon his arrival in new cities, he seemed to be immediately swamped with patrons clamoring for portraits. The absolutely critical thing needed for success in an art career is undoubtedly skill. He had the eye and the hand for the calling. He closely studied other great portrait artists and used his observations to continuously improve his own technique. When patrons in one location dried up, he would readily move on to another. He remained an itinerant artist for all of his career. Another major factor in his success was that when moving to a new place, Harding typically carried strong letters of introduction from well known and respected persons directed to
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Chester Harding, William Clark (Courtesy of Saint Louis Mercantile Library)
someone, also prominent, in the new location (e.g., to William Clark in St. Louis). By all accounts, Harding’s most decisive asset was his warm and engaging personality. Most everyone, regardless of class or social position, immediately took to him. These interactions often resulted in solid and sustained personal relationships. He portrayed many of the most prominent men and women of his time. Included were presidents; Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren and William Henry Harrison, plus famous politicians such as Henry Clay and Daniel
Webster (he painted Webster about 20 times). While in Britain, again using introductory letters, word-of-mouth recommendations and his charming personality, he received commissions from a royal prince, a future prime minister and some of the highest nobility in the land. All in all, in his career, he painted more than 1000 portraits. His last portrait was of Civil War General William T. Sherman, which Harding painted while in St. Louis weeks before his own death in 1866.
KNOW THYSELF AND DREAM ACCORDINGLY by Ornella Balley
My father hails from Liberia, and my mother from Benin of the Fon people. In Benin, our art was encased in bronze made by our ancestors long ago. Or it was made with wax and made into fabrics with varying intricate designs. But I credit my birth in New York City for my own imagination and creativity. That city allowed me to take in a myriad of experiences that have allowed me to flourish. The blend of all my cultures means I hold a complex identity. That rich cultural exposure has also expanded my artistic palette and pushed me to create things of beauty. Like many readers, art has always been a major part of my life. However, being at high risk for glaucoma, I am trying to make a difference by not only creating artworks, but by bringing others into the fold of artmaking. To that end, I have a dream project that keeps me excited about my role in helping others make their art-path. I would like to start a nonprofit arts
foundation that would offer support to ensure that art remains alive for others who are in love with the arts. With my dream foundation, I would like to start an arts scholarship. This scholarship would benefit university students who have a major or minor in the fine and performing arts. To receive scholarship aid, undergraduate students would demonstrate a love for their craft and consider how it benefits them in their everyday lives. I don’t imagine that all arts students will end up defining themselves as primarily professional artists. Fostering a love for the arts spurs creativity in whatever career path students select. I dream of working with art partners like the artists who participated in the Ferguson artivism. The foundation could provide career counseling and resources for students. I want to share my passion of art with others who share this passion. I know that artistic expression is essential. I believe that if we nurture the talents of the youth, we will ensure that our society thrives. All of our complex identities ensure that we bring variety into this world. With art as our tool, we can build together to produce beauty.
Ornella Balley, Women of the World, Complementary Colors Study (courtesy of the artist)
PHOTO DIARY: HOW THE SEA CHANGED ME by Fred Requadt
A landlocked Midwesterner, Fred Requadt’s summer job as cook and all-around help on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska shifted his understanding of work and life. The engine roars and the day starts. The first hour before the sun fully comes out is filled with the hustle and bustle of preparation mixed with a medley of mechanical sounds.
Fred Requadt, Untitled (courtesy of the artist)
As I’d rise for work, the captain in the pilot house talked on the satellite radio with other boats in Southern Alaska. Information was one of the more valuable resources in the fishing community, or the "fleet" as we called it. By 5 a.m. the fishing was under way. A repetitive hour-long process continued to loop until the day was over usually round 9 or 10 at night. The work was non-stop. Yet, there was always time to take in the impossibly beautiful views that surrounded our anything-butrepetitive workplace. Since fish travel, so do fishing vessels. One of the perks of the job was that we moved from one dramatic location to another equally spectacular scene. Those fast travel days were great. In a few days time, I’d have the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of beauty that is the Alaskan coastline, an COMMUNITY VOICES
ever-changing sight filled with glaciers, endless mountain ranges, islands and all manner of aquatic life. Being out in the water was fantastic, but another arresting aspect to being a fisherman was going to town. Docking in a harbor town, like Ketchacan or Sitka, I felt like part of a community. As we tied up the boat and touched land, just laying eyes on the wooden planks of the dock, I’d begin to feel the lightness of a well-deserved night off. Docking in town was a great part of the rhythm of the summer work months - work at sea in the wild, time off with people connected to it all. Going to town meant seeing old friends for those who did this as a way of life and making new ones for me. Most importantly, time in town meant sharing tales of trials and triumphs.
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The Ancient Greek aphorism “gnothi seaton” was inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Ornella Balley looks deep within herself to conjure up on an art dream as she searches for a rightful place for her talents.
After a day of gathering provisions and information, we would cut the boat loose and head to the next fishing spot. We fished close to the coast, coming in to dock every four days or so. That dependable routine was as steady as the tides during my two months of work. Fishing and feeding my shipmates was extremely satisfying. It affected me both emotionally and physically. It was a full-life job, present even as I slept. I found equal amounts of joy and beauty mixed with pain and ugliness, danger and excitement. My summer contract was like one for any job, but a fishing boat job is not like just any job. I signed on to a life, and it changed me.
Fred Requadt, Untitled (courtesy of the artist)
MIXED MEDIA MESSAGES ON IDENTITY by Sarah Weinman
Artist Deborah Wheeler possesses not only a talent but also a passion for working with found objects. Wheeler explained, “By re-appropriating American culture through found objects, I question social, political and cultural issues about sex, gender identity and marginalized groups.”
Wheeler begins the creative process by sketching her ideas. She said, “These sketches haunt me until I start fabrication, but nothing is complete until the piece is titled and shown. Then, in some weird sense of family, the work joins the rest and becomes a part of the whole.” Her use of the term “family” is appropriate. She finds it difficult to choose favorite pieces because, as she so beautifully put it, “I consider all of my works to be like children…and each piece is a small portion of myself.” She draws on personal experiences to construct her art, including the pieces Privilege, Catharsis, and Yeah, I Played Softball. Privilege is a poignant example of her work. As a graduate student in Studio Art at Michigan State University, Wheeler made a simple black and white sign that reads “HOMOSEXUALS ONLY” and placed it on the wall above a drinking fountain. Deborah Wheeler, Yeah, I Played Softball (courtesy of the artist)
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“It created quite the stir,” she said. “The work speaks volumes about the time just before and after gay marriage became legal. Churches, bakeries, and schools were and still are banning homosexual individuals.” This piece also calls attention to our history of racial discrimination. Wheeler’s use of a drinking fountain recognizes the Separate but Equal legal doctrine that was in place from 1896 until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, during which time state-sponsored segregation forced African Americans to use separate facilities from white people in public places. The artist fashioned Catharsis, another powerful, multi-layered work, by affixing a square rearview mirror to the armrest of a resin and steel school desk. “This is a direct reflection of my time in elementary and high school in small-town America,” she said. “Children on the playground played the game ‘smear the queer,’ which created a knot in my stomach. I had to look over my shoulder and be aware of my surroundings due to my sexual orientation.” Her piece Yeah, I Played Softball, which also comments on events in Wheeler’s life, calls attention to stereotypes about lesbians. It’s
comprised of a leather catcher’s mitt hanging from a wooden baseball bat which leans against the wall. The word DYKE is burned into the bat. Wheeler noted, “Our society places people in boxes and categorizes them. I am taking back the word DYKE and owning it, because yes, I did play.”
Stereotypes play a large role in the artist’s current work. “I’m fascinated by the ’90s derogatory terms for tags on the back of shirts that were referred to as ‘fag tags,’ ” she said. “I’m creating a series that focuses on these loops of fabric.” Though Wheeler has exhibited and lectured internationally (including at the Feminist Art Conference in Toronto this January), as a queer artist she still must consider certain
potential reactions to her work. Galleries may not want to display some pieces, and the public may be uncomfortable with what is on display. She acknowledges that viewers may find her work difficult to look at, but she hopes they will be able to understand or at least contemplate it.
QUEER/IMPULSES by Savannah Bustillo
organs. For a long time, the heart was mythologized to be the container of the soul and the immaterial – an idea still espoused through common metaphors that we use every day. As scientific study began to document the shape and measure the heart’s many qualities, study of the heartbeat was not far behind.
And yet! Has the Queer/queer ever been human?
Visual records of a human heartbeat sparked interest, reports Robleto, because of a popular hypothesis positing a connection between heartbeat and illness. It was believed that any visualization of this heartbeat would also show a different visual language between individuals that are termed “normal” or healthy and those that were sick (we might say queer). Today, scientists have the technology to interpret these original tracings in soot and translate them back into soundwaves to be played. Robleto played these recordings back to his audience – recordings of 19th century hearts of all ages, of people experiencing fear, eating chocolate, and, reportedly, falling in love. The range of the human heartbeat was so incredibly diverse; I noticed my own ear becoming adept at finding the murmurs and skips.
The Arthur L. and Sheila Prensky Island Press visiting artist, Dario Robleto, made me rethink this relationship at his talk at Washington University last Fall. Robleto’s art practice explores scientific inquiry and methodologies related to study of the human form. His talk, titled The Pulse Armed With a Pen: An Unknown History of the Human Heartbeat, amazingly covered not a single slide of his own work, but launched into a beautiful narrative about the first pre-Edison recordings that scientists possess – the human heartbeat. These 19th century recordings of the human heartbeat were visualized as waves, which measured the speed and intensity of each beat. The visualizations were tracked first by a machine called a phonautograph, used a stylus to depict the heart’s movement on a piece of soot-blackened paper. The perfect stylus for this was, poetically enough, a single human hair. Robleto’s lecture and artwork draw upon the long history of scientific study and scrutiny of an organ that has only become a subject of study relatively recently, compared to other
Together, he and we mused on the irregularities of the human heart within each sample, and we came to recognize that there is no typical human rhythm. Queerness manifests itself amongst the patterns of each individual, something so simple and normalized to the point we don’t consider it at all actually is quite variant. The history between the medicalization of sexuality and queer identity seen as illness provide a strong reading to align any variance with queerness; the many
heartbeats in Robleto’s presentation varied so greatly – indeed a very queer array of findings and palpitations. The auditorium held its breath as Robleto made the final point in his talk: artificial hearts are now being made not with pumps but with turbines. There is no heartbeat. This most elemental way of defining humanness – the beat of that precious and symbolic vessel - can now continue in silence, without a beat at all. Our own auditory heartbeats could one day become outdated and unusual, queer in themselves. But perhaps there is a poetic gain to add to this medical miracle as we all ponder our own queer relations to humanness.
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Has the Queer/queer ever been human? What a conversation to have, when queer has achieved the status of liberal arts college sub discipline, finally been accepted in the ever-growing acronym (LGBTQIA*), reclaimed from a slur, and kissed on the forehead by academia and theorists.
GROWING AN ARTIST SAINT LOUIS ARTWORKS by Vicki Kahn Are artists born or taught? Many artists say that their interest in art began at a young age, and was later kindled into flame by mentors, family members, teachers, and even the encouragement of strangers. One local organization has been nurturing teen expression through art since 1995. St. Louis ArtWorks provides paid arts apprenticeship opportunities for youth ages 14-18 in the metro area. But, apprentices don’t just learn how to design, draw, paint, sculpt, photograph and use electronic media – they also develop friendships, work skills, and life skills, including professional communication, portfolio development, and financial literacy.
once you’ve helped to build their confidence, the walls begin to crumble, and it opens the floodgates of untapped creativity,” said Rogers. In a ceremony at the White House last month, St. Louis ArtWorks was presented with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award – one of only 12 organizations in the country to be honored by the President’s NAHYP Committee this year. As Honorary Chair and First Lady Michelle Obama explained, organizations like St. Louis ArtWorks are “using achievement in the arts and humanities as a bridge to achievement in life.”
“I encourage young artists to know their strengths, look into their hearts, and be open; but to gain as much knowledge as they can be it at institutions of higher learning, or through workshops and artist groups, and mentors,” said Rogers. “While I do not discourage them from pursuing a career as an artist, I let them know they have to work hard, so having a passion for it and finding their voice in the arts is key.” St. Louis ArtWorks apprentices host their Annual Holiday Sale at 5959 Delmar Boulevard on Saturday, December 10 from 11am to 2pm. Entry is free to the public, and apprentice-made works of art are priced individually for sale. For more information about St. Louis ArtWorks, visit them online at stlartworks.org, or call (314) 899-9734.
Historically, 80% of the youth in St. Louis ArtWorks programs are at risk, as defined by age, race, gender, neighborhood, and HUD Poverty Level. Apprentices are recruited from low-income neighborhoods, typically lack access to artistic outlets through schooling, and are disproportionately represented among the unemployed.
“To help a young person find their identity as an artist, they need confidence, support, and to feel that their voices are being heard,” said Priscilla Block, Executive Director for St. Louis ArtWorks since 2000. “My career began with a compliment about my art from my teacher when I was in kindergarten. How important it is to have someone tell you your work is good and has value!” Developing identity as an artist is shaped, in part, by experiences and relationships which support self-reflection, self-worth, and enrich a person’s life. In a city where people are often defined by the stressors of headline news, the arts can provide avenues of healthy expression and a voice to the youth in our healing community. Byron Rogers, a well-known local artist and teacher, has been working as a Teaching Artist with St. Louis ArtWorks for 12 years. He instructs teens in printmaking and painting, including color theory, composition, and design, and offers encouragement and support to help the apprentices express their thoughts and feelings through creative mediums. “The biggest challenge with young people is breaking down the walls of self-doubt they have built up – ‘I can't, it's too hard, etc.’ But, Teaching Artist Byron Rogers (courtesy of St. Louis ArtWorks) 21 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
ABOUT THAT CONTROVERSY AT CAM By Paulna Valbrun makes a point of explaining that Walker “digitally” smeared these substances onto the photographs.
conclusion can we draw from a white artist who appropriates and exploits the oppression and pain of African-Americans for art's sake?”
Walker’s supporters claim that these artworks aim to explore the politics of race. However, Walker’s analysis of his own role, as a white man, in manipulating these images is glaringly absent from his previous decade of exhibiting the artworks and that lack of ability to discuss the content and materials he used set off a series of events in St. Louis and sparked a larger conversation in leading art news sources. The analysis that Walker has consistently provided for these artworks focuses on the significance of repurposing images and changing other’s ideas as a theoretical practice. The function of Walker’s Direct Drive at the CAM, was not to engage audiences in the esoteric pondering he intended, but, instead, elicited a truly interesting question: “What
Walker and his supporters have stated that the purpose of exhibiting Schema and Black Star Press is to initiate a dialogue on the politics of race and how black bodies are represented in the media. However, when black audience members posed questions during a Q&A session hosted by the CAM, they felt that Walker responded with hostility and condescension. Walker was not willing or able to engage in the dialogue the artworks were purportedly meant to spark. According to St. Louis artist Damon Davis, Walker met basic questions such as “Who is your audience?” with “I don’t know.” Additionally, Walker failed to answer any questions that asked for clarification on how he chose the images he depicted or what the role of race and sex played in his
Artist Kelley Walker’s first solo museum exhibition, Direct Drive, opened on September 17 at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). Two artworks within the exhibition, titled Schema: Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions and Black Star Press, have sparked significant controversy within St. Louis, and consequently nationally. Schema: Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions shows a digitally printed, much larger-than-life image of scantily clad rap artist Trina on the cover of KING magazine, installed so that it is on both the gallery wall and floor. Walker then smeared the print with toothpaste that is described in CAM materials to resemble seminal fluid. Black Star Press shows an appropriated iconic Civil Rights Era photograph of a police officer attacking an African-American protester, rotated to disorient the viewer and then smeared with black and white chocolate sauce. Museum text
Contemporary Art Museum signage with artist intervention (photo credit: Richard Reilly) COMMENTARY
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work. Walker came off as defensive, rather than insightful, as he asked, “Aren’t we all capitalizing off someone?” and “Who is toothpaste hurting?” Davis stated that then chief curator Jeffrey Uslip quickly interrupted the conversation in an attempt to explain Walker’s work for him. The dismissive responses from Walker sparked a call to boycott CAM and the resignation of Jeffrey Uslip who curated the exhibit. The CAM director Lisa Melandri quickly issued an apology for Walker’s seeming annoyance with his audience and dismissiveness toward their questions. In it, she stated that the museum is a “[…] space that welcomes questions and people who expect answers to their questions.” Uslip did not engage in any further dialogue on the controversial artworks. Part of this series of events occurred before the exhibition ever opened. Prior to the exhibit's opening, it had already been criticized by staff members at the CAM for the celebration of a white artist who appeared to carelessly use black cultural content. An open letter signed by three black staff members was released to the public. The letter stated that: “...St. Louis exists as a central location for the contemporary civil rights movement in the aftermath of the unrest in Ferguson, the work triggers a re-traumatization of racial and regional pain…” And that: “Expressed concerns and insight by CAM’s museum staff were not honored and taken into consideration by the chief curator when organizing the exhibition, as numerous staff--particularly people of color and women--vocalized great discomfort and disdain on numerous occasions leading to the installation…”
Sticky notes on window at Contemporary Art Museum after protest action (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
Dialogue on the controversial pieces continued on September 22, when Critical Mass for the Visual Arts hosted a panel discussion titled: Art and the Black Body, at the CAM. The panelists referred to Walker’s representation of African-Americans in the Direct Drive exhibit to examine the usage of black bodies in contemporary art. There were many opinions expressed at the event, but a general consensus was determined: a demand for the CAM to remove Schema, Black Star Press, as well as an artwork titled White Michael Jackson. It was further stated that CAM’s ongoing support of the offensive artworks acted as an extension of white supremacy by exploiting the oppression of African-Americans for profit. In Walker’s apology issued to artnet.com he stated that he was “a staunch advocate of social equality and civil rights in America” and that he intended to create a dialogue on how black bodies are represented in the media. If Walker truly intended to draw attention to the oppression and misrepresentation of black people then he certainly did, but not in a way that he intended.
Black CAM staff members, artists, activists and other community members have made a stand in St. Louis. That stand could have, and arguably should have, been made in New York, Berlin and other places where Walker’s appropriated images have exhibited. To paraphrase artist Kahlil Irving at the Art and the Black Body panel discussion, these artworks have been passed on with a “Yes” and without any substantial critique from one lazy “expert” to another (bringing 6-digit sales at auction) for a decade. St. Louis, Missouri - once known for its “Compromise” on slavery, now nicknamed the “Show Me State” - was not known as the place where racism was called out and addressed before August 9, 2014. Our region has played a significant role in waking up the nation since Mike Brown was shot to death, and artists have played a major role in sounding the alarm. Perhaps, we are onto something.
IN WHICH TOM HUCK OFFENDS EVERYONE By Tom Huck COMMENTARY
Have I offended anyone? THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.......I'm not gonna talk bad about another artist's work in a public forum.......so lets make this about me. When all the stuff recently hit the fan at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) here in St. Louis, an art dealer/friend/confidant of mine, during heated exchange, said to me "well, your work is offensive too!" I was kind of floored, though I have dealt with this percep23 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2016/17
tion for the last 20 years. But this time, in light of the recent turmoil at the CAM, I was taken aback a bit and started thinking about what it means in my own work to walk the fine line between what is outright offensive and what safely falls into the realm of parody and satire. My work certainly falls into the latter; however, this is not achieved easily and has come through years of study, drawing, art historical precedent and sincerity. And an awareness of my audience. COMMENTARY
I’m a printmaker. I make original multiples that can reach a wide range of people. The entire history of the medium of printmaking is known as a democratic one, and for the common man. When you can make copies of something, it’s only natural to start spouting off about stuff, political or otherwise. One only has to get ahold of any book on the history of prints and it becomes apparent rather quickly to the reader that most of printmaking's glorious history is filled with social commentary
and criticism often steeped in dark and lurid imagery. So when I was 13 and got hold of a book of woodcuts by Albrecht Durer........ I was hooked.
characters, and symbols allowed them to flourish as image makers that effectively depicted and commented on topics of their day.
In graduate school, I was saved by two teachers: Douglas Dowd and Joan Hall. I was having a terrible time trying to figure out why I should or even needed to be a representational and figurative artist. Joan basically beat it into me that hard work was the only way (make more, make it bigger!) to get to where I wanted to be as an artist. And on the other side of things, Doug was a picture maker with a background in printmaking and comix. That’s comix with an X. One day after I had an absolutely terrible critique, Doug visited my studio and uttered a phrase to me that I never forgot: "Tom, it’s OK to be funny.” This set me on a path of discovery and foundation building in my own aesthetic and concepts. The foundation is built upon what all my artistic forefathers believed. Artists like Durer, Hogarth, Posada, Daumier, and Goya used dark and lurid imagery to make an impact on the widest possible audience. Their work was for all the classes, and they were able to entertain while maintaining a satirical edge in the prints they produced. Craftsmanship was of utmost importance, and being purposefully vague in their depictions of narratives,
Okay, so enough of the art history lesson.......time to get to the meat of what I'm talking about here: why my imagery is ghoulish, garrish, heinous, insulting and sometimes "o-fennsive". To put it simply, well, that’s the way the world is folks. Like Hogarth, I want my work to be a mirror to society. I want my stuff to communicate to the viewer "Hey! Look at how fucked up we are!" I have often been criticized for my depictions of hillbillies, women, political figures, dogs and cats, cops, priests......you name it. I’ve often said that if you don't want to be in my shit, don't do bad shit. I’m a reporter in that way I guess.
I do not use appropriated imagery. Everything I do comes from my sketchbook, and is then processed through lots and lots of drawing. Whenever I can, I rely solely on my imagination. I draw from photographs when needed, but they always change when my hand is involved. I’m sorry but Im not a fan of appropriated imagery. It comes off as uninteresting and lazy to me. Call me oldfashioned, but I like athleticism in art, and believe that great drawing has SOUL. I’m a fan of the hand of the artist. I want to be moved when I look at art, not spoonfed rehashed imagery where there is little or no sign of the artist's skill or character involved. Appropriated imagery also carries way more baggage than imagined imagery. People react to photos in a different way than drawings. I believe there is way less "imagination investment" on the part of the audience when viewing appropriated images in a work of art. They may or may
An important aspect of my walking the line between what’s offensive and what is satirical is the "story." These are MY stories. They are personal observations that come from experience. The work is somehow a reflection of me. Otherwise, what’s the point? My imagery and narratives are usually based on some sort of personal narrative that I have either witnessed, or have formulated in my
imagination based on opinions garnered over much consideration. My early work almost exclusively dealt with hillbillies in southern Missouri doing lots of redneck stuff. That is where I grew up. That culture is my culture. It is ingrained in me and therefore I'm some sort of visual and conceptual authority in matters of small town living. It helps to be an expert on the subject or subjects you're "making fun" of.
Tom Huck, The Transformation of Brandy Braghead (courtesy of the artist and Evil Prints Studio) COMMENTARY
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Tom Huck in his studio (courtesy of the artist and Evil Prints Studio)
not have seen what the creator has borrowed. I think it’s way better to come from out of nowhere with completely new imagery that is my own and not someone else's. You gotta maintain some element of surprise to make any sort of visual impact.
whole donut thing I guess). It really is about exaggerating every cliche associated with a person, place, or thing, thereby by hitting the viewer over the head with the ridiculous nature of the subject. When in doubt, go over the top with the depiction.
Everything that I depict in my work is considered from every angle possible and how it may be read by the audience. Every cop, priest, Democrat, Republican, dog or cat or whatever that shows up in my work has gone through many versions in my sketchbook. It’s in there for a reason. Everything I depict comes from much thought and deliberation. The key word here is "thought." When my subjects finally arrive in their final form, they are then put into the picture in the right placement so as to best serve my overall narrative. I’m not some hippy-dippy collage artist in love with photoshop for the first time patting myself on the back for making something look cool with a half tone. "Wow, that looks so cool in there duuuuuude." Nope, not me. Wrong guy.
One of my woodcut prints entitled Joe's Meatgrinder, depicts a KKK rally/ veterans day parade. The whole thing is about the duality of the so called "greatest generation" of WWII, some of which was extremely bigoted and racist. That kind of stuff is rarely talked about in books or documentaries. Growing up, I hung out at a VFW hall with my grandfather where I heard some of the most vile stuff imaginable about Jews, blacks, and Mexicans spewing from the mouths of these heroes. The only way I could effectively portray this absurdity is through taking the visuals associated with WWII and klans and religion and turned it all on its visual head. And on top of it all: it’s my story by having been around those people and hearing that kind of talk.
I'm not a knee-jerk reaction sort of social commentator. "Targets" in my work, for lack of a better term, are more often than not chewed on for a long time in my head and in my sketchbook. If i want to make fun of a priest, I usually will make his miter hat or outfit look even more ridiculous than it already is. If the victim is a cop, I make him or her extra plump and fat. Sorry, but a LOT of cops are fat! (The
I also have a healthy lack of respect for authority. If you're going to be diplomatic about things and be an effective "equal opportunity offender" it helps to be angry at "the man." All parties are guilty. If you go after everybody (Democrats, Republicans, independents) you're guaranteed to hit the right targets. I guess you could call it satirical carpet bombing.
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Sincerity is also important. I truly want our society to be more reasonable and civil. At the same time I have to admit I find some sort of pleasure in all the craziness. I once had a conversation with R. Crumb where we talked about how great the plague years were for making art. Now that’s a dark and cold statement but it's true! Great art is a direct reflection of the times that it is made in. It takes artists like myself I guess to find some sort of humor in all this mess we call life and then make something constructive out of it. I don't think that art can really change the world much, only maybe move it a little bit at a time toward a more tolerable place. I think that if the artist is invested in the work in a deeply personal way then maybe some good can come out of it. In closing. I'd like to go back to that ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. It’s really easy, kids. If you're going to use imagery that’s either appropriated or imagined or whatever, you better damn sure be able to back it up on MANY LEVELS. There needs to be a very good reason for using imagery that an artist knows will cause a stir, or even a riot.
Richard Reilly, Untitled (courtesy of the artist)
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