Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Artists Waiting Out the Coronavirus

by Garry McMichael

These are unusual times. While our day-to-day routines have changed pretty dramatically, it’s important to remember that we can still seek joy, peace, and health.

I know many are disappointed that art shows and other art related events have been canceled or postponed. I was personally excited to show my new series of paintings this Spring at various art fairs, but that’s not going to happen.

Since we are going to be out of our routines, now is a good time to break some old habits and start a few new ones. Here are some ideas you might want to try.

During these difficult times we all need to “lean together,” encourage and help each other. Garry McMichael. Building Trust. 2017. Acrylic on Canvas, 18"x36".

SEEK HELP: Look for other sources for grants and emergency funding just for artists. Here is a website that is offering a listing of resources for Artists: Art Resources During the COVID-19 Outbreak

ONLINE ART GALLERIES: With all the extra time on your hands you might look into joining an online art gallery to exhibit and sell your art. Did you know that Art Saint Louis has a smartphone & tablet mobile app to help you show off and sell your art?! It’s called ArtLoupe and it’s a 24/7 art fair in the palm of your hand. You can exhibit and sell your work through the app and those who are interested in purchasing original artwork can easily do so right through the app. Check it out.

Here are a couple more online art galleries where I’ve sold original paintings, prints and photography:, and Fine Art America. Here’s another great resource to learn about selling your art online

GET INSPIRED: Were you going to do a workshop this spring. Good chance it will be delayed. Head over to and explore all the how-to videos on art making, process, marketing, and just about any other subject that interests you. Lots of tutorials you can watch for free.

  • Learn something new or get inspiration on the art you are presently doing.
  • Research a new medium, create a new style, and develop new artistic ideas.
  • Learn how to set up your own website. With web sources like Weebly and WIX you can do it yourself. It’s not nearly as difficult or expensive as you might think. YouTube offers plenty of free tutorials and reviews to get you started.
  • Learn how to photograph your art, use your camera, and take great pictures.
  • If you like to sew, or are a fiber artist, learn how to make your own protective surgical masks. Your family, friends and your children will love wearing their own personal masks, handmade by you.
Get out, go to a park or the woods to photograph or paint a Dogwood Tree. Garry McMichael. Ozark Dogwood. 2008. Oil on Canvas Board, 6"x8".

GO OUTSIDE! Social distancing doesn’t mean stop everything and become a hermit. The outdoors is still open for business. Missouri’s Department of Conservation has hundreds of Conservation Areas where you can hike, explore, fish, hunt, and observe Spring coming into bloom. There is nothing more beautiful than an Ozarks spring with Redbuds and Dogwoods. All the waterfalls are flowing, and the trees will soon begin to leaf out. If you happen across other nature and outdoor lovers just keep your distance, be friendly and share your joy of being outside.

Take a walk in the woods and watch Spring bloom. Garry McMichael. Ozark Redbud. 2009. Pastel on Paper, 14"x11".

Just a heads up, while the trails may be open, many facilities are closed including public restrooms, visitor centers, and public campgrounds – plan accordingly. Here are three websites to research, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources-State Parks. My favorite source for places to hike is It’s a great resource, with photos, detailed descriptions, maps, difficulty ratings and reviews from other hikers. Best of all its free.

Visit to learn how to make a protective mask. So much to learn and it’s free.

Here is a suggested list of more ideas to help inspire you:

  • Practice your art daily, you will only get better.
  • Start entering art contests, juried exhibits and competitions via the internet.
  • Explore a new art medium or hobby.
  • Dig out those old puzzles and show a child how good you are at finding the missing piece.
  • Re-read an old book from your childhood.
  • Find a new book to put on your nightstand (O America by William Least Heat Moon). 
Play a board game or cards with your children.
Learn something through Udemy or other online learning sites. 

  • Watch an old classic movie (Casablanca), or any movie. 

  • Clean and organize your art area or room!

  • Organize files on your computer. LOL!

  • Call a friend you have lost contact with. Do you wonder whatever happened to what’s-her-name?

  • Get in touch with a relative you haven’t talked to in a long time.
  • Make a greeting card and send it to a long-lost friend.

  • Clean out unneeded stuff to donate to charity. 
Say some prayers. We could use some right now.

  • Teach a pet a new trick. 

  • Cook something new.
  • Make popcorn the old-fashioned way with lots of butter and salt.

  • Write a poem, a story or a memoir.
  • Create a book or notecards of your art. 
  • Checkout Shutterfly on making a book.
Exercise, LOL!
  • Start a window garden.
  • Grow a tomato.

  • Repot a plant. 

  • Teach your child how to do something old.
  • Eat some dark chocolate; tell yourself it’s good for you.
  • Learn/practice a musical instrument.
  • Set aside time every day to practice, practice, practice your art.
  • Take a quiet walk in a park.
  • Walk out on the Eads Bridge and enjoy the St Louis skyline. Yes, it’s safe.
  • Float a river.
  • Catch a fish.
  • Make a list of the birds that come to your feeder.
  • Take a photograph.
  • Camp in a quiet place.
  • Go skinny dipping.
  • Hunt morel mushrooms.
  • Drink a bottle of wine and relax.
  • Play in a waterfall.
  • Ride a bike.
  • Ride a horse.
  • Go camping.
  • Go on a picnic.
  • Watch the sunset.
  • Watch the moonrise.
  • Find the North star.
  • Teach a child the wonders of nature.
Art you can play with. Garry McMichael. Playing Tic-Tac-Toe with Kandinsky. Acrylic, 40"x40".

No one knows how long the Coronavirus will last, but it may be the best thing to happen to you this Spring.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.  
Garry McMichael is a St. Louis-based artist whose drawings, paintings and photographic artworks have been featured in exhibitions and art fairs throughout the region. In addition to his art photography, Garry has been a commercial photographer for decades with works published in national periodicals & publications. Garry presents artist workshops and how-to seminars. He is also a long-time member of Art Saint Louis, Greater St. Louis Art Association, and is past President of Gateway Pastel Artists.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Space to Be Present

A Space to Be Present
Jon Young, Visual Artist

by Jasmine Raskas

Installation view of Jon Young's Waymarks. Photograph by Randie Flowers.

Jon Young is a St. Louis based visual artist inspired by signs and symbols. His sculptures, known as Waymarks, use a unique combination of iridescent fabric on top of timelessly carved objects. Through changes in lighting and arrangement, the sculptures interact with each new environment in a novel way. Jon’s sculptures have been shown across the nation, from LA to Austin. His most recent shows in the St. Louis region include the Bruno David Gallery, GCADD, and the Lewis Center at Washington University.

Since completing his MFA at Washington University in May of 2018, he’s been working to continue the development of the Waymark body of work. His latest group show, Vultures at Midnight opens February 7, 2020 at Monaco and his work will be presented along with that of artists Edo Rosenblith, Janie Stamm, and Erik S. Peterson.

Timeless, Spaceless Moments
The Waymark sculptures are inspired by the shapes and forms Jon’s taken note of throughout many years. They are “things that have resonated with me and caught my attention. I want to understand why they’ve stayed with me and so I use them in the work.” Through a process of exploratory recombination, he pulls together elements of the past into the present. Through the act of creation he solidifies these marks onto our future.

Jon Young. Waymark artworks. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

The sculptures appear to encapsulate a summary of meaning for presentation to an alien entity. They seem to string together Earth’s recorded history to showcase the collective human mark in a futuristic archeological dig. The unusual yet familiar markings grab attention outside of any particular location or time. “People in the future might wonder what I was doing here the same way we look at the Nazca Lines.” Yet, there are little to no distinguishing marks that resemble a certain period of time or culture. The ambiguity leaves space for interpretation and imagination to grow.

Jon Young. Waymark artworks. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

As the pieces are shown in different types of light and in different groups, or sets, they work with the environment to form new meaning. In that sense, these markings are both completely timeless and yet completely present within a moment. There’s space for an instant to grow and for all of time to collapse.

Jon Young. Waymark artworks. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

The Process
The Waymarks are made through a simultaneously meticulous and intuitive process. The details are finely crafted, yet shaped in a fluid free form manner akin to the evolution of a drawing. The work relies heavily on trust, trust in intuition and trust in the materials to lead the way. Even with a plan, Jon leaves room for the materials to guide the direction of form. Through the combination of hard and soft elements, there’s room for chance to lead the way. Even the most intricate curves are created by hand or with a jigsaw. There’s nothing close to a laser cutter involved. The process is a delicate combination of the unpredictable with the predictable.

The hands-on nature of this sculptural work demands presence but at the same time leaves room for contemplation. Similar to a walking meditation, the steps of action are both individually and collectively purposeful. The tedious nature of sifting and stuffing is analogous to the process of cleansing. The rougher items are removed one by one and plucked away. Jon values every moment he’s been given to work in the studio and wishes to take it all in with gratitude.

His whole process is filled with awareness for how lucky one is to have the opportunity to make art. He enjoys the continual search for beauty and the unpredictable nature of how the bits and pieces come together. However, the most satisfying aspect still that stands out as the final moment of completion.

Dedication To The Arts

As a child, Jon naturally excelled at drawing. At some point he realized, he’d fallen into the art world and dug deeper into his ongoing obsession with making things. There isn’t anyone in particular he looks up to, but he’s always been most in awe of a musicians ability to transform sound. Even with other work, he manages to spend at least three hours a day in the studio, and pretty much the entirety of weekends. “The art is my whole life in a good way.” He’s found that the more he’s in the studio, the better things are all around. As an artist, he has no particularly goal in mind and wishes to continue to use the natural way of the creative process as his guide. In a world ruled by efficiency, productivity and outcome, how beautiful is it to know someone dedicated to the purity of creation.

Art is appreciating my time here.”

Jon Young. Waymarks. Photograph by Randie Flowers.

Jon Young’s work can be seen in “Vultures at Midnight” on view February 7-March 6, 2020 at Monaco,  2701 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, MO. A free reception is held Friday, February 7, 7-10 p.m. Regular gallery hours are Saturday 12-4 p.m. or by appointment.
Jasmine Raskas is a St. Louis-based artist whose artworks have been featured in exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region. She is also the owner of Chaos 2 Order Coaching.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Human Potential

Human Potentialby Jasmine Raskas

Doug Kassabaum. Untitled. Acrylic on Canvas. Featured in “Embedded Narrative” at Stone Spiral Coffeeshop & Gallery. Photograph by Jasmine Raskas.

Doug Kassabaum
Artist, Architect, Thinker

As a retired architect, Doug Kassabaum has always turned to painting as a way to freely express and explore the arts. He works primarily with what he describes as a cartoon. Even his sculptures are intended to be playful. His work documents the collective human experience through narrative strips. Everything he makes plays off of a “semiserious- psycho-spiritual” journey. These abstract stories string together principles of psychological growth and the transformation of the self. The latest group of Doug’s work was recently shown in the solo exhibit, "Embedded Narrative," at The Stone Spiral Gallery. Doug owns The Stone Spiral Coffeeshop and Gallery at 2500-2506 Sutton Boulevard in Maplewood, Missouri—a neighborhood staple supporting a welcoming micro community of art and culture.

Doug Kassabaum. Untitled. Acrylic on Canvas. Featured in “Embedded Narrative” at Stone Spiral Coffeeshop & Gallery. Photograph by Jasmine Raskas.

Primal Patterns: “Pretty Close To Source”
Doug’s most recent paintings create a theoretical map of spirit. Form arises out of nature’s purest elemental structures. A combination of what appears to be rocks, geological maps, weather maps, and biological creatures produce the appearance of scientific patterns.

The geometric formations in this series of paintings carve out glimmers of human flesh. In a playful way, they poke at the idea of being stuck in “the meat-suit” of the human condition. The primal imagery is the type of thing you might see in the back of your mind when all the lights go out. In fact, a cluster of this work is directly intended to show what Doug’s new grandchild would see as she first opened her eyes to the mystery of earth. Within the mind of an infant, lies infinite potential.

Reasons To Create: Art as a “personal intimate game, played with oneself, in an evolving search for what you find personally meaningful.”
After a career in architecture, these paintings portray an antidote to precision. Doug’s motivation to create stems from his openness to explore. As architecture encouraged “tightly wound," analytical and linear measures of design, Doug pushed back with the deployment of bright colors that flow between the lines. Working with art as a cartoon helps his paintings remain light hearted and inviting to all. The most important thing we should all walk away with is a good inner chuckle.

The transformative side to this work emerges as the art is used as a tool for inner guidance. Doug believes in art as a way to “unhitch” the Ego from identity and explore deeper truths. Each body of work focuses on a specific turning point within the human journey. Transformations such as the movement from childhood to adulthood and parenthood and to grandparenthood record journeys of inner growth and self discovery.

Doug Kassabaum. Untitled. Acrylic on Canvas. Featured in “Embedded Narrative” at Stone Spiral Coffeeshop & Gallery. Photograph by Jasmine Raskas.

Art & Evolution: “The idea of something catching your eye, must go back pretty far to the nature of human beings”
Art open us up to an understanding of the intangible. Doug sees abstract art as a great intellectual leap forward in knowledge and one of the greatest breakthroughs in the development of human consciousness. Within the abstract there’s space for brand new connections to form. With the profound sense of freedom to communicate and create our own meaning, self expression and exploration lie at the cornerstone of human potential.

The Process: “A game with no rules aside from the ones you create yourself.”
Doug paints when he knows it’s time to paint. Each painting usually begins with closed eyes. Within the darkness, he creates an open ended pencil sketch to guide the initial direction of creation. The evolution of the piece has no conscious goal in mind, but yet there is a clear stopping point found through an intuitive sense of knowing. Each painting goes through its own transformative journey, some more psychological and some more playful than others. Working in series allow Doug to follow a certain flow of energy through a period time. He likes to ride the wave of energy to its entirety and fully accepts and embraces the inconsistencies to the creative process.

Art and Well-being: “Art as the game we should all be learning to play”
As we’re constantly bombarded by information from the outside world, it’s easy to loose track of who we really are on the inside. Doug views the primary purpose of art as a method to establish a system of personal communication with oneself. This relationship to the self offers a way to cope with ambiguity and dissonance that build up in the mind. The experience of fun is as important in the art. Part of the idea of the cartoon reflects this insistence of fun as part of the inner processes of art, “ At some level or another, it has to be fun. You are trying to define your “fun” as deeply as possible, but at the root fun is fun.”

Doug believes that, every person should learn to become an artist in their own medium as a way to cultivate wellness and healing within a relationship to the self that’s playful. He embodies this belief in the power of art by supporting artists and thinkers of all kinds. The Stone Spiral is a coffee shop home to nightly live music, open mics and poetry readings. There’s frequently someone in the shop with a pallete of paint or box of charcoal. It’s a unique space that promotes a rare form of presence. It’s eclectic but yet aesthetic space is both filled with art, and a piece of art in and of itself. Next door to the coffee shop, is The Stone Spiral Gallery where Doug held his most recent showing. The Gallery supports visual artists by giving them a space to showcase and display work. In the future, Doug wishes to form more collaborative events and seek new opportunities to create dialogue between artists and viewers. He especially enjoys having art around that’s thoughtfully playful and based in abstraction. The Stone Spiral is a place that will continue to ignite evolution, healing and growth through its support of the human side of life, the nature of being, and creation as a pure form of play.

Doug Kassabaum. Untitled. Acrylic on Canvas. Featured in “Embedded Narrative” at Stone Spiral Coffeeshop & Gallery. Photograph by Jasmine Raskas.

Interested in showing work at The Stone Spiral Gallery? If so, please send digital images to
Jasmine Raskas is a St. Louis-based artist whose artworks have been featured in exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region. She is also the owner of Chaos 2 Order Coaching.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Freedom to Evolve

by Jasmine Raskas

Freedom to Evolve
An undercover look at one of St. Louis' nationally recognized emerging artists

Zack Smithey at work. Photo by Tristan Cook.

Zack Smithey
Visual Artist, Creator, Entrepreneur

Zack Smithey. "Form + Flow" recently presented at Rubine Red Gallery, Palm Springs, CA.
Zack Smithey. Artwork from "Form + Flow" series.

Zack Smithey has shown his artwork in cities across the country including dozens of shows in St. Louis. He has over 3,000 pieces in public and private collections, has had over 80 solo and group shows, built the first two container homes in the St. Louis region ("Amazing Interiors" on Netflix - Episode 3, house #2) , has a patent, and enough innovations and ideas to fill several lifetimes. A solo exhibit of Zack's work, “Form + Flow,” was recently presented at Rubine Red Gallery in Palm Springs, California.

Smithey container home. Photo by Gussie Barnidge.

Future Plans
Currently, Zack is focused on reaching beyond St. Louis and tapping into new national art communities and galleries. Ultimately, Zack's end goal, as he states, is that there will never be an “end," just a series of achievements leading to continuous growth and evolution. Once the current goal of national outreach is achieved, Zack will expand his art outreach globally. And of course, there are other goals sprinkled into the mix, such as finding balance between work and leisure (currently the scales are tipped in favor of work), testing new efficient home designs that address the affordable housing crisis, testing new geothermal/solar designs to address climate change, testing new and
innovative airplane designs because "why not"?

Art & The World

Artists are the beating hearts of our communities

Zack believes that artists are the catalysts for community growth and development. "Artists are like creative locusts," they move into affordable communities and create an atmosphere rich in culture. Once the area becomes "cool," people and businesses move to the area fueling demand. With a finite supply, property values go up, pricing artists out of the very own communities they started. Artists go on to move to a new area and the process begins again. Zack believes that “investing in artists is a long term investment in the future of your community.”

The Practice

“My time here and everyday is a gift”

Photo by Zack Smithey.

Zack lives by the idea that you are a culmination of your experiences, every experience that you've had up until this point makes you who you are today. "Think about who you want to be or what you want to achieve, and then prioritize your daily experiences to sculpt your future into the desired form."

Zack explains. "Having multiple goals overlapping, sometimes those goals are at odds with each other. Given that time is scarce and finite, it is our most valuable resource. It's the reason that I work so hard constantly, it's the reason that several of my goals create conflict, it's the reason that I overbook myself, it's the reason that I don't hangout with friends and family as much as I'd like, it's the reason for urgency and stress. Of the billions of years that the universe has existed, I only have a maximum of several more decades left. My limited is existence is the reason that I make the most of every moment, always."

The cornerstone of his practice is based on a stack of notes which he keeps with him at all times. This notebook, his "external hard drive" as he describes it, is anything but a simple stack of papers. The notebook is actually a meticulously and well thought out method for sorting, prioritizing, and connecting ideas. This notebook is what allows Zack's multiple series of work to simultaneously progress over time in an organized fashion (writer is still mystified). It's a living document that maps out continually Zack’s ongoing evolution.

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”
Each of Zack’s paintings is born out of an attempt to visually explore and solve problems. Zack enjoys the process of mentally mapping out and coordinating plans for a painting. The process of creating is the journey, the most important part of a piece. "If I'm present and focused during the journey and end up in an unforeseen destination the piece still feels like a success."

Aside from a studio practice, Zack is committed to learning and growing in ways that He can apply to all areas of life. His normal nightly routine includes reading and studying the sciences, which are a constant area of fascination and a place where he explores new problems and perspectives.

Studio Tour
An undercover look at Zack’s world

Studio view, Zack Smithey studio. Photo by Jasmine Raskas.
Studio view, Zack Smithey studio. Photo by Jasmine Raskas.
Studio view, Zack Smithey studio. Photo by Jasmine Raskas.
Studio view, Zack Smithey studio. Photo by Jasmine Raskas.

The Mindset

“I never want to put my future in the hands of an institution”

In order to engage in true creative freedom, Zack values working independently. This often means working harder and learning to work smarter. “I don’t want to place the success of my future on someone else’s judgement ( referring to institutions and grant money ).”

Zack’s internal drive to create exactly what he wants make, propels this unstoppable creator towards the completion of a project amidst all obstacles. His largest project, the first St. Louis container home was denied on multiple levels of planning and redesigned 7 times. The key to Zack’s successful persistence seems to be not only within his will power, but within his planning process. Just like within his creative process, he’s able to remain fully open to changes in the process, while simultaneously holding onto to a singular end vision.

This openness to evolve and change runs throughout the multiple series of Zack’s work. His series are like the tree of evolution itself, one series is born out of the next. Each line of work continues onward to create its own distinct lineage and sometimes even merges with a neighboring branch. Zack does not place all bets on a single idea and allows for the cultivation of several different versions of a single thought to emerge at once.

There’s always a constant forward motion in the life of this creator, with “more ideas in my notes than there is time in several lifetimes,” Zack is always on a mission to create, build, and share. His approach to marketing, not only allows him to remain independent, but also gives him purpose through a creative approach to sharing and showcasing what he does. At the end of the day, all aspects of business inevitably come down to simply being able to have the resources available to make more art.


“My favorite piece is either the one I’m working on now, or the one I’m doing next"

Zack’s motivation stems from an intense love for problem solving and engaging in creative flow. In all areas of life he enjoys taking on a new problem and turning it into a solution.

For some people art is simply a process that must occur. There’s an idea inside and a need that will not be satisfied until the idea can be manifested into reality. For as long as Zack can remember he’s been pretty heavily addicted to the creative process.

As soon as it came time to find a career his only focus turned to ways in which he could keep making art, which included interim work as scenic painting at the Muny and teaching art at Francis Howell North High. His path to becoming a full time artist was not easy and involved immense amounts of dedication and often little sleep. “If you want to be a full time artist, then you have to be full time.” And full time is what Zack has always practiced, even when he was in the midst of teaching, taking graduate courses and renovating an entire house, he still spent every other spare minute in the studio making art. With an end goal in terms of evolution, the openness to change over time is endless and the journey will continue towards expansion for all of the foreseeable future. As Zack says "The only constant in the universe is change."

Follow Zack’s Journey

Jasmine Raskas is a St. Louis-based artist whose artworks have been featured in exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region. She is also the owner of Chaos 2 Order Coaching.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Lake St. Louis Farmer’s Market and Art Fair

by Natalie Avondet

Lake St. Louis Farmer's Market and Art Fair. Yes, a Farmer's Market with artist booths. Saturdays April through November in St. Charles County. Photo by Natalie Avondet.

It’s Saturday. It’s early. 8:30 a.m. I’m standing in line at Sudamerica Bakery's booth waiting to order. It’s a beautiful morning. Lake St. Louis Farmer’s Market and Art Fair. It’s already packed. I grab my empanada and chicha morada, and wander through the Fair. Exploring.

Veggies. Lots of veggies. It is a farmer’s market after all. Hand-made aprons. Soaps. Even dog treats. I wish I had a dog. I wish I knew a dog.

A booth of photography. I must see. One photo in particular catches my eye—Early Morning Ride.  The vivid colors of the hot air balloon harness my attention. Not an easy feat. I have a hard time looking away. (See the photo below and you’ll understand.)

Kent Smith. Early Morning Ride. Photograph, 20"x16”.
With permission from Kent Smith, KC Photography. Photo by Natalie Avondet.
I break my gaze to chat with the artist. Kent Smith. He, like all the vendors here, is local. Friendly guy. Considers his art a hobby, as he is retired. I say my adieus. Move on.

Kent Smith, KC Photography booth at Lake St. Louis Farmer's Market & Art Fair. Photo by Natalie Avondet.

Grass fed beef. I smell coffee. As I’m still savoring my chicha mirada, I pass on the coffee. That was quite possibly one of the best empandas I’ve ever had. I see a sign that reads, “Organic.”  I make a quick right. Tomatoes. I must have some tomatoes. Maple syrup. Jam. Cherry Vanilla to be exact. All Hart Beet Farm produced. Hart Beet Farm, outside of Eolia, Mo, doesn’t just grow organic, sustainable food but they also collect wild fruits, mushrooms and maple syrups. Obviously, they also make their own interesting, unique flavored jams, as well.

For now, I must move on. Goose Poop. I can’t resist. It’s Grandpa Spencer’s Original Gourmet Mustard. It’s a salsa. It’s a mustard. Kind of. Definitely delicious. I buy two. And you can, too. They are also available at Ellbee’s General Store in Wentzville. Check it out.

From a few “doors” down, the smell of wood-fired pizza fills the air. Too bad I had an empanada. Nope. That’s a lie. I really liked that empanada.

So, let’s see. I’ve successfully purchased 5 tomatoes, a bottle of syrup, a jar of jam, and two containers of Goose Poop. What else?  Ooooh. Cutting boards. I’m not in need of any at this time. However, these are gorgeous, and they make great gifts. Iris Woodworks. I grab a card. Iris Woodworks make their cutting boards from exotic woods. The combinations of wood grains and stains are truly beautiful. Find them on Facebook…Iris Woodworks.

Oh, no. I’m out of chicha morada. I meander back to Sudamerica. A South American, mostly Peruvian, bakery. They’re here every week. I’m tempted to get another empanada but I have lunch scheduled with friends at BC Kitchen. For now, the chicha morada will suffice.

With my chicha morada in hand, I wander back through the fair. I hear “Celebrate” coming from my right and a little gospel music coming from my left. It’s still early. Still Saturday. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Lake St. Louis Farmer’s Market and Art Fair is located in St. Charles County, MO and takes place Saturdays 8 a.m.-12 p.m. The April through November, at the Meadows, 20 Meadows Circle Drive (The Market is located in the shopping center is the South parking lots facing Technology Drive & Highway 40). Local artists who live within a 100-mile radius of Lake St. Louis and are interested in becoming a vendor, apply here.

Natalie Avondet is a St. Louis-based artist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Advertising with a Minor in Psychology from University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Natalie's early career was in commercial advertising in the Midwest and Los Angeles. Art is a lifelong passion and she began seriously painting and exhibiting in galleries while in Los Angeles. Determined to pursue her artistic career, she returned to the Midwest and since then has exhibited in Kansas City, Los Angeles and Saint Louis. Her work is represented locally by Grafica Fine Art Gallery. You can reach out to Natalie through her blog.

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt"

by Natalie Avondet

Rarely do I pass on Egyptian exhibits. I have no plans of missing it today. I’m not at home; so, I journey to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation along a different path than usual. Heading South or what I think is South on what I think is Spring St., I glance to my left. I catch a glimpse of a shell of a church. Interested, I round the block. The Pulitzer can wait.

I park. Step out of the car, cross the road and examine this one-time church up close. No roof. No windows. No doors. All that remains are the block walls, now covered in ivy, and a sign that reads, “National Memorial Church of God in Christ.” I wonder what happened here. Did it crumble in decay? Did it burn down? Was it burned down? The walls have been braced with steel beams. Someone or someones care deeply about these ruins.

National Memorial Church of God in Christ in Midtown St. Louis, MO. Photograph by Natalie Avondet.

Peering in, I see it has been tagged with graffiti. Someone else’s effort to claim it as their own. Leave their legacy.

Master, why did you tolerate his insults? You should have challenged him to a fight?

I must google this church when I get back home, because now, I must do what I set out to do.

Get to the Pulitzer. I walk around the corner and across the street. Enter. Claim my brochure and head down the hall to view "Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt.

I see four artifacts. No descriptions on any of them. I realize I might want to read my brochure. I find a seat. I’ll paraphrase.

“The exhibit features forty statues and reliefs… from the 25th century BCE to the first century CE…The ancient Egyptian religion taught that statues and reliefs in human form could be activated through rituals to host the spirit of a deity or a deceased person… a means for spiritual forces to act in this world. This quality… established [the objects] as targets by those who viewed their power as a threat.”

Power? They held power? Interesting. I’m having a flashback to a Gomer Pyle episode. Seriously, now? Why am I thinking about Gomer Pyle. Really? Yes. Really. I’m bringing up Gomer Pyle: USMC Episode #15 in a big way. Let me explain. In this episode, Gomer has difficulty leading his platoon until he is given his grandpa’s lucky charm. Unbeknownst to Gomer, during the middle of his drill, the charm falls to the ground. He, however, continues to lead his platoon flawlessly. In the end, Gomer learns the charm only held power because he believed it did. The true power was in his own mind.

Back to the brochure… Power. Hmmm. The things that make you go hmmm. As I said, interesting. “This exhibition examines specific moments when clashes between competing leaders, religions, and ideologies resulted in iconoclasm-the intentional damage to, and the destruction of sacred and political images.”

Statue #1 Hatshepsut
A former female Egyptian ruler. Her forehead is damaged. It once held an image of a snake that was intended to protect this monarch from her enemies. She has been decapitated and her nose has been destroyed. The ancient Egyptians believed that burning incense under the nose of these statues awakened the spirit inside. Destroying the nose of the statue would prevent the spirit from breathing, and thus, awakening.

This statue was apparently destroyed by Hatshepsut’s successor. In order to keep her spirit from returning and regaining power, her successor attacked the symbol of protection and then, suffocated the statue. He was Egyptian and therefore, he, too, would have believed in the mystical powers of these statues.

Statue #12  Isis
A statue of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Per the brochure, “Christians who sought to abolish all polytheistic religions destroyed many ritual objects.” Correct. Christians didn’t, nor do they now, believe in multiple gods. Quoting the brochure again… the statue’s head and feet have been removed…” signs of an attempt by Christians to render the statue powerless.”

“Christians widely attacked ancient Egyptian statues and reliefs, motivated by a deep fear of the old gods.”  Hmmm. Interesting. I’m reminded of Isaiah 45:18-21. The things that make you go hmmm. I don’t know what these early Christians were thinking.

However, if I were in a battle with another, my first goal would be to destroy the other's source of power. If their power was an arsenal of weapons, a cobra on the forehead or rabbit’s foot, that’s what I’d go after. I’d cut the head off the snake. I might fear heavy artillery but never a talisman. The charm holds no power to the non-believer. Then I, too, would leave it as a reminder to the believer that their power is gone. But that’s just me. Maybe I’m a girl who grew up watching too much Gomer Pyle and reading too much Sun Tzu. Now, that’s something that’s really going to make you go hmmm.

If someone brings you a gift and you don’t take it, to whom does it belong?  The one who offered it, of course.

Statue #37  Fragmented Triad of Memkaura, Hathor and Nome god

“The statue was found in an area of Memkaura’s temple accessible during the Islamic Period when it may have been reduced to a rectangular shape by Muslim Egyptians.”

After Muslims conquered Egypt in the 7th Century, long after the Christian invasion, the remains of the statues and reliefs were then treated as raw materials. They were repurposed as building blocks. The reuse of these statues is not considered iconoclasm because the intention had nothing to do with destroying their power. As stated, the statues and thereby their power, real or in the minds of the Egyptians, had already been destroyed. There was no need to re-destroy it.

I end my tour, and at the conclusion of my brochure, I come to a section entitled, What are the origins of ancient Egyptian culture?  Wanting to know more, I continue to read. Egyptians were a thriving African people who created a distinct civilization. I’d say. They amassed a huge wealth, built those massive pyramids, and survived over four thousand years. “Within the relatively inclusive ancient society, being Egyptian meant practicing the culture’s religion, speaking its language, and submitting to the king.” So, if you adopted their culture, you were considered Egyptian. “Yet, at the same time, people from civilizations that existed outside geographical bounds of Egypt… were considered foreigners.” Hmmm. That makes it sound like everyone lived happily side by side. Did they? How did they gain their wealth? And just how did they build those pyramids? Things that make you go hmmm.

As I drive away, I circle back by the National Memorial Church of God in Christ. Its remains are simply beautiful. Perhaps even more beautiful. Especially the way the light shines through the circular glassless window. I recall it’s tagging. The beat goes on, my friends. The beat goes on.

It’s the same with envy and insults: if you refuse to accept them, they belong to the one who offered them.

The things that make you go hmmm.

Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt” is on view through August 10, 2019 at Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO. 314/754-1850. Gallery hours are: Th, Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. -5 p.m., F 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Free & open to the public.

Natalie Avondet is a St. Louis-based artist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Advertising with a Minor in Psychology from University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Natalie's early career was in commercial advertising in the Midwest and Los Angeles. Art is a lifelong passion and she began seriously painting and exhibiting in galleries while in Los Angeles. Determined to pursue her artistic career, she returned to the Midwest and since then has exhibited in Kansas City, Los Angeles and Saint Louis. Her work is represented locally by Grafica Fine Art Gallery. You can reach out to Natalie through her blog.

Monday, July 15, 2019

"ArtReach: Vashon High School Vashon through a Lens"

by Natalie Avondet

Per usual, before I exit my car, I adjust the rearview mirror, ask myself…” Which face shall I wear today?” Lipstick.  Today, I wear lipstick. Pink Rosette. I apply; exit the car; and head to the Museum. The front door is heavy. I pick through the complimentary brochures and climb the stairs.

I am alone; though, I can hear a tour guide educate his followers on the floor below.

ArtReach: Vashon through a Lens, installation view. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, May 17-August 18, 2019. Photo: Dusty Kessler.

It’s a handful of photographs by Vashon High Schoolers.  All in a row along one wall. Beautiful souls caught by the lens of a camera.

The photography on view, this photography, is a partnership between CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis) and Vashon High School and led by St. Louis-based teaching artist Tiffany Sutton. According to the CAM pamphlet, the exhibit is a collection of the selfie composed of “deliberate creative choices.” The exhibit is an exploration into the “multitude of personalities” each student, each photographer, each and every person has. In that we can relate.  However, for me to know or compare my experiences to these souls would futile. I don’t know.

Yet, here I stand in front of a photo of a girl. She wears a pinkish head wrap and a military uniform. “Do you see the child inside? Do you see my wild side?” I love the contrast between what I assume is her everyday attire or the attire of her heritage and the uniform of America. Two in one. I want to know more. More about her and more about Vashon High School. I’ll have to research that. I read the card. Her name is Kayla Green. I want to know more about who made the creative choice in this portrait/selfie. Was it the subject’s, Kayla’s, or the photographer’s, Nicholas Allen’s?

I move on. It’s another image of Kayla. Military gear sans head wrap. The next…Kayla in street clothes only. She had a read head scarf. Bright almost neon orange nails. Very long. “A woman who hides her fears, holds in her tears?” Both of these photos were take by Allen as well. I want to know more of the Kayla I see. All three of the Kaylas I see.

Jamijna Westbrook. Donyae, 2019. Digital Photograph. Courtesy the artist.

The next photo I see is one of Allen. Nick in Blue. It, however, was taken by Kayla. The subject has become the photographer. Nick has cleverly been divided between light and shadow, hinting at contrasting personalities. “Can you see my dreams? Can you hear my screams?” Was the creative play on light and dark his decision or hers? Who chose blue? I want to know.

Backing up, I examine all the photos. All are intriguing. Creative. Thought provoking. I am no longer alone. A crowd has formed. My thoughts are now being influenced by what others say; therefore, it’s time to leave.

I reach for the door. It is still heavy. I exit. Now outside, I turn back. “I feel as if I am on the outside, lookin in. Look at me…who do you see?” I check my reflection in the window. My lipstick is gone. “Who do you see?”

“I have many faces.” Funny [to me] that the author is unknown, although the poem can be found at
ArtReach: Vashon High School Vashon through a Lens” is on view through August 18, 2019 at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO. 314/535-4660. Gallery hours are W, Sat. & Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Th-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Free & open to the public.
Natalie Avondet is a St. Louis-based artist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Advertising with a Minor in Psychology from University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Natalie's early career was in commercial advertising in the Midwest and Los Angeles. Art is a lifelong passion and she began seriously painting and exhibiting in galleries while in Los Angeles. Determined to pursue her artistic career, she returned to the Midwest and since then has exhibited in Kansas City, Los Angeles and Saint Louis. Her work is represented locally by Grafica Fine Art Gallery. You can reach out to Natalie through her blog.