Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"... and then there were nine"

by Jennifer Weigel

"... and then there were nine"
Morton J. May Foundation Gallery, Maryville University, St. Louis, Missouri
October 12-November 20, 2009.

Joyce Briscoe. Reflections on Nine.

ArtFiber St. Louis' "... and then there were nine" exhibition currently on view at Maryville University through November 20, features works by Marianne Axboe, Drew Donnelly Benage, Carole Braig, Joyce Briscoe, Toni Disano, Deb Lewis, Pat Owoc, Joanne Raab, Lisa Von Holt.

Pat Owoc. Landthreads 9.

Although their origins as Art Quilt Alliance are still prominent in "... and then there were nine," the exhibiting artists explore a wide variety of art and fiber techniques beyond what many would consider to be representative of contemporary quiltmaking. Some examples of this can be seen in Carole Braig’s Bowl of Balls which incorporates both basketry and felting techniques, Lisa Von Holt’s numerous explorations in shibori stitching and indigo dyeing, and Pat Owoc’s Toys Mourn Childhood’s End, an installation piece featuring children’s chairs and toys shrouded in fabric and bound with black ribbon. But apart from the breadth of exploration, all of the works in the show include some elements of stitching and utilize fabric, thus connecting the artists’ differing styles and approaches.

Lisa Von Holt. Shibori Sampler.

Several themes carry through this group exhibition, and many of the artists touch on different themes in different artworks. Nature, history, and world cultures have always figured prominently in fiber art. Marianne Axboe’s Rapeseed Field (Springtime in Denmark) and Deb Lewis’ Treetop Mariachis celebrate flora and fauna while evoking vibrant memories of past travels, real and imagined. Joanne Raab’s Erwinna, Pennsylvania reflects on a worn structure and its past use.

Deb Lewis. Circles.

Marianne Axboe. Dance of the Nine Dandelions.

Meanwhile, some artists focus more on technique, visual understanding and the subject of art. Drew Donnelly Benage’s portraits offer studies in light and color reminiscent of both pointillism and the pixellation seen in digital technology. Carole Braig’s One of Picasso’s Women connects the process of piecing a quilt together with Cubism and the planes conveyed therein. Joyce Briscoe’s Ahm-ish Bars reflects upon the traditional Amish Bars quilt pattern while asserting her individuality as “never a girl who loved rules.”

Carole Braig. Nine Doorways.

Still other artists’ works are imbued with social commentary. Toni Disano’s work explores themes of depression, memory & aging, and womanhood, including Area 25, which examines mental illness and societal responses. Joyce Briscoe’s Security includes a quote about basic human rights by playwright Eve Ensler. Deb Lewis’ Unemployment Jungle depicts a dense population of silhouetted figures with their hands raised as if in despair or to ask why.

Drew Donnelly Benage. Door County Sunflower: Nine Values.

Toni Disano. Nine Sketch.

In response to the show title, each of the artists created one 18”x18” square panel reflecting upon the number nine. The explorations vary from the mathematical (Joyce Briscoe’s Reflections on Nine) to the technical (Drew Donnelly Benage’s Door County Sunflower: Nine Values) to the self-referential (Tony Disano’s Nine Sketch). The grouped presentation of these pieces further unifies the show as a whole while speaking to individual sensibilities and interests.

Joanne Raab. Like Minded Spirits.

All in all, "... and then there were nine" touches on the breadth of approach, concept, media and technique seen in contemporary art quilts today and offers a vision of how these nine local artists have reassessed and redefined the genre.

"... and then there were nine" remains on view through November 20, 2009 at the Morton J. May Foundation Gallery located on the campus of Maryville University, Library Building, 650 Maryville University Dr., St. Louis, MO 63141. 314/529-9381. Gallery Hours: M-Th, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; F 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Jennifer Weigel is a St. Louis-based multi-media artist. A member of Art Saint Louis, she serves on our Program Committee. Her work was recently exhibited in: “Common Threads: Fusion of Fiber & Glass,” Third Degree Glass Factory, St. Louis, MO; St. Louis Women’s Caucus’ “Made by Hand.” Crossroads Art Studios & Gallery, St. Charles, MO; “Reclaim, Renew, Reuse,” Atrium Gallery, Ball State University, Muncie, IN; and in “Art Outside 2009,” Schlafly Bottleworks, Maplewood, MO.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cultivated Works: Victoria McAlister & Jen McKnight

by Jennifer Weigel

"Cultivated Works: Victoria McAlister & Jen McKnight"
Three Sinks Gallery, Webster Groves, Missouri
June 12-July 25, 2009

Victoria McAlister. Greater Light 7. Woodcut, Collage on Paper. 12"x12".

Process, layering and the handling of materials can be of special interest when looking at contemporary printmaking, and "Cultivated Works: Victoria McAlister & Jen McKnight" further exemplifies this. Taking inspiration from the natural world, both artists are attentive to details and evoke a sense of intimacy that draws the viewer in.

Victoria McAlister. Lace Landscape 4. Woodcut, Collage on Paper. 12"x12".

Victoria McAlister’s works suggest an acute observation of the botanical world, incorporating imagery that is reflective of both plant life & growth and of cellular & internal structures. This sensibility is further enhanced by McAlister’s palette of rich earthy tones. Her attention to detail is apparent in her choice of papers and textural surface treatments layering and piecing together collagraph & woodcut printings with stitching and other embellishments. Works such as those in the Lace Landscape and the Greater Light series offer a sense of place eliciting feelings of proximity and familiarity without being obviously referential.

Jennifer McKnight. Hot House Series, 2009, Silk Screen. 30" x 22".

Jen McKnight’s Hot House serigraphs are reminiscent of biological forms such as flowers, feathers, and even internal organs. Her imagery appears to be floating in space and evokes a sense of the unknown, like marine life yet waiting to be discovered. The intensity of both color and composition is immediately apparent, and the images themselves seem almost alive with their vibrancy. Further embellishments with drawing, stitching and alternative processes bespeak a softness that is not entirely expected. While this may seem like a whisper compared to the vibrancy of both color and composition overall, it lends an intimacy to these pieces that draws the viewer in.

Jennifer McKnight. Hot House Series, 2009, Silk Screen. 30" x 22".

In addition to the recent works by Victoria McAlister and Jen McKnight, Three Sinks Gallery has on display a selection of tiles and vases by Sandre Griffin. These pieces relate to the exhibition through the rich contrast and layered effects attained in the sgraffito technique and by further exploring the natural world with depictions of birds, butterflies and human forms amongst plant growth. Several works reflect upon the bond between mother and child and the connectedness we have to nature, in many ways bespeaking the need to preserve the natural environment for future generations. Griffin helps to tie McAlister’s and McKnight’s sensibilities together by providing a third lens through which the viewer can experience nature, both in regards to the imagery presented and in regards to the media itself.

Jennifer McKnight. Hot House Series, 2009, Silk Screen. 30" x 22".

The layering and softness of imagery and sense of the natural world in "Cultivated Works: Victoria McAlister & Jen McKnight" suits the Three Sinks Gallery space, fostering a sense of intimacy and encouraging the viewer to spend time studying individual artworks and their intricacies. This is a show worth lingering at in order to fully explore the details.

"Cultivated Works: Victoria McAlister & Jen McKnight" remains on view through July 25, 2009. Three Sinks Gallery is located at 8715 Big Bend Boulevard in Webster Groves, MO 63119. 314/963-3448.

Jennifer Weigel is a St. Louis-based multi-media artist. A member of Art Saint Louis, she serves on our Program Committee. Her works are currently on view in “Women Are Goddesses,” at Soulard Art Market Contemporary Art Gallery, St. Louis, MO (through July 5) and "Feminine Perspective II" at the Black Door Gallery in Cape Girardeau, MO (July 3-31). In addition to the current exhibits, an original painting by Jennifer is making its debut as a “Collector’s Series” wine label on Les Bourgeois Vineyards’ 2008 Vignoles-Traminette. A wine release party & art exhibit will be held at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, Rocheport, MO from 2 to 7 p.m. , Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"there was a silent tinfoil rapping against the front door"

by Sun Smith-Fôret

"there was a silent tinfoil rapping against the front door," paintings by Christopher Rubin de la Borbolla
Bruno David Gallery, St. Louis, MO
April 10-May 12, 2009

With no obvious fixed visual or conceptual goals, Christopher de la Borbolla's new paintings meander through diverse emotional landscapes. Ideas are layered, integrated through technically mature play with digital preparation followed by applications of oil, enamel, rustoleum, stains, sharpie marker, charcoal, smoked cigatette butts, tiny rubber babies in plastic packs. Sometimes the surfaces reveal a man in a love/hate relationship with his materials, like Jimi Hendrix fighting his instrument. Stenciled numbers, blow-ups of digitized photos, phrases from instruction manuals, poetry blips, city names, city maps, silhouettes, solids and see-through figures drift across the canvases. Figurative studies merge portraiture with landscapes, offering clues to interior aspects of the artist's persona. His works are mysterious, romantic, curious, observing.

In a masterly media melange the paintings declare kinship to printmaking, photography, and textile surface design techniques, as well as to the assertive abstractions of de Kooning and Pollock and raw expressive narrative of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The flagrantly political Your Distant Means of Making War is a skillfully corner-mounted diptych painting and supporting floor installation referencing current and continuing Middle Eastern conflicts. Viewed from a distance, the gesso and stained surfaces of the paired paintings convey a meditative aura, slightly pallid and sorrowful, a desert out of bloom. Up close in a grit-abraded surface, figures emerge that could suggest brothers in arms in Iraq, Arab hostages, human targets, Che Guevara martyr figures.

The artist was trained in Art at Northwestern University (BFA), where he also received an BA in Applied Math. As a child he drew, played with Lincoln Logs and erector sets. His grandmother was a Ph.D. in Philology and imparted a love and respect for words. In the works shown at Bruno David Gallery, de la Borbolla filters and reconstructs narrative line as he de-constructs and rebuilds subjective and material/tactile experience. We are drawn into the familiar and the strange, the immediate and the misty, the deliberate and the obscure. As in Basquiat's painterly bravado of scrawl, scribble and scratch, the narrative line is hidden in plain sight.

Chris de la Borbolla plays his elements like music counterpointing the painfully personal against art historical and popular culture matrices where the layering becomes a virtual 3-d happening. The work scores on cerebral and textual and textural planes. There is nothing plain about it.

Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Blvd. 314/531-3030.
Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., first Sunday of every month 12-5 p.m. and by appointment.

Sun Smith-Fôret is a practicing psychotherapist in St. Louis and a regional artist. Her mixed media textiles, drawings and paintings on the topic of movies have been presented in numerous exhibitions, including her recent solo exhibit, "Interpretation: Silver Screen Quilts by Sun Smith-Foret," Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO (July 4- October 3, 2008). Her work was also recently presented in a show with St. Louis textile artists Marjorie Hoeltzel and Dawn Ottensmeier in "Charms and Talismans," Chesterfield Arts, Chesterfield, MO (October 24, 2008-January 3, 2009). In addition to her art making, Sun serves on the Art Saint Louis Board of Directors.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Nocturne in Printmaking

by Jeanne Rosen

"The Nocturne in Printmaking"
Saint Louis Art Museum, Gallery 321, St. Louis, Missouri
December 19, 2008–March 8, 2009

Have you ever wondered if a black and white print on paper could match the same kind of aesthetic experience that a well painted canvas can? Among the prints currently on display in gallery 321 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, I found myself amazed at the depth of skill involved in the medium of printmaking, and the rich, lush images that have resulted.

Printmaking is a multi-layered process. The type of printmaking in this show involves a metal plate, incising and burnishing tools, ink, paper and a press. There are several kinds of incising techniques; drypoint, etching, engraving and mezzotint. Unlike a painting, once a plate has been prepared and inked by the artist, prints are pulled. This pattern can be repeated over and over again using the same plate, creating “multiples” of the print.

Of the 11 works on paper in "The Nocturne in Printmaking," an assortment of these techniques are on display and presented in somewhat of a brief history of printmaking. Beginning with a work in the early 17th century, Hendrick Goudt's engraving Ceres Seeking Her Daughter, 1610, one is immediately struck by the detail this medium affords. It is the beautifully illustrated story of the mythological Ceres searching for her kidnapped daughter. Exhibition Curator Eric Lutz points out that Goudt was the first to layer lines, "creating textures and atmospheric depths in darkness." Apparently, Goudt's achievements with black tone influenced Rembrandt (his Entombment hangs directly to the right), who is world-renowned for his masterful etchings.

Richard Earlom, English, 1743–1822; A Blacksmith’s Shop, 1771; mezzotint; image: 23 ¾"x 17", sheet (trimmed): 24 5/16"x 17 5/16"; Saint Louis Art Museum, The Sidney S. and Sadie Cohen Print Purchase Fund 15:2007.

The next work is A Blacksmith's Shop, 1771 by Richard Earlom after a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. This large, poster sized mezzotint is truly the show stopper. One is compelled to look closely at the soft, dark expanses that turn into the muscular forms of the laborers, the drapery of 18th century garments, and the aging rafters of an old church that's become home to a blacksmith's shop. The eye is drawn to the light emanating from the center of the work where the anvil bears down on molten iron, sending sparks flying, while illuminating the other figures in the scene, like the beautifully rendered full-figured portrait of a man in the right foreground. The amount of information in this work is astounding.

Even though the aforementioned artwork vies for being the most gorgeous piece in the show, the smaller, unassuming The Lonely Tower, 1878-79, by Samuel Palmer, is profoundly appealing. It reads like a children's bedtime story visually but has the depth of parable with its crumbling tower at the apex of the picture plane, full of wisdom, sharing its humble light on the shepherds below. A crescent moon hangs low on the horizon, small stars decorate the sky. It’s a perfectly peaceful night, yet so much is going on. Groups of both humans and animals charged with their duties; perform them faithfully and in complete security.

Samuel Palmer, English, 1805–1881; The Lonely Tower, 1878–79; etching; plate: 7 3/8"x9 7/8", sheet: 81/4"x 10 15/16"; Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by Katherine Tillery, Mr. and Mrs. Jack C. Taylor, and Mr. and Mrs. Eugene F. Williams Jr. through the Art Enrichment Fund; and funds given by the Anne L. Lehmann Charitable Trust 36:2005.

The common theme that pulls the works in this show together is nighttime, when activities of the day are supposed to desist, when rest and cessation of labor is supposed to come. But the opposite is true, whether the characters are searching for something, performing as protectors or manual laborers, they all act under the cloak of darkness. Yet the darkness isn’t foreboding or ominous, rather it works in harmony with the light this is always trying to break through.

Beyond the remaining Romantic works, the balance of the show is made up of prints by modern American artists Edward Hopper and Martin Lewis. These prints consist of entirely different subjects than what came before; these are mostly urban, industrialscapes that are lonely, spare, even a little sad. They truly reflect the dilemma of modern life. They stand in stark contrast to the Romantic tensions of life, death, ecstasy, damnation, love and punishment.

The small space of the gallery adds to the intimacy one has with the works. In wanting to look closely at the prints, I found the gallery to be a comfortable size, it had just the right amount of pictures for the space, rather than overwhelming me with too much to see.

Like many shows I’ve seen recently in this small gallery space, "The Nocturne in Printmaking" is another thoughtful, enlightening opportunity to see some of the lesser known treasures of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection. The works featured in these shows have been insightfully pulled together to both instruct and to provide the aesthetic experience that great works of art, whatever their medium, are so capable of doing.


Jeanne Rosen earned her BA in Art History and MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.

"The Nocturne in Printmaking" remains on view through March 8, 2009. The Saint Louis Art Museum is located at One Fine Arts Drive in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO. 314/721-0072. Free & open to the public Tuesday-Sunday.