Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview with Kate Snyder

by Micah Liesenfeld

Kate Snyder. Arsenic and Old Lace inspired belt buckle.

Imagine yourself as a child 100 years from now discovering in your grandfather's attic an old dusty chest. Rummaging through it, a small item catches your eye: a metal bracelet. You hold it in your hand and notice that each link in the chain resembles the book cover of a different fairy tale. On the inside of each cover is illustrated, in small careful detail, a scene from each story. Who created this and why? To whom was this bracelet given and who wore it?  You wonder all of these things as you try it on.

Fortunately, we don't have to wonder here and now since the artist, Kate Snyder, happens to be showing this very piece in the current exhibit at Art Saint Louis, "Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition." I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her, and she indulged me an interview:

Kate Snyder. Childhood Bracelet. 2011. Enamel, Sterling Silver

Micah: You seem to draw a lot of inspiration from anime and science fiction. If so, where did this love of fantasy/steam-punk come from?
Kate:When you read so many fantasy books, watch science fiction movies and anime (like I do), ideas bounce off you… especially books; because a description of an object or mechanism can only be described through words, readers have the great privilege to be able to create the object in their heads with the skeleton that the author creates. That is one of the reasons I focused my art toward books.

Micah: I saw in a post that you "listen to movies" while making art sometimes. What do you mean by that? Describe this process, if you don't mind…
Kate: Like many artists, I like the background noise. Audio books are my favorite while working, but I will sometimes turn on a movie I have seen before and just listen to the dialogue. It helps at times when I am frustrated with the metal (which happens often. It’s a love/hate relationship). Listening to a story helps me get out of my annoyance. It reminds me that there is more to life than my current project.

Micah: What are some of your favorite films to watch (or listen to?) while you make art?
Kate: I like old films usually: Arsenic & Old Lace (I made a belt buckle in its honor), Harvey, How to Steal a Million, Charade, The Maltese Falcon, or whatever is on Netflix. Audio books: Agatha Christie murder mysteries (I know I have an 80 year old soul).

Micah: The bracelet of fairy tales titled Childhood Bracelet (currently on display at Art Saint Louis in Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition) makes me feel as though I'm entering a fairy tale just by looking at the small enamel paintings (as if one of the pictures will magically suck me in to the story if I look too long!). Do you consider small things to be more magical than big? If so, why?
Kate: I can't say I find small things more magical than others. I just have a high respect for them. It is really hard for me to work on a small scale, I know how difficult it is to achieve, so I keep working at it.
Kate Snyder wearing a metal corset made by one of her classmates

Micah: Do you keep an art journal or sketchbook? If so, how does that fit into the process of your art making?
Kate:  I have many sketchbooks. I always start out drawing designs. Not one, but a lot of the same object at different angles. Since I'm a 3-d artist, after I draw it I cut out a 3-d version of it and put it together using tape. Doing that helps me find if any surface areas or joints will give me more trouble than others before I start cutting the metal.

Micah: Describe one of your favorite materials to work with and why it’s so fun:
Kate: Favorite material...that's tough... ferric chloride is awesome, it is pretty lengthy to explain the process but an example of it on my Childhood Bracelet is the book covers. Ferric chloride helped me keep the titles and lines on the cover of the books while it ate away the metal on the front.

Micah: What do you collect?
Kate: I collect a ton of random stuff: fortune cookie fortunes, the glowy stars kids (and me) put on their ceilings, vintage tea cups and saucers... I used to collect more stuff, but I needed to clean out my closet one day (I had feathers, rocks and weird fabric).

Micah: I saw a ring you made that appeared to be all metal, but also appeared to be laced together with shoe-laces (or laces from an old-fashion corset?). Was that the look you were going for?
Kate: You are talking about my Corset Ring. We had to make a hollow ring for one metal assignment (then trade the ring with someone and they had to make a response piece. The guy who got my ring actually made me a steel corset!!! I shall put a pic of me wearing it here). It is metal, sterling silver and nu-gold wire. The wire was not fun to lace.

Kate Snyder. Corset Ring.

Micah: The ring I just mentioned, as well as a bowl that was made to have stitch marks "like Frankenstein's monster," are such solid objects to require stitching. It makes me laugh to see these sturdy objects appear so vulnerable… then after I laugh I also notice I feel sad. What do you feel about these pieces you create?
Kate: The Stitching Bowl: I was just playing with texture and stuff & I liked that the best. Clay really is not my medium. The solidity of metal brings me comfort. I feel different towards every piece I make. Each was made different, each had different concepts in them and some gave me more trouble than others. I'm always learning a new skill in metal. Some pieces are my babies like my book bracelet and my steam-punk ring (Guillotine Ring) and some I want to chuck out a window due to frustration (my Sci-Fi Ring or Star Fruit Pendent).

Micah: Is there a personality to any of these objects you make? Do you see them as mere jewelry or creatures or both?
Kate: Kind of what is said before: My projects have more of a personality to them when I am making them. They are either ornery monsters if they are giving me more trouble then I expect, or they are sweet because they are going smoothly. That will always stick with them it seems. The ones that were fun to make always are special to me.

Micah: What are you interested in doing next with your art?
Kate: Next I am going to start a series or body of work that effectively goes together. I might stick to book jewelry for a bit.

"Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition" is on view at Art Saint Louis through December 30, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Gallery closed Sundays, holidays (December 24-25, December 31) and between exhibits..


Micah Liesenfeld is an artist and an Art Saint Louis member & volunteer. His portfolio can be found at  Micah’s work is also currently featured in "Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition" on view at Art Saint Louis through December 30.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist David Brackett

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz spent some of her time at Art Saint Louis interviewing several of the artists featured in our recent “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. 

Her final interview is with David Brackett, a weaver & tapestry artist based in Lawrence, Kansas where he works as Associate Professor of Textiles in the School of Art at University of Kansas. David earned his MFA in textiles, with honors, from the University of Kansas (1990). He attended the University of Michigan (1979-1985) and studied weaving, fabric design and art history and he also holds a Bachelor in Zoology from University of Michigan (1977). David’s award-winning work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the U.S. and Japan. In addition to two of his pieces being juried by Lia Cook for this year’s “Fiber Focus 2011” at Art Saint Louis, David’s work was previously exhibited at ASL in “Fiber Focus 2005” and “New Works/Nine States” (2006).

David Brackett. Left Bend, Right Hook. 2009. Cotton, Mill-Woven Original Jacquard Designs, Pieced, Machine Stitched, 62”x71”.     


Janna: I read that before you began working with textiles, you received a bachelor’s degree in zoology. How did you make the transition from science to art and how does your background influence your work?
David: I took art courses while earning my bachelor’s degree. I began in Ceramics and worked for the Michigan Artrain after college, where I demonstrated pottery production to school groups around the state. I returned to school later and took a course in Weaving and Fabric Design. After working with dyes, I abandoned my ceramics studio, bought a loom, and returned to school – eventually earning my master’s degree in Textiles.

Janna: When did you begin working with Jacquard weaving?
David: I began teaching at University of Kansas in 2001. We had access to JaqCAD Master, a software package that allows for digital images to be converted into weave structures for jacquard looms. I had training for this software in North Carolina and have had designs woven at several mills over the last ten years.

Janna: Where do you find your imagery?
David: The images for the jacquard designs are from digital images that I have photographed. Some are images from my travels through Europe, many others are from nature hikes. My research focuses on patterns found in nature that are created with an element of chance. This type of pattern has a characteristic look, but does not repeat in a strict geometric way. These patterns are all around us—some examples: tree bark, stripes on animals, trees, leaves after they have fallen, driftwood piling up at water’s edge, etc.

Janna: There almost appears to be an eye peering out over the landscape of your piece, Left Bend Right Hook, currently being displayed at Art Saint Louis. Could you tell me more about this piece and is that someone looking at us?

David: This piece combines two main images. The landscape is a photo taken in Ireland. The eye is actually an entire portrait. If you look closely, you can see the ear, and part of the nose, chin and neck. There is also fabric made from a photo of the Eiffel Tower. My work combines images from my life and juxtaposes them in a similar way to the way our memories are stored. Some are prominent, some are hard to decipher, some come together to create new associations.

David Brackett, On a Clear Day. 2009, Cotton, Mill-Woven Original Jacquard Designs, Hand Woven, Painted & Supplemental Warps, Pieced, Machine Stitched, 72”x69”.

Janna: Could you also tell me more about your other piece on display, On a Clear Day?
David: As with much of my work, this piece pieces together many different images in a way that creates areas with implied depth along with areas that bring the viewer back to the physical surface. The distant landscape is seen through windows, but the viewer is prevented from feeling a part of this landscape. This is a reference to unfulfilled dreams and barriers outside of our control. The upper right portion of the work includes fabric that was created through a collage of photos of a human torso—chest, back, elbows, etc. I feel that this strange “landscape” adds a human presence in a very indirect way.

Janna: In your artist statement you wrote, “Our lives are filled with chance occurrences that can alter the paths we take and create.” How have chance occurrences shaped your work?
David: My work incorporates many disparate images, each of which has meaning to me. I use techniques that inherently allow for unpredictability, particularly in the hand-dyed and hand-woven cloth. Through my studies of chance, chaos theory, and fractals, I have discovered that patterns that are created through these processes combine in a more seamless fashion than with strict geometry. The patterns found in nature show a visible record of these processes, but society, biology, politics, economic systems, and our personal interactions are also subject to these laws. Though there are infinite possible pathways for disorder, nature only uses a few.

Janna: Are there other artists who have inspired you?
David: There are many artists that I find interesting, but my inspiration comes more from science, and I have found that scientists really respond to my work. One geologist told me that he liked my work because it was an “illustration of mathematics.”  One artist that I feel is aesthetically closest to my work is Clare Verstegen. I have spoken to Clare and know that the concepts behind her work are very different, but I have felt a connection to her work for many years.

Janna: What is the best aspect of working with textiles?
David: I work with textiles for many reasons. Woven fabric has a reference to time in the way it is produced. The most frequently asked question that I get is “how long did it take to make your work.”  This is important to me since my work is about a process and evolution. I like to think that my pieces feel like one moment in an ever-changing landscape. Textiles also them themselves to being cut and sewn back together. During the process of piecing, I am frequently surprised by the combinations and how seamlessly some designs fit together. I pin all the pieces to the wall before the final work is sewn together. Finally, I like textiles because they are inherently about pattern and grid structure. This, for me, connects form and content in a very fundamental way.

"Fiber Focus 2011" was presented at Art Saint Louis September 6 through October 13, 2011. The exhibit is now closed. Our next two shows, “Art St. Louis XXVII, The Exhibition” and “Artists’ Day at Circus Flora 2011” open October 29 and run through December 30, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Gallery closed through October 29.


Janna Añonuevo Langholz was a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continuing her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Luanne Rimel

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Luanne Rimel. Sentinel. 2011. Photo on Cotton Flour Sack Cloth, Pieced, Quilted, 18”x18".

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s fifth interview is with Luanne Rimel, an artist, curator, and currently Senior Director of Education and Exhibition Programs at Craft Alliance in St. Louis, MO. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including Japan, China, and Korea, and is in many private and corporate collections. She received her MFA in Fibers from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and has taught numerous workshops and classes around the country.  In addition to her work featured in this year’s “Fiber Focus 2011,” Luanne’s work was exhibited in “Fiber Focus 1995,” “Fiber Focus 1999,” “Fiber Focus 2003,” and “Fiber Focus 2007”.


Janna: Where did you grow up?
Luanne: I grew up in University City and went all the way through the public schools there.

Janna: When did you begin sewing?
Luanne: My first memory of actual sewing, (not yarns through a punched card, which I do remember enjoying), but I made Barbie Doll clothes on a very small hand turned Singer Sewing machine when I was in fifth grade. It actually worked and I remember cutting the pattern and sewing a green 60’s style swing coat for my doll. Then my grandmother gave me a (very heavy) wonderful blue metal sewing machine when I was in junior high and I made many of my own clothes.

Janna: What is your working process like?
Luanne: I tend to work in a series. My main content ideas relate to time and memory but my photographic images change with the series. I work on several pieces at a time so they “talk” to each other and head toward a cohesive body of work. I always have a camera when I travel so I can record things that interest me and may become part of a piece one day. The selected segments of the photographs are printed on cotton flour sack dishtowels that I prepare for the inkjet printer. After printing, I begin the construction of the piece, basting a backing and beginning the meditative stitching process. One piece takes a very long time.

Luanne Rimel. Silent Sound. Photograph Printed on Cotton Floursack-Cloth Dish Towels, Pieced, Layered and Stitched/Hand Quilted, 18"x18".

Janna: How does time pass when marked by stitches?
Luanne: That’s an interesting question. It is an interesting process to work so slowly and watch a piece evolve. Since I do not just stitch straight across the piece very often, I have to make decisions about what direction the stiches will go, what color threads, how much to pull to create the texture. And the imagery is very abstract when at such close range so I often have to pin the piece to the wall after a bit to see exactly what I have done. But it takes about one hour to stitch 4 square inches but I look forward to it and miss the act of stitching if I don’t work on something for a few days.

Janna: Could you tell me more about your piece currently on display at Art Saint Louis, Sentinel?
Luanne: Sentinel is a photograph of just the hand of a life size cemetery statue in New Orleans. She guards the doorway of an above ground tomb with copper flowers in her hand. Flowers in cemetery statues symbolize life and beauty and I responded to the gesture of the hand forever holding these symbols.

Luanne Rimel. Victory. Photograph Printed on Cotton Floursack-Cloth Dish Towels, Pieced, Layered and Stitched/Hand Quilted, 18"x18".

Janna: Whose hands appear in your pieces?
Luanne: I have done a series of works using cloth combined with the hands of aging women – hands that have lived a long life and show the beauty of activity. Currently I am finding hands and cloth carved in stone intrigue me and seem to speak to my ideas of time and memory.

Janna: Who or what has influenced your work the most?
Luanne: Curiosity has influenced my work and the desire to make my ideas visible.

Luanne Rimel. Still Smith. Photograph Printed on Cotton Floursack-Cloth Dish Towels, Pieced, Layered and Stitched/Hand Quilted, 18"x18".

Janna: What has been one your best experiences as a fibers artist?
Luanne: Wonderful, wonderful people are in the world of fibers. It is a generous group of artists, always sharing techniques and giving encouragement and support. I have traveled to great places because of fiber exhibits and conferences and have met some terrific people. Probably one of my best experiences was the trip my husband and I made to Kyoto, Japan because I was in an exhibition of collaborative work with artist Betsy Sterling Benjamin. She made that exhibition possible and the trip still influences my work today.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through October 13, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 


Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Teresa Paschke

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Teresa Paschke. A.K. 2011 Printed Textiles: Digital Photography, Wide-Format Ink Jet Printing on Cotton Canvas, Hand-Embroidery, 31”x48”x1”.

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s fourth interview is with Teresa Paschke, Associate Professor of art at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. Her work has been exhibited nationally and has received numerous awards, including Second Place for her piece A.K. in the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition at Art St. Louis (Teresa has two pieces in the exhibit). Previously, Teresa’s work has been shown at ASL in “Fiber Focus 1997,” “Fiber Focus 2001,” and “Fiber Focus 2003.”


Janna: How has your work changed over time?
Teresa: Over the years, my artwork has changed in some ways and stayed the same in others. Certainly the use of technology has changed the way in which I work. At times, my entire studio is contained within my laptop and the digital printing process has shortened the time it takes to produce a printed textile. The digital process allows me to create more complex imagery and I can print larger images with relative ease. At the same time, I’ve increased the amount of embroidery in each piece, which slows down the process considerably.

Identity and place have been constant themes within my artwork since graduate school.

Janna: The concept of home is strong is many of your pieces. What defines “home” and where is it?
Teresa: For me, home will always be the place of my birth, which is Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, I’ve made my home in many places that include Kansas, Ohio, and currently, Iowa. Each place leaves an impression even if it’s merely as a contrast to someplace I’d rather be and those impressions inevitably show up in my artwork. The artwork in Fiber Focus 2011 was created after a one-month visit to the Czech Republic. For those four weeks, Prague was my home and that is certainly reflected in the artwork you see in the Fiber Focus exhibition.

Janna: You combine a traditionally domestic art such as embroidery with street culture references such as graffiti. How does this juxtaposition shift perceptions about women’s work inside the home?
Teresa: I think both art forms are underappreciated. But even more than that, I see a strong correlation between the artists themselves. The image of the urban graffiti artist may seem in stark contrast to the refined young woman who embroiders linens and samplers, but the more I work with these kinds of images, I realize how much they really have in common. For one thing, there is a certain amount of anonymity among both graffiti artists and these young women. Both are generally 8-18 years old, and they learn through teachers or mentors rather than family members. Graffiti artists are often marginalized members of society and their artwork helps to give them a voice; a presence, and allows them to be visible members of society. The young women who created schoolgirl samplers were also marginalized within their communities—they would grow up to become the property of their husbands (and if they didn’t marry, they remained the property of their fathers); as women, they wouldn’t own property themselves, and they weren’t allowed to vote. Samplers undoubtedly gave these girls some sense of ownership whether because of the education they received during their creation or because what was created served as an historical record of the their lives.

Janna: Could you tell me more about the specific piece that you were awarded second place for in the "Fiber Focus 2011" exhibition at Art Saint Louis, A.K.? What do the initials stand for?
Teresa: The act of marking one’s belongings is familiar to all of us. Historically, women marked garments and household linens for their bridle trousseau with embroidered monograms. Today, historians study embroidered samplers created centuries ago by young women to help us better understand our past. The designs stitched onto them often provide a rich record (oftentimes the only record) of the lives these girls lived; their names and dates of birth; their family tree; the town in which they lived, and sometimes the name of their teacher. Like graffiti artists who mark territory or leave behind a very public record of their activities, A.K. was an attempt to suggest a relationship between these two forms of record-keeping—whether it’s in the form of a “tag” or a monogram—specifically the desire that all of us has to leave our “mark” on something we feel is a part of us. These specific initials, A.K., were taken from a book of historical Czech embroidery patterns and monograms.

Teresa Paschke. Hip-Hop Sampler. 2011. Printed Textiles: Digital Photography, Wide-Format Ink Jet Printing on Linen, Hand-Embroidery, Mounted on Stretched Canvas, 28”x24”x1”.

Janna: Why is the practice of traditional techniques important in addition to combining them with new technology?
Teresa: New technology is exciting and it’s always fun to learn new things. And, because I teach at a university I have the resources that allow me to work with technology, such as wide-format digital printing for textiles, that I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. Fortunately, there are a number of print-on-demand companies around the world that have made digital printing available to everyone. As an artist, having a connection to materials is essential, which is one of the reasons why it’s important for me to include hand-printing and hand-stitching in my artwork. Hand-stitching in particular has been considered “women’s work” throughout history and I truly feel a kinship with women from past centuries who have used it to create beautiful textiles for their homes and families. But beyond that, I think there is an innate desire that each of us has to use our hands to produce things that are meaningful. The handwork that I do on each piece is where I personally find the most joy.

Janna: How do you describe your working process?
Teresa: To create my artwork, I manipulate my own photographs using off-the-shelf digital imaging software. Compositions are printed onto cotton canvas using a wide-format ink jet printer
(Mimaki Tx2 or Epson 9800) followed by hand-printing and/or hand-stitching.

Janna: Who are some other artists whose work you enjoy and appreciate?
Teresa: I spend a lot of time looking at schoolgirl embroideries because they’re beautiful and I’m humbled that such young hands could stitch so much better than I can. I’m often drawn to artwork that is technically and skillfully precise and so I’ve always been a big fan of Clare Verstegen’s work. She’s the best screen-printer I know. Dorothy Caldwell’s artwork also inspires me a great deal. I’ll be traveling to China in November and then again in April of next year, so lately I’ve been looking at both contemporary and historical Chinese textiles.

Janna: Have you ever put graffiti on an actual wall?
Teresa: I admit that I have. When I was eleven or twelve, my friends and I were caught by the police writing on the back of a 7/11 store near my house. The officer loaded our bikes into the trunk of his squad car and dropped each of us off at our homes. My mother was so embarrassed that she immediately put me to work ironing the laundry she had just finished. I also had to go back to the store the following week to remove the graffiti.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through October 13, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Kathy Weaver

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s third interview is with Kathy Weaver. Weaver is a fiber artist based near Chicago, IL who explores the colorful, often humorous dimensions of robots and their robotic worlds. She was trained as a painter and taught art in public schools before beginning to work with the medium of fabric. Her work has been shown in many exhibitions nationally and internationally and also took part in Art Saint Louis’ “Fiber Focus 2009”.


Janna: I read that you have a background in painting, art history, and art education. When did fiber art come into the mix?
Kathy: As a young girl I was always making things with the scraps of cloth my mother used for her sewing and needlework projects, but as an art student I never equated these with fine art. During the feminism movement of the 70’s Miriam Shapiro, Judy Chicago and other “legitimized" these materials and, further, made them speak eloquently about women’s issues. I also traveled around the world in 1974 and saw and relished gorgeous fabrics and weavings from Asia and India. When my painting became increasingly political I saw the quilt medium as an ideal way to make the message more approachable and to a wider audience of people than those just in the gallery/art world.

Kathy Weaver. Invader. Satin, Airbrushed, Hand Embroidered, 57"x 43".

Janna: Why did you choose robots to be the main subject matter of your work?
Kathy: This came about as a fluke when I was teaching children art in the public schools. We did many projects with robots and I realized the expressive nature of the articulated robot and also the power the figure had for the audience. The robot became a natural spokesperson for my political concerns, speaking of the future, the environment, and technological issues related to militarism. Also, I had always been interested in cutting-edge technology due to my father’s involvement in the electronics industry. The space race and early tv serials about outer space added to the mix.

Janna: What does the simultaneously sensitive/loving and mechanical/destructive character of your robots reveal about human nature?
Kathy: It reveals that we as a human species choose our path. We can use technology to advance mankind through discoveries in medicine, robotics, artificial intelligence or we can follow a darker path, using technology to employ drones, carry heavier and more deadly loads into combat, persist in ever increasing surveillance.

Janna: On your website I saw a piece that includes an embedded video. Will you ever work with video again?
Kathy: I think it’s tricky because it has moving parts dependent on others to plug in, fix, etc. I love the effect but just don’t know.

 Kathy Weaver. Fire Slinger. Satin, Airbrushed, Hand Embroidered, 48"x46".

Janna: Could you tell me more about the specific piece you have in the "Fiber Focus 2011" exhibition, Optimized Persistence?
Kathy: My work addresses the intersection between technology and art, artificial intelligence and robotics. I examine life on both a macro level and a cellular, nano-scale plane.

In my “Organic Series,” represented here by Optimized Persistence, I see the unearthly, thoroughly alien environment from an automaton’s perspective. In these fiber, mixed media works the environment is devoid of overt action, yet filled with anticipation, a premonition of surprising behavior.

Airbrushing on satin in large scale with scientific themes, I focus on inventing a robotic world in which plant and cellular forms seem stranger than life and pregnant with meaning. The robot’s environment is steeped in a visceral aura and reflects, as source material, my studies of artificial intelligence. My works also draw from photographic, microscopic scans of simple celled plants and animals. These species represent the life source, the spark in the primordial soup from which we evolved.

Kathy Weaver. Optimized Persistence. Satin, Airbrushed, Hand Embroidered, 36"x36".

Janna: Where does the robot environment intersect with the human environment?
Kathy: We are all part cyborg as Donna Haraway, writes in A Manifesto for Cyborgs, Routledge, 1990. If you take into consideration devices like diabetic pumps, pacemakers, prosthetics, phones and computers that are practically appendages of our fingers and bodies, one can see that we are already dependent on the tasks these robots do for us. As time goes on the boundaries between robots and humans will intersect in ever more complex ways.

Kathy Weaver. Mimetic Concerns. Satin, Airbrushed, Hand Embroidered, 44"x57".

Janna: What are the organic forms based on?
Kathy: They are based on electron microsopy of brain scans, neural networks, amoeba and other simpler celled animal/plant forms and on abstractions of sketches I do from nature and from my imagination.

Janna: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Kathy: At present my favorite artist are William Kentridge, Kathe Kollwitz, Sue Coe, Jean Baptiste Chardin, Franz Hals, drawings from the Italian Renaissance, street art from Nigeria and Ghana.

Janna: Are you part robot?
Kathy: My FB image is me in all my gear getting ready to airbrush and what with respirator, air compressor blasting, protective gloves and smock, ear plugs, and with shammies covering my shoes, I am definitely separated from this world. It’s just me and the satin in front of me and my ability to make sense out of that space; so yes, I feel quite single minded and divorced from “real” life in that situation….quite robotic, but with lots of feeling.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through Thursday, October 13, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 


Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Carol Zeman

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s second interview is with Carol Zeman. Zeman retired from graphic design to pursue her interests in fiber art and papermaking. She creates structural forms using petioles (the part of the tree that holds the leaf on) and Japanese paper. She is based in Osage Beach, Missouri and has taken part in many exhibitions throughout the Midwest.

Carol Zeman. Floating. 2011. Handmade Kozo Paper, Petioles, Manzanita Root, 7”x8”.


Janna: Where did you grow up?
Carol: I had a very idyllic childhood in the small town of Jefferson City, Missouri, but haven’t lived there since I was 18. I have lived in Colorado, Tennessee and now reside in Osage Beach at Lake of the Ozarks. I’m still growing up.

Janna: With a background in graphic design, how did you come to start working with sculptural forms? 
Carol: I went back to MU Columbia in the early 90’s to finish my degree in art (I quit my junior year (1967) to marry). The graphic design industry was going to computers and I had just gotten laid off from my job at a printing company for trying to unionize, so I returned to school to learn electronic layout. I had to have a craft class to fill out graduation requirements, so I took a fibers class and fell in love with papermaking. Computers became coincidental. And that turned me to non-traditional baskets which led to the sculptural forms.

Janna: Could you describe the process of making the forms? 
Carol: I gather the petioles (the part of the tree that holds the leaf on – the ones I use are just very large ones) this time of year. In fact, I am doing that right now. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, similar to a mimosa but no flowers and the leaves are bigger. 

The green petioles are pliable when they first fall from the tree and I wrap them around forms using duct tape at first and then later replace the tape with tied strips of cotton, as the tape leaves marks. It takes several months for the petioles to dry and harden in the shape of the form, so I put them away in a closet and try to forget them.

Because kozo (made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree) is so strong and because of it’s shrinkability, it is the best paper to use for the walls. I use several layers of dry, torn (about an inch in size) pieces of paper and dab them with methyl cellulose onto the form with a stencil brush–mushing the fiber under and around the petioles until I have the desired effect. The work is then left to dry (a couple of days) and when it is, I break out the form, if necessary, and finally get to see what I’ve made.

Carol Zeman. The Winds of Change. 2011. Handmade Kozo Paper, Petioles, 4”x35”. This artwork was selected by "Fiber Focus 2011" juror Lia Cook to receive an Award of Excellence.

Janna: Congratulations on winning an Award of Excellence for your artwork The Winds of Change in the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. Could you tell me more about this specific piece?
Carol: The Winds of Change has been in my mind for a long time. It started with a small spiral I exhibited at “Fiber Focus 2009”, two years ago. I expanded the design to create the wind effect. I used a piece of 4-inch PVC, with applied silicone, as the form. It took me three days to accomplish and is the largest one I’ve done. It was very hard to get off the form–almost wrecked it—and then I had to put it back on to touch it up! The title and statement drove the work. I am environmentally and politically aware (I call myself a “passive subversive”) and really wanted to use my voice on this piece. I have always had an abiding—possibly idealistic—faith in mankind’s ingenuity to come up with the answers to the challenges of present day. Jung said (I quote loosely) “art is relating primordial images to the times.” That is what I was going for with this artwork.

Janna: Each of your pieces is accompanied by a poetic statement. Which comes first, the poetry or the object?
Carol: I have kept a drawing/writing journal for over 40 years and this is where the poetic statements usually come from. I published it once in 2005 for a solo show called “Pilgrim Flirting with the Universe” at the Wingspan Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky. I scanned all the drawings, coupled them with the writing and printed the whole thing as one piece on a 13”x60’ paper roll on my printer. It went all the way around the gallery, stopping and starting again for doors and windows—black and white with one spot of color. (The journal still grows to this day.)

To answer your query: it’s the old “What came first-the chicken or the egg?” question. One leads to the other.

Janna: What do your vessels contain? 
Carol: I found a fable in Omni Magazine many many years ago that went something like this: A farmer fell in love with a mermaid (for lack of a better word) and tried to talk her into marrying him. She finally said she would if he would promise not to look in her basket, as it was her most important possession. He promised, surprised that was all it took and they lived for many years together. One day, she was out in the fields and his curiosity got the best of him. He took a look into the basket. He laughed out loud when he saw that there was nothing in it and confronted her when she returned, wondering, incredulous, what all the fuss was about. She looked at him, sadly, and said “Things of the spirit cannot be seen.”

Janna: Could you tell me more about the concept of time in relation to your work?
Carol: I am fast approaching (some say I am there) my crone years, so there is a veiled sense of urgency in my life, along with a constantly growing respect for how precious time is. I did a piece last year which as of yet hasn’t been shown called In the Moment. The statement reads: "I have used 2,049,840,000 seconds. I probably have about 630,720,000 left. If you have read this statement, we have spent about 16 of them."

Time is all any of us really have–a gift. And I choose to spend it on my work.

I related totally with Marci McDade’s (keynote speaker at Innovations in Textiles 9 and former Editor, Fiberarts magazine) ending quote to her talk was by Louise Bourgeois: “I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.”

Janna: Who are some people who have inspired you?
Carol: The first art course I took was at a small women’s college in Kansas, my junior year. I was sooooooo excited, as I had been dabbling in art my whole short life. The nun made us copy the masters. I was really frustrated, as I wanted to do MY thing. I saw no value in what I thought at the time was stupid. But as I look back, I think it is of enormous value. I look at everything I can get my hands on and have looked at so much artwork for so many years, it is impossible to narrow it down to a few.

The first name that instantly popped into my head when I read your question was Bob Dylan. The second was Gandhi. And then an Einstein quote: “My sense of god is my sense of wonder of the universe.” Artwise—too many or all that have gone before.

Janna: What is one of your favorite memories?
Carol: I was in the Florida Keys several years ago with my sister. We drove down from Miami and along the way we kept seeing signs saying “Swim with the Dolphins” which sounded great—always wanted to do that but the dolphins that were available were in captivity, so we didn’t stop. Just didn’t seem right to keep them captive so tourists could swim with them.

We got to Key West and stayed in a charming B&B. I was chatting with the owner about the dolphins and she said she had a friend, Captain Bob, who had been following a pod in the Gulf for over ten years and he did charters. We signed up and went out in the ocean with him and his crew, which consisted of his Lab, Pisces and a college student who served as his first mate. We were out about 45 minutes when he slowed and although I didn’t see anything but the marvelous Caribbean, he said they were under us, were feeding and we would wait until they were done. As with any animal, they shouldn’t be bothered while feeding. After about 15 minutes, one of them surfaced, turned over on his back and flipped a fish in the air, catching it in his mouth and dove back under the water. Pisces was freaking out and was straining at his leash to get in the water with them. There were about 15-20 total. A few more started popping up and did tricks just as if they were trying to entertain us. Captain Bob could tell them apart by their dorsal fins, had them affectionately named and told about his experience with them over the years. He said he thought they were about done feeding and that we should get our snorkel and fins on and jump in the water.

My heart was POUNDING but my sister jumped right in with no fear at all, so I did too. And so did Pisces. Once I got in the water, I treaded water and waited, excitement taking over the trepidation. They were spectacular up close—HUGE and thankfully, friendly. They didn’t let you get too close but they would swim up about five feet in front of you, (grinning like they do), usually in pairs, “clicking”, dive under the water (so clear you could easily see them underneath you), coming back to the surface a few feet behind you, almost teasing you to touch them but not really letting it happen. They looked you right in the eye and seemed to love it when you laughed.

We swam with them for about 30 minutes until we were totally worn out and had to get back in the boat. Some of them actually waved a fin in goodbye. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in the wild—almost metaphysical.

Epilogue: I started a conversation with the captain on the way back to Key West, saying he should write a book about his pod of dolphins and that I was a writer and illustrator and could help him. But when he found out I was from a landlocked state, he blew me off.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through October 13, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Bette Levy

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s first interview is with Bette Levy, a fiber artist based in Louisville, Kentucky, who practices what she calls “fine art embroidery”. Bette earned a BA in Experimental Psychology and MA in Art Therapy, and later earned a second MA in Fiber Arts. Her vividly colored hand-stitching on black noil is recognized for its meticulous and intricate detail. Levy has taken part in many exhibitions throughout the country, including three prior “Fiber Focus” exhibitions at Art Saint Louis.


Janna: How did you transition from your background in experimental psychology to fiber art? 
Bette: It was a circuitous journey that included stints in market research at an advertising agency in New York, living in a commune in San Francisco in the 60's, working in fund raising and event production for non-profit organizations, and achieving two master's degrees (in art therapy and fiber arts). Nonetheless, I believe that all knowledge and experience is accumulative. Each piece of work I do today is informed by some experience in my past, and each piece is enhanced by the piece before it. I can only do what I can do today because of every step I took yesterday.

Janna: What was the first thing you ever embroidered? 
Bette: I've always done handwork (see below). I don't know that I can identify the first piece of embroidery I did, although I must have been very young at the time.

Janna: Why were you drawn to hand-embroidery as the medium for your work?  
Bette: Fine arts and needlecrafts have permeated the lives of women in my family for generations. At the turn of the century, my great-grandmother started a beaded handbag company in New York City,  and my grandmother, her daughter was the designer. I can remember as a child, sitting on the floor in a company workroom, playing with thousands of seed beads, strewn all over the floor.

My mother also was a creative woman, a clothing and interior designer, as well as an exhibiting painter and sculptor,  As a child, I learned about creative art and needlework from these women. They were always creating with their hands, and I grew up surrounded by exotic fabrics and clothing, as well as sparkly trims, beads and sequins - magical stimuli that delighted my senses and spurred my imagination.

Bette Levy. Dawson Hill: Three Aspects of Black Locust. 2009. Hand Embroidery. Triptych: 13”x11”; 17”x13”; 13”x11”.

Janna: Can you tell me more about the specific piece you have on display in the "Fiber Focus 2011" exhibition?
Bette: I am primarily a hand embroiderer, using vividly-colored silk thread on black grounds. This approach intensifies thread colors and sets up strongly contrasting figure-ground relationships. Over the years, I have developed a personal language of stitches that enables me to "paint" or "draw" with thread on fabric.

My subject matter is often based on my photographic studies that I abstract and manipulate to emphasize seemingly inconsequential structures. I am interested in textures and how to give form to structures through the layering of stitches and use of color. Additionally, I am intrigued by the micro/macro shift - the change in perception of scale that occurs when looking at a surface. This piece was inspired by a series of photographs I took of a black locust tree at a friend's home in Kentucky.

Janna: Many of the titles of your pieces reference a place. How does the concept of place factor into your work?
Bette: I'm not sure that it does actually other than to identify where I took a particular photograph. What I find intriguing is not so much that an image comes from a specific place but that the image, the texture, the shape, generalize - they could be anywhere, on any scale, and still be familiar.

Bette Levy. Abiquiu, NM A Portrait in Orange. Embroidery.

Janna: I read that you have done textile research throughout the world. How have your travels influenced your work?
Bette: My travels have exposed me to many other cultures and to other people who work with textiles. I don't know that I can identify how this has influenced my work other than to say that it's broadened me as an individual and as insofar as my work reflects who I am, my work must have been influenced by my travels. Perhaps more importantly, my travels have exposed me to many people who are engaged in the textile field which I find invigorating. Despite the differences in language, culture, and nationality, we all are engaged in the same field, part of the same community or tribe, and we communicate across our differences.

Janna: Who are some artists that have inspired you?
Bette: Obviously, the women In my family have inspired me. Certain textile artists like Dorothy Caldwell, Alice Kettle, Ilze Avics, and Karin Birch have been hugely inspirational. The early featherwork artists from Peru inspired me to use silk thread as a way to mirror the luminosity of feathers.  The Mexican muralists, Mark Rothko, Lionel Feininger, pen and ink artists like Ben Hirschfield, Ben Shahn, Turner, Georgia O'Keefe, on and on and on!

Janna: How do you feel about machine embroidery? 
Bette: I'm starting to do some machine embroidery work on discharged fabric. In the past, I've felt I didn't want anything to mediate between me and my work. I felt the intrusion of a "machine" was a confounding factor. I'm far too enraptured by the visceral feel of the fabric and threads. But, I'm giving it a try. As I've gotten older, I've found it harder to sit for the length of time it takes to create a piece of hand stitched work and have been looking for ways to speed my execution - machine work is a good alternative. However, I am finding it a definite challenge - I don't know the rules yet, and learning is far more difficult than knowing.

Janna: Do you listen to anything while you embroider? 
Bette: I work in silence. My work is meditational and I can only get lost in it with silence surrounding me. Sound of any sort tends to distract me and distance me form my work.

Janna: If you could give advice to an aspiring fibers artist in one sentence, what would it be?
Bette: Follow your instincts, ignore rules, keep your senses attuned to what's around you and keep your fingers moving.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through October 13, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Textile Symposium Shows Reflecting the Metaphysical

by Sun Smith-Fôret

"Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing"
Jacoby Art Center, Alton, IL
August 26-October 2, 2011
"Lyrical Objects," Jane Birdsall Lander
William & Florence Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, IL
September 1-October 1, 2011

Most of the textile artists in St. Louis have known each other and each otherʼs work for years. We came up in our practices through Craft Alliance sponsored workshops, University Art Schools, graduate studies. We participate in local, regional, national and international exhibitions, studio visit, socialize, speak to each otherʼs classes, lecture for galleries, museums and alliances. We have been each otherʼs students and teachers.

Pat Vivod. Topographia. Shibori rust silk, digital Jacquard weaving-cotton (courtesy Laura Strand), wool roving for trapunto (courtesy Erin Cork), silk and rayon threads with a commercial wool blend felt back. 48”x51”. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

We have recognizable bodies of work, reputations as individual artists. A decision to collaborate is not taken lightly. It requires mutual trust and respect, a will toward invention, excitement and pleasure in the anticipation of an unconventional outcome.

Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing” curator Pat Vivod and gallery visitor viewing Jo Stealey's piece, Earth to Heaven. 2011. Linen, rust dyed silk organdy (courtesy Pat Vivod), devoré cloth (courtesy Laura Strand), processed leaves, thread, vintage doily, digitally printed cloth, waxed linen thread, antique yoke. 11"x15". Photo courtesy Andrew Dobson, Jacoby Arts Center.

Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing” at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL, curated by Patricia Vivod, is an example of successful collaboration in which the aesthetic marks of all participants are clearly evident yet the individual parts blend in a sumptuous and gently compelling chorale. (Gallery Talk September 25, 2 pm). Collaborating artists Erin Cork, Erin Vigneau Dimick, Nina Ganci, Jo Stealey, Laura Strand, and Pat Vivod are offering pieces which include traditional and innovative techniques and materials-shibori silk dyeing, wrapping, tying, felting, embroidery, jacquard weaving, patterning with processed hand gathered leaves, constructed cloth, vintage lingerie, 2- and 3-d construction.

Erin Cork. Collaboration with Erin Vigneau Dimick. 2011. Found antique doily (courtesy Erin Vigneau Dimick), yarn, naural dye, 12"x12"x4". Photo courtesy Pat Vivod.

Most works in the Jacoby show are meditative, insinuating themselves gently into our minds, minds which approach the works with thoughts about how and why objects come to exist. There is meaning from materials which retain their own essences and associations both historically and in a current atmosphere of postmodern use, disuse and meaninglessness, which is not the same as the Buddhist concept of detachment. There is meaning in the herstory of each artistʼs personal production. There is meaning in how the collaborations came about. What comes to the fore in this show is the play among the ideas of harmony, mindfulness, order, and invention. For me it is a palpable thrill to see evidence of the artist as seeker and finder, and as celebrator of the ineffable.

Erin Vigneau Dimick. (left) Second Bloom. 2011. Rust and tea dyed vintage nylon slip, 40"x16"x10"; (right) By Tradition Bound. 2011. Indigo dyed cotton ikat fabric and vintage nylon slip, 29"x21". Photograph by Pat Vivod.

Ascension, by virtue of merger with the art object, to a realm of Mind was in Northern Romantic sensibility, from Freidrich to Rothko termed “The Sublime”. Kandinski documented the search for the spiritual sublime in art in his seminal work of 1911 “Considering the Spiritual in Art.” Kandinski described the work of the painter (artist) as listening and knowing the effects of his/her craft “in order to produce paintings (works) which are not just the effect of a random process, but the fruit of an authentic work and the result of an effort toward the inner beauty.”

Gallery view: "Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing," with artist Laura Strand (left) and visitor. Artworks pictured: (foreground) Erin Cork. Collaboration with Jo Stealey and Laura Strand . 2011 Chair (courtesy Laura Strand), felted wool, gourds, 3'x1'3"x1'3". (background) Nina Ganci. Mobile. 2011. 10'x6'; (middle pair of weavings) Laura Strand. Stillness of Water - The Sun Rises and Stillness of Water - The Sun Sets. 2011. 48"x48" each; (far right) Erin Dimick. Herstory. 2011. Silk organza (courtesy Jo Stealey) & satin, cotton mull, gold leaf, Mulberry paper, maple, polyester thread, 24.75"x23.25". Photograph by Pat Vivod.

“Kandinski calls “abstract” the content that painting must express, that is to say this invisible life that we are. The Kandinskian equation can be written as follows: Interior =interiority = life = = pathos = abstract.” (Michael Henry, Seeing the Invisible, on Kandinski, p. 11)

Laura Strand. Arachne's Web. 2011. Dextrin over dyed cotton napkin, devoré over handmade paper (courtesy Jo Stealey), gold leaf,  24"x26". Photo courtesy Pat Vivod .

Another materially, spiritually and intellectually rewarding show on the east side of the river is Jane Birdsall Landerʼs “Lyrical Objects”, waxed-linen wrapped steam-bent wood sculptures at the William & Florence Schmidt Art Center on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College.

Landerʼs finely honed aesthetic engages us visually then conceptually, invites us to connect with our most primitive experiences of written language. Her exquisitely spare constructions concretize the presence of letters which were first thoughts. Again, these art works are products of an inner life seeking both outward expression and communion with the ideas and thoughts of others. If we did not seek connection with Mind at a deep level we would not make art or desire to imbibe, or breathe as Kindinski would say, the materialized but essentially spiritual thought of others (artists), or of the elemental principles available through art to pilgrims after truth, seen and unseen.

"Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing," remains on view at Jacoby Art Center, Alton, IL, through October 2, 2011. The Jacoby is located at 627 E. Broadway, Alton, IL. 618/462-5222. The Gallery is free & open to the public T-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 12-4 p.m.

"Lyrical Objects," Jane Birdsall Lander, remains on view through October 1, 2011 at William & Florence Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, IL. Lander's work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO. The Schmidt Art Center is located on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College, 2500 Carlyle Ave., Belleville, IL. 618/222-5ART (5278). The Schmidt is free & open to the public T-W 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Th 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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 exhibitions, including "The Final Cut,” her recent solo exhibition presented at Saint Louis University Museum of Art, St. Louis, MO (May 6-July 3, 2011). Sun's work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO.

Friday, September 9, 2011

“Amy Granat”

by Laura Elizabeth Barone

Amy Granat
White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO
September 8-October 22, 2011

Amy Granat’s films are the result of deliberate interaction with the object of the spectacle itself – the actual 16mm black and white film reels. A thirty-something native St. Louisan, Granat is known across the country and Europe for her experimental cutting, scratching, and manipulation of film to create painterly effects that translate poetically onto the screen. White Flag Projects presents a solid variety of Granat’s filmic work that engages with abstraction, narrative, and nature from the past decade.

Amy Granat, Still from Ghostrider, 2006, silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

Ghostrider, a silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD confronts viewers immediately as they walk into the gallery. On a large, floor-to-ceiling screen, the film, consisting of constantly moving and evolving black shapes on a white background, is a mesmerizing and classic example of Granat’s ability to simply and effectively use the medium of film, the moving picture. While trying to identify direct shapes or objects may be futile (a butterfly? Railroad tracks?), it is clear that the constant negotiation of positive and negative space using only black and white creates a hypnotic effect that is peaceful amidst the constant change.

Amy Granat, Still from Felicia in Zurich, 2009, silent 16mm color film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

While Walking with Truffles, Painted Faces, Strip/Stripe, Faces, Driving West (2006-09), a film presented on a television on the ground recalls the kind of raw, dis-oriented ‘day in a life of’ style of legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, and Felicia in Zurich (2009-11) features a dancer in a way that parallels the movement, light, and sound that film gets its own power from, it was really Lines in the Sand (2010) that drew me in for a closer look. A two-channel projection, the black 16mm and white film, transferred to DVD shows a person with a stick drawing lines in the sand. No head or identifying features or shown, just the person’s arms, legs, and that stick, making simplistic designs in the sand. Yet, when one puts on the headphones that are provided, it changes the entire viewing experience. The music accompanying the film is a majestic, thrilling orchestra piece, full, luscious and resonating with accomplishment, all for this simple act. Yet that music points to something much bigger than the act being shown, but rather could be a celebration of actually doing, actually creating. In a world full of talk, predictions, and statistics, I think that Lines in the Sand playfully commemorates the act of being alive and human and recognizing that such an existence should include action and experimentation.

Amy Granat, Still from Lines in the Sand, 2009, two channel projection, black and white 16mm film with sound, transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

Finally, upstairs in White Flag’s library space is a treat: four 16mm projectors are set up in front of a wall, along with a motion sensor, that displays beautiful, naturalistic images of waves in El Matador (X5) (2010). Viewers can hear and see the film going in and out of the projectors, creating a nostalgic feel, and a desire to reach out and touch the projected color images, slightly moving and undulating, like breathing postcards you want to take home with you and collect.

At once breaking all the rules and staying true to her medium, it is truly a privilege to have a good-sized exhibition of Granat’s work come to her hometown, presenting film in radical and classic ways in a place that provides ample space to spend some time with it.

Amy Granat” continues through October 22, 2011. White Flag Projects is located at 4568 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, MO. 314/531-3442. The Gallery is free & open to the public Tuesday–Saturday, 12-5 p.m.

Laura Barone is currently completing her Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on contemporary photography. She recently served as a Curatorial Intern at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. For comments or inquiries, e-mail her at

Thursday, July 28, 2011

“Tory Wright: Crimson & Clover”

by Laura Barone

Tory Wright: Crimson & Clover”
July 22 - August 20, 2011
Good Citizen Gallery, St. Louis, MO

Tory Wright gets it just right at Good Citizen this month, getting at what commercial fashion and photography share–a duality of strength and vulnerability. Both media capture our culture’s momentary and lasting preoccupations with the world around us, reminding us that image recognition and meaning fade over time and eventually become documents of, in Roland Barthes words, a that-has-been.

Employing her experience as a visual merchandiser for a department store, where she has created tantalizing displays of clothes and objects that draw us in for more, Wright knows what makes our commercially minded mouths water–texture, contrast, and celebrity. And she delivers.

Tory Wright. Crimson & Clover-Interior. 2011.

Crimson & Clover–Interior dominates the left gallery wall. The large, rectangular piece is extremely appealing, but not for any sort of high-shine factors, so typical of much of contemporary photography. That feature has been purposefully stripped away by Wright, who used a photocopier and scissors to blunt and manipulate the press photo’s original gloss and composition. Instead, the attraction is in the simultaneous beauty and deterioration present in the image of a female head, printed in black and white and repeated numerous times, overlaid, shrunken and blown-up. On the far left are two, repeated autonomous images, but then, moving across the work to the right, the image repeats again and again, angled, bunched, and grouped. Wrights copying, cutting, and pasting of the face of Kate Moss is much more than just a commentary on celebrity force and cultural power, on the pressuring persistence for women to be a certain kind of beauty, on the fame that can come for simply being a face in an ad. Rather, the repetition creates a haunting effect and we forget that it is Moss; with her darkened eyes, her face becomes comparable to a rotting corpse, reminiscent of Sally Mann’s “What Remains” series of close-up, long exposures of the faces of her now grown children that have an eerie effect of a death mask. Wright’s image, too, pieced together with the photocopied images, speaks of masks: the masks we put on, the masks we acquire as we age, the masks we boast of and hide behind. The bird-like nose and spiked hair recall flight and freedom, but the image is clearly rooted in earthly, time-dictated decay. It reminds us of a photography’s, and beauty’s, immediate reproduction and exposure, but ultimate fading.

Burberry, Keira and Aqua, three smaller pieces made of cut duratran are lithe, rectangular works where an ad of some sort, related to the title, has been made nearly unrecognizable. Wright has cut out most of the actual object that is meant to be sold and we are left with eye-shaped holes and glimpses of (again) what-has-been. Even if viewers are not apt to pay attention to fashion brands or celebrities, most people will recognize, just by minimal clues, the original ad, or at least the person or purpose of it, emphasizing advertising’s overwhelmingly successful and seductive mission of brand recognition.

Kate, Back in Black #4, #5 and #6, cut inkjet prints are strong compliments to Crimson & Clover–Interior and to the other cut advertisements. Kate, Back in Black #4, #5 and #6 are, again, three heavily cut-out prints, but the presence of the same person, Kate Moss, cut over and over again in these works, creates an almost violent, yet poetic attempt to deconstruct the famous model into various parts yet to leave her famous face, and rock-star image intact. Reminding us again of photography, Wright uses the concept of the negative and applies it to fashion photographs, which are, in the gallery space, relayed back to the realm of fine art. These three works literally float, and they point to the show’s larger theme of both beauty’s fleeting nature and image’s enduring power.

Tory Wright: Crimson & Clover” continues through August 20, 2011. Good Citizen Gallery is located at 2247 Gravois Avenue, St. Louis, MO. 314/348-4587. Good Citizen is free & open to the public Friday & Saturday, 12-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Laura Barone is currently completing her Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on contemporary photography. She is also serving as a curatorial intern at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. For comments or inquiries, e-mail her at

Monday, June 27, 2011

“Another Kind of Vapor”

by Laura E. Barone

Another Kind of Vapor
White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO
June 18-July 23, 2011

As you open the door to White Flag’s gallery space, first the smell, and then the sight, of peanut butter hits you. The group show, featuring nine artists and work from 1965 to the present, is full of surprisingly pleasing twists like this that epitomize, literally, “temporary art.”

William Pope.L. #188F 3.17.06 Another Kind of Vapor. 2006. Mixed Media. 5"x5". Photograph courtesy White Flag Projects.

The first work on the right, William Pope L.’s Commercial Work (2011) is a large canvas, leaned up against the wall, and propped up by liquid detergent bottles, and is thickly smeared with the stuff, along with paint and coffee, outlining block letters that read ORANGE PEOEPLE ARE DETERGENT. While the peanut butter lends a kind of nostalgic Americana to the work, making it both approachable and loveable, the words alert us to something darker, something akin to racism. If orange people are detergent (a statement made based on the color of the detergent bottles), what, if we are purely going by the color of mass-produced objects, ‘are’ white people or black people? And, knowing that products and their advertising schemes and associations come and go, why does prejudice seem the most lasting thing about this piece?

Ed Ruscha. Pepto-Caviar Hollywood. 1970. Two-color Screenprint on Copper Deluxe Paper, Printed with Pepto-Bismol and Caviar: 14 7/8"x41 5/8". Photograph courtesy White Flag Projects.

The artworks in “Another Kind of Vapor,” carefully curated by Jenny Gheit and John McKinnon, address a variety of artistic and cultural themes, but the artists are linked most by their ambitious experiments with non-traditional materials and their rejection of objectification of art by purposefully making works where the concept is just as or more important than the piece produced. Medium and subject are often compliments, as in Ed Ruscha’s screen-print Pepto-Caviar Hollywood (1970) where the infamous Hollywood sign, printed onto the paper with its title’s namesake, fades with time as do the hopeful stars that filter through the town year after year.

Dieter Roth: Untitled (Invitation for Staple Cheese (A Race)). Designed 1969, signed 1980. Ink on Paper. 5"x5". Photograph courtesy White Flag Projects.

At the center of the space is a case containing official, formal documents from the Los Angeles County Health Department and letters to three art museums–not, at first glance, typical gallery fare. But the documents are in regard to Dieter Roth’s Untitled (Invitation for Staple Cheese (A Race)) (1969). Here, Roth exhibited suitcases full of cheese in a Los Angeles Gallery until, due to the smell and insects (the flies that died for the sake of art in this project are exhibited as well) the whole thing had to be shut down, leaving only photographs, letters from the Bureau of Environmental Sanitation, and a sort of legend, left behind–all encompassing ‘the work’ of art.
Don’t leave without making your way to the back of the exhibition space and letting yourself be mesmerized by Jennifer West’s vivid short film, Regressive Squirty Sauce Film (2007), a 16mm film leader squirted and dripped with chocolate sauce, ketchup, mayo, and apple juice, filmed so that the shots rapidly change. Because of the intriguing colors and texture created by the materials, there is a strangely calming quality amidst the speed, rather than a restless effect. A sense of calm also exudes from Robert Heinecken’s four Vanishing Photographs (1973), small, bluish, haunting photographs, unfixed silver gelatin prints that are reminiscent of the lithe quality of experimental early nineteenth century photography, but with a deliberate sophistication. Photography’s traditional association with death is aptly captured here – as the people in the photograph age, so does the photograph itself, relishing in its inevitable connection to humanness and the cycle of life.

Jennifer West. Regressive Squirty Film. 2007. 16mm Film Leader Transferred to DVD, 3.36 minutes. Photograph courtesy White Flag Projects.

The works presented here do not have to be read as difficult and obscure conceptual works; rather, they are democratic in their approach to material, making the art more accessible and more inviting to a deeper reading and physical enjoyment than an obviously more elite, and often alienating, approach that some later conceptual work has had.

Another Kind of Vapor” continues at White Flag Projects at 4568 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, MO through July 23, 2011. White Flags is free & open to the public Wednesday 12-7 p.m., Thursday 12-5 p.m., Friday 12-5 p.m., Saturday 12-5 p.m., and by appointment.

Laura Barone is currently completing her Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on contemporary photography. She is also serving as a curatorial intern at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. For comments or inquiries, e-mail her at