THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
Billyo O’Donnell, Christian County, MO, (image courtesy of Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain Air)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-06) EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER AMY REIDEL
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
Our reviews section is short, sweet and a little meta this issue. John Blair reviews recent work by Erica Popp while Pamela Garvey reviews a recent exhibition of photography by John Blair. Lizzy Martinez gives us a peek at a fantastic exhibition of Michiko Itatani’s paintings at the Hatheway Gallery at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illiniois. Our own graphic design guru, Maxine Ward, reviews a plein air painting exhibit hosted by the Saint Louis Artists’ Guild that she discovered through her fascination with the exhibition catalogue.
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 07-10)
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
WEB DESIGN AND ADMINISTRATION
Sarah Weinman and Rachel Sacks bring us the inside scoop on three important St. Louis artists whose stories you will want to read.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 10-22)
SOCIAL MEDIA AND OUTREACH MANAGER IN TRANSITION
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS AARON BANKS ROMAN BEUC JOHN BLAIR ROBERT DORR CARLYNN FORST PAMELA GARVEY LIZZY MARTINEZ SARAH MCGAVRAN
CHRIS NAFFZIGER RICHARD REILLY RACHEL SACKS HOLLY SCHROEDER ANNE TREEGER MARGARET VON KAENEL MAXINE WARD SUSAN WEBER SARAH WEINMAN
Some of these Art and Story submissions are based on fiction, others are autobiographical, and some take on the fantastic. Visual expressions always reveal something wholly different from what the written word can convey. This collection is packed with enigmatic images with emotional resonance. Peek into the art historical world of artist-inventor Samuel Morse and Gabriele Münter. Make your way to ancient Greece in an art-inspired micro-fiction tale by Robert Dorr and to Old Russia with Margaret von Kaenel. Read the story behind Frederick Oakes Sylvester’s Great River paintings at the St. Louis Mercantile Library. Sit with Carlynn Forst’s beautiful expressions of her own grief and mourning. Use art on the gallery walls as your muse along with Anne Treeger and her students or with the artists exhibiting through the Arts as Healing Foundation. When you have stepped through those places of wonder, you will end up in a selection of photos by Aaron Banks and Richard Reilly, compiled throughout the daily protests that committed St. Louisans have participated in during the days, weeks and now months since Jason Stockley was judged “Not Guilty” in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. The biases found in each telling of this particular story shape our region as we accept or reject the narratives presented. Banks’ and Reilly’s visual telling of this story is told from within.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 23-24) Chris Naffziger looks into the story behind a mural painted on construction walls in the East Loop on Delmar and questions the meaning and the message of an art promise that has not been kept. Holly Schroeder ponders problems of “appropriation” in representation and the responsibility of the artist to consider more than just ‘art for art’s sake.’
Covers: Billyo O’Donnell, City of St. Louis, MO, (image courtesy of Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain Air)
Billyo O’Donnell, St. Louis County, MO, (image courtesy of Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain Air)
Winter is tough. Winter in St. Louis is especially difficult. The seemingly endless stretch of grey and gloomy begins the moment the holidays end. Generally, we stay inside and skip out on all of the delightful outdoor stuff that comes with cold in Wisconsin or Colorado. The streets here are a little extra SAD (ya see what we did there?) without the art fairs and neighborhood festivals that make the other three seasons so enchanting in our city. Our neighbors who’ve been left without financial security are at their most vulnerable during these cold months. The misery of winter is not all in our heads. Here is an issue of our magazine meant to draw you out of the winter gloom a little. It should be taken in slowly over hot cocoa or coffee. Here, we give you Story. Artists tell you the stories enigmatically told within their visual art works. You will read the stories of art organizations and of others’ art experiences and critical analyses of the myriad stories artists tells us through their artworks. Let this issue warm your soul and light up your imagination. When the sun does begin to rise with us and stick around a little longer next March, we will bring you our Spring 2018 issue, themed around Art and Religion. As always, you may do what you wish with this broad concept. It is certainly unlike our previous themes and should bring
voices and ideas to the fore that we haven’t yet had an opportunity to share. Whether you worship at a synagogue or cathedral, a mosque or in the celebrity centre of scientology, we are interested in your responses to Art and Religion. Hopefully, at least one of you will write on the subject from an atheist or pagan point of view. Remember, we are an open submission publication, so if you find that your perspective is lacking in our pages, please see that as a direct invitation! You can also get a head start on our summer theme: Travel. If you are a travel photographer, now is the time to share what you’ve collected in your wanderings. If you’ve just completed a residency program, perhaps you’ll share an account of that experience. Have you made a recent pilgrimage to a museum or art installation that bares significance to those of us left behind in Missouri? Those submissions are due the first week of April, but that sort of information is best found on our website. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the tales told and stories shown within this issue. All the best,
Executive Editor and Co-Founder
Creative Editor and Co-Founder
Whether begat by galactic metaphysics, super-sized architectural interiors or a surprisingly charming version of a nuclear winter landscape (see Cosmic Wanderlust form HyperBaroque CW-1), Michiko Itatani’s Celestial Narratives firmly rests in the camp of “more is more” painting sensibilities. It was the idea of Professor Jim Price to complement the solar eclipse by holding this exhibition from August through September in the Hatheway Gallery at the Godfrey Campus of Lewis & Clark Community College. Originally from Japan but teaching in Chicago, Itatani’s curriculum vitae packs a
powerful punch with weighty distinctions such as the Guggenheim Fellowship and the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Olympic Museum in Switzerland, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in South Korea, among others. It seems the Hatheway had a surprising powerhouse for the start of the fall term, but one wonders why they couldn’t have given such a quality showcase a few more weeks of display. Hyper Charge, from Encounter HCE-2 is best described as a depiction of Herman Melville’s white whale wearing a version of one of Cher’s
Cosmic Wanderlust from Encounter 16-B-8, (image courtesy of the the Hatheway Gallery and the artist) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
Bob Mackie evening ensembles rearing up like a battering ram to attack a space-age amphitheater. Itatani mysteriously describes this work as a self-portrait within the exhibition’s artist statement. Indeed she writes about appreciating every encounter with every element of these ambiguous but powerful spaces that are musings of fractured narratives. The artist places a strong emphasis on the influence fiction and literature have had on her subjects and stylistic choices towards painting. A group of works ranging from 2008 to present depicts a planetary library complete with constellations, globes of other worlds, and
IN REVIEW Michiko Itatani: Celestial Narratives Installation View (photo credit: courtesy of the Hatheway Gallery)
constellation charts with holograph suspended models. This motif of ornate learning which continues across many canvases commemorates the artist’s time spent in the Baroque libraries of Europe and a wonderment towards the formal practice of seeking knowledge with an eye for transcribing the heavens. Touring the gallery I felt that the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) may have merged with Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and birthed a transfixing specimen we haven’t encountered before. To accompany the sensory experience are displays of globes and stacks of books in the round but also a chorus of chimes, gongs and slow musing music from overhead. Fairy lights, ellipses and screens of striations form layers and spatial ambiguities that describe other planes of spiritual being and dimensions beyond the typical human experience. Not surprisingly, there are common themes of levitation, descension and ascension aiding the perception of a higher being at play or a science that is exercised like a beautiful ballet. Conflict does exist on some of the grand canvases such as Cosmic Wanderlust - Virtual Eitoku with its Komainu or lion-dogs which have left their Shinto entrance and are
transformed into honeycomb as they battle swirling elemental vortexes before a backdrop of deep space while an unseen black hole multiplies their eyes and threatens to rip them apart before an audience of floating petri dishes. Or perhaps these aren’t petri dishes but a new form of large amoeba that has become perfectly rounded by inhabiting the vacuum of space. For those seeking to formalize fantasy and science fiction as a new religion, they couldn’t find a better artist to illustrate their cause and inspire new recruits. In trying to connect the artist in an art historical context we would find her to be far less frantic and fractured than say an Umberto Boccioni or a Gino Severini with their choppy repetition we typically associate with Futurism but not entirely comfortable in the space of Surrealism either perhaps due to an almost entire lack of direct human depiction which one finds although sometimes dismembered and usually distorted across the range of Dali, Magritte or Kahlo. The closest we get are a few microscopic black silhouettes in the distance on one painting, Polorsis. While the Hatheway Gallery showed good taste and efforts to bring such an exceptional artist to the St. Louis area, too few were able to IN REVIEW
discover the first-hand wonder one experiences when coming face-to-face with Itatani’s superb handiwork. As an arts community we need to propel more souls, be they students under our tutelage or unsuspecting friends and relatives, to gallery spaces so that they too can consider what lies within themselves or the possibility of a colorful vastness beyond. -Lizzy Martinez
Michiko Itatani, Harmonic Osciilator from Cosmic Encounter 16-B-2 (courtesy of the Hatheway Gallery and the artist) WINTER 2017/18 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 02
BLUES FOR JIM CROW
JACOBY ART CENTER
Timely, poignant and arresting, the photographs in local artist John K. Blair’s exhibit Blues for Jim Crow, displayed this fall at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois after premiering at Ruth Reese Gallery in St. Louis, was one of the most riveting exhibits I’ve seen in any gallery or museum this year. The black and white photographs, most of which are approximately 8x10, were organized on one wall according to a loose chronology; starting from the left, the photographs documented the present and then moved back in time to the early 20th century. However, time in Blair’s photographs is not so simple; the photographs pay homage to, and are influenced by, African-American intellectual leader, W.E.B. Du Bois, who writing in the early 20th century explained that African-Americans struggle with a “double consciousness,” meaning both a consciousness of self and a consciousness of how self is perceived by the dominant white culture. Blair’s work relies on double and multiple exposures (merging two or more photographs into one)
and often over or underexposure (the former referring to so much brightness that the photograph is washed out, and the latter referring to so much darkness that shadows and details are lost). These techniques result in photographs in which Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness is depicted both in the present and the past, often both in the same photograph. In the more contemporary photographs, the individual is depicted naked from chest or face up, emphasizing the subject’s vulnerability. In most of those images, the same individual is portrayed in two overlapping images, so that the viewer can see there is one person/one body, yet the gaze is split, often with symbolic representations of facial features. For example, in one photograph a man’s gaze is averted away from the viewer with an overexposed image of an ear over one eye. The suggestion that the man must have eyes that can hear and ears that can see offers a provocative interpretation of Du Bois’ double consciousness. In another, a woman looks straight at the viewer,
not typical in Blair’s work, and in each image her mouth is eclipsed by an eye; she is silenced by the gaze of white culture. Blair includes many photos of himself as one of the exposures, often inserting himself into the past. This juxtaposition of the contemporary artist and historical figures and events blurs the line between past and present reminding viewers that history is part of consciousness and that racism is still pervasive. In one series of seven photographs, Blair’s image mirrors the expression of famous activists such as Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson and MLK. His own image is always on the left suggesting a reverse chronology, as if we are moving backwards. In another series, he merges himself with images of Black Panthers, lynchings, clansmen and excerpts of articles about the 1917 race war in East St. Louis. In one of the most disturbing images in this series, the image of two men who have been lynched is underexposed so the rope and the bodies of the dead men are completely dark. The rope on the right bisects Blair’s overexposed/whitened eye. His face looms large in the background, but his mouth is eclipsed by the overexposure. While the artist is rendered speechless, his gaze dominates the photograph and points to the art form he uses to record his consciousness: the visual image. In another particularly haunting photograph the artist’s face is overexposed and appears almost white as 1950s protesters march across his face wearing signs that read “I am a man”. From the sidelines, soldiers with bayonet rifles aim at the protesters, and one of the rifles crosses over Blair’s right eye. Such color reversals are common in Blair’s photographs: three clansmen in hoods are underexposed so they look black while Blair’s face behind them is so overexposed it is a featureless white. In another, lynching victims are overexposed with a white sheet behind them and covering Blair’s nose, while the white men looking on are underexposed making them appear black. These reversals of color point to the arbitrary nature of racism. Scientists now know that there is no biological basis for race; it is a cultural construct and in that way arbitrary, as is the senseless violence recorded in these stunning photographs. -Pamela Garvey
John Blair, Blues for Jim Crow #6 (image courtesy of the artist) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
BOYLE FAMILY GALLERY, LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY
Like many passionate photographers, St. Louisâ€™s Erica Popp creates something new out of the familiar both in terms of the mediums she uses to create her work, as well as the subject matter of her work. What is here perceived as "new" is really a series of abandoned buildings and desolate urban landscapes that have been largely ignored even as they remain situated in plain view.
are haunting and desolate. Her work evokes an angst, an undercurrent of an existential despair where the viewer struggles to find life amidst the isolation. Her photograph IL-Route 3, leaves the viewer disoriented, not because the imagery is overwhelming, but because it is so sparse. The image raises the question: How can life exist, even flourish, when everything appears to be vacant?
Popp writes that "Like many large cities that were booming industrial towns, there are parts of St. Louis that are bustling with energy but also areas that are abandoned and forgotten. Images in my Urban Landscapes series contrast the busy energy of downtown with the still, almost haunted feelings of the places that lie vacant."
Popp's prints are reflective of her impressions of living in downtown St. Louis while attending graduate school in 2013. She sought to use photography in quasi-documentary fashion to capture urban St. Louis through the lens of her personal experiences of the city. Expecting to find a perpetual chaotic order, the "hustle and bustle" to St. Louis City, she often found the city empty and daunting on the weekends. In her photograph Downtown, buildings appear to physically lean on top of each other defying architectural norms and order, while the surrounding atmosphere is punctuated with street lights. Again, quite noticeably absent are people.
Popp's Urban Landscapes were featured in Infrastructure, a group exhibit that also included artists Roland Kulla from Chicago, Illinois and Jacob Crook from Starkville, Mississippi. Work by these three artists was brought together to display an examination of contemporary printmaking techniques.
Erica Popp, Over:Under (courtesy of the artist)
Poppâ€™s contributions to the exhibition offered an ambitious variety of methods and materials for Lindenwood University students to consider. Using a Holga Film toy camera, she captured the images in her series employing multiple-exposure techniques intentionally distorting the subject matter. The distortions lead to obscuration of the buildings and landscapes that might otherwise appear readily obvious to any long term resident of downtown St. Louis or East St. Louis, Illinois. She observes, "In some images this is clearly St. Louis. In others, this could be Detroit, [or] this could be Berlin just after the Cold War; this could be any city struggling to reclaim its greatness." Because some of the imagery in her work has this "any city" perspective, the viewer is left to wonder if the absence of interaction in a lot of the photographs is pointing towards a view of urban life as functionally dystopic.
Equally fascinating as the process of capturing her subjects is the process by which she develops her work. Popp transferred the film images to digital transparencies before scanning them to solar plates. Then, using water, she rinsed away the unexposed images. The final process is a creation of images that
Erica Popp, Downtown St. Louis (courtesy of the artist) IN REVIEW
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PAINTING MISSOURI THE
COUNTIES EN PLAIN AIR BY BILLYO O’DONNELL AND KAREN GLINES SAINT LOUIS ARTISTS’ GUILD
I walked into the Saint Louis Artists’ Guild last fall unsure of what to expect. I chose to see Painting Missouri: The Counties en Plein Air in person after I met the exhibition catalogue author Karen Glines and the exhibition artist Billyo O’Donnell while setting up a booksigning for them at my day job. I loved the idea of hosting them for a lot of reasons from a professional standpoint a coffee table book about Missouri is always a great idea with
Christmas around the corner, they’re local which will draw people in, but the main reason was because I thought it would be nice for once to show Missouri as something other than a backwards excuse of a state.
the following story is going to annoy me. But Glines and O’Donnell’s work, whether they mean it to or not, helps to make up for some of the day to day anxiety that comes with living here.
With reports of shootings and discrimination and protesting it’s easy to get down about Missouri. I shudder every time national new organizations mention us because I just know
The pair spent seven years traveling this midwestern scrap of farmland, criss-crossing the 114 counties of Missouri compiling work for Painting Missouri. While O’Donnell camped to catch the perfect morning light or waited for the right season to paint his landscapes, Glines would visit county capitals to learn about the people and history of each area. Their combined efforts produced 115 canvases of various sizes which, when displayed at the Saint Louis Artists’ Guild hung alongside Glines’ac-companying text. Something about hosting an en plein air landscape painting exhibit in downtown Clayton gave emphasis to the industrial feel of our everyday, urban surrounding, even in relatively slow and steady Clayton. The paintings appear to be places one goes to or comes from, but not anyone’s “right here.” O’Donnell’s painting style - brushy, impression-istic views with alternately bright, picturesque and quiet, muted colors - gives off an absolute stillness. For the most part, O’Donnell removes the people from street scenes, making them seem stuck in time.
Billyo O’Donnell, Iron County, MO, (image courtesy of Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain Air)
Where can you find a noted Mineral Museum in Missouri? Phelps County, that’s where. What does the “Mingo” mean in Mingo National Wildlife Refuge? It is the Algonquin word for “dark, stealthy and treacherous.” Glines’s fun facts scattered throughout the exhibition and expanded on within the catalogue are as captivating as O’Donnell’s painting. Together, the combination of Glines’s researched storytelling and O’Donnell’s dreamy scenes provide a ready-made nostalgia that, I for one, shamelessly enjoy. -Maxine Ward
Billyo O’Donnell, tools and notebooks Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain air installation view (photo credit: Maxine Ward) 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
IN REVIEW Billyo O’Donnell, Harrison County, MO (top), Gentry County, MO (bottom), installation view (photo credit: Maxine Ward)
Billyo O’Donnell and Karen Glines, Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain air installation view (photo credit: Maxine Ward)
Billyo O’Donnell, Caldwell County, MO, (image courtesy of Painting Missouri, the Counties en Plain Air) IN REVIEW
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PERSONAL STORIES SHARED IN VISUAL ART
I. ANN MILLER TITUS
By Sarah Weinman “Visually, I want my pieces to be hopeful, even if the subject matter is dark,” fiber artist Ann Miller Titus said by way of distilling the interpretation of her pieces. This statement also applies to the story of how she coped with her diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2012. Titus comes from a long line of needleworkers. Both of her grandmothers made utilitarian items for the house or decorative items for clothes. “My grandmothers taught me to sew,” she said. “They didn’t consider themselves artists but were always making something. Sewing is a connection to past generations.”
One grandmother gave Titus a cross-stitch sampler when she was little. She said, “I always had an ongoing project to work on every time I was at her house.” The artist also enjoys working with fiber itself: “The tactile aspect is important to me. I love the feel of a needle going through the layers and coming back out. I love the repetitive nature of it.” She uses several different techniques when creating her pieces: quilting, fabric discharge, and transfer dyes. Traditional methods of quilting involve appliqué (sewing a piece of fabric onto a background of fabric). Once the design of the quilt top is finished, the quilter places a piece of batting in the middle and another piece of fabric on the back.
“Fabric discharge is bleaching,” she explained. “It’s making a design by pulling the color out of a piece of fabric.” Titus uses the transfer-dye technique to create collages with paper and fabric on canvas. She paints a piece of paper with the dye, lets it dry, places the paper on a piece of polyester, and irons it. The dye transfers to the fabric. “I like the palette that comes from transfer dyes,” she said. “It looks like watercolor because the dyes are watery and bleed around on polyester.” Titus’ work addresses several themes. The most powerful is that of her illness. In March of 2012, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer. “I couldn’t make anything during my treatments for several months” she said. “When I started working again, pieces just flew out of me.” After learning of Titus’ diagnosis, a friend commented, “Life rearranges itself in a matter of seconds.” Titus took the phrase “Life Rearranges Itself” from this poignant description as the title of a series based on her illness. One piece from this series is called Nostalgia Skews the Distribution and depicts a pink tree chart with data points (tiny circles of vintage fabrics) on either side of a vertical axis.
Ann Miller Titus, Nostalgia Skews the Distribution (image courtesy of the artist)
Titus remembered, “When I looked up my symptoms online, I didn’t want to believe I had ovarian cancer. This piece is about cherry-picking data and ignoring what we should be dealing with.” Her health is excellent now. She’s been in remission for five years. The subject of another theme is “The Things We Carry.” The inspiration for this came from a collaborative performance piece. Women attached items to a performance artist’s costume as she walked. “We carry a lot of things with us like memory, joy, and sorrow,” said Titus. She also has a series of pieces which focus on maps and charts. She explained, “I like aerial views and topography, and love old maps. I have an imaginary landscape in mind when I make each piece.” Titus’ wall quilt called City Planner intersects with her cancer treatment experience. It depicts a map of Quincy, Illinois where she grew up and lives today. Recently, Blessing Hospital in Quincy built a new wing and was looking for art to display there. They hired a St. Louis-based firm which purchases art for hospitals and medical buildings. The firm found Titus’ work online and requested details about City Planner. The piece is now displayed at the hospital. Circling back around to the meaning of her pieces, Titus said, “I hope people take away a sense of beauty from my work, and I hope they connect with the content of the piece. My art is an excuse for me to connect with people and share part of myself with them.”
Ann Miller Titus, City Planner (image courtesy of the artist) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
PERSONAL STORIES SHARED IN VISUAL ART
II. MICHELLE RIGELL
By Sarah Weinman Artist Michelle Rigell started volunteering at Arts as Healing Foundation (AAH) to help others. She didn’t expect her volunteerism to help with her own healing process.
“It was hard being a medical student’s wife because my husband was very busy and we moved a lot. I couldn’t imagine if we were both doctors.”
Rigell suffered two miscarriages and struggled with the possibility that she may not be able to have children.
Rigell works in acrylic and creates her paintings based on photographs she takes. She explained, “I use realism as a reference, but add my own touch to it. Once I get a feel for the painting from the photograph, I discard the photograph. I consider my work photorealism with an abstract touch.” Current themes in her work include nostalgia and an ongoing series called the 1,000 Crane Project.
“I wanted the sign to have an old jazz or blues nightclub feel,” she said. A humorous nostalgic piece, titled Can You Hear Me Now?, is a play on Pop Art. Rigell reproduced the simplified image of an iPhone in eight squares using contrasting colors. In the
A local nonprofit, AAH offers free art lessons and other activities to patients with chronic illness, cancer patients, and their caregivers. It’s run by volunteers and all donations go toward purchasing art supplies. AAH also provides chairside art for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Siteman Cancer Center and Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
One evocative nostalgic piece, Down on Music Row, is based on a sign Rigell saw in a Nashville bakery/café. In this dark and nicely atmospheric painting, a round sign hangs on a red-brick wall, lit from above by yellow light. The sign says “Nashville, U.S.A. / Music City” in red, blue, black, and white. Its discolored and rusty appearance evokes a vintage sensibility.
Rigell teaches at AAH and helps facilitate studio art classes. She said, “We enable patients to enjoy their time. It’s a safe environment where they’re with other people who know what they’re going through.” In August AAH held a gala fundraiser at Duane Reed Gallery, which sold the art of patients to raise money. Rigell’s first miscarriage occurred before she found AAH. Not long after she started there, the second one came about. “I tried to convince myself that my problems weren’t as big of a deal as what AAH patients go through,” she said. “My pregnancies weren’t viable but I felt like a failure anyway. AAH made me realize it’s okay to be not okay.” She continued, “I needed to do art. Painting kept my mind off everything.” Art has always been part of Rigell’s life, though she didn’t set out to be an artist. As a child, she liked to draw and make origami. As an adult, she planned to go to medical school but doubted her choice before her senior year in college. She said, “I was unhappy, tired, and stressed. But because I had this goal of being a doctor, I couldn’t give up on it.” After college she married her fiancé. A year into their marriage, when her husband was a third-year medical student, the reality of the field of medicine struck Rigell: Michelle Rigell, Can You Hear Me Now (image courtesy of the artist) ARTIST INTERVIEWS
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ninth square, in the center, she placed a black rotary phone with the Apple logo in the middle of the dial.
“I’m Korean; in Korea, if you make 1,000 paper cranes, it brings you good luck. When I paint them, this memorializes them in art,” she said.
The idea for the piece came from an article about the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 “word” of the year: the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.
The 1,000 Crane Project dovetails with the importance of wellness: “The more of myself I put into my paintings, the more people can see me for who I am. It’s a means of letting go and expressing myself.”
“An emoji isn’t even a word!” Rigell noted. “That made me think about our dependence on phones and how communication changed over time.”
She added, “Art can help heal people, whether they create it or look at it. There’s value in art.”
With regard to the 1,000 Crane Project, Rigell is making 1,000 paper cranes from items like candy wrappers and bottle labels. As she makes the cranes, she arranges them, photographs them, and paints from the photographs.
www.duanereedgallery.com www.michellerigell.wixsite.com artashealingfoundtion.org
Michelle Rigell, Down on Music Row, (image courtesy of the artist)
CONVERSATION WITH A VISUAL STORYTELLER
By Rachel Sacks
Jill Evans Petzall is a documentarian at heart. Her latest exhibit held at the Sheldon through January 20th, Still Lives with Stories, displays photographs taken over three years in Southeast Asia, capturing tourists, locals and the cultural landscape in Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. The photos feature the physical poses of Western tourists and the corresponding forms of Asian-made mannequins.
Petzall stumbled on this subject organically, when she “discovered two compatible anomalies” while photographing. “Tourists made themselves static in the camera frame, into still lives,” she observed. She noticed how mannequins were posed similarly to the tourists, and like the tourists, were Caucasian. Though often spray-painted darker hues, the mannequins possessed Caucasian facial features. Yet they were made in the region, in factories like one in Bangkok that Petzall
visited. Mirroring the tourists that frequent the region in feature and form, the mannequins, Petzall suggests, serve to further reinforce Western notions of beauty—in a region the West once (not long ago) colonized. “The mannequins began as inanimate objects, but suggested an inner life made of our projected imaginations.” Petzall uses a layered, multi-stage process to effectively confront such ambitious questions regarding the functions of photography and its role in the construction of hegemonic cultural narratives. “The tourists pose for ego ideals. And the mannequins pose like the Western tourists—the successful life, the beautiful life. Everyone's posing for something not quite real.” And with that, Petzall hits on a deeper idea she’s exploring, central to her argument: the artifice of photography. “The camera acts as a kind of surrogate memory bank,” constructing stereotyped memories. In addition to exploring how the tourists and mannequins function as counterparts, she is, as she says, “playing with the notion of representation and camera culture.” How cameras “figure into our private lives” and influence us. Her artwork, she concludes, is “really all about how bodies are represented.” The camera freezes the Western pose into still life, fixing this Western gaze into a kind of power pose, shaping public perceptions of reality accordingly. After capturing the juxtaposition of tourist and mannequin and the Western beauty norms they reinforce, Petzall then engages viewers to
Jill Evans Petzall, Still Lives with Stories, installation view (image courtesy of the artist) 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
share stories in response to the images. Petzall has completed 140 interviews—gathering 140 stories—so far. “I'm not the storyteller, they are.” This she emphasizes, in keeping with her core tenets as an artist and documentarian: “the conceptual pattern in my work, rooted in a deep belief in oral tradition, in storytelling.” Through her art, she hopes for people to “gain a visibility through their voice” (a principle she says she perennially wrestles with as a privileged white woman). The physical space of the exhibit manifests these conceptual undercurrents, utilizing an emphasis on storytelling along with a filmmaker’s sensibility. “The show consists of multiple moving parts,” she says. The exhibit starts with 57 prints hung along the gallery walls, “for people to begin to think about what stories they might want to tell about them.” Across from the prints is the central space of the exhibit, a long room with several monitors. On each side of the space, a 40-inch monitor features one image at a time, airing stories—“sometimes seven stories, sometimes one, a really low murmuring.” “The dominant visible moving part,” she says, is the screen in between: “a 70-inch monitor in the center of the gallery that shows a morphing series of
diptychs,” running silently in a 20 minute-long, non-narrative loop. “Occasionally in these diptychs, I've thrown in quotes instead of photos. All my faves, all these nuggets I've collected over the years…[addressing] the things I'm thinking about in this work." Another part of the room features iPads with the stories transcribed, where the audience can swipe through and read the stories on their own. This intricate staging highlights Petzall’s values. Providing several means for viewers to access people’s stories—attaching two sets of headphones to each 40-inch monitor, “So people can sit and really listen to the stories, really hear the voices”—harkens to her sense of purpose: making visibility for people’s voices. “It's the combination of the stories and the photos, I hope, that lets the viewers see there is no singular story to an image, that every image contains a thousand stories, that every photograph needs the words to go with it.” In a stance that distinguishes her from a contingent of visual artists, she insists, "No image is complete without its narration." Petzall as documentarian insists on providing narration for the still lives, be it story, quote, or photo.
Perhaps most visually compelling for her thesis is the staggered diptych display. "Context is everything. And that's why I did diptychs. So that the meaning of each photograph changes, depending on [the] other image.” Petzall’s argument extends to the whole project of photography as a medium, functioning in a cultural and political reality. This is where we see convergence of the ideas built on twinned tourists and mannequins, literal western models, and the necessity of narration— context, ideally, to inoculate us from the construction of stereotypical memory. With viewers’ stories, Petzall builds her reception into the art. To continue the conversation, Petzall has created a website, stillliveswithstories.com, which will constantly be updated with more stories. This ongoing project sustains questions around representation and photography that will remain relevant as long as the medium captures us. She invites all to contribute.
THE ARTIST AS SUBJECT Trompe l’oeil, painted visual illusion used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object, always fascinated me. How does one make something two dimensional look three dimensional? And what a wonderful technique to bring humor into painting! I created the following story from a fairytale I read as a child (with some internet cribbing) to reflect the act of painting Baba Yaga while in Saint Petersburg, Russia with the international decorative painting group Salon Forever.
presence with a broom made of silver birch? Is it also true that you eat bad children? I see your fence is made from their bones. Do their skull eye sockets truly glow to illuminate the darkness in these woods?”
“Who sent you? Did you come here of your own free will?” asked Baba Yaga, the fearsome Slavic witch with iron teeth.
“As I read your story I was always fascinated by your house…on chicken legs, spinning and shrieking in the forest until a visitor arrives. It was amazing to see and very loud!” Margaret looks out the window startled by movement made by three large men on horses. “Who are they?” she stammers.
“I came of my own free will…to paint your portrait if I may,” Margaret answered confidently. “I have this book…. see…here…your story. It was given to me and my sisters when young and I wanted to see you for myself. Is it true you ride in a mortar with your knees touching your chin, flying across the night sweeping away traces of your
“Yes my dear, all are true. Aren’t you afraid of me?” “No." Margaret replies. “I am an adult and have only come to paint your portrait for posterity.” “Hmmmmmm” groans the old crone.
“Ahhhh…they are my faithful servants….my Bright Dawn (The White Horseman), my Red Sun (The Red Horseman) and my Dark Midnight (The Black Horseman). They help COMMUNITY VOICES
me protect the Waters of Life and Death. While I am a fearsome witch who can command the wind, make trees groan and conjure up a host of shrieking spirits, I can also be kind, give advice and magical gifts to heroes and the pure of heart. I am the Arch Crone, the Goddess of Wisdom and Death, the Bone Mother, wild, like mother nature. I am a nature spirit bringing wisdom and death of ego…and through death, rebirth.” “Will you let me paint your story?” “How long will you stay and where will you stay?” “Here, with you…in Russia…in these beautiful birch forests.” “There is no place for you here in my house. There is no bed for you. That old stove is my bed. I know why you have come to Russia. You must return to your group of artists in Saint Petersburg…the international group who call themselves SALON forever.”
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By Margaret von Kaenel
Baba Yaga walks across the room, places both of her boney hands on Margaret’s skull and kisses her forehead. "You will remember” she says as she slips the storybook from Margaret’s fingers. "Now go….my horsemen will protect you on your journey to Saint Petersburg.” Back in Saint Petersburg, Margaret couldn’t remember if she dreamed her conversation with Baba Yaga or if it was real. But as she began to paint her demonstration panel, the images of Baba Yaga and what she represented began to appear on her canvas. Margaret used an old decorative Italian style of painting called grotessca to tie the images together. She created a trompe l’oeil center, so that the portrait of Baba Yaga appeared to be coming out of the canvas. But the portrait looked more like her than the old crone and she struggled to remember Baba Yaga’s craggy old face. Frustrated, Margaret threw her brush into her water bucket. She heard the old crone’s dry throaty cackle, laughing, softly…then louder. Did she really make Baba Yaga laugh? She smiled too. This was a Salon she would remember for a long time.
Margaret von Kaenel, Baba Yaga, additional info (image courtesy of the artist)
GEORGE HYDE CLARKE – CONNECTIONS ANCESTRAL AND TELEGRAPHICAL By Roman Beuc
A somewhat obscure portrait hangs at the Saint Louis Art Museum of an AngloAmerican aristocrat whose story touches on a 17th century Queen of England, an 18th century Royal Governor, a 19th century painter/inventor, and tangentially an internationally famous American author. The portrait itself is a fine one but what is also interesting is the story behind it.
Samuel F. B. Morse, George Clarke, (image courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
The portrait is of George Hyde Clarke (1768-1835). He is presented as a man in his sixties, seated in an armchair next to a cloth covered table. He is dressed in a black coat, right arm on the table along with writing material and books. In the distance is depicted his rural manor house, Hyde Hall, still located outside of Cooperstown, N.Y. The portrait was painted in 1829 by the artist Samuel Findley Breeze Morse.
Clarke’s heritage springs from 17th century England. At that time the Clarke family had connections to officials that administered British Colonial North America. An earlier George Clarke (1678-1760), our sitter’s great-grandfather, was sent to the Royal Colony of New York in 1703. By 1736 he had become the Governor of the colony. While in the colonial service he gradually acquired over 120,000 acres of colony land. After his term as governor ended, Governor Clarke returned to England in 1745. The Clarke’s family connection to the Hyde’s came with the governor’s marriage to Anne Hyde (1693-1740) (our sitter’s great-grandmother). She was related to another Anne Hyde (1637-1671) the wife of King James II and the mother of the last two Stuart Queens of England, Mary II and Anne. Anne Hyde Clarke and her descendants were proud of their royal
connection and the Hyde name persisted in the family through the generations in both England and America. The Hyde Clarke tradition passed down to our George, including ownership of the 120,000 acres. George Hyde Clarke, presented in the painting, was raised as an English gentleman. He moved permanently to the USA in 1806, settling near Cooperstown N.Y. and close to Lake Otsego, also called “Lake Glimmerglass.” He built the stone neo-classical house pictured In his portrait. Hyde Hall is now a part of New York’s Glimmerglass State Park. Clarke’s estate agent was Richard Fenimore Cooper, the brother of James Fenimore Cooper, (1779-1852), the famous Cooperstown novelist and author of the Leatherstocking Tales. After Richard Fenimore Cooper’s death in 1813, Clarke married his widow, Ann Low Cary Cooper. Clarke later met the artist and inventor of the telegraph Samuel F. B. Morse, and had the portrait of himself painted in 1829. One of Samuel Morse’s most famous paintings was The Gallery of the Louvre. The story of the painting brings together Morse, his good friend, James Fenimore Cooper the writer, and his previous patron George Hyde Clarke. The painting is a depiction of the Salon de Carre Gallery in the Louvre. It was worked on by Morse for two years, and was to be his ultimate
Samuel F.B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre, (courtesy of the Terra Foundation for American Art)
masterpiece. However, instead of painting the room as it actually was, Morse decided to populate it with a fantasy recreation of 38 paintings in the Louvre’s collection. He selected paintings he thought were the greatest and most artistically worthy. All of the depicted paintings are recognizable. The size and placement of each was entirely Morse’s decision. Of the 38 works, 22 artists were
represented including four works by Titian, and three each by Van Dyke and Murillo. Morse, the artist, and James Fenimore Cooper and Cooper’s family are depicted in the painting.
GABRIELE MÜNTER – HER STORY By Susan Weber
Gabriele Münter was born in Berlin in 1877. She was one of the talented founding members of the Munich avant-garde Blaue Reiter with Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Her generosity and courage would play a crucial role in preserving the group’s art from the Nazis. Münter grew up in an upper middle class family that believed in women’s equality. Raised to be independent, she received her first bicycle at ten. She began to draw as a child. Her family supported her artistic development finding private tutors and sending her to the Woman’s Artist School in Düsseldorf, as women were then not admitted to the German Art Academies. Both of her parents had lived in the United States and returned to Germany. After her parents passed, she and her sister, Emmy, came into a substantial inheritance allowing them to live independently. In 1898, they travelled in
Murnau am Staffelsee today (photo credit: Susan Weber) COMMUNITY VOICES
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the United States for two years, following their parent’s footsteps, from New York, through Missouri (St. Louis), Arkansas and Texas to visit their relatives. As a young woman, she led an unrestricted life with exposure few women had at the time. Münter purchased a Kodak camera and documented her American relatives and travels with over 400 photographs. She would continue to use her camera to record Germany, her European travels and prepare her art and exhibits. Back in Germany, Münter began taking classes at Munich’s progressive new Phalanx School, where she studied woodcut techniques, sculpture, painting, & printmaking. The School’s director, Wassily Kandinsky was the first teacher to take her painting seriously. In 1902, Münter joined his summer painting classes in the Alps. Although Kandinsky was married, they began a personal relationship, lasting until 1916. Based in Munich, they travelled extensively through the Netherlands, Italy, France and North Africa, also spending time with Matisse and Rousseau. They fell in love with the small market town of Murnau outside of Munich and Münter later bought a house and spent much of her life there. The St. Louis Art Museum owns Winter Landscape (in Murnau), which Kandinsky painted while they lived there.
Gabriele Münter’s house in Murnau, (photo credit: Susan Weber)
Münter was a dedicated and prolific artist, contributing to many of the important avant-garde exhibits in Germany before the First World War. She employed a wide variety of media: wood cuts, linoleum prints, use of the Bavarian/Bohemian technique of reverse glass painting, and sometimes painted with a palette knife. Like other Expressionists, she was deeply interested in primitive or non-representational, non-academic, and non-“middle class” art. Münter was a colorist (influenced by Matisse and the Fauves), especially known for her landscapes. Here she employed radical Jüngenstil simplicity with softly muted colors and flattened forms. Her work remained figurative. In 1909, Münter and Kandinsky helped establish the Munich-based avant-garde group called the New Artists’ Association (Neue Künstlervereinigung) as a forerunner to the Blaue Reiter. She contributed to a number of the most significant avant-garde exhibitions in Germany until World War I. They then moved to neutral Switzerland. As a Russian, Kandinsky had to return to Moscow. He divorced his first wife there and married another Russian, not Münter. He never 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
Wassily Kandinsky, Winter Landscape, (image courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum) COMMUNITY VOICES
contacted her again. She was devastated. The camera was put away and she did not paint for several years. As a modern woman, she underwent psychoanalysis to cope with the abandonment. Münter sent some of his art back to him. The others she kindly stored in a warehouse with other art from the Blaue Reiter group. In the late 1920s she started painting again and lived in Murnau with her companion, Johannes Eichner, an art historian. They established the “Johannes Eichner Foundation,” which is now an international research center for the Blaue Reiter.
Once the Nazis came to power, she had all of her artwork, Kandinsky’s, and other members of the Blaue Reiter transported to her home in Murnau, where she hid them at great personal risk. The S.S. called at least twice, but never found the art. On her eightieth birthday, in spite of no contact with Kandinsky, Münter gave her entire collection, which consisted of more than 80 oil paintings and 330 drawings, to the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus in Munich. It is the largest collection of Kandinsky in Europe and of the Blaue Reiter group in the world. During her lifetime, Münter exhibited widely throughout Europe and the U.S. and received
countless awards. This fall and through the winter, 130 of her artworks will be exhibited at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich, timed with the celebration of the 140th anniversary of her birth and the 60th anniversary of her donation of works by the Blaue Reiter artists to the Lenbachhaus in 1957. And, while our local public art collections do not (yet!) contain works by Gabriele Münter, the not-so-very-far-away Milwaukee Art Museum has a sizable collection of significant paintings worthy of a weekend pilgrimage.
WHAT STORY IN AN ABSTRACT? By Anne Treeger
"Is it about the twin towers?" The question the response of a fourth grader's first glance of Frank Stella's The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, a painting of white parallel lines nested inside one another, creating two neighboring tall rectangular forms on a flat black background.
I was working at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM), ferrying inquisitive school kids through the galleries. The children were mesmerized by the large canvas, and there was a collective echo of suspicion that the artist had created his work after the tragedy of September 11th, a tangible reminder of those iconic towers and the ghostly void they left after one of the most horrific events in U.S. history. This was late in 2001, and it made sense that they were looking at the piece in the context of the alarmingly devastating current events. In this light, one might regard it as a stark memorial to the communal shock, fear and sadness permeating the world. Could this palpable artwork bring a modicum of comfort by revealing any insight into the unprecedented, savagely real nightmare? Could it demystify the why of terrorism? Shed light on the incomprehensible? Speak to the unspeakable? In the case of this class, it undoubtedly stimulated conversation. In actuality, Stella painted the work in 1959, and perceived it as referencing the act of painting: “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there… What you see is what you see.” This fact, though, is irrelevant to the average viewer whose instinct is to find a way to approach, connect to, and learn from art that at first glance may not make
Ann Treeger, Tikkun Olam, additional info (image courtesy of the artist)
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sense. Adults will often rectify their discomfort with the unknown by reading the label to determine the "right" answer to the artist's intention before viewing the piece and reflecting on their own reactions. The story of the work is as much one that derives from the viewer's understanding as it is an explanation offered by the artist or a theory deconstructed by the curator. Every work of art has a voice, an identity conveyed through color, line, gesture, texture, shape, form, text, the list goes on. Each creation is born from choice: digitally produced or hand-crafted, abstract or figurative, fiction or nonfiction, spiritual or secular, ceremonial or academic, decorative or functional, ephemeral or earthbound, referencing history or anticipating the future, playing it safe or taking risks, utilizing satire or conveying reality, commenting on culture or asserting the intimate. The decisions, what story to tell and how to tell it, are endless. Story has evolved from an oral tradition to a written one, from the conduit of performance to the venue of text, and increasingly now to the realm of the virtual. While these methods have evolved, art has throughout remained instrumental in passing on ideas and tellings. Art makes the voice visible. It offers the
opportunity for the museum or gallery or studio visitor to interpret through the lens of her/his own experience, layering the intimacy of personal archives atop the transference of artist's intention, an interpretive pentimento of sorts. The earliest artworks served to record and reflect culture and tradition: the cave paintings and engravings at Lascaux chronicling the prehistoric hunting rituals and magical rites recorded before the advent of written language, the Venus of Willendorf's voluptuous, fetishized limestone form perhaps reflecting the deeply ingrained societal plea for, worship of and homage to fertility. The title of an etching I made long ago, Tikkun Olam, refers to the vital mission in Judaism to work on picking up the pieces of a broken world and attempting to right its wrongs. I made it during my first pregnancy; having witnessed the stick I'd peed on reveal a plus sign at virtually the same moment the results of the 2004 election were announced, denoting in my mind a minus sign, my heart sank with the knowledge that I'd be bringing a child into a world tainted and stultified by a George W. Bush presidency. The revelation of a tiny new life combined with an ever increasing necessity to repair a broken species merged into the
image of a shattered and reassembled embryonic peanut in the foreground of a foreboding city skyline. The act of drawing, painting, sculpting, creating in any medium, is the spirit's narrative manifestation of an interior life account or an overarching life story accompanied by sensory immersion in light, shadow, color, and form. Everyone has a story to tell; children inherently know, recognize, and revel in this, just as it's most often a no-brainer for them to consider themselves to be working artists. Understanding works of art as a shared experience between artist and audience removes barriers historically daunting to the average viewer, harkening back to antiquity when art was more approachable, inclusive, and edifying. That day in the SLAM galleries, I watched as hands shot up and furiously waved during the museum tour; nine times out of ten, the students wanted to share stories summoned by looking at artworks, those that illuminate their own lives and experiences and offer fodder for making sense of their worlds.
STORY BURSTING THROUGH By Carlynn Forst COMMUNITY VOICES
Stories are the threads passed through generations that tie us to our heritage, our origins. I have used art to tell stories of our incorporeal travels through material forms. My work began as a venture in existential theory following the sudden passing of my younger brother. Thoughts of our place within this world already rode on my psyche, but grew ever pronounced in my journey with grief. Art immediately became the vehicle in which I processed the nature of our physicality and its relationship to the enigmatic.
cocoon trajectory continued to include an installation of life-size, figural cocoons that had been felted in wool. This was the first distinct marriage of human and cocoon-like silhouettes. The House of Love, a yogainspired fashion line featuring full-fledged butterfly suits and a dance performance was also created in this vein.
Transformation, cycles and change were prime concepts that drove my early work. Pieces first following the accident compared our lives to that of a caterpillar, our bodies to the temporary residence of a cocoon. The proceeding artworks were a series of cocoons with telling names such as Journey, Forest for the Trees and Home for Now.
The cycles concept took a literal turn in my first public artwork, Reunited. This environmental piece contained three regenerative sculptures modeled from the human form. Having been constructed of biodegradable materials and filled with soil, the figures reconvened with the earth as they decayed. The piece continues to cycle as seeds imbedded in the form have grown and overtaken the area. What remains of the installation is flowery semblance of its former self.
Navigating through a variety of media, I transitioned from working with natural fibers to video and eventually performance. The
I had originally chosen to forego any mention of the traumatic events that brought me to my studio practice. My work should be recognized
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Carlynn Forst, Traces, (image courtesy of the artist)
for its merit rather than a dark precursor. However, removing my experience from my creation is damn near impossible and even if not, doing so would strip it of its grit and rawness. I am still flirting with transparency, but began to expose the backstory of my work in Carry Piece. This was a performance wherein I donned a bag of bones on my back for a week. Worn during my daily activities, public and private, it conveyed the burden of holding grief. Rules were created to keep the performance congruent with my experience in that it was relentless (I could not remove the bag) and community helps (people were allowed to provide comfort, but could not carry the weight themselves).
The tale of our origins and destinations continued to weave itself through my work. Traces was a continuation of the cycles concept intermixed with history and connection. Here, a series of cyanotypes depicted figures rising from and returning to a fetal position. The images were cast on silk, a fabric responsible for connecting vastly distant people though the ancient Silk Road. The prints result from a permanent bond between light and applied chemicals. I felt this as a direct comparison of our inherent link to the ethereal. Lastly, the posing of the figures indicated a return to an original position, a theoretical cycling of to and from. This change within the absolute is what I came to know of the human condition.
Carlynn Forst, Inception, detail, (image courtesy ofthe artist)
At the week’s end, I buried the bag and left it. This was similar to my mourning experience in that I could choose to suppress the pain, but it wouldn’t negate its existence. It’d subsist no
matter how deep the hole was. In the literal instance, however, revisiting the discomfort would require an act of consciousness. In reality, there are many moments where the hurt finds me.
Carlynn Forst, Inception, (image courtesy ofthe artist) COMMUNITY VOICES
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It was not a conscious decision to lament in the studio. The only narrative I intended to share pertained solely to the artwork. Regardless, my enthusiasm for sculpture and storytelling coalesced with a subject that had effectively pulled at my heartstrings. As the work I created grew in scale and discipline, I grew in gratitude and understanding of my inexplicable circumstance. Through reflective and exploratory studio processes I’ve learned that to appreciate life is to embrace the mysterious. To be an artist is to have the audacity to explore it.
Carlynn Forst, Forest for the Trees, installation view (image courtesy ofthe artist)
GEORGE FREDERIC WATTS’ MINOTAUR By Robert Dorr
She stood quietly, her back pressed against the smooth rockwall, feeling its cold kiss penetrate her thin robe. It was cold stone, nothing more. Her eyes alone moved from side to side, searching for any movement, any telltale sign indicating his presence. It was not fear that she felt. It was apprehension.
She knew he was here. There were large, deep tracks in the dirt floor. But, she couldn’t see him in the early light of dawn. She waited. Let him come to me, she decided, moving closer to the archway and the cavernous chambers and passageways that lay beyond. The high walls, open to the morning sky above, cast concealing shadows. The labyrinth was vast, its patterns ineffable. A perfect lair for the minotaur. Her senses were heightened, intensified. Despite her regal bearing, she found herself enjoying the hunt. “There. That low rumble. Was that thunder? No,” Queen Pasiphae thought to herself, the open sky above was bright blue. And… there it was again. She moved silently through the archway, taking up a position against the wall just inside the adjoining room. Now, she heard the slow, soft thumping of bare feet. The sound was approaching the opening in the wall. Nearer. Nearer. With unearthly swiftness, the Queen leaped into the darkness, landing directly on the broad, muscular back of the minotaur! 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
Sarah Hermes Griesbach, Teen Mino , (image courtesy of the artist) COMMUNITY VOICES
“Maweeah!!” bellowed the Minotaur, in surprise and rage. His eyes burned like twin fires. Swiftly, he lowered his great horned head to the ground, snapping his legs and hips around in a blurring half-circle. Pasiphae skillfully summersaulted from the spinning back, landing face-to-face in front of the stunned minotaur. She had maintained a cruel grip on the right ear with her left hand. And she twisted in mercilessly.
“And I suppose there were some of those sorority girls involved, right?”
The encounter between mother and son was not going well for the son. “Nice try, Asterion,” she said as she continued to torque on his sensitive ear. “This is not my first rodeo.” She looked up and down the passageway. “Out running again with those fools from the Greek house, weren’t you.”
“Well, young man, this is going to cost you,” said the goddess. “She turned on her sandled foot and proceeded down the length of the maze, maintaining her painful grip on the minotaur’s ear. He followed her lead, his head bent low his tail dragging in shame.
“Pant.” His eyes glazed in lusty memory. “Those empty headed young ladies in the short togas?!” “Snort.” His eyes squinted, trying to recall the visions of loveliness.
“You’re not coming out of your paddock for a month, young man.”
“Whimper.” Her voice could be heard, fading off into the distance. “No ambrosia for you, Mister Party Animal!” “Moan.” “You’re just like your father. All paws.”
MORE STORIES FROM ARTISTS HEALING At the sixth annual Arts as Healing Foundation Gala at Duane Reed Gallery last August, a rich jewel-toned watercolor of a shimmering butterfly hovering on a sunshine yellow flower stood out. In the accompanying text, artistpatient Mary Louise Walker explained that the butterfly is a Christian symbol of hope and rebirth. She had found strength in her faith during her battle with stage three ovarian cancer in 2016, and participating in Arts as Healing classes helped her emerge from the cocoon of her illness. In the production of Go…Be as the Butterfly, Walker varied her brushwork and technique, using broad strokes of yellow for the flower petals and leaving some of the white paper exposed to evoke the butterfly’s iridescent wings. Walker was already an artist before participating with the program, although she hadn’t practiced for years. Her painting celebrates her survival and her rediscovery of art. Her watercolor transcends her cancer narrative and touches on a universal theme, in this case self-discovery. The Foundation empowers people with life-threatening and chronic diseases to tell their stories through art. Founder and Executive Director of Arts as Healing Foundation Vicki Friedman told me that it is validating for the participants to have someone else see their work as art. “They worked on a piece for the show, someone pushed them…and there is excitement that someone
bought their work, wanted to meet the artist, which was them, and make sure they had signed it.” Anyone who has experienced creative block knows that making art really is hard work. It may seem counterintuitive to emphasize learning, practice and critical thinking with people who may be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. But Friedman, a cancer survivor herself, believes this approach results in far deeper satisfaction. And that helps people make the most of their time, especially when they may not have a lot of it. Friedman, is therefore committed to helping artist-patients develop the tools they need to tell their stories through art. An artist who worked for forty years as a medical illustrator at Washington University School of Medicine, Friedman brings formidable expertise to Arts as Healing classes. For instance, before starting a collaborative artwork based on George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte, she introduced Post-Impressionism, color theory and pointillism. Each participant painted a square section of Seurat’s painting in the pointillist style. The squares are now united as a single work of art, but the individuality of each artist’s brushwork remains apparent despite the stylistic focus.
opposing views divide people, Arts as Healing focuses on what Friedman describes as “the very biggest picture, people getting along, diversity and acceptance and not judging.” The classes are free and open to patients, their families and caregivers. Since cancer does not discriminate, Friedman and her team strive to reach all demographics through social media. The result is classes where people from different walks of life share stories and connect. Friedman hopes to expand by bringing on more volunteer artists. All interested practicing artists are encouraged to reach out via the Arts as Healing Foundation’s Facebook page. There could be great potential in inviting St. Louis artists to develop collaborative projects based on their own practices in addition to those that focus on historical works. Imagine featuring Cbabi Bayoc’s vibrant paintings that synthesize Cubism and graphic illustration or Andrew Millner’s technique of piping paint onto the canvas with cake decorating tools. Further expanding artist-patients’ ideas of what art can be might help some participants build an even richer visual vocabulary with which to tell their stories.
The idea of the individual contributing to a larger whole is central to the Foundation’s mission. In St. Louis, where segregation and COMMUNITY VOICES
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By Sarah McGavran
UT PICTURA POESIS AND FREDERICK OAKES SYLVESTER’S THE GREAT RIVER By Julie Dunn-Morton The Roman poet Horace made famous the phrase ut pictura poesis “as is painting so is poetry”, and the application of this concept has been widely debated in aesthetic criticism over the centuries. For Frederick Oakes Sylvester (1869-1915), however, there was no debate; painting and poetry were complementary
aesthetic tools used to depict the transcendent beauty he found in his sole muse, the Mississippi River. Sylvester’s paintings are found in museums across Missouri and in numerous private collections. He was active in the St. Louis
Artists’ Guild and the Society of Western Artists; his work received a prize at the 1904 World’s Fair and was exhibited at the Saint Louis Art Museum (then the City Art Museum) and around the country. Sylvester’s style encompassed elements of tonalism and impressionism in his effort to capture the spiritual essence of nature on canvas. Just as his art drew from the evolving artistic styles of his day, so did his other artistic pursuit – poetry – where he drew from his contemporaries a preference for sonnets employing idealistic imagery and melodious phrasing. His major poetic work, The Great River published in 1911, is his bibliographic masterpiece. It represents every aspect of Sylvester’s beliefs, inspiration and aesthetic coalesced into one exquisite volume created in the Arts & Crafts tradition where paper, binding, font, illustrations and narrative combine to express a unified ideal. Within this cohesive whole, however, there lies a mystery.
The Great River contains 63 poems and 24 tipped-in platinum photographs of Sylvester’s paintings, some of which share their title with the poem they accompany. Sylvester controlled every aspect of the book’s production, selecting the ink, font, paper and binding materials. Each poem begins with an ornate illustrated letter designed by Sylvester and printed from a woodblock carved by a former student, Mildred Bailey Carpenter (1894 - 1985). The first 100 books comprised a deluxe edition that featured a tooled leather binding designed by the artist and a ten by six centimeter original watercolor tipped in facing the title page. 15 examples of these watercolors have been located to date as part of my ongoing research for the Catalogue Raisonné of Sylvester’s work. The watercolor landscapes vary widely in composition and color palette. Arranging them by volume number has not revealed any discernible pattern to the paintings, but considering the seriousness with which the artist approached this project, and the deep meaning he instilled in his paintings, it is hard to believe these watercolors were simply random compositions inserted arbitrarily into an extremely personal creation designed to be a cohesive aesthetic experience.
Frederick Oakes Sylvester, untitled watercolor, in copy #28/100 of The Great River, 1911 (courtesy the St. Louis Mercantile Library) 19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
THE LEGACY OF NATE MCCLAIN (1973 – 1997) By Kris Barks
Nate McClain was born August 6, 1973 in Granite City, IL with a natural talent for art. At age 4, he became a published artist when his Happy Birthday Card was sold nationally by Hello Studio's Children's Art Collection. He pursued art with a passion winning student art contests and earning a BFA in Illustration from Missouri State (formerly SMSU). In 1993, his mother passed away from cancer which profoundly impacted Nate as he was an only child and his artwork turned to darker colors & harsher themes. After college, he lived in the Washington Avenue Art Lofts in St. Louis, MO working as a freelance artist and was commissioned to paint a 9-feet by 9-feet mural for Ozzie Smith's retirement from baseball. On September 6, 1997 Nate attended a wedding of college friends in Louisiana, MO and after midnight a group decided swim in the nearby Mississippi River. Nate, an experienced lifeguard, was the first to dive in and tragically drowned on September 7th. He was 24 years old and left no will or instructions regarding his artwork. Nate’s passing shocked his family, friends, and everyone who knew him. I was personally devastated as we were best friends since age 4 growing up across the street from each other and he happened to pass away on my 25th birthday. After his passing, friends in mourning stayed at his Art Loft with Nate’s roommate Dave who was another childhood best friend. Dave became the default gatekeeper of Nate’s paintings at the Art Loft and he gave many to family & friends while sadly some pieces were outright taken without permission. Nobody at the time thought to take an inventory of the paintings as Nate regularly gave away paintings in his lifetime with no tracking of his portfolio. Six years after Nate’s passing, I decided to create an online portfolio of Nate’s artwork to honor what would have been his 30th birthday in 2003. Digital cameras were emerging at the time which would made it easier to take digital pictures of Nate’s artwork for the website. I called upon Dave and some close family to
being the process of digitally capturing Nate’s work. The next hurdle was copyright ownership and I quickly learned that owning one of Nate’s painting does not give the possessor of that work its copyright. In Nate’s case, his copyright fell to his estate which meant his Dad was the owner. I contacted his Dad and he graciously transferred copyright permission to me for Nate’s artwork! With copyright in hand and 30 initial images of paintings, the Nate McClain Gallery launched on August 6, 2003. Over the years, the Nate McClain Gallery has expanded to include over 130 works from private owners with 12 pieces being newly added in the past year. Each painting was found via word of mouth and thru social media outreach. In addition to the gallery, Nate’s legacy has been honored with Art display cases in his name at Granite City High School, a grassroots effort that saved his 16-feet by 8-feet Ultimate Sports mural from demolition, and his painting of The Alcoholic appearing on an international magazine cover. Nate’s story has also gained the attention of established artists and international critics: “…we lost a great, great artist. Being able to do those paintings of the Self Portrait, the John Belushi, the Guy at Bar at 18, 19, 20 years old…Truly, he was a fabulous artist. Watercolors, drawings, cartoons. His paintings blew me away, his drawings blew me away. He could have gone anywhere. He could have done anything.” – Mike Peters, Pulitzer-winning cartoonist and creator of Mother Goose & Grimm.
enhanced the lives of the people around him with his public art, and it’s a tragedy that his career was cut short when it had only just begun” – Julian Spalding, English art critic and author. 2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of Nate’s passing and his life is being celebrated with a retrospective exhibition & book. The exhibit was held in September at St. Louis ArtWorks and featured 50 of Nate’s artworks from twenty private collectors in the St. Louis area, Kansas City, Chicago, Charleston S.C., Portland, & New York. A 150-page retrospective book Painting The Town: The Art of Nate McClain is now available and is the definitive collection of Nate McClain's artwork, spanning his first published piece at age 4 to his final works in 1997. Twenty years after his passing, Nate McClain’s life and artistic legacy continue to resonate and inspire.
“Nate McClain was a genuinely exuberant painter with a real feeling for the times he lived in, mixing his irrepressible sense of fun with a deep sensitivity to suffering and pain. He
Nate McClain, The Alcoholic, (image courtesy of the Nate McClain Gallery) COMMUNITY VOICES
Nate McClain, Self Portrait – Hawaiian, (image courtesy of the Nate McClain Gallery) WINTER 2017/18 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 20
What happens to the art of an artist after they pass away? Who keeps their memory alive and becomes their voice, their champion? It’s a sobering thought and a fate each artist will eventually face. Perhaps you knew an artist who has passed away and are wondering what to do, where to begin, will anyone care. I found myself struggling with these same questions after my best friend and artist Nate McClain passed away at age 24 in 1997. This is the story of my journey to preserve the artistic legacy of a friend.
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WHEN ART LIES By Chris Naffziger
“Some have asked: ‘Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?’” “We have waited for more than 340 years…” -Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail On a bustling street corner in downtown Rome, a crumbled, broken piece of sculpture known as the Pasquino stands alone. It is an old Roman sculpture, dug up in the Renaissance and placed near where it was found. At some point, back before there was freedom of speech in Italy, dissidents began posting signs criticizing the pope and other politicians at the base of the statue. The joke was that since it was a statue “speaking” the comments, no one could be arrested for its insolence. Ironically, the Pasquino is perhaps more famous for its second life as an outlet for rebellion than its first life as an intact sculpture. Fast forward five hundred years to bustling Delmar Boulevard in the Loop, and a plywood wall, originally installed to herald the coming of the “St. Louis African American Cultural Center”, has taken on a second life, one its original painters could not have imagined. The figures, separated by vast swaths of orange background, provide the perfect opportunity for cartoon bubbles to appear in the middle of the night, giving commentary on Loop politics and other issues. Back after the imposition of the Loop Curfew, the blonde woman in the mural suddenly found a voice, condemning the imposition on teenagers. Other, unprintable messages pop up from time to time, as well. But years ago, the fading orange mural received another anonymous message from www.DeclareItArt.com: It would prove sadly prescient:
the best and worst of “mainstream” American priorities. Other “forever-under construction” projects proposed by the artist include a Native Americans: Here’s Colorado Back installation and a thrilling piece that “promises” to allow the Iraqi Army to invade and “liberate” Washington D.C., with the guarantee of a meager and underpowered defense from the U.S. military. The original mission of the site, the old Mount Olivet M.B.E Church, to create a regional African American cultural center, seems to have died in recent years after a $5 million donation from Emerson to the Missouri History Museum. The Post-Dispatch, in an October 12, 2015 article about the Emerson donation, contains a telling quote from former President Jim Buford of the Urban League seemed to admit as much, “Despite best intentions and efforts, it has been clear for some time now that it would not be possible to raise the sizeable funding necessary to support building and sustaining operations of a stand-alone center as first hoped.” Declare It Art might not boast many posts, but owner Daniel Waxler’s new posts always seem to pop up at just the right moment. Its crushing commentary of Kelley Walker: Overdrive appeared just as the Contemporary Art Museum endured fierce criticism from the St. Louis art community. In fact, the website’s parody explanation that the entire botched exhibit was in fact performance art is strangely more logical than the actual intended purpose of Walker. “They are so tone deaf that it’s hard not to think it’s an intentional work of art,” remarked Waxler.
Waxler’s Declare It Art piece for the bright orange wall was installed back around 2012, years before Ferguson became a household name—and years before dreams of a stand-alone Cultural Center seemed to end in 2015. “I was amazed at how little information there was. The Loop’s homepage said it was coming soon in 2011. I feel there is something poetic being on the Delmar Divide, about it being there, albeit on the south side of the street.” When asked how his statement from 2012 held up revisiting it after five years, Waxler, replied, “There are some references that make it a little dated, but I actually think it’s timelier now than then for St. Louis in particular with our racial issues. You know there is going to be a check-in every year [after Ferguson] to see how we’re doing. We are one of the epicenters of a new era of civil rights. I think we need to be acknowledging it and embracing it.” Waxler was surprised when he passed by the mural on Delmar, which seems to have received some modicum of upkeep over the years. What should the future of the giant orange mural be? Waxler concludes, “One way or another It would be glaring if they take it down. To take it down is to admit it’s not happening. Leaving it up is blatantly disingenuous. At some point we need to acknowledge that if it’s not going to happen and to leave it up is wrong. It’s become an accidental metaphor for our inability to deal with our past.” www.stlouispatina.com www.declareitartcom
In Lieu of…
This piece is designed to serve as a metaphor for the innumerable empty promises laid at the feet of a once-subjugated minority. In building this non-building, a wooden barrier with a large, ostentatious sign reading “African American Cultural Center,” the artist references an uncomfortable truth. Not unlike the post-emancipation pledge of 40 acres and a mule, this work evokes the United States’ propensity to trade actual product or progress for the emptiness of ‘good intentions.’The wall, complete with a quintessentially multicultural mural, satirically espouses a commitment to a Center the community is unable or unwilling to construct. A microcosm of minority race and religious relations, this piece embodies both
Saint Louis African American Cultural Center, (photo credit: Richard Reilly) COMMENTARY
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WHOSE STORY TO TELL? By Holly Schroeder
I was texting with Sarah, an editor for this magazine, and she told me that the topic for this issue is stories, and I thought, “oooh, that’s interesting.” Then she said something about hoping that someone (hint, hint) would write about stories and cultural appropriation. My fingers typed, “sure,” and clicked send before I could stop it. My natural inclination is always yes to any request, it’s only moments later that I think to myself, “crap, what did you just sign up for?” I knew this was going to be a tough one. It’s controversial and it’s complex. It’s the sort of topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on -- and a strong one at that. I travel in activist circles and among people I consider to be smart, sensitive, culturally varied and insightful - I am lucky to be a part of a community of people who feel deeply and are comfortable challenging each other. I have thought about and discussed cultural appropriation at length -- where it starts and ends, how to spot it, and how to avoid it. I have definitely made missteps in my time. In terms of telling someone’s story, the quick and dirty answer is don’t, but that’s an oversimplification. In my experience, appropriation and privacy issues are often entangled. Generally, it’s best to let people tell their own story whenever possible. Don’t hijack anyone’s culture and trivialize it as a fashionable trend because you think it looks cool. Be invited or ask if it’s ok to participate in activities specific to a culture -let the host take the lead. I’m sure I don’t have all the right answers and I hope to stay open to keep learning, because this is the sort of thing that can be subtle and nuanced as much as it can be in-your-face obvious.
Cultural appropriation in art, whether it’s music, literature, performance, or visual, is perhaps more difficult to spot than in some other arenas. If you aren’t Japanese, love traditional Japanese landscape paintings, and derive inspiration from the color or movement of the paintings and incorporate it into your style, is that appropriation? I don’t think so, provided you give credit to your muse when the occasion arises. However, if you mimic the style exactly, start wearing kimonos, and insist everyone call you by your new Japanese name you found on the internet, you’re in pretty deeply troubled water. Every year around Halloween there’s a campaign to address cultural appropriation because it seems to be a particularly egregious issue at that time of year. One of the sayings that I always go back to over and over is, “it’s a culture, not a costume.” Just say no to “sexy squaw” costumes. 25 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2017/18
During the hottest parts of the summer and in the winter I do street outreach with people experiencing homelessness in the city. I use my Facebook account as a blog of sorts to tell the stories of my adventures and talk about the people I encounter. My hope is to increase empathy and get people thinking. Maybe if they have a few extra bucks they will feel compelled to make a donation to support our work. The storytelling aspect is pretty serious business to me. I always want to be careful not to make assumptions about how people feel or think and to be as accurate as possible in sharing their stories, while also being mindful of their privacy. Living in a public space doesn’t mean you don’t get to have a private life. Sharing my experiences with my friends outside is a hand-wringer sometimes. We relate on a lot of levels, first being that we are human, but they definitely have some experiences I don’t. For starters, the vast majority of my friends are black men over fifty. I’m a 44 year old white lady. I’ve experienced gender discrimination and the occasional inquiry about my slightly ambiguous ethnicity that feels something like, I’m-asking-so-I-can-decide-how-to-judge-you, because my dark olive skin is a potential red flag for the racist crowd. But all in all, my life is pretty damn privileged. I don’t have the foggiest idea of what it’s like to walk through life as a black man who is economically-disadvantaged and unhoused. I listen to them and I believe what they tell me, but that’s not the same as experiencing it myself and there’s truly no way to recreate the experience so I can walk a literal mile in their shoes. My friends openly share their lives with me, the good, and too often, the mistreatment, dismissive attitudes and at times the abject cruelty they experience. I’ve witnessed it also. People can be incredibly kind and at other times horrifyingly terrible. In the end, their stories belong to them, so sharing them on any level is tricky business. When I write about the work I do, I try to stick to my experience as best as I can. Once in awhile, I will share a snippet of someone else’s story, but I always quote them and do my best to use exactly their words. I never disclose full names, often use pseudonyms and refrain from including anything that might identify them specifically. I consider the bulk of our conversations to be privileged and private -- not for public consumption. Their trust is important to building relationships that will endure and their experience and perspective is important and deserves space of its own. I love and respect my friends and want to do the best I can to be COMMENTARY
an advocate and ally. What I do not want to do is sensationalize someone else’s story or exploit my friends in any way because it might make it a more attention-getting story or tell it in a way that says, “look at me -- aren’t I great, look at this good deed I did!” Street outreach is about the people experiencing homelessness, not about me. I always want to keep that front of mind. I don’t know if I am doing all of this perfectly, but I am trying super hard. Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough though and I have to remind myself to stay open to feedback about what I write so that I am always striving to do better. I’ve developed a series of litmus tests for myself when it comes to appropriation and privacy. It’s not a foolproof system, but it seems to help minimize my blunders. Is there someone else better suited to tell the story? Do I need to ask anyone permission before I begin? How does it feel in my gut? Do I feel “weird” about it? If so, why? Is my objective to share in a way that is respectful and thoughtful or am I hoping to get some attention on the cheap? Is this a time when I should ask for feedback from friends and colleagues before I put pen to paper? If so, who do I know that would be willing to provide an alternative perspective? Am I willing to adjust or abandon the project or task? Have I done my research? What do people outside my ingroup have to say about the topic? Although I know I will fall short sometimes, I have to keep trying to do better and be open to changes in attitude and opinions that might be counter to mine.
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The Visual Art Quarterly of St. Louis