Monday, June 6, 2016

"Little Black Dress" at the Missouri History Museum

by Carmen Alana Tibbets

Last week, I visited the "Little Black Dress" exhibit at the Missouri History Museum and decided to make it the topic of my next "Ten Good Things" post. I can hear you: "But wait, history museum, dresses? Your posts are supposed to be about art!" Well, first, I am a textile artist, and I consider educating myself about all forms of fabric manipulation essential to my craft; and second, clothing is one of the most democratic of art forms - available to and approachable by nearly everyone.

Although many of us think about fashion on a regular basis, there is a growing appreciation that clothing can be high art.  The turning point was the Alexander McQueen retrospective, "Savage Beauty", at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. Huge crowds turned out to see amazing creations that were the embodiment of McQueen's artistic vision. Museums are now realizing that the public appreciates beautiful, interesting clothing, not just for its historical value, but its aesthetic value as well.

Black and white "mod style" striped shoes, ca. 1960s. Made by Andrew Gellar.

It is easy to understand that something on display in a museum has achieved a mark of artistic recognition, but less simple to realize that our everyday wearable choices reflect the powers of our own creative expression. Perhaps this is because clothing is usually viewed as a generic item. Think again. Today, we are spoiled by choice. Most of us are not limited to some undies, a dress or two and a coat; a set of clothing that was the reality less than 100 years ago in the U.S. and still is in many parts of the world. We can obtain clothing in bright colors that were literally unknown decades ago. We can have ruffles and lace and buttons and zippers and beads and anything else we want. Such is our sartorial freedom that we can change the length of sleeves and hems (pants, dresses AND jackets) with every outfit. Most of us wear a variation of jeans and t-shirt daily, but the variety therein is also astounding.

Even so, there is always a vague sense of what is fashionable, what looks right in a particular situation.  That sense of appropriateness affects the decision of which shirt to buy, and then what pair of jeans and shoes we combine with it (how about those shown above?). That sense of what is correct has always been a mainstay of fashion. Designers have pushed and pulled us into new directions of personal expression, and viewing an exhibition like "Little Black Dress" gives us a window into our current choices as we decide what to wear each morning.

Silk dress with tulle and lace overlay, ca. 1918. Unknown maker.

Before I delve into discussion about my favorite items at the exhibit, I will point out that I requested images of those I thought were photographed to best advantage and would be easiest to view on a computer screen. All were photographed by Cary Horton; many thanks to the Missouri History Museum for providing them for this blog post.

The exhibit is arranged chronologically, explaining how the perception of black has changed since the Victorian era.  Beginning with black as a color of mourning, the exhibit showcases a series of Victorian-era dresses and mourning accoutrement. You are then drawn to gowns made at the turn of the last century, when public opinion began to associate black with style (e.g., the gown shown above), and further along to dresses for work and special occasions.

One of the mourning dresses (Two Piece Silk and Crepe Mourning Dress with Organdy Trim, 1875) typifies what comes to mind when we think of a typical Victorian dress (the idea of which has been colored by the popularity of the Steampunk movement). The dress is black, but also an extravaganza of ruffles, notched tucks and textured fabric. It is an interesting contrast to an adjacent dress (Two Piece Silk and Silk Faille moiré evening dress, ca. 1880. Made by Josephine G. Egan) that is flashier due to its fabric and beading, but structurally much less complex. For me, the comparison between the two dresses is interesting: one, supposedly somber and made for introspection, the other made for show, but the details of each somehow contradicting its purpose.

Velvet day dress, ca. 1919. Made by Chanel.

Chanel coined the term "Little Black Dress," and there are a few examples by her on display. My favorite was a simple dress embellished with a small ruffle around the waist and an apron of velvet in front. The silhouette is typical of the time, but translates well to the fashion of today. Modern women have an expectation of comfort in everyday wear, and this garment would deliver. You often hear the phrase "timeless" used for Chanel designs, and this is a perfect example.

Wool jersey dress, ca. 1960-1966. Made by Jane Franklin Juniors.

Along similar lines, it is interesting to note how many other dresses on display would be considered quite sharp today. The wool shift shown above has a spare, elegant cut with subtle, diagonal style lines across the front of the bodice that extend to the back waist. I think most would be hard pressed to date it accurately by visual inspection alone.  A nearby silk dress by Hattie Carnegie features a notched placard (the part that buttons) embellished with tabs of self-fabric. The 1950s were the highpoint for women's suits (in my opinion), and this is a good example; classy then, classy now, wearable anywhere. Here are two garments made over five decades ago. Obviously much has changed in the national aesthetic since that time. What aspect of these pieces of clothing makes them just as "right" now as then? It can't be the designs themselves, as they are quite different. Is there some minimum set of characteristics that make a garment appropriate for a situation? Perhaps someone has done the mathematical analysis of garment attributes and has an answer. (As an aside, I'll try to find out.) Still, it is an interesting question to ponder, and probably similar to what goes through our minds as we try to pick out something to wear for a particular event.

Bias-cut crepe evening dress with spaghetti straps, ca 1939. Made by Mainbocher.

Few people make their own clothes today, so some respect for what is going on inside these dresses may be muted. We often appreciate elaborate embellishments (pleats, beading, many seams) because we understand the amount of time required to produce these details. Less obvious, but more important, is what the dressmakers have done to create the shape of the garment itself. The dress in this exhibit that typifies the highest form of craft is visually the simplest. The bias evening gown shown above creates its body hugging silhouette with few seams and perfect control and understanding of the fabric covering the body within. There are no embellishments, just the quality of the cloth and the skill of the dressmaker on display. Contrast that with a modern sheath a few yards away  (Polyester spandex backless evening dress, 1999. Made by Arden B.), in which a nearly identical silhouette is created by utilizing spandex instead of skill.

Belted taffeta dress with added lace collar and cuffs, ca. 1949. Made by Traina Norell.

Another contrast of interest was between two dresses of a similar age. One is restrained, the other energetic. Both feature white lace as embellishment. The WWII-era dress (Rayon crepe dress with scalloped lace trim and bow, ca.1940) has a prim look. Its restrained style is softened with an abundant number of buttons along the bodice, lady-like gathered sleeves and a smidgen of lace on the breast pockets. The post-war Norell dress (shown above) features clever seaming to achieve its recognizable "New Look" shape. In addition to princess seams in the bodice, it has curved, hip-hugging panels that redirect and lower the gathers of the skirt . The result is greater control of the fullness of the skirt and less bulk at the midsection, both working to emphasize the idealized tiny waist of the era. The luxurious amount of lace at the collar and cuffs reinforces the feeling of exuberance of the time.

Sleeveless cocktail dress with pattern of cut velvet dots and velvet bow, ca. 1961. Made by Christian Dior.

My favorite dress of the exhibit was created by the House of Dior in 1961. Essentially a simple sleeveless shift, it would make anyone, 19 to 99, look great today. It features simple styling, but best of all, pockets. I had to spend some time examining this dress because the details are so subtle. For example, there are two pleats off center from the waist which form a gentle curve of fabric to mid-hip. In back of these curves, the pocket openings are perfectly hidden. Beautiful.

I'm already over the limit of ten good things, but I do have to mention two more. The mourning hair jewelry was great, but even better was the reprint of a Victorian-era book on how to make your own. The DIY movement was alive and well back in the day! Can you imagine losing a loved one, then sitting at home making a necklace from their hair? It boggles the mind. Also of interest is the collection of sewing tools. Similar variations of many exist today, but are not as beautiful. And don't pass by the deadliest buttonhole cutter I've ever seen.

If you've never thought of clothing as art, take an hour or so and enjoy this exhibit. When I was there, ninety-nine percent of the other visitors were women, but it needn't be so. Take a look guys, there is some interesting geometry and engineering going on in these dresses!
Little Black Dress” is on display at the Missouri History Museum through September 5, 2016 and entrance is free. Visit the Missouri History Museum website here for information about hours and other concurrent exhibits. You can also phone the Museum at 314/746-4599.
Carmen Alana Tibbets is Creative Director and Owner of Agosia Arts. Based in Illinois, Alana exhibits her one-of-a-kind fiber artworks locally, regionally and nationally.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ten Good Things and "Printmaking in St. Louis Now"

Hello All,

I decided to write about art for a selfish reason. As an antisocial studio artist, I know I need to get out more and experience the art scene, but I also realize the only way to do this is to be obligated to do so for someone else. Hence, the promise for monthly posts for Art St. Louis' blog. The topics will be determined by my interests and every month I will visit some art related venue in the St. Louis Metro area, be it a show, museum or artist. My goals with these posts are threefold: 1) broaden my artistic horizons, 2) encourage others to experience local art, and 3) promote readers to think about their own reactions to works of art.

These posts are not intended to be reviews, they will simply be my impressions and thoughts shared with you. You may not agree with my opinions, but because interpretation of art is quite subjective and flexible, lively discussion is encouraged. My only request of you, the reader, is to elucidate to yourself the source of your interpretations and be able to express them clearly. So often we decide we dis/like something without clear consideration why we feel or think this way. Spend a few moments thinking about your reactions before you share your comments.

While writing this introduction and the first post, I felt as if I should have a cohesive theme, or at least a title for my monthly column. Whenever I find myself in a tight spot, I nearly always hark back to memories of my grandmother. She was full of aphorisms and had a ready supply of commentary for every situation.  As a child I was quick to voice my opinions (rarely appreciated by others) and my grandmother repeated something to me often; it was the concept of "ten good things." When discussing someone else (i.e. gossip), you should say ten good things before you say anything bad. There was more to her concept, but I like the basic idea and so, when I visit a venue and write my posts, my goal is to find at least ten good things to share with you. Ten good things every month - how difficult can that be?

— Carmen Alana Tibbets, Art Saint Louis/Art Dialogue blog contributor

Mark Katzman. Nhà. 2013. Chine Colle Photogravure on Revere Ivory Suede by Cartiera Magnani and Handmade Yamaguchi Gampi Tissue, 11”x14”. Edition of 15. Courtesy of the Artist.

Printmaking in St. Louis Now” at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis is a diverse introduction to the world of printmaking. The exhibit highlights work by local presses and artists. As with any group exhibit, the collection of works explores a wide variety of methods and themes.

Definitions of types of prints are placed throughout the show, a helpful study guide for the untrained visitor. Many were familiar (engraving, lithography, monoprint), but others were unknown to me. One such is photogravure, a method combining photography and intaglio printmaking. Mark Katzman's prints of this type are in a corner, and small, so one is prompted to take a closer look. The darkness of the prints themselves further increases the gravitational pull. My favorite of the group was Nhà (2013). The first impression is of a moody scene, but further inspection reveals what must have been a beautiful day: a man in a white jacket riding his bicycle along a country road. It is a haunting image - so clear, yet so murky. I felt as if I was peering through a lens into an alternate world in which the sun shines both brightly and dimly at the same time. Of all the works I saw at the show, this one has remained intense in my mind.

Always drawn to animal imagery, I chuckled while scanning Stan Gellman's small prints portraying caricatures of French nobility. Each has a distinct personality, clearly meant to be humorous, with extravagant costumes verging on the ridiculous. Although they are different 'people,' I realized they all have the same bird head/face. Whether due to the intention of the artist or stylistic habit, it doesn't matter - the images are immediately comic and also a thought-provoking commentary on politics and human nature.

Tom Huck's 8'x10' triptych, The Transformation of Brandy Baghead (2007-2009) is a visual blizzard of black and white, both from a distance and at close inspection. The prints depict a story that is crazy/funny/disturbing and perhaps so complex, that I got it entirely wrong. Featured are beauty queens, vegetables, chickens (live and cooked), body parts, an impressive array of power tools and so much more it defies belief. Unlike some of Huck's other work, there is less contrast between the featured characters and background images. My eye was constantly roving from one detail to the next, trying to piece everything together. I particularly appreciated that the triptych is unframed. Although it is visually weighty, its physical delicacy is highlighted by its mounting - paper pinned directly to the wall.

The collection of works by Terrell Carter drew me from across the room. Indistinct human forms depicted in reds and yellows give the impression of happy people, perhaps on the way to a garden party. The background provides a darker context. It is comprised of fine lines of chalkboard punishment-like handwriting: "A good negro is/has ______." The work is best viewed as a collection and I think a single image would lose much of its emotional punch. I suspect that the brighter visuals could override the text so completely that you could slip these into a display of matted prints at a big box store and no-one would notice. I imagine one of these innocently chosen without a thought and cheerily displayed in someone's kitchen - what a shocker when the text is finally read and understood.

Benjamin Pierce. Praescientia B VII. 2013. Lithograph, Relief, 11”x38”. Edition of 15. Courtesy of the Artist.

Towards the end of the exhibit are two large works by Benjamin Pierce, Praescientia CV (2014) and Praescientia B VII (2015) In each, a collection of characters populates a scene, pulling the viewer through a mind-altering tale of his or her own creation. The citizens of these works are a perfect and disturbing blend of human, animal and childhood dream images to which everyone can relate. I stood there with my skin crawling, but couldn't look away. This must be a common reaction because the gallery has kindly placed benches in front of the duo. The entities inhabiting each landscape have a definite presence. They are together within the frame, but isolated from one another by conflicting purposes. Some gazed back at the me with glowing eyes, others were blithely floating through the air, but all remained in my mind's eye long after I left the building.

I enjoyed the contrast of imagery and color in Lisa Sanditz' Space Invader (2014). A large, agile snake dominates the foreground. It twines through spare, botanical etchings punctuated with light-hearted, candy-colored pops of spray paint. Incorporated throughout, like delicate flowers, are produce labels, the small vinyl stickers we casually peel off our apples and peppers without a thought.

Tom Lang. On the Floor (from the series 6.54). 2014. Polymer Intaglio with Blind Emboss, 11”x14”. Edition 1/12. Courtesy of the Artist.

In addition to the usual framed and vertical displays, some artworks are presented horizontally in bound form, either as books or newspapers. I was delighted by the digital representations of the books on adjacent small screens. The viewer can see the entire work, slowly revealed page by page, instead of being restricted to the single spread open for display under glass.

Travis Lawrence. Christening. 2014. Relief Print, Watercolor and Tea. 15 ½”x15”. Edition of 8/24. Courtesy of the Artist.

This is a diverse and visually rich exhibit - there are many things I would like to share, but I don't have space. Following my theme of Ten Good Things, I will restrict myself to ten favorites (something that I found memorable, not necessarily lovely). Completing the total, in no particular order: Tom Lang's simple image of the anterior half of a mouse (is it dead or merely asleep?); Travis Lawrence's collection of medieval-looking woodcuts; John Wahlers' Path to Enlightenment (2011), a patchwork of corporate logos; Cheri Hoffman's indigo blue Ancient Rorschacks series (2013); and last but not least, Courtney Millman's Breath of Fresh Air (2015), a bold depiction of lungs and spirit. Miss Millman, by the way, is one of the young artists featured in the complementary exhibit of prints by local schoolchildren in the adjacent AT&T Gallery of Children's Art.

I strongly encourage you to visit the Sheldon and find a favorite artwork of your own.
**An “Ask the Artist” event and closing reception will take place during First Fridays in Grand Center on May 6 from 6-8 p.m. The event will give gallery-goers an informal opportunity to talk with artists and printmakers from the St. Louis area who will be available to answer questions about their work. Artists in attendance include Terrell Carter, Stephen DaLay, Sage Dawson, Joan Hall, Cheri Hoffman, Kevin McCoy, Jeff Sippel, Ken Wood, and Maryanne Simmons from Wildwood Press. The Evil Print Crew will also be on-hand with the Evil Prints Mobile truck, parked in front of The Sheldon, and will provide live printing demonstrations and cool giveaways. Galleries remain open until 9 p.m. for First Fridays in Grand Center. Admission is free.**
Printmaking in St. Louis Now” is on display through May 7, 2016 at  The Sheldon Art Galleries , 6348 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, MO. The Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday 12-8 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, 12-5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and also one hour prior to a Sheldon Concert Hall performance as well as during intermission. 314/533-9900.
Carmen Alana Tibbets is Creative Director and Owner of Agosia Arts. Based in Illinois, Alana exhibits her one-of-a-kind fiber artworks locally, regionally and nationally.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Luanne Rimel's work in “St. Louis Creates: Works by Local Artists”

by Sun Smith-Fôret

Luanne Rimel's work in “St. Louis Creates: Works by Local Artists
Saint Louis University Museum of Art
November 14—December 14, 2014

Curated with sharp eyes for diverse talents among us, Saint Louis University Museum of Art Gallery Director Petruda Lipan and Curator Roxanne Phillips, chose to include a body of recent work by Luanne Rimel, in their current exhibition, “St. Louis Creates: Works by Local Artists.” Rimel is a mixed media textile artist with a MFA from Laura Strand's Fibers Program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Luanne currently serves as Director of Education Programs at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design in University City, Missouri.

Luanne's presence in "Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern," an exhibition curated by Jane Sauer at Duane Reed Gallery this past October, joined her oeuvre with leading artists from around the country who use rhythm, repetition and pattern as means and vehicles of expression for their aesthetic assertions. Sauer asked, "Are artists who study repetition seeking the comfort of conformity, predictability, or cohesiveness, or rather, participating in an exploration of innate design and transformative growth?" Luanne's pieces posed those questions visually and answered those questions obliquely and subjectively, bidding viewers to enter the works and draw our own conclusions.

Luanne Rimel. The Glance. 2012. Hand Quilted Inkjet Photo on Cloth, 10"x10".

Technically, this artist uses higher tech methods like photography and photographic ink jet transfer paired with lower tech manipulation of cloth layering, thereby altering our expectation of the usual photographic space and perspective. After photography and layering of cloth, her time intensive over-stitching alters the surface and thereby the image, further abstracting the camera-caught piece of visual information.

Luanne Rimel. Concealed Forms. 2014. Hand Quilted Inkjet Photo on Cloth, 22'x37".

Aesthetically, Luanne is manipulating apparent solids and shadows from subtly juxtaposed 3-d sculptural images of hard stone, soft hands, palimpsests of marble masquerading as cloth, and subsequently, through the hand stitching, remaking the photo printed image into real and tactile cloth. It would be clever and playful indeed if the resulting objects were not so transcendental in their references to time, both temporal and eternal.

These subtle, quiet and calm works in a pallet of cool blues and grays with warm and cool whites, stimulate reflection, meditation, waking dreams and memories. There is philosophical overtone to each piece in a collection that reaffirmed for me the power in the personally crafted object and the ability of great art to affect and change us in ways we might not expect.

Artist Luanne Rimel with two of her featured works in "St. Louis Creates: Works by Local Artists," Saint Louis University Museum of Art, St. Louis, MO (November 14-December 14, 2014). Photo by Suzy Farren.

In the case of Luanne's work, I resonate as a psychotherapist and as a textile object maker with her meticulous use of technical and hand craft means to generate, in wall-suspended 2-d art objects, metaphysical questions about temporality; what survives, what passes, what happens to time, in time, over time? Cultures have measured time differently in complex systems for millennia. In Luanne Rimel's classically beautiful textiles, questions are raised about how we contemplate as artists, as seekers, the coming to terms over significant periods of time with the seeming vagaries and certitudes of our fluid/static human condition.
St. Louis Creates: Works by Local Artists” is presented November 14-December 14, 2014 at Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108. The exhibit features artworks by Stephen DaLay, James Holzer, Peter Manion, Mark Pappas, Sarah Paulsen, Luanne Rimel, Thomas Sleet, Brian D. Smith, and Ken Worley. Gallery is free and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed on national holidays. 314/977-3399. 
Sun Smith-Fôret is a practicing psychotherapist in St. Louis and a regional textile artist. Her mixed media textiles, drawings and paintings on the subject of movies over time have been exhibited in numerous gallery & museum exhibitions throughout the St. Louis area, Midwest and U.S. Her work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO. Sun currently has mixed media textile artworks featured in two St. Louis area exhibitions: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Artists Respond,” Florissant Valley Gallery Admin, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, Ferguson, MO, through December 20; and "Art St. Louis XXX, The Exhibition," on view at Art Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO, through December 23, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

“From the Inside Out: Felt, Paper, Textiles: Revelations in Natural Mark Making”

by Sun Smith-Fôret

Pictured: works by Rio Wrenn (left) and Patricia Vivod (right)

Great textiles abound in the area this month, despite the fact that the St. Louis' semi-annual Innovations in Textiles symposium was postponed until 2015. There is a group exhibition highlighting stitchery at the St. Louis Artist's Guild curated by artist Barbara Simon; there’s “Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern,” an exhibit curated by artist Jane Sauer and featuring five artists’ works, including St. Louis’ own Luanne Rimel and on view at Duane Reed Gallery; and there’s “From the Inside Out: Felt, Paper, Textiles: Revelations in Natural Mark Making,” an absolutely splendid installation of natural dyed and printed works on natural materials at the Art & Design West Gallery at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

For the presentation of “From the Inside Out: Felt, Paper, Textiles: Revelations in Natural Mark Making,” artist-curators Patricia Vivod and Elizabeth Adams-Marks invited internationally recognized textile artists working in earth, metal and plant dyes to come together here for an exhibition, workshop and lectures. Healing, health, and eco-consciousness are themes that reverberate through the installation in a show that is a visual and emotional stunner for all the subtlety and fluid grace of artworks on and of natural materials. The Faculty of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Art Department graciously invited the participating Textile artists to use the SIUE Gallery, replacing their annual "Faculty Art Exhibition" when the original venue for “From the Inside Out” fell through at the very last minute. What generous people.

“From the Inside Out: Felt, Paper, Textiles: Revelations in Natural Mark Making” in the Art & Design West Gallery at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Pictured (from left) are artworks by all five featured artists: Irit Dulman, Pat Vivod, Rio Wrenn, Fabienne Rey, and Elizabeth Adams-Marks.

The five artists whose works are featured in this exhibit are influenced by diverse natural events and the mediums/processes are the message.

Patricia Vivod. (detail) Eluviation. 2012. Shibori Rust Silk, 112"x45".

Patricia Vivod works from intimate knowledge of the land as farmers know the land, but counters nostalgia with a focus on the potential for disaster as fracking impacts land above and below the surface. Her free hanging silk banners, probably weighing less than 5 pounds when folded up all together, impose a monumental presence and are architecturally significant as they define the wall to which they are adjacent, offering the invitation for one to wonder at their origins in Vivod's thought and process.

Elizabeth Adams-Marks. Leats and Buddles-Tin Mines on Badmin Moor, Cornwall UK. 2014. Handmade Paper, Rust Printed, Eco-Printed, Tannins and Teas, 18"x24".

For Elizabeth Adams-Marks, the landscape of Cornwall, her husband's birthplace, supplies memories and imagery tied to marks made by man on that landscape, Neolithic stone circles, cliff paths, Celtic crosses, gorse lined moorland trails, Iron Age circle huts, china tips from the clay pits, modern mica plateaus—all images which she impresses into handmade paper.

Rio Wrenn. (detail) Core-Dreamscape. 2014. Silk, Natural Dye, Composted, Tea, Rust, Shibori Methods. 55"x55".

Rio Wrenn contemplates aspects of "Core" as that which ties us to the earth by extracting colors onto silk, creating patterns as nature shows us: tree rings, cell division, parasitic growths, leaves, stones. Her inspiration sips from auras, mandalas, language, human spirit. Rio reminds us that we manipulate nature as we manipulate our own lives and society, that humans from our very beginnings have always tried to shape the core.

Fabienne Rey. (detail) Mapping Healing Time I, January to December. 2013. 12 Eco Printed Silk Panels, 90"x37".

Fabienne Rey "maps," encodes personal meaning by eco-printing, transforming discarded textiles with hand stitching, wandering the emotional path of self-knowledge, self healing, transformation through her art practice.

Irit Dulman. Pillar of Salt. 2014. Eco-Printed Wool Jersey, Castor Plant Leaves, 2 Panels, each 60"x17".

Irit Dulman, an Israeli artist, explores the possibilities of the eucalyptus tree imported from Australia. Seasonal consciousness permeates her production and taking root is a symbol for this artist as she seeks to connect to the central European culture from which her parents originated. Dulman's shibori felted dress is a pivot point and anchor in the center of the exhibition, the surrounding pieces generating feelings of fluidity and connection, a cloth dance, wind-like whispers, I heard sound in these pieces, soft seeming, yet solid and reliable as messages about the artists' most essential and informing values, values which collate with my own, a sweet kinship.

Exhibition co-curator Patricia Vivod likes the metaphor of the feast. I encourage you to treasure the tastes and go see this show at SIUE's Art & Design West Gallery before it closes September 21.
From the Inside Out: Felt, Paper, Textiles: Revelations in Natural Mark Making” is presented August 18-September 21, 2014 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Art and Design West Gallery, 75 South Circle Drive, Edwardsville, IL 62026. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. For additional gallery hours, contact co-Curator Patricia Vivod by email: Pay parking is available in Visitor Lot B ($1/hour).
Sun Smith-Fôret is a practicing psychotherapist in St. Louis and a regional textile artist. Her mixed media textiles, drawings and paintings on the subject of movies over time have been exhibited in numerous gallery & museum exhibitions throughout the St. Louis area, Midwest and U.S. Her work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Artist Interview with Sydnor Scholer

by Emily Botkin

On May 1st, I had the opportunity to interview Sydnor Scholer, a St. Louis-based artist and practicing architect. She currently has two works up in the “Silence and Noise” juried exhibition on view at Art Saint Louis through May 29. Her work was also selected by Jurors Gary Passanise and Marie Bannerot McInerney for an Award of Excellence in the exhibit.

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 20”x16”. Award of Excellence in “Silence & Noise” at Art Saint Louis.

Emily Botkin: Is there any particular architect or architectural movement that influences your work?

Sydnor Scholer: “I don’t think directly—but I think just through visiting a lot of buildings and looking at the different shapes of buildings and lines in buildings I've developed a memory bank of maybe shapes and relationships that I like. And I do find them emerging in my work. But, I guess if I were to have to name a specific movement, it would be the Russian Constructivists. Their architecture is not my favorite, but I do like their drawings—like Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid.”

Emily: Is there any particular piece of architecture in St. Louis that you are fond of (The Climatron, the Wainwright Building, etc.)?

Sydnor: “I think I like the Arch, it’s so important. I think one of the more interesting things about St. Louis is all the different architecture in the different neighborhoods and that it’s still one city. I do like the contrast in all the different neighborhoods. You have the big houses in the Central West End and the old mansions and in the big houses in Forest Park that are really beautiful and the smaller more eclectic houses in Cherokee. Then you have the Pulitzer [Foundation for the Arts] away from all of that, it’s this very focused space. There is a lot to pick at architecturally [in St. Louis], its pretty diverse.”

Emily: How do you begin a new piece of art? Do you start drawing spontaneously or strategically plan your artwork?

Sydnor: “I pretty much start just spontaneous - like the ones that are in the show [at Art Saint Louis]- first I just start, I would work several at a time and just put color on paper. And then I kind of develop a stack of paper with watercolor on them. Then, I’ll chose one and start putting lines on top of it. And it kind of works in that process. So I see the color and it’s kind of always this process of trying to make the color work on the page by using line (and in this particular series) masking regions. So that Initially if it’s just the color on the white paper, the marks don’t necessarily - it doesn't seem like an entire composition. How to make the composition work through line work and masking and through this symbolic writing.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 20”x16”. Featured in “Silence & Noise” at Art Saint Louis.

Emily: Is there any particular medium you prefer over another?

Sydnor: “ think I like all mediums. I like collage and paint, but I think I am definitely most comfortable with drawing. That’s because of the architecture background, I guess I don’t [have a] fine art background. It’s all technical and technical drawing and graphic drawing and even when we did do sketching kind of classes it was sketching with the intention of it being architectural. So my whole education training is all in pencil. So in architecture, it is basically about making. Ultimately, for architects, what you do—well you might think “Oh well you make buildings,” really you make drawings so that other people can build buildings. So really, since I was eighteen, everyday of my life has been devoted in some way or another to making drawings.”

Emily: In your artist statement, you explain that your art is a response to the question of what if drawing is both the means and the end. Could you please explain this idea further?

Sydnor: “That kind of relates to what I was just saying. In architecture, we make drawings that are intended for another purpose. So what I kind of like to do in my drawings, and when you do make drawings in architecture—for the purpose of building—I mean you’re very restrained not only by what the client wants, it has to be a functional space, that you have these material limitations, cost limitations, so that in a way that these drawings are very free—that I am using the same technique and processes and tools that I do in architecture but its free from any of the real limitations of having to build an actual building. And this is what results. So when you have all of the tools but when you subtract reality and in the process early I guess when you get to real architecture this is what can result. So in that way I do kind of find it —in some ways I do consider my drawings architecture… not really art. Because In one way, well I don’t want to call myself an artist because I really don’t have any formal art training. But then at the same time its not really architecture. It’s not a building. So I think I’ve kind of always been somewhere in-between.”

Emily:  How do you handle mistakes in your artwork? Do you take them as happy-accidents or try to remove them from the composition?

Sydnor: “Well its hard to know what a mistake exactly is, its more that at some point I can just tell that things are not working. So in this current series of work, a lot of the time I would make a composition and then I would use masking so if there was a part that I really didn’t like or I thought was too busy or just needed to go away, I would kind of just mask over it. In some of the previous series, I really didn’t have that—I know it would be that once you do too much the piece is just done. It kind of has to go away. But then there definitely are, its kind of hard to say, mistakes or accidents, at a certain point in the early stage of the drawing there cant really be any mistakes because everything is influencing each other and I think the biggest mistake is overworking a drawing. So that the original intention is just blurred by too much.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 16”x20”. Featured in “Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition” juried by Buzz Spector (2013) and received an Award of Excellence for this work.

Emily:  Do you want the viewer to interpret or admire your work as you do or discover their own meaning or feeling to your art?

Sydnor: “I think I like people to find whatever they want in it. That’s why I don’t really title my pieces. For me, they are purely abstract compositional pieces. When I’m doing them I’m not trying to try any emotion or feeling. With these kind of initial color on page, how do I make it work into a complete composition. So for me I am thinking of color, shape, line, maybe texture. But if people do want to read into the color, that’s fine. I think what I want most is for people to find it, to take a journey through so that like every time they look at it they can see something new and they’ll look at it and find different moments. I think what I want them to notice is maybe all the space in the drawing.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 16”x20”. Featured in “Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition” juried by Buzz Spector (2013) and received an Award of Excellence for this work.
Emily:  How do you select your colors/hues within your art? Which you seemed to have covered that earlier…

Sydnor: “I think they’re just colors I try to use. I definitely have my preference for colors. I use a lot of blues and yellow, I mean I like yellow but Its just a personal thing. Maybe other people don’t like yellow. They’re just colors that I have, I try not to use too many colors cause I don’t want it to be about the color. Usually orange, just whatever, really whatever is closest to me at the time… I do choose before beforehand.”

Emily Botkin is currently serving as the Winter/Spring 2014 Intern at Art Saint Louis. She is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville working towards a BA in Art History with Minors in Studio Art and German.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

IPFH Spring 2014 Exhibitions

by Emily Botkin

The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum currently has three exhibitions on view at their Museum in St. Louis' Grand Center neighborhood.

Herman Leonard. Palm Court Café, New Orleans. 1995. Gelatin Silver Print. Courtesy of The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

"Decisive Moments: 20th Century Street Photography" is one of the three exhibitions on display at the IPHF. The exhibit began February 7 and runs through June 8*, 2014. "Decisive Moments" looks to the development of street photography over the years. One of the major questions asked in the exhibit is "what is the difference between street photography and photojournalism?" A quote from the exhibit’s information states, “While some of the visual characteristics of journalism might resemble street photography, journalism seeks to report on specific newsworthy events. Street photography is more about every day personal observation. The difference is in the focus and intent. Street photography’s story is ambiguous, reflecting the vagaries of chance happenings and the photographer’s quick observations.”

Ted Croner. Taxi. 1949. Gelatin Silver Print. Courtesy of The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

Ted Croner’s Taxi (1949) shows a great example of street photgraphy. This gelatin Silver Print photograph caught my attention because of the blurred-effect Croner used within his photograph. This shows that the picture was captured in an instant, one quick snap and he caught the taxi in movement at just the right moment to show transition in a motionless picture. Not only does this picture represent street photography, but it also represents Modernism in photography. "The Modernist movement was inspired by the celebration of industry, progress, technology and urban life. Modernism reflected the conceptual and visual changes in art, design and architecture of the period after the first World War." Although this picture was created after the second World War, it shows architecture, industry and urbanization.

Alfred Eisenstadt. Headwaiter Renee Breguet Serving Drinks on the Grand. 1932. Gelatin Silver Print. Courtesy of The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

Another photograph that shows signs of Modernism would be Alfred Eisenstadt’s Headwaiter Renee Breguet Serving Drinks on the Grand (1932). Although this photograph lacks the abstraction that Modernism typically requires (Such as Man Ray’s Electricite (1931), which is also on display in the exhibit); it holds true to asymmetry that is noted in Modern Art. “Modern Artists sought to break down the traditional definition of art as well as the barriers between art and design.” As stated in the Museum’s information on Modernism, this piece clearly breaks the barriers between art and design.

Anna Kuperberg. South Side, St. Louis Series. 1992-2002. Gelatin Silver Print. Courtesy of The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

A second exhibition presented at the IPHF is Anna Kuperberg’s "South Side." This series of photographs that spanned over ten years of dedication to St. Louis, shows how children live and play in the South Side of St. Louis. Although Kuperberg is a San Francisco-based photographer, she studied photography at Washington University and used her opportunity to gain access to the children’s lifestyle. This “outsider’s perspective” shows not only one looking at a neighborhood in St. Louis, but an adult trying to understand children and how they entertain themselves. Anna Kuperberg’s "South Side" series is also on display February 7, 2014-June 8, 2014.

Jarred Gastreich. St. Louis. 2013. Courtesy of The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

"St Louis Shoots: Contemporary Street Photographers from St. Louis," like the "South Side," shows images of St. Louis through the lens of photographers. This exhibit differs from Anna Kuperberg’s though because this exhibit shows photographers strictly from the St. Louis area, capturing contemporary images. St. Louis has a strong photographic heritage and today the “cultural landscape of the city supports a diverse array of photographic artists including a large network of Street Photographers (as quoted by the IPHF’s webpage).”

Also presented February 7-June 8, 2014, this exhibit shows some recognized St. Louis photographers such as Yvette Drury Dubinsky and the late Bob Reuter, yet also includes some newcomers to the photography scene. Jarred Gastreich’s photograph, St. Louis, which shows a little girl standing by a store window, was very interesting to me because it was so similar to Anna Kuperberg’s "South Side" works, yet it also differed: Gastreich’s photograph was rich in color while Kuperberg’s works were in black and white; Gastreich is a St. Louis photographer, while Kuperberg is, as stated above, an outsider looking in.

Comparing "South Side" to "Contemporary Street Photographers from St. Louis" was one of my favorite things to witness at the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum (and the two exhibits are displayed very close by each other). All three exhibitions are certainly something to witness in person and I recommend a visit to IPHF to view these works for yourself.

*Due to the popularity of all three exhibitions, IPHF has extended the run to June 8.

Emily Botkin is currently serving as the Winter 2014 Intern at Art Saint Louis. She is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville working towards a BA in Art History with Minors in Studio Art and German.

International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum is located in Grand Center at 3415 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103. 314/535-1999. Museum hours are Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Open until 9 p.m. on First Fridays of the month. These exhibitions remain on view through June 8, 2014.

Admission to the IPHF is $5 for Adults; $3 for Students w/ID, $3 for Seniors. Acrive duty military personnel & families get $2 discount and free admission Memorial Day through Labor Day. Children under 18 and IPHF members are free. Admission is free on the first Friday of the month.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recent exhibitions at Bruno David Gallery

by Emily Botkin

During month of February, the Bruno David Gallery hosted three wonderful and diverse exhibitions featuring the works of three different artists. Bunny Burson’s “In Plain Sight” was presented in the Front Room, while in the Main Gallery was Chris Kahler’s “Dialumens”. And In the back area of the gallery, also known as the New Media Room, was Lisa K. Blatt’s “Spinning on Enola Gay Runway Until I Make Myself Sick.”

Bunny Burson. In Plain Sight. 2014. Ink on Aluminum and Brass (77 elements). 14 1/2"x 10"x9". (Edition of 3). Photograph courtesy of Bruno David Gallery.
When I first went to observe Bunny Burson’s “In Plain Sight,” the first work that stood out was the sculpture In Plain Sight. This piece consists of ink on aluminum and brass, and appears to be one hundred or more replicated envelopes. The exhibit itself is supposed to illustrate Burson’s discovery of more than 100 letters from her Grandparents written to her mother. These letters depict her Grandparents lives in Europe during World War II. “Burson explores the idea that you can miss what you never knew,” as stated on the Gallery website. The 2-d works that took over the walls were not “sealed envelopes” like In Plain Sight, but instead each of the wall pieces consisted of thick and overlapping calligraphy. Letters Last was a series of three different pieces, each of them mixed media on Japanese paper and mylar. Letters Last showed illegible yet beautifully written cursive, and I believe these were written in German. I study and speak the language, so a few words stuck-out and seemed familiar to me, but as much as I tried, I could not comprehend what these words read in these letters—they were illegible. Untitled 50 was another wall piece that consisted of ink on vellum. Although Untitled 50 was different in shape and size, it too consisted of illegible yet beautifully written words. A part of me would like to assume that these letters that Burson discovered are meant to be kept private, but she pulls us in by trying to make us comprehend the words or wish we could open the letters piled on top of each other with her sculpture, In Plain Sight. The works included in this exhibit were all completed in 2013. Bunny Burson currently lives and works in St. Louis. She received her MFA from Washington University.

Bunny Burson. In Plain Sight. 2014. Ink on Aluminum and Brass (77 elements). 14 1/2"x 10"x9". (Edition of 3). Photograph courtesy of Bruno David Gallery.

 The Main Gallery hosted the works of Chris Kahler in “Dialumens.” This exhibit consisted of eighteen works, all of which were acrylic on panel. Although these works were similar in medium, no two were the same in appearance. These pieces, which lined the walls of the Main Gallery, explored vastly different choices of color and texture. Kahler created purely-abstracted works of art that conflict with the (sometimes barely visible) white background of each artwork. I, myself, am highly curious about Kahler’s process when making the Dialumens series. As stated earlier, no two pieces were the same; and I can’t imagine how he could create such visible texture with acrylic paint. One example of texture used throughout the exhibit included a thin bubbling effect that I noticed on a few of the works. My personal two favorites of this exhibit were Dialumens 9A and Dialumens 12A, both of which showed a grid-like structure behind the focal points of their composition. However, they were not the only two with grids painted into the background. These works were appealing to me because they were both abstracted yet structured—organic and inorganic line-work—and still somehow worked together. Each of Chris Kahler’s works were appealing atheistically because of the colors and how they worked with each other successfully for each composition.  Chris Kahler is Professor of Painting & Drawing at Eastern Illinois University. He received his MFA from Northwestern University.

Chirs Kahler. Dialumens 9A.2014. Acrylic on Panel, 30"x30". Photograph courtesy of Bruno David Gallery.

The New Media featured the work of Lisa K. Blatt titled “Spinning on Enola Gay Runway Until I Make Myself Sick.” This looped-video showed Blatt’s perspective of spinning in a constant circle while observing the land surrounding the Enola Gay Runway. For anyone that might not know, the Enola Gay was a bomber aircraft from World War II that dropped “Little Boy” on the Japanese town of Hiroshima. Even though Blatt is constantly moving throughout most of the video—the desert, the hangar, and barracks, are all visible throughout. It was difficult for me to watch this video because of motion-sickness, yet I still found the concept of this video very interesting.


Emily Botkin is currently serving as the Winter 2014 Intern at Art Saint Louis. She is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville working towards a BA in Art History with Minors in Studio Art and German.

The Bruno David Gallery is located in Grand Center at 3721 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108. 314/531-3030. The Gallery is free and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Although the exhibitions featured in this review closed March 1, a new series of exhibits open on Friday, March 7 with a free reception from 5-9 p.m. during Grand Center’s First Friday event. The new exhibits opening on March 7 include “Telescopic,” Shane Simmons, paintings; Front Room: “Formations,” Shawn Burkard, drawings; and New Media Room: “Rivington,” Heather Bennett. These exhibitions remain on view through March 29.