THE VISUAL ART QUARTERLY OF ST. LOUIS
Patrick Weck, McCord’s Box Turtle Habitat, Saint Louis Zoo, (image courtesy of the artist)
CONTENTS IN REVIEW (PGS. 01-12) EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH
CREATIVE EDITOR SUKANYA MANI
COPY EDITOR HILARY HITCHCOCK
DIRECTOR OF LAYOUT AND DESIGN MAXINE WARD
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD REILLY
CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS MIKE ANDERSON JENNIFER BEIDLE MAUREEN BRODSKY DAIL CHAMBERS PAUL CLOUD ALLISON CUNDIFF KATRYN DIERKSEN MILO DUKE SARAH HERMES GRIESBACH ALEX JOHNMEYER LAUREN MARSHALL
DANIEL MCGRATH LACY MURPHY YVONNE OSEI ERIN MCGRATH RIEKE ALLANA ROSS SONIA SLANKARD SHIELA SUDERWALLA RICH VAGEN ELIZABETH VEGA HARRY WADLINGTON SARAH WEINMAN ADRIAN A WRIGHT
Yet again, the list of exhibits we haven’t managed to include plagues our staff. St. Louis area art venues do not rest and our most ardent attempts to document what they are doing will always fall short. So, look within these pages to see what our contributors have chosen to recognize, but also check our Facebook page for invitations to a much wider swath of exhibitions. If you are moved, write a review! We’ll help you. We only ask that you write about exhibits you are not intimately or professionally connected to.
ARTIST INTERVIEWS (PGS. 13-14) Alice Neel once said of her storied art career, “It was more than a profession. It was even a therapy, for there I just told it as it was. It takes a lot of courage in life to tell it how it is.” Patricia Clark tells Sarah Weinman of the courageous storytelling she folds into her surrealist-styled paintings of black women moving through restrictive bindings. Nezka Pfeifer tells how her position as curator of the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBot) grants her an opportunity to bring the gems of that collection to new audiences.
COMMUNITY VOICES (PGS. 15-18) So many artists have committed their practices to their vision of a better world. Lacy Murphy lives her dream to take art into places people frequent for other purposes with her [ALT+SPACE] project. Patrick Weck has painted convincing, comforting homes for endangered amphibians and reptiles in animal exhibits we all can enjoy when we visit our public zoo. Byron Sletten gifted his images to the purpose of poet Ted Kooser’s words and derives new insights into the mysterious way the world works.
COMMENTARY (PGS. 18-23)
Front Cover: Michael Tracy, Cruz to Bishop Oscar Romero, Martyr of El Salvador*, Front Cover: (image courtesy of MOCRA) Back Cover: Alex Johnmeyer, Ray, (image courtesy of the artist) *On October 14th of this year, El Salvadorian priest Oscar Romero was canonized a saint of the Catholic Church. Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. In 1980, Romero was assassinated by members of the extremest right-wing political party that controlled El Salvador’s National Assembly until 1985 This work is on display at Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art as part of MOCRA: 25, the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary exhibition, now through February 17, 2019.
Here is where you find the most personal stories we are sent. When a submission crosses over from documentation to testimony, we put it here. This season, we are loaded with reports from artists angling their art practices to change our society for the better. Then, three local organizations -Willows Way, Macoupin Art Collective and Artists Firstspread the word about what they do to encourage art making in our region.
Hank Willis Thomas, For Freedoms Billboard, (photo credit: Richard Reilly)
At least one contributor responded to our call for content around the theme “Art and Social Change” by asking if that is not always our theme. Fair. Even artists who commit their practices to closing out the world around them, stripping the politics and the problems of humanity from their painted canvases and sculptural installations, seek to share the objects they have made. They strive to explicate and illuminate our experiences of this life. The hieroglyphics of the human comedy/tragedy become readable when deciphered by your neighbor artists. It’s hard to find an artist who isn’t doing something that ties to their sense of an ideal. With that in mind, we are proud to again offer you an array of art stories. This Spring, we request, from all of you who heed the call to participate and write for us, news of “Art School.” As always, the theme of the season is as wide as you make it. Do with it what you will.
You will see in our advertisement section in the end pages a call to participate in All the Art’s brand new MEMBERSHIP program. We are putting it in bold lettering because this is a bold move to strengthen our support as our volunteer editors and distributors work to get All the Art to ALL the people. It ain’t easy to gather the funds to run the 10,000 copies we spread to 32 zip codes in Missouri and Illinois each quarter. Ad revenue helps cut our print costs and we have benefited from grants toward paying contributors tiny stipends for their tremendous work. But most of our funding comes from individual donations That’s where you come in! Become a member of All the Art and we will mail a copy of each issue to your address. You will also be invited to special member events as they occur. Membership is easy. Rates begin at $55 per household, but your good feeling only increases with the amount you give. Since we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, contributions to our operating fund are tax deductible. Go to our website to begin your membership now: www.AlltheArtStL.com All the Best,
Executive Editor and Co-Founder
KEHINDE WILEY: SAINT LOUIS SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM Kehinde Wiley, arguably best known for his portrait of President Obama, came to St. Louis with the intention of honoring some of our less-celebrated residents. Through February 10, the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) gives space and representation to residents from North St. Louis city and county. Curated by Simon Kelly and Hannah Klemm with research assistant Molly Moog, Kehinde Wiley:Saint Louis sets a precedent for who is welcome to institutionalized and museum spaces. Wiley’s larger-than-life portraits exuding radical youth and presenting black bodies just as they overwhelm the spaces where they are hung.
In the 11 portraits that make up the exhibition, Wiley depicts individuals in their everyday garb, as their authentic selves, rendered in his recognizable classical European painting style, surrounded by intricate and ornate decorative elements. When speaking of composition and process, Wiley elaborates on how these images came to be. During a visit to St. Louis in 2017, he purposefully looked for subjects near the convenience store Michael Brown was allegedly stealing from. He stood outside meeting and greeting individuals who had no idea what he was busy planning. Wiley chose models meant to reflect St. Louis and show something of the heterogeneity of its black
residents. Nine of the portraits (the exceptions are Portrait of Mahogany Jones and Marcus Stokes) are named in reference to Western European artworks they mirror in pose and style, images of white, aristocrats that Wiley selected from the SLAM collection. An age-old question around portraiture asks if a still image can capture the subject’s personality or say anything of meaning about that individual. Portraits act as time capsules, sometimes serving to keep the subject young and beautiful for eternity, but also capturing the time and place of their making. By happenstance, two of his portraits featured within the SLAM exhibit feature subjects wearing Nike shirts with the logos prominently displayed. And so, Wiley provides future art historians with thesis material regarding would-be football celebrity Colin Kaepernick's Nike campaign and how the relationship between activism, consumerism, sports culture and 21st-century racism plays out in fashion. While Wiley’s 11 sitters were encouraged to make their own wardrobe choices, he determined all other aspects of each painting’s composition. Each color scheme was picked to make a statement, sometimes breaking away from contemporary modes of framing black masculinity , other times in referenceto colors of power seen in the portraits of the past. Ornate patterns and floral elements that might
Daniel Martensz, Mystens the Elder, (1633) Charles I, (image courtesy of SLAM)
Kehinde Wiley, Charles I, (image courtesy of SLAM) 01 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Wiley describes oil painting as an art form that has its own “vocabulary of dignity.” To have your likeness painted on canvas, framed and hung on a wall confers distinction. This was true historically, and still holds true today. Wiley’s portrait sitters were invited to see themselves represented on the SLAM museum walls at the opening event for the exhibition on October 19th. Some say that they had not imagined themselves so large. One woman, Lynette Foote, attended a press preview event the day before the official opening and found herself in awe as she looked up at herself, her daughter and another young woman transformed into Three Girls in a Wood. She is, forever, part of our human story, a story that is much richer for Wiley’s illustrations. -Lauryn Marshall
Kehinde Wiley, Jacob de Graeff, (image courtesy of SLAM)
Otto Müller, Three Sisters in a Wood (image courtesy of SLAM)
Kehinde Wiley, Madame Valmant (after Jean-François Millet, 1841) (image courtesy of SLAM)
Gerard ter Borch, Jacob de Graeff, (image courtesy of SLAM) Kehinde Wiley, Three Girls in a Wood (image courtesy of SLAM) IN REVIEW
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be found on fabrics and wallpaper in the homes of landed gentry cover each canvas, often partially obscuring the figure and skewing the foreground with the background. The effect is like surround sound, making the subjects fight for space, disconnecting the bodies from any sort of place.
FREEDOM: THE AMERICAN HUSTLE ARCADE CONTEMPORARY ART PROJECT, WEBSTER UNIVERSITY
A culminating moment in Gordon Parks Jr.’s 1972 Blaxploitation crime drama Superfly is Eddie speaking to Youngblood Priest about getting straight: “Ya know, you’ve got this fantasy in your head about getting outta the life and setting that other world on its ear. What the f*** are you gunna do except hustle?” Freedom: The American Hustle, a multi-media exhibit by St. Louis artist John Blair, took its title and much of its inspiration from this film. Blair describes this exhibit as an exploration of the challenging and demeaning characterization of black America in the post-Civil Rights 20th century. He looks to a series of experimental and independent Blaxploitation films from the 1970’s that helped to launch black stereotypes in the late 20th century and recharacterizes these figures as rounded individuals, providing dignity to the actors who stepped into these roles.
America in 2018 is an interesting time and place for this exhibit. It followed a renewed interest in the history of black identity in the United States since the 20th century. It followed Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album DAMN, described by Dana Canady, the administrator of the prize in an interview with the New York Times, as storytelling whose “time was right.” It followed 10 years of growing attention being paid to artists of color in higher education humanities departments. The films Blair responds to explored the problem of marginalization, but Blair extended that conflict into the psychology of such characters. “When you think there is no other place for you in the system, no other options,” he says, “you buy into the role that the system set aside for you.” Blair’s interest in and characterization of this genre stem from the section of black population not wholly served by the Civil Rights act of 1964, the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Wih the advent of desegregation, middle class people of color could now leave the black community, but many people were not served by these changes (those with felony convictions were denied public housing, food stamps, loans, even the ability to sit on juries). Blair began to explore the voices of those who had been left behind. Where was their American Dream? Many of those, whose conflict is partially captured in Blaxploitation films, were left with few options beyond what the title of this exhibit articulates: hustling. Blair’s premise evokes Childish Gambino’s This is America, where a choir sings “get your money, black man,” and Glover appears with a weapon, representing a stereotype while simultaneously annihilating it. There’s a story here - people with their own disappointments and things they are fighting for, stepping into survival mode while despising their only options for accessing resources. The images of black women in the Freedom photo series within the exhibit are photographs presenting the nude body nonsexually—they become more than their sexual function for male or white consumption. This is Blair’s commentary on how the black liberation movement and feminist movements of the1970s largely silenced or ignored the voices of black women. He seeks to present their bodies as their own. -Allison Cundiff
John Blair, Freedom: The American Hustle, installation view with John Blair at right (photo credit: Eric Pan) 03 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
EAST 12TH STREET, 1979–1980
CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM ST. LOUIS Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980 at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) showed an intimate and prefiguring look at some of the earliest and most formative years in the career of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Through artifacts, including photographs, sculptures, drawings, writings and more, Alexis Adler, Basquiat's roommate and friend, gave a rare glimpse into the development of a young artist. Black and white photographs show Basquiat, both through images of himself and of his work, in the apartment they shared on East 12th Street in the East Village of New York. He is shown acting out skits, confident in front of the camera, taking up the entire frame and being the center of attention. A series of 15 photographs show Basquiat playing with putty, sticking it to his nose, peeling it off his face and posing. He was 20 years old and playful, peeling Silly Putty off his face. The photographs document where he lived and worked. That space, the apartment, was all things - his home, his studio and his art. On one wall is a drawing of a face, in what would become his signature loose and scribbly style, with hair sticking up and going everywhere and a mouth made of zig zags. Also shown is the refrigerator, “grape jelly” written across the door and a handprint stamped above. He was 20 years old and playful, drawing on the walls. To pay rent, Basquiat sold postcards he made and sweatshirts he painted. Adler showed some of these sweatshirts, one with the words “Man Made” emblazoned across the front, another, yellow and covered in paint drips and sprayed with the word “blue” in a circle.
his use of Xeroc copier to make prints. One such print, Untitled (A Nation of Fools), depicts a representation of an American flag, with black and white stripes and tally marks for stars and the title text scrawled across. These early works, the sketches, notes and paintings on walls and objects, show a glimpse of what would become. Throughout the collection, images full of energy, strokes of ink or paint flow wildly. These stand in contrast to carefully drawn geometric zigzags. A photograph of a briefcase with cassette recorders in the apartment shows a /\/\/\/\/ zigzag pattern painted on the inside of the case. That same pattern is seen in a notebook, digitized and presented on a touch screen, enabling the viewer to browse each page. Another Xerox print, Test Pattern, shows the recognizable mark above the title text and other phrases and formulas. And again it can be seen as a mouth in a drawing of a face on a piece of wood in the apartment. This pattern showed up later in Basquiat’s famous crowns, a motif he used often. And that is what was on display throughout the exhibit, the beginnings of one of the 20th century’s most important artists, a young man who could not help but express himself everywhere: on buildings, on clothing, on paper, on appliances. For Basquiat, everything was a canvas waiting to be marked up. The exhibition at CAM gave glimpses of what would be his artistic genius, and we also saw the element that goes beyond creativity: confidence. He was 20 years old and playful, changing the world.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Basquiat performing in the apartment (image courtesy of CAM)
He filled sketchbooks, and notebooks and paper of every kind with sketches, collages, notes and stories - his thoughts any way they came out. Untitled (Coke Adds Life) is an ink on paper with collage that shows a very quickly and emotionally drawn face with a cut-out advertisement photo of a hand holding a bottle of Coca-Cola and the words “Coke adds life.” across the side.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Basquiat with refrigerator installation (image courtesy of CAM)
Part of what made this show so interesting, and indeed, what makes Basquiat's art so engaging, is the use of time-relevant materials, including
www.camstl.org IN REVIEW
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BASQUIAT BEFORE BASQUIAT
A SKIN YOU LOVE TO TOUCH (KEEP HER WHERE SHE BELONGS)
DUET GALLERY Duet Gallery is a gem somewhat obscured by Grand Center’s flashier venues. No sparkling marquee guided me to its humble entrance, but as I descended the concrete steps I was greeted by glitter and vivid florescence. A Skin You Love to Touch (keep her where she belongs) is a collaboration between local artist Katryn Dierksen and Brooklyn’s Moody Rose Christopher. Each artist interrogates the construction of feminine domesticity from a point of subversion. The show’s title is pulled from vintage women’s magazines, and appropriately so. The work channels the legacy of home-making as it is passed down from generation to generation, from post-war Levittown optimism to the age of digital convenience. The transmission and inheritance of domestic knowledge is an iterative process, each generation altering, interpreting, and adapting established practice to suit circumstances. Dierksen explores feminine iconography through an analogous process of repetition and reproduction. Dierksen’s paintings, digital and otherwise, are images that are at once familiar and distant. These icons of female stardom—including Lady Gaga and Debbie Harry—are represented in vividly-colored wall-bound posters, bright oil paintings with a cloisonné feel, a flickering TV screen, and repetitively patterned fabric. The posters recall the personal, yet unrealized, relationship a teenager might have with a pop star, while the fabric design especially solidifies the reiteration of iconography, a process by which an image becomes ubiquitous, household, domesticated. Dierksen has made icons into something we can wear or spread over our tables. A digitized iconography emerges. Dierksen has rendered it reproducible and quotidian, addressing the confines of female power and challenging the separation of private and public spaces.
inviting, the compositions whimsical. Here and there appears a slice of watermelon, a happy-faced chair, a Keith Haring style dog. On closer inspection, more disconcerting scenes are revealed. Empty domestic spaces are vacuoles inside rubbery, receptive bodies; staircases lead to handleless doors; splayed boneless limbs are braided together; the bodies of reclined eyeless women are just a series of vacant rooms. They have smiling mouths, though, and identifiable hands, fingers and toes. Christopher’s reclamation of female space is born of the subversive perspective of her experience. The artist upsets the confines of the binary gender system just as her collaborations with Dierksen probe the constraints of the domestic space allotted to the female-identified. The artists’ collaborative pieces echo the impotent extremities of Christopher’s house-women. Christopher’s Mom’s Ethereal Arms drape impractically across a table (over a table cloth designed by Dierksen), reaching for a mug (graced by yet another iteration of Dierksen’s icons) too solid and too small to grasp. The outsized stuffed arms represent our most useful appendage and yet sprawl listlessly in recreated, slightly awry domestic scenes. Women Used to Know How to Sew is the pair’s richest collaboration in the show. A flimsy loveseat made from Dierksen’s fabric, too small and unstable for any imaginable body, cradles one of Christopher’s capacious, cushiony hands. The loveseat looks as if it would swallow you up if you dared to sit on it - like you would be folded into its rusty springs and vanish, emerging into an alternate nightmarish world, envisaged by a home-maker in the digital age, where images duplicate endlessly, dissipating into meaninglessness, and your hands, so essential for domestic tasks, are useless, clumsy, and bloated. -Allana Ross
The private enclave of the home as feminine territory is by no means a new concept in art. Moody Rose Christopher’s trio of woman-as-house paintings reference Louise Bourgeois’ Femme Maison in subject and playful style. While Bourgeois’ woman is on her feet, waving, Christopher’s women are contorted. At first glance, the sunny colors are 05 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Katryn Dierksen, Don’t Look at Me (especially not through a lens) (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen)
IN REVIEW Moody Rose Christopher, Dark Skies (better a staircase than a basket case), (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen)
Katryn Dierksen, Siouxsie’s Bathtub World, (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen)
Moody Rose Christopher, Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys (or Artist for That Matter), (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen) IN REVIEW
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EMILY G STREMMING
THE JUICE BOX POP-UP GALLERY
Emily Stremming’s one-night-only exhibition at the Juice on Cherokee wove together sex and death as a pleasurable visual warp and disturbing narrative weft embodying film critic Laura Mulvey’s thesis that “Woman’s desire is subject to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound.” In a large creamy colored photo weave Coming, Darling, a gorgeously illustrated brunette coyly applies her lipstick attending to her vanity, glamorized and sexualized under the mid-20th century trade mark SOIR DE PARIS. Below her figure the cosmetics company logo BOURJOIS anchors the vertical composition. Her eroticism is subject to the golden haired male figure entering behind her, as she surveys herself and he observes her. The vintage glamour of the scene is interrupted by the film noir-like montage of an exploded schematic diagram of a semi-automatic handgun. Perhaps she is thinking of the gun. Maybe he is. We can’t know for sure or even why. Either way it is a threat of death and displeasure that’s at odds with the delightful promise of a night in the city of lights. Ultimately the meaning of this superimposed image is sexual difference, via the fetishization of the gun and the dimorphism of male and
female which reveals the slick visual surface of the man and woman as a commodity fetish. An alternative read of the scene lies in ascertaining guilt for the thought of the gun. Who is asserting control here? Did she cheat? Did he? Revenge? Who is coming or ultimately about to go away? Who’ll be punished, or forgiven? This more sadistic side fits in with establishing narratives and demands a story. Indeed, a story was supplied on the opposite wall with You Made Me Do It, 2018 a coagulation of photo transfers, spattered in blood linked together by a cotton thread wound around the nails pinning the transfers to the wall itself. The overall effect is that of a psychopathic assassin plotting a crime or alternatively a detective attempting to solve one by connecting the dots. Biological diagrams of male and female genitalia, gun schematics, a bare female body (that of the artist) supine on a filthy floor and grime-stained architectural interiors suggest a reconstructed crime scene. But here it is a symbolic order in which a woman or man live out fantasies, traumas and obsessions through an Instagram account or random Google image search. By imposing on them the silent authorship and vulnerable body of the artist, Stremming as maker isn’t just the bearer of meaning.
Analyzing pleasure tends to destroy the thing itself, like explaining a joke ruins a good laugh, but in Venus, another of Stremming’s trademark photo weaves, the male narrative and female spectacle split is magically suspended. Here, two genitalia-less mannequins, still identifiably male and female, are locked in an armless embrace as futile lovers. What could they possibly get out of this frustrating relationship? But as Stremming slices and dices the two source photographs together into one flesh, merging the eroticization of the spectacle and drama of a story, she fuses the forms in platonic love instead of dissecting them with psychoanalytical autopsy. -Daniel McGrath
Emily G Stremming, installation view (image courtesy of the artist) 07 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Generally, the presence of a female form is the indispensable element in the pleasurable spectacle of a film, TV show or magazine image. Yet that very same visual element tends to work against the continuation of a narrative, freezing attention in moments of erotic contemplation of flesh. Stremming’s obsessive slicing and dicing of existing source materials, intended in part, to see how images work often engenders these divergent characteristics outlined by Mulvey’s visual theory. When the male figure arrives, as seen in Coming, Darling, the narrative speculation begins anew, even without the ambiguity of the montaged gun.
WORLD CHESS HALL OF FAME
The opening reception of Peter Manion’s Universal Turf at the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHoF) on an unseasonably warm evening in October brought in the largest number of guests yet to an opening at the museum. Universal Turf, is a site specific sculptural installation housed in the first floor gallery of the three story WCHoF building will be on exhibit through March 24th. Manion’s plaster-coated blankets of dyed felt are meant to be touched by museum visitors. They can be folded in on themselves, stepped on, used and mused into whatever shape they seem to call for. This premise-that you can touch the artworks-provides a sensual metaphor for a message about chess. Manion wants us to try what is normally off limits. He argues, through his artworks, that chess does not have to be overwhelming and is not limited to grandmasters. Universal Turf is intended to help us let go of our intimidation of the game. Simply thinking about the strategies involved in a game of chess will cause our brains to grow and change. Manion’s interactive exhibit pushes visitors to allow themselves to let go of old behavioral patterns and perceived limitations. The experience of engaging with the exhibit pushes visitors to let go, focus, observe, think and consider options and possibilities, much like the way one learns to play the infinite game of chess. By anticipating and opening oneselves to different outcomes, one has the potential to get past fear. The beauty of Universal Turf and its relationship to chess might at first seem obscure, but Manion finds a direct connection between the leap of faith required to make and mold and change the physical form of the art object and to make that first move in a game of chess. He reflects on the process of completing this project - his abandonment of tradition, eschewing overthinking and overanalyzing - as a parallel act to that of completing a chess game without feeling the need to rely on well-worn strategies. At the center of the exhibit, sit the Elementals: a cluster of brightly colored, abstractly formed sculptures set on pedestals of varying heights.
These could be interpreted as pawns within the game of chess. Like the larger artworks, these sculptures are built from materials Manion used when he was working in construction. The shapes presented seem static and set, but are, by design, movable and can be easily reshaped or even fall at any given moment, much like the way a game of chess can change utterly with a single move. Protector (Blue), C (Yellow), and Cut and Paste the Truth (Pink) represent the bishop, the queen and the king on the chess board. These stunning sculptures appear dense, heavy and solid and yet equally fragile and complicated. The sculptures seem to be scarcely intact as they lean on Manion’s old oriented strand boards (OSB) and drape on the gallery floor. They are a manifestation of Manion’s delight in the simplicity of creating art objects from materials that are surprisingly strong, like the power pieces on the chessboard. To complete this project, Manion left behind his traditional work methods and eliminated the use of brushes and paint. He worked to let go of his ego and get out of the way of what the material wanted to do, what the work wanted to be. The effect is especially evident in his large-scale artwork Universal Truth. Wildly brilliant India dye on textured pieces of plaster and felt cover the walls and invite viewers to run their hands across the art.
(image courtesy of the World Chess Hall of Fame)
wonder, “What are the rules? Are there any rules?” Chess, a game rich in tradition with a clear beginning and end, has a thick list of rules. But it too is a creative endeavor. Manion gets at the cognitive treat found in both. -Erin McGrath Rieke
The vibrancy of Universal Truth contrasts with the all-white plaster work Make Your Move. End of Something, another stand alone plaster work, once molded as a sculpture, sprayed with multicolored India dye and then flattened. It is tacked to the wall, visually tying the entire exhibit together. The exhibition title, Universal Turf, is a variation on the notion of Universal Truth. Manion stipulates, “There is no actual universal truth. We all have our own version of the truth. So we focused on universal and then focused on turf, because turf is organic. Turf is tangible. And we wanted this [exhibit] to be approachable and tangible for people.” The worlds of art and chess are often presumed to be unapproachable and intangible. Abstract art often leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Viewers IN REVIEW
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ALLANA ROSS AND BRENT BECKER IN:
MIXED The exhibition featured artwork by Bruce Alves, Brent Becker, Joe Chesla, Tim Hahn, Ruth Kolker, Amy Reidel, Allana Ross, Kathie Thomas, and Timothy Wagner. Many of these works shared an abstract sense of form and bright colors that impress thoughts of the fantastic Gestalt Mouse, a mixed media painting and drawing by Brent Becker, has a cartoonish body that first looks like it is entirely composed
DONALD D. SHOOK GALLERY, ST. CHARLES COMMUNITY COLLEGE of exposed tendons and intestines, decaying in an earthen environment. On closer examination the viewer realizes that the mouse’s whole body is actually pieces of other dead animals stitched heavily into the form of a mouse. In particular, the artist has chosen to use the heads of other animals as the pieces of the mouse’s body. The Gestalt Mouse has a pig face and bat face that together make a crotch, rabbit and snakes heads for a nose, a turkey for a foot, and so on.
People often find the idea of a mouse to be disgusting. A mouse signifies contamination. Gestalt: “something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts. (Merriam-Webster)” Has Baker then supposed that a mouse is the sum of a lot of other dead animals? Is this a grotesque rendering of the concept of reincarnation consolidated in one body? Is this a contemporary American Frankenstein’s monster, perhaps saying something about the horrors of factory farming? The picture is reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh, or some other fairytale illustration, insinuating an allegorical interpretation. The color fades and drips, so that the artwork looks waterlogged, like it has been abandoned in a rain puddle or a gutter. Another piece of Becker’s work, Defense Mechanism, has a similar affect, with an even more heightened steam punk fable theme, this time featuring a wind-up toy of a pelican with a gas mask for a face and round mechanical wings folded roundly so that it looks like a leathery metal ball whereabouts its body. The scary dystopian bird uses a clamp for a foot to clutch a cute yellow duckling that drips blood into a pure blue ocean, its eyes scratched out in bloody X’s. Becker’s style evokes childlike fantasy in the realm of terror, like scary stories and images made for children by the likes of Tim Burton and Roald Dahl who knew that children could handle more truth than many creators give them. Untitled (Woman’s Day 1969) by Allana Ross is one of a series of screen prints on mulberry paper. Ross took clothing patterns and clippings from vintage magazines and isolated the patterns for different articles of clothing to print ambiguous, pleasing shapes onto soft white sheaves of thick paper. The prints relay a sense of nostalgia for lying in the grass and gazing up into the clouds, daydreaming, guessing and fantasizing about their Rorschach shapes. Each print consists of two fields of color that play on the viewer’s imagination like ink blots. The mere insinuation of a “woman’s day” primes me to see a hand with only the middle finger flicking out connected to an arm in a warm sweater,
Allana Ross, Untitled (Woman’s Day 1969), (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen) 09 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Brent Becker, Gestalt Mouse, (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen)
The cloud-like quality of the artwork is enhanced by the artist’s layering of halftransparent white sheets over opaque ones, hanging together on a wooden rod with string like a kite or a banner. The cotton-like impression of the white mulberry paper makes the artworks especially soft and ephrmeral. Ross gave each the name Untitled to remove her ideas from the images, and then put only the name of the magazine in which she found
her source material in parenthesis along with its year of publication. Yet, the magazine titles cue the viewer’s interpretation of the images, giving meaning removed with the “Untitled”. -Katryn Dierksen
Brent Becker, Defense Mechanism, (photo credit: Katryn Dierksen) IN REVIEW
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causing thoughts of protestors marching in cold streets for women’s rights to scroll through my mind. A smaller shape of green in a layer over the pink hand and arm looks like a small cloud made up of a cluster of hexagonal plant cells. Meanwhile, my friend sees a cat and a wadded up piece of paper. Another looks like a fish with its mouth open, trying to gobble up a little bite of something. The artist has thoroughly abstracted the source material into fields of gentle colors and pleasant abstract shapes.
RE/CONSTRUCTING IDENTITY SHELDON ART GALLERIES Artworks by Zlatko Ćosić (Yugoslavian), José Guadalupe Garza and Miriam Ruiz (Mexican-American), Priya Kambli (Indian) and Rachel Youn (Korean-American) in the Bellwether Gallery of the Sheldon Art Galleries join with several other complementary exhibits within the building that focus on the immigrant experience. Ćosić, Garza, Ruiz, Kambli and Youn each work through their very fraught personal histories to bring together a group message of generational struggle that those of us with less recent immigration stories will find relatable. What objects do we carry with us through life, repeatedly refusing to discard them despite moves and the accumulation of new experiences, new memories, more relics and tokens? The artworks that make up Re/Constructing Identity are built of ephemera, an aptly esoteric word for that which is wrenched from its time, place and purpose. Zlatko Ćosić is best known for his art filmmaking. Here, he digs into discomfort to deliver his record of war and forced immigration. What emerges in his videos is a fervent need to communicate. He must convey the horrors of his past to those of us without the experiences that might prevent us from recreating the violence he remembers through the foggy glass of time. Three videos tell powerful stories, each employing brilliantly communicative devices to convey more than words or images alone can express. José Guadalupe Garza and Miriam Ruiz’s splitscreen video, Anhelo [longing], is dreamlike in its confusing presentation of ambiguous
scenes and enigmatic text. Dancing women are shown, one after another, moving the action forward as they disinterestedly twirl their traditional skirts while various images pass behind them. The past, here, is a bit like a psychedelic hallucination. It is confusing, with so many possible meanings. Text projected on one of the video panels denies the credulity of memory.
The act of memory encapsulation that these artists endeavor to represent is universally understood. Each of us looks backward with shame, loss, longing, pride to interpret our current position on the fine point of our existence. But for the immigrant who has left the sights and smells that trigger childhood memories and reaffirm identity, the reflections take more effort.
Priya Kambli alters family photographs to decipher her childhood from their cloudy record. Her Kitchen Gods series contains prints of beautifully obscured ancestors, made more immediate, more curious by intricate overlays of delicate designs. Flower petals and lace-like embossment frame the faces of Kambli’s then-young parents and grandparents. Within her Suitcase series, she arranges life souvenirs inside small sturdy travel boxes, open for display. Kambli shows us that the past, heavily edited by the rememberer, provides what we make of it. Shall we put that troublesome episode against a soft silk scarf to relieve the associated pain? Which of the moments left behind will we elevate to a status of importance worthy of framing our present?
There is a sharper break between their then and now. Dipping into the memories of the world they have left is like looking in from a faraway planet. That layer of otherness that these artists feel between their present and former selves is made manifest in their obfuscation of the art objects they have made. Each of these immigrant artists’ personal histories is displayed within strata of intrigue and artiface that provide opportunity for connection. We know what it is to be bound by our past, to be confused by breaks in our life trajectories and to feel the need to find and tell our own stories.
Rachel Youn used the internet to make virtual “tours” of South Korea, quite consciously employing the “dislocated lens” of Google Street View. Youn’s contributions to this exhibition provide a lighter, sometimes mildly tongue-in-cheek reflection on the transference of inherited identity to the children of immigrants. For Youn, South Korea is a built compilation of objects and passed-on symbols that exist outside of experience and memory.
-Sarah Hermes Griesbach www.thesheldon.org
Zlatko Ćosić, Re-Birth, video still, (image courtesy of the artist and the Sheldon)
Priya Kambli, Dada Aajooba, (image courtesy of the artist and the Sheldon)
Rachel Youn, The View from Jeju Island, (image courtesy of the artist and the Sheldon) 11 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Bâ€™BLAIZE, RACHEL YOUN, JANE BARROW, QUINN BRICENO,MARY LAMBOLEY, ALLI LITWICKI,
VICTOR WANG, BRIAN LATHAN, KEN WOOD, ALLISON MORRIS LESCH, LILLIAN STEPHEN, ERICA POPP, ERIC SHULTIS, WILLIAM CONGER, DOMENIC CRETARA, WILLIAM LESCH, ANNE LINDBERG, JENNIFER MOSES ST. LOUIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE - MERAMEC
"DRAWING IS NOT WHAT ONE SEES BUT WHAT ONE CAN MAKE OTHERS SEE." - EDGAR DEGAS
Mary Lamboley, Geology of Painting Pt. 3, video still (image courtesy of the artist)
Brian Lathan, Remember Him Trying to Explore Something New, (photo credit: Issac Schmitt)
Quinn Briceno, El Barbero, (photo credit: Issac Schmitt)
Eric Scultis, Tree of Life, (photo credit: Issac Schmitt)
Domenic Cretara, Family Values, (photo credit: Issac Schmitt) IN REVIEW
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DRAWING FORWARD: PROCESS AND VISION
PATRICIA CLARK’S PATH FORWARD
By Sarah Weinman
Patricia Clark’s paintings of wrapped African American women are quite striking in their own right, and even more so in this era of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and increasing political activism. Clark’s inspiration for the series came from thoughts she was experiencing at the time she conceived of the paintings. “I sketch to express my feelings,” she said. “I was frustrated with my professional situation and felt so wrapped up in everything that I was going through.”
Her series depicts women wrapped from head to toe in white or gray strips of fabric. In some paintings, even their eyes and mouths are covered. The wrappings signify everything that might hold someone back from achieving her goals, including mental, psychological, or societal obstacles. Clark’s artwork gives the viewer a sense of claustrophobia or of being trapped, and understandably so. The women can’t move, see, or speak; they’re effectively imprisoned. The piece Wrapped Up depicts one such woman who cannot see or speak. She sits with her head tilted back as if looking up, even though fabric blocks her vision. Her whole body is concealed except for her chin, hair, and the back of her neck.
Clark explained, “If you aren’t seeing a path forward, you’re blind to the things that are restricting you. Circumstances prevent you from having a voice – that’s a fight too. The women whose eyes and mouths are exposed, are breaking free.” One of Clark’s favorite pieces is Within Distance, which represents breaking away and leaving a lot of difficulties behind. The subject appears to be in motion, leaning forward, with her hair streaming out. The fabric strips that bind her are coming loose and falling away. Art, particularly painting, has always been an important part of Clark’s life. She noted, “I love the tactile feeling and the colors of oil paint, and I love the results I get.” A native St. Louisan, she received her BA from San Francisco State University and then returned to St. Louis to work as a substitute teacher and a teacher assistant. She became certified in K-12 education at UMSL to teach art and subsequently taught in middle school for 15 years. She’s now earning her MA from Webster University. Her thesis focuses on the identity of African American women as artists. “I’m looking at things that affect us as artists and
the challenges (including discrimination) we’ve had moving forward and establishing our art careers,” she said. “I’m also interested in how we’re achieving success.” Only recently has she started to explore through her art the struggles that black women face. She explained, “Because my career was in education, a lot of my work was geared toward teaching younger students. It didn’t have as much depth as it does now.” With regard to the most pressing problems that black women face today, Clark listed economic stability, holding sustainable jobs, the ability of women to find work they like, the ability to move forward, and achieving personal growth. “Things have to get to a point where women are starting to see where they want to go,” she said. “A lot of African American women are so politically and emotionally stirred up right now, which I like seeing. My older sisters were activists in the 1960s and 1970s in St. Louis. I was a kid then, but when the Women’s March came about in January 2017, I went with my daughter. The march was a statement about the election.” She continued, “I didn’t see a lot of African American women at the march, I think because some felt that it didn’t quite represent them.” Clark hopes her work inspires all African American women, and men as well: “I’d like my art to help them address personal, financial, social, and other challenges. I hope it gives them a sense of determination to continue to fight for things, encourages them to fight against what’s holding them back, and helps them push forward positively.” She added, “Art is powerful. Art has prevailed throughout history. Governments have never been able to suppress creativity.”
Patricia Clark, Within Distance, (image courtesy of the artist) 13 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
ACCESSIBLE ART AT MOBOT
I had a brief chat with Pfiefer at the museum as she graciously showed me the current exhibits. Since she has only been in her new role for six months, these current exhibits don’t even hint at the projects she has planned. We started our interview discussing the challenges museums face as they try to engage the community and be relevant and impactful in areas of social change. Pfeifer notes that “It is a challenge to make (museums) accessible. What's happened is, with all of the social justice movements that have really come to a head in the last five years, museums want to play a bigger role as community catalysts. And so this is now an opportunity for them to effect social change and not just reflect it or illustrate it.” We started our tour with a walk through the lower gallery, which is replete with portraits, botanical art and landscapes reflecting a hodgepodge of art interests at the Garden over the decades. It’s a nice collection. Pfiefer explained: “And so many people don't know that the Garden even has these [prints and paintings]. This was an opportunity to show some of that.” We then moved on to the lavishly decorated original public gallery upstairs. This space is a Victorian jewel of interior design. It’s bright and although it’s small, it has a feeling of spaciousness and grandeur. The restored cabinets are gleaming but hardly full. The displays are objects from the ethnobotanical or biocultural collections of the William L. Brown Center, which collects and catalogs how people use plants around the world. The staff documents how specific cultures use plants and how climate change has had an impact on that usage. One case features Tibetan traditional objects but also includes a sample of wine. Climate change has reduced the snow cap and changed the valley climate. This change has allowed the growing of grapes and the production of wine. Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, President of the Garden, is also an avid collector of ethnobotanical products and
examples. In fact, if in your travels you acquire unusual examples of ethnobotany, you should contact the William L. Brown Center, as they are interested in donations that expand their collection. We also toured the smaller southern room that probably was an entrance foyer at one time. This small space featured an exhibit on New Caledonia, the French-controlled island in the South Pacific that is a current biodiversity hot spot. The island is home to 3,500 native plant forms, making it an intense self-contained ecosystem. Seventy-five percent of these plants are endemic to that locale and consequently found nowhere else on the planet. The environment has the challenge of dealing with the invasive Rusa deer population that has ballooned to 300,000 in 150 years, surpassing the human population. Pfiefer explained that it is a prime hunting destination as scientists and government aim to control the species.
destroyed the French vines in the late 19th century. And it's (American) Norton vines that were used as the rootstock in which the French vines were grafted to save those. So, there's a really interesting global story there too,” Pfeifer elaborated. The Norton grape is the official grape of Missouri and a cornerstone of the Missouri wine industry. In Pfeifer’s own words: “It'll be interesting to see how visitors respond to what we do. And there are so many interesting stories about what the Garden does, whether it's the horticulture or the research or conservation projects. Those will all get woven together in exhibitions moving forward.” There is a palpable excitement at the prospect of revitalizing the museum as she engages the community and develops programs exploring social change and accessibility.
While these exhibits were interesting and informative, the exciting part of the conversation was hearing Pfiefer’s plans for the museum. As any artist has her canvas, a curator’s medium is their vision for organizing and realizing shows and exhibits. Pfiefer shared with me three exciting projects in the works. First, in January 2019, there will be an exhibit of botanical art curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists, which is headquartered in the New York Botanical Garden. This show will bring beautiful contemporary art to St. Louis. Second, for the first anniversary of the museum’s reopening, a collaborative exhibition of science and art will explore the plant composition, history, and derivation of paper. Pfeifer explained that she is aware of paper artists in the area and hinted at their involvement in the project. Paper was chosen as the focus because it is the traditional gift for first anniversaries. Third, another project in the future is a still-to-be conceptualized collaboration involving the Garden’s waterlilies, historical documentation about them in the Garden’s collections and an exploration into the impact the plant has had as an inspiration to artists. Further down the road, projects might include other plant forms or products like the potato or wine. Wine incidentally has a strong connection to George Engelman, one of Henry Shaw’s early advisors and horticulturists. “George Engelmann was actually doing research on phylloxera, the aphid that
www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens_gardening/ our-garden/gardens_conservatories/victorian-districttower-grove-house/sachs_museum.aspx WINTER 2018/19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 14
Nezka Pfiefer recently took the curatorial reins at the restored and reopened Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBot). Fresh from her responsibilities at the Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science, and Art in Scranton, PA, Pfiefer brings knowledge of a Victorian collection and experience with a herbarium to her current role. This will stand her in good stead as she brings some exciting ideas to the recently reopened museum here.
By Maureen Brodsky
[ALT+SPACE]: ALTERNATIVE SPACES IN THE ARTS By Lacy Murphy, Founder of [ALT+SPACE] The primary purpose of an arts institution is to serve the interests of the public, respond to its needs and to make objects of cultural significance available through collection and display. A wide variety of St. Louis-based arts institutions and groups participate in this tradition and provide a spectrum of viewing possibilities to the public. Most St. Louis museums and galleries, however, also work within a set of fixed parameters - the most concrete of which is, perhaps, the physical site in which their collection is housed. While a permanent location affords many advantages such as security and the ability to make meaningful investments in cultural work through the construction of an expansive collection, it also requires that the public go to it.
unorthodox exhibition spaces such as cafés, bars, storefronts, public parks, warehouses and other spaces not initially envisioned for the exhibition of art. By co-opting these spaces and redefining their function as sites of art appreciation and analysis, art is brought directly to the public, drawing to the fore essential questions that explore the relationship between the public, the artist and arts institutions: How would an environment directly suited to the specific needs of artists and the meaning of their work affect the relationship between the public and art? How might that interaction change in familiar, accessible spaces and with local artists? And what exhibitions might arise if curators could respond in real time to unfolding political and social events?
[ALT+SPACE]’s inaugural exhibition, CONSENT/DISSENT (on-view at Foam on Cherokee December 8 - 18th) explores potential responses to these questions. A group exhibition, CONSENT/DISSENT examines the experiences of straight and queer women in light of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing. Situated more broadly within the Trump era, this exhibition investigates the emotional labor demanded of women within our society and the discursive, visual, and physical violence done to them. The works in the exhibition, and the exhibition itself, act as a direct response to the current sociopolitical climate. The Talk by Amy Chen, an undergraduate art student at Washington University, is a mylar installation piece that documents the
[ALT+SPACE], a curatorial collective based in St. Louis, addresses this issue. While St. Louis arts institutions are, in general, free to attend and accessible, the needs of the public are far too diverse and unwieldy for any one arts institution to address. [ALT+SPACE] asks: “What if the public did not have to seek out art? What if, instead, the art sought out the public?”
The mission and method of [ALT+SPACE] is more experimental than some of its institutional counterparts. Taking the form of a “pop-up” gallery, [ALT+SPACE] exclusively curates the work of St. Louis-based artists in
Sophie DeVincenti, Exposed, (image courtesy of the artist) 15 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
Amy Chen, The Talk, (image courtesy of the artist) COMMUNITY VOICES
emotional labor performed by women following a sexual assault. According to Chen, her work relates to the way survivors often facilitate communal healing as part of this performance. Sophie Devincentis’ Exposed, is a rumination on themes of sexuality, empowerment, and womanhood. In Exposed, the female body is
revealed through frantic brushstrokes of fleshtones, reds, and pinks, conjuring an amorphous, organic form reminiscent of menstrual fluid and mucus secretions. Devincentis’s work creates discomfort within the viewer, a strategy intended to provoke productive conversation about gender and identity. These works, among others by artists Janie Stamm, Sixue Yang, Rachel Lebo, Jessica
Bremehr, and Brie Henderson, respond to the nation’s identity crisis concerning the role of women in politics and society.
THE ARTFUL ZOO By Milo Duke
The murals throughout the Herpetarium are by Patrick Weck, who says “I want both animals and humans to feel like they are in the animals’ natural habitat.” He includes features intended to excite the animals, with some intriguing indications of success. The black mamba has been observed by the keepers trying to climb on painted branches. The rainy Caribbean
habitat of the mountain chicken frog has been so successfully reproduced by a thoughtful collaboration of artist and keeper that the twice daily multi-media thunderstorm causes an enthusiastic amphibian response every time. As for human response to the work, as you stand in the atrium, you will notice that, through what appears to be a window, the Sonoran desert recedes majestically into a mountain-strewn distance. It is an enticing vista that draws you close enough to observe the Gila monsters and spiny-tailed iguanas snuggled up to the glass right in front, lying low. Weck's trees are so well painted that one can understand the black mamba's confusion. Dense tropical undergrowth relentlessly realized, beautiful cloud effects over distant mountain ranges, rocks and flowers and mushrooms; all these the artist brings to delight the human eye. A tour through the Herpetarium is a tour through many beautifully painted parts of the world; a
seamless integration of landscape painting and 3-D foreground staging for reptile theater. This all came to be as a result of a 9” x 12” watercolor of a hellbender salamander that the then 22 year old artist painted as a Father's Day present for his dad, a biology professor at Southwestern Illinois College. His dad was so taken with the painting that he showed it to his professional acquaintance Mark Wanner, the manager of the Herpetarium. The hellbender, a Missouri native, is a state endangered species and the subject of a successful Saint Louis Zoo breeding program. Impressed by the small painting, Wanner asked the artist to paint murals. Amazingly, the young artist's talent was up to the quantum leap from notebook to room-sized murals, and now five years later there are 15 paintings in the Herpetarium, three in the Primate House and one in the Bird House. And the work continues.
Patrick Weck, Jamaican Iguana Habitat, Saint Louis Zoo, (image courtesy of the artist) COMMUNITY VOICES
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The Saint Louis Zoo has many wonderful attractions including one that is a beautifully integrated example of art, architecture and modern zoo keeping practice—the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. This building, a charming example of Mediterranean style architecture built in 1927 and located on Historic Hill, is home to the zoo's reptiles. The exhibits, arranged around a sunlit atrium, are glass fronted enclosures featuring naturalistic habitat dioramas and spectacular murals that demonstrate what the art of painting can do in some unexpected ways.
Many of the animals Weck painted within the habitat murals are endangered or threatened because of humans’ destruction of the environment. He hopes that by reminding visitors of the beauty and diversity that still exists in nature, he can inspire greater social action and respect for wildlife within future generations. In his latest mural for the McCord’s box turtle from southern China, he included scenes of deforestation and signs of human destruction as a reminder to visitors that this turtle is nearly extinct in the wild due to human activity. The zoo is not where one expects to encounter fine art, but Patrick Weck's landscape murals are so fine that the animals and the human visitors alike are delighted and transported by the conviction and beauty of the work.
Patrick Weck, McCord’s Box Turtle Habitat, Saint Louis Zoo, detail (image courtesy of the artist)
PAIRS WELL WITH POETRY
By Mike Ankelman
This is a story about how the Rube Goldberg machinery of stealth serendipity often drops a breadcrumb trail across our paths, and if we follow the crumbs for a few steps with attentive, receptive minds, whole new universes of opportunities and possibilities can open up for us. Digital artist Byron Sletten employs powerful 3D software to render hyper-real objects as they would appear in a world governed by the physics of light, and he’s
exhibited in over 40 national and international shows over the last 30 years. Earlier this year, Sletten was reviewing his ever-growing menagerie of digital works focused on archetypically common objects and thought, “Maybe these images would pair well with the written word, maybe poetry.” That’s when the fickle finger of providence stirred the guacamole dip during the Super Bowl broadcast this year as Sletten’s wife, Michelle,
Bryon Sletten, A Yellow Rope, (image courtesy of the artist) 17 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
shared the poem, Walking on Tiptoe by Ted Kooser, with him. Michelle’s yoga instructor had read the poem to her class, and Michelle was so drawn to it, she bought Kooser’s book, Delights and Shadows. Kooser deftly assembles distilled, concise clauses to viscerally illustrate his observations of everyday life, often focusing on everyday objects that he coaxes into fountainheads of symbolism for our universal emotions and experiences.
A couple of states away, Sletten was doing the same thing with his art. The intriguing notion of marrying Kooser’s literary imagery to his own artistic images motivated Sletten to that point so many artists reach when they let their creative optimism take the wheel: They hurl a Hail-Mary pass to the universe to see if anyone out there will catch it. So, Sletten decided to scour the Internet to find Ted Kooser and connect with him. One problem: Kooser wasn’t just some guy blogging his amateur poetry out to forums on the Web. In 2005, Ted Kooser had received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Delights and Shadows. He was named Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry by the Library of Congress to serve a term from 2004, through 2005. Also in 2005, he was appointed to serve a second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. And even if Sletten could connect with him, what were the chances Kooser would be willing to let Sletten appropriate some of his poems? Sletten thought he gleaned a sensibility about Kooser through his poetry and assumed Kooser was down-to-earth enough to warrant the Pollyannaish golly-gee-just-maybe effort of at least trying to contact him. After all, no art ventured, no art gained (right?), and that’s
where this story cues up the Disney song, It’s a Small World After All. (Feel free to sing along.) Sletten found a Kooser email address on a website and fired off a letter of introduction about half a dozen times, with no replies. Then Sletten did some IT sleuthing and discovered an errant link in the website code. In July, he shot off an email to the corrected address and received a tepid response from Kooser, who explained that his past experience with collaborations had led him to swear off ever writing on assignment again. Then there was this: By way of email conversation, Kooser and Sletten discovered they had both grown up in Ames Iowa, and both had graduated from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, so there was an thread of commonality that precipitated an element of trust between them, and Kooser agreed to offer Sletten the use of some of his unpublished poems he had already written. When Sletten received Kooser’s poems, he was gobsmacked that many of his alreadycompleted art pieces paired so well with them, given that, at the time he created the artwork, he’d never even heard of Kooser. And to this day, he hasn’t actually spoken with Kooser — all correspondence has been by email. Kooser
was also pleased with the initial pairings. Subsequently, Sletten has created 12 unique pairings, all of which celebrate, as Sletten describes, “Archetypical objects, universal patterns or motifs with which we all have some degree of common experience,” often referencing Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s assertion that the root of an archetype is in the “collective unconscious” of mankind. Everyone loves a success story, and Sletten and Kooser’s collaborative project continues to grow with the potential for ongoing synergistic creative work, and it was all triggered by a yoga instructor’s decision to read a poem to her class. (Thank you, Kitty.) So next time you notice the planets in your personal universe aligning in favor of creative potential, recognize it as opportunity knocking, then get up and answer the door.
Ted Kooser's poem The Yellow Rope is reprinted (with the permission of Ted Kooser) from Kindest Regards; New and Selected Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press.
INTERSECTIONALITY OF ARTS AND PRIVILEGE: MOVING TOWARD EQUITABLE CREATIVE ACTION If an individual engaging in creative selfexpression is marginalized, they are often labeled within fixed categories. Attaching an additional label to artist such as “disabled,” “African American” or “female” perpetuates exclusion. When additional labels are added onto artist, it can diminish their worth. Ethnicity, culture, language, religion, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age, economic/social status and geographic location can all influence what one creates, however, it should not influence one’s access to the arts or determine the validity of their artwork. Artists First, is a nonprofit organization that helps build positive social change through art. Artists First’s mission is to provide a safe, welcoming, accepting, professional space where people of all ages, abilities and life experiences can explore and create art, individually or collaboratively. Artists First’s
diverse, inclusive art studio is open to everyone but intentionally targets disenfranchised populations such as individuals with disabilities. Applying an intersectionality viewpoint, Artists First is proactive in making art more accessible for individuals with different sensory, physical, mental, and or developmental abilities.
creates, it is often viewed as a “therapeutic activity” rather than creativity. This limiting viewpoint is based on general assumptions and can maintain an exclusionist system. Disability is not a barrier to expression or access to art; rather it is an ingrained systematic approach to those with disabilities that is the actual barrier.
Creative self-expression has served as a catalyst for positive social change throughout history. At the Artists First studio art is not only utilized as a way to effectively communicate and build understanding and acceptance among individuals with different belief systems, experiences and backgrounds, it is used to raise critical consciousness.
The exposure, experience and expression of art in all forms do not belong to a privileged few. It is not meant to be possessed or dictated by any individual, group or institution. Exclusion, derived from power and privilege, can play out in the accessibility of expression and art. Through active cognition and application of an intersectionality perspective, we can move toward building a truly inclusive movement.
Therapeutic benefits to the creative process – freedom to express, make sense of the world around us, to share, explore and learn. But, when an artist who has different capabilities COMMENTARY
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By Sheila Suderwalla
TESTIMONIES FROM ARTSTS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE All the Art asked artists to tell our readers what messages they hope to convey through their art practices; what makes them see their art practice as an effective way to communicate those messages and who they intend to reach. The responses were as varied as the colors available when blending primary paints. Yvonne Osei: As an artist with a socio-political conscience and a keen interest in intercontinental affairs, I am invested in creating visuals that articulate various issues relating to the human condition. My aim is for my work to transcend myself, to provoke an amalgamation of thoughts, historical accounts, points of view and multiple understandings of life.
colonialism in post-colonial West Africa and Western cultures. Through my art, my hope is for viewers to decipher and question unilateral colonial narratives, to cultivate a boldness to challenge fragmented historical accounts, to reassess current power structures, and to dissect suppressive value systems that have taken a strong root in their respective societies.
My art practice is devoted to dissecting standards of beauty, the politics of clothing, colorism, complexities associated with global trade, and the residual implications of
I come from the Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana, a culture where art functions synergistically with life. In this Kingdom, artifacts are used as extensions of human presence and existence,
aiding in communicating specific messages to specific individuals at specific places and times. My reverence for the potency of art to convey multilayered, complex and intangible information with such beauty, simplicity and precision comes from witnessing the use of art in the Ashanti culture. In my own practice, I strive for opportunities to “activate” the public. In many cases, I see the act of viewership and the presence of an audience as a crucial part of the art process itself as it adds a conceptual layer to my work. I will often encourage passive viewers to transition to active participants or collaborators in my art, forming part of the DNA of the work and allowing for an in-depth understanding of my art practice. As visual beings, the power of images function as a blessing and a curse in disguise. Through our sense of sight, we are quick to conclude that people and things are as simple as they physically seem. My role as an artist is to ensure that we tap into the reward that visuals bring by providing constant shifts in the way viewers see, and fostering a yearning for deeper observations into our world. My work provides a platform for conversation geared towards bridging social gaps, echoing perspectives of the other, presenting viewpoints and historical accounts in the visual tongue of the colonized and the oppressed. My hope is for my art to usher in legible visual forms that bring new insights, comparative thoughts, and meaningful observations to various issues of global concern.
Yvonne Osei, Insidiuos III, Elmina Castle, Ghana, video still, (image courtesy of the artist)
Why not leave these houses to rot and die? Why not divert your eye to the ground, the screen or anything in between so that we do not have to see the world around us crumble down, so we don’t have to acknowledge the painful truth, that we have been abandoned. What does abandoned property mean?
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Am I abandoned property? If I am surrounded by this despair, is there anybody out there, anyone who cares? Along comes art, with a spark, with a bold craving for change, with an overwhelming desire to make a difference in whatever way possible. To sooth the suffering with a splash of joy.
To redefine what goes through the mind, and that’s my role, as the artist, giving a gift of courage, given the spark of an idea, given the power to take action and make an idea come to life. When I see a blank board, it is a canvas. If I see a flat surface, I want to paint on it. When I see a child anywhere in the world, I want them to not suffer, to not feel despair.
Put together a hopeless population and crumbling foundation and see how that affects the mental health of our children, and see how that affects the crime rate….This struggle is real. Sometimes art is the only thing we have that can shift our thoughts, shift out of pain to hope with an affirmation, and that is what I do, I paint affirmations and colorful patterns or characters so the viewer can internalize the content. A lion, fierce green eyes, bold flowing mane, if you look closer words are hidden inside the details, up close: “I am strong,” “I am courageous.” and the message “never give up ever,” like a song verse that will stick inside your mind, a phrase you can repeat and share and gain a sense of resilience from. I have infused each of the boards with love, knowing the viewer is kids on their way to school, anyone who lives on a street forgotten by time and neglected by the city
Sonia Slackard, Page Avenue boarded buildings, (photo credit: Sonia Slackard)
Dail Chambers: My work brings up the questions of: “how close are we to nature?” and “relative to what?” I use my own narrative to creatively express genealogy, African diaspora, women’s traditions and the future. How is my story a catalyst for change? How am I documenting the growth and work to bring about new conversations? In my work, material has meaning and the process is everything. Texture, color, light and the amounts of the objects has a special correlation in my installation aesthetic. I make my work because I am interested in communicating with anyone who is interested in truly engaging.
Dail Chambers, Untitled and Untitled, images courtesy of the artist)
Even though we call ourselves a democracy we do a lot of talking about who belongs and who doesn't. Through my art, I want to expose these types of deep contradictions between what we do and say. I want to agitate people and make them feel uncomfortable about their indifference to others' struggle. Like any other force, it is this social tension that gets us to move. Hopefully, people will began to change their framework of thinking and recognize that
human dignity is universal. I'd like to see more of us share this intrinsic value and act on it in a way that challenges our government and institutions to do better. I think it is just as important to show you care with art as it is to say you care. While the expression itself is therapeutic and introspective for me, ultimately, I want to commune with others through the imagery. So COMMENTARY
I also like to strike a more empathetic tone and speak directly to someone's struggle. I don't want to exploit their pain but rather uplift and encourage them. Recently, I collaborated on a piece that focused on immigration policy and its emotional and physical toll and it's direct impact on all of us. I hope I'm modeling for others that it's okay to tap into your humanity.
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Harry Wadlington, Organizaer Naomi Carranza occupying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Downtown St Louis (left); Wanda Brandon leads campaign to have Washington Park Cemetary in Berkeley, MO, (top right); Sherriese Dawkins (bottom right) (images courtesy of the artist)
Alex Johnmeyer From a young age, art was the way I expressed all that I experienced. I held tight to this personal mission to make my voice heard… to share my view, my lens, the way I saw the world. I always felt that art has the ability to reach everyone, that visual creative expression has the power to bridge the gap between any people, despite personal beliefs, language or life experiences. One of my favorite examples of this is my painting entitled, Ray (back cover image). On a spring day, my father in law asked if I wanted to join him “to check on the land” of his farm. I took my camera along and photographed the natural scenery I stumbled upon as we rode from one plot of land to the next. He had recently purchased the land of a nearby family, and had plans to farm it. There was an abandoned house with an accompanying barn, and I dared not touch a thing, but captured some of my favorite photographs to this day. I was most inspired by the image of a dust-covered, rusty bike, leaning against the barn’s side wall, gazing longingly out the window as if it wished it could be riding along
the countryside again… wind rushing by, to have another day in the sun. To me, this painting represents living one’s truth, having the courage to step into the light, and being a part of all the world has to offer.
beauty in the broken. Through my art, I hope to express personal stories of love, joy and loss: the struggles and celebrations of life that most everyone can understand.
As an adult, I finally discovered the words to express my identity. I identify as pansexual (being attracted to people regardless of their biological sex), and transgender (meaning I do not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth). Eight years ago, I had sincere hesitation to come out publicly as transgender, and was concerned that asking others to use my pronouns of they/them, would negatively affect my art career. However, I’ve been met with nothing but support from the St. Louis art community, and am proud to be visible as transgender, not only for myself, but for others like me. The paintings I create are a vibrant translation of my world, an opportunity to capture a moment in time and share it with others. I am presently exploring the ideas of community diversity, childhood nostalgia and finding
Alex Johnmeyer, Wax Ecstatic, (image courtesy of the artist)
I am cofounder of Artivists STL and founder of ArtHouse. However, I am not a visual artist. Fellow artivists often don’t even let me do the lettering on banners! I’m that inept with a brush. I am more of a cultural organizer and conceptual artist. I started out as a community artist and a poet, so I had a sense of how art can create real change in individuals. Ferguson taught me that art can also transform cultural narratives. During the Ferguson Uprising I saw a need for people, especially 21 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM WINTER 2018/19
children to make sense of what was happening. It was a lot to take in and often too big for words so we started doing pop-up art spaces in Canfield and other places and the impact on all involved kept us doing it. This led to creative direct actions and this led to art builds and before I knew it I became a cultural organizer who had developed a social justice art practice. Now mind you, five years ago, I didn’t even know what an art build was or COMMENTARY
that there were activists who specialized in cultural organizing. I learned through prolific action because for a while we were doing creative direct actions and making several banners a week. I also learned more through meeting folks from Oakland and New York where this kind of work has been happening for some time. Though I am relatively new to this, I believe that social justice art-- the music, poetry,
visual arts and sacred rituals are the heartbeat of a movement. It is a reminder that what we are fighting for—our human right to dream, create and live in dignity is always stronger than the racism, hate and oppression we are fighting against.
Viktor Frankel, a holocaust survivor once said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.” I believe art has a way of cutting through complexities and revealing the heart of an issue. When it is done in collaboration and in community through an art build it becomes even more powerful because at that moment we are becoming the change we seek. We are
working through our despair and suffering. We are collaborating and bringing forth both our ideas and vulnerability. Together we are creating something of beauty and meaning. And once you start to conceptualize and create a banner or an art prop, it is easier to visualize working together to create a different world.
ART AND SOCIAL CHANGE By Paul Cloud
Can artists effect real change in their communities through connection and education? The folks at the Macoupin Art Collective think they can. The MAC is a nonprofit school of art and crafts located in the small rural community of Staunton, Illinois, and the employees and volunteers there strive to act as agents of change in an area sorely lacking in fine arts education and appreciation. True to their name, the Macoupin Art Collective brings citizens of Macoupin County and beyond together in an effort to make crafts and fine arts in a welcoming, collaborative environment. They opened in March 2017 and have seen thousands of students come through the doors of their gallery and studio since then. The community has been unbelievably generous and supportive, providing volunteer help and financial support in the form of class fees and donations. This attitude of collaboration and community is at the heart of the Macoupin Art Collective, run by only two full-time paid employees.
Brandace Cloud, founder and executive director of The MAC, long dreamed of opening her own art school. She was educated in art curriculum at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended postgraduate studies in the ceramics department at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. After completing her education, Brandace taught ceramics classes through the Edwardsville Arts Center, where she met a student named Brian Markowitz, who was so impressed with Brandace’s vision to open an art school that he purchased a building in Staunton for Brandace to use, helping make that vision a reality. Now Brandace, Marcella Cloud (The MAC’s development coordinator and community outreach director), a host of volunteers, The MAC’s board of directors, and an incredibly supportive network of students, patrons and independent instructors dedicate themselves to promoting the arts in a society that has sadly allowed creativity to languish. Many schools in the small rural towns and villages around Staunton—and all over the
country—face budgetary woes and a lack of enthusiastic support. They often see cuts made to art curricula before other programs. But saving money often comes at the expense of an important aspect of children’s development and education: creative intelligence and artistic expression. In Staunton, for example, students have access to art classes at the high school level but not before. And by the time students reach high school, without a background in the fundamentals of art, the opportunities for learning are severely limited. Brandace, Marcella and all the other members of the collective seek to change that. Providing education in the fundamentals of art theory, experience with a variety of tools and materials and a supportive encouraging community of artists gives kids and adults knowledge and skills to express themselves creatively. And that is sorely needed in our world today.
ARETHA IN LIVING COLOR
It takes a lot to get my family to agree on anything. Growing up in North St. Louis during the turbulent 1960s was tough on us. Imagine a family that included a Vietnam War veteran, a Black Power activist, a feminist and a budding artist. My siblings and I couldn't agree on anything. Not even a snowstorm in January. But we could agree on Aretha Franklin. We all loved the Queen of Soul.
the age of 76. Singer, pianist, songwriter, civil rights activist and a musical icon. I remember watching her on The Mike Douglas TV Show as a boy in 1967. I would listen to her albums on our old 1960s Sylvania stereo / record player. I marveled at her powerful soul stirring voice. Her ability to weave words into music that would profoundly touch your heart. It seemed like a form of alchemy or divine inspiration.
That was my first reaction to the death of Aretha Louise Franklin on August 16, 2018 at
To honour her, I created a mixed media portrait titled Aretha in Living Color. It focuses COMMENTARY
on her career in the late 1960s through early 1970s, a time when she had overcome early commercial failure to become the unquestioned Queen of Soul. In those days, she wore a large afro and an ever-growing wardrobe collection. It was also in this period that she became close friends with Dr.Martin Luther King (through her father Rev. C.L. Franklin). She marched and sang for the civil rights movement, willing to risk her own life and career for racial equality. WINTER 2018/19 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 22
By Adrian A. Wright
My title, Aretha in Living Color, was inspired by the NBC TV network's opening logo featuring a peacock with rainbow feathers. A voice would say “The following program is brought to you in living color.” Aretha is shown singing on stage with microphone in hand. The rectangular shape of the canvas harkens back to the old Magnavox TV set in my home. A bright yellow highlight circles her hair like a halo. The green and blue shadows in her cheeks and neck add unity. Light shines on her face as if beaming down from heaven or really good stage lighting. The expression on her face captures the moment when Aretha asserts her power and passion. This vital quality in her music was rooted in her gospel music training. It’s worth noting that soul music is a combination of gospel, rhythm & blues and jazz. She learned from them and applied them in her music. I loved the way she expressed joy, sadness or love so that it resonated with you personally.
You suspected she was channeling her own pain and joy. This was true whether she was singing of her faith in Amazing Grace (1972), the morning after bliss in Natural Woman (1967) or a lover betrayed in Chain of Fools (1968). It seemed like some kind of alchemy or perhaps divine inspiration. Aretha in Living Color conveys energy and joy overcoming pain and sorrow. Block letters float behind her in the background rendered in a rainbow of warm color graduations flowing from top to bottom. Red transitions into yellow, yellow into orange... contrasting with a background of blue, red and purple hues. This was inspired by concert poster art from the 1960s. The block letters spell out the lyrics to Aretha's signature song, Respect 1967. In that song, Aretha boldly declares her self worthy as a woman of color. She is proud, confident and frank in her sexuality. Aretha demands respect from her lover precisely because she knows her own self-worth. This message became a
Adrian A Wright, Aretha in Living Color, (image courtesy of the artist)
declaration not only for women of color but all women and beyond that a unifying message to all those who have been denied dignity and respect.
CULTIVATING THE CREATIVE SIDE OF ADULTS WITH INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES By Jennifer Beidle
There is no question that art can evoke a variety of feelings and emotions, both in the artist and in their audience. But for an adult with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD), learning how to make a brush stroke, mix paints, focus a camera and see the world through the eye of an artist can have a profound effect on their emotional, cognitive and social development.
original paintings and photographs created by clients in their Mentor Arts program. For the third consecutive year, the event will again be held at EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery in Chesterfield, MO where event attendees are treated to appetizers and wine and can purchase original artwork by Willows Way’s clients. The artists receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the art.
Willows Way, a non-profit organization based in St. Charles, MO, promotes independence and personal growth in adults with I/DD through a variety of social-service programs, which include its Mentor Arts program.
Willows Way started the Mentor Arts program five years ago. Participants in the painting class learn from an experienced art teacher how to select subject matter, mix paints and use different brush strokes to create their artwork.
"The Mentor Arts program, which includes a painting class and photography club, benefit our clients in a variety of ways," attests Willows Way Executive Director Joy Steele. "We often see our clients become more relaxed, confident and focused while participating in these programs. Plus, it gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment when they see that they can create something through their own efforts from start to finish.”
Participants in the photography club meet regularly and participate in monthly photo shoot outings throughout the St. Charles and St. Louis areas. In the past, the photography club has visited the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, The Butterfly House, Soulard Market, Saint Louis Zoo, National Museum of Transportation, Main Street in St. Charles and a firehouse. Professional photographers volunteer their time to mentor the clients and chaperone their photo shoots.
For the past five years, Willows Way has held its Art of Wine fundraising event to showcase
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Kathy Curry has been a volunteer mentor in Willows Way’s photography club for the past five years. Club mentors teach participants how to focus on a subject, the proper way to hold a camera and how to take a photo from different angles. Curry finds that clients really like going out on their monthly adventures. “They get very excited when we spend time getting together to let them pick out their best and most cherished photos for the Art of Wine event. It is great to hear them remember where and why each photo was taken.” Lori Biehl, another mentor in the photography club, describes photography club members as one big happy family, and delights in the personal progress the clients make through the program. Biehl finds that “their social interaction, not only with the mentors but with others seems to always be improving. The members are a happy group of people and sometimes help remind us that we can find joy in the smallest of things,”
Artscope Presents Wall Ball 2019 Watch Top St. Louis artists at work. Bid to take home your favorite piece while enjoying a dazzling party!
Saturday, March 9, 2019 from 6:30-10:30 pm Third Degree Glass Factory $40 General Admission / $75 VIP Tickets & info at www.artscopestl.org and 314.865.0060 All proceeds benefit Artscope