Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Abstract Representation

by Emily Amberger

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Crabtree, whose sculpture Punching in a Dream is featured in “Art Saint Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition,” currently on view at Art Saint Louis through December 27, 2012.

Dan Crabtree. Punching in a Dream. 2012. Formed & Forged Steel, 48”x18”x20”.

Dan Crabtree. Reverse view: Punching in a Dream. 2012. Formed & Forged Steel, 48”x18”x20”.


When Dan was young, he developed an interest in medieval weapons. As he got older, he desired to know how these weapons were made, so he started making knives and other utilitarian objects. He experimented with various blacksmith tools, eventually learning about the ornamental aspect of metalsmithing by creating light fixtures and candle holders. He has participated in various art shows throughout the years, and apprenticed in Murphysboro, Illinois, where he started creating fine art sculptural forms.


Dan Crabtree. Inness. 2012. Forged Steel, 30”x12”x12”.


He classifies his work as abstract representation, often deriving his content from life experiences or anything that has had an emotional impact on him. The title of his exhibited piece, Punching in a Dream, is taken from a song by a New Zealand band, The Naked and Famous. His piece is whimsically curvaceous, alluding to the “slow-motion” sensation we experience while we are dreaming. This is the first colorful sculpture that Dan has created; he wanted the piece to have a graffiti-like motif. He usually opts to apply a patina or have the natural color of the metal shine through.



Dan Crabtree. Sandals. 2011. Forged Steel, 28”x8”x4”.


Dan says the shapes of his forms are not pre-determined, and that he works in an active/reactive process. He cuts his shapes out of sheets and uses heat to bend the steel. While he uses traditional metalworking tools to forge the shape, he also employs other tools, including hollowed-out stumps to achieve his desired form.  When asked where his work will go in the future, he says that he aspires to build large scale sculptures and to refine his metalsmithing skills to perfection.
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"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is on view at Art Saint Louis through 5 p. m., Thursday, December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public Mondays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays and holidays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org
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Emily Amberger is Administrative Assistant at Art Saint Louis. A photographic artist, Emily earned her B.F.A. in photography from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in December 2010.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Personal Symbolisms

by Nichole Lance

On my final day as an Intern at Art Saint Louis, Artistic Director Robin Hirsch asked me take a look through the current exhibit, “Art St. Louis XXVIII,” and select an artwork that I thought had direct art historical references in the piece and to then interview the artist. I chose David M. Yates’ work, Wild Goose Chase


David M. Yates. Wild Goose Chase. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.

This artwork has many references to several Surrealist artists. Yates included Giorgio De Chirico's girl with hoop, an apple references Rene Magritte, and in all of Yates’ works, the main subjects are birds, paying homage to several Surrealist artists including Max Ernst, whose alter ego was a bird named Loplop (he used this character in many works) and Salvador Dali, who was also obsessed with birds. Birds have many strong metaphorical symbolisms referencing life, birth and death. David and I corresponded with one another through email and the following is a result of our conversation.


David M. Yates. A Homing Pigeon’s Home. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.
 

Nichole: What meanings do your birds have for you?

David: “My interest in art began with people and nature. The bird theme evolved in college. The large-scale paintings started as portraits but matured over time. I added human elements to the birds and soon they became self-portraits or effigies. This idea is nothing new. Creatures such as centaurs have both man and animal traits. In the Egyptian culture, Horus, often portrayed as a human with the head of a falcon, played a significant role in their religious beliefs.”


David M. Yates. Cardinal Virtues. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.


Nichole: How do these symbolisms relate to you personally or as an artist?

David: “You made reference to the particular piece currently on exhibit at Art Saint Louis. This particular painting is a self-portrait with the message of never giving up on your dreams. Many objects in the artwork symbolize different ideas.”

Much of the symbolism I use in my work pertains to me personally; however occasionally, I will use objects more commonly recognized. In this specific work, the coonskin cap represents growing up in the 1950s. The hat being a fad attributed to Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone’s renewed popularity. The apple on the desk has a dual purpose; firstly, it symbolizes the “Teacher’s Pet” concept, where a student is prized for excellence (not necessarily for bribery.)  The secondary purpose of the apple pertains to the Christian tradition of associating the fruit with temptation. The message being that throughout life there will be distractions to thwart personal goals; however, as the quote on the blackboard suggests, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” (From Shakespeare’s Hamlet), results can be achieved through perseverance. The use of the DeChirico image means childhood innocence, but also connects an art education element to the work.


David M. Yates. Quote the Raven. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.


Nichole: What is it about the Surrealist artists that influence you and your work?

David: “I’ve never really associated myself with any one artistic movement, and the art history that I use in my paintings varies greatly. Technically, I rarely use any complex perspective, so in this regard, it may suggest a cubistic approach. Compositionally, I typically use traditional Renaissance spacing. The subject matter has surrealistic aspects especially regarding imagination and creating images not seen in the natural world. This approach allows creative freedom without restrictions.”


David M. Yates. Chickens**t. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”. This work was selected for Art Saint Louis' next juried exhibition, "Misperception," presented January 14-February 21, 2013. Opening reception: January 19, 6-8 p.m.
 

Nichole: Is there a specific Surrealist who influences your work the most?

David: “I don’t know if there is any one artist that has had a main influence over me. I have incorporated numerous paintings in to my works over the years. I like to dissect the works of others to study their compositional traits and choice of color palettes. Every piece from art history that I’ve included in my own work has a specific message or symbolism that relates to that particular painting. All the artists that you mentioned, Dali, Ernst, Magritte, and DeChirico have been a source of inspiration. That being said, I also admire a variety of painters associated with different movements such as: Miro, Klee, Picasso, Ingres, Matisse, and Vermeer, just to name a few.”
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"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis through December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public Mondays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays and holidays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org
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Nichole Lance recently served as a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will soon graduate with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. A solo exhibit of her thesis artwork, "Celestial Horizons," is currently on view through December 28, 2012 at the Edwardsville Arts Center, 6165 Center Grove Road, Edwardsville, IL 618/655-0337. http://edwardsvilleartscenter.com 
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If you know of an undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern at Art Saint Louis, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Two-Dimensional Illusion

by Nichole Lance

John DenHouter. Basket Case. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 34”x48”.

As an Intern at Art Saint Louis this past Fall semester, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that  Professor John DenHouter’s work Basket Case was selected for "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition," the show is currently on view in the ASL Gallery. Curious to learn more about his work, I took the opportunity to view the other works he submitted for this 28th annual exhibit and to interview him for this blog. In viewing his works, what I noticed was his ability to harmoniously
balance his loose organic marks with areas of more rendered detail. Our conversation follows.

Nichole: What inspires you as an artist?

John: “Well I think I always had a desire to work with my hands. In this idea I think of putting together some kind of two-dimensional illusion. Even if it is an abstract work that always appeals to me. I appreciate arrangement of color and shape and the formal properties of painting Now I have moved into being more interested in the content, trying to have my painting convey some kind of a loose narrative.”


John DenHouter. Scarlett Conclusion. 2010. Oil on Canvas, 49”x28”.


Nichole: What are the themes of your paintings?

John: “In 1997 I began working on a series of very large colorful abstract paintings that were inspired by my family background in athletics and sports. I played a lot of sports myself when I was younger. My dad was a really excellent athlete; I had uncles who were all very good and my grandfather was a football coach. I have these really fond memories of going to games and playing games.

So I had a whole series of maybe 30 to 40 paintings that I did to convey the sense of enjoyment, excitement, and my fond memories of these fun times I had playing and going to games with my family. They were all based on the structures of sports stadiums, arenas, and playing fields. And that kept me busy for seven or eight years. After that I started to think about how family members and my parents I had grown up with were beginning to fail in terms of their physical well-being. They were getting sick and injured sometimes and also mental problems depression and Alzheimer’s.

So I used the same subject matter of sports but I started to use imagery that was metaphorical for the failing or the dementia of the mind and the physical body. So I settled on painting things that I would find of old broken down sports equipment or football goal post, things that I felt were sort of metaphorical for the body and how they could be bent and broken and taped together to sort of try to keep things going. That is what I am currently working on for about the last ten years or so, and those paintings are much more subdued in terms of color, they are more representational, not really very abstract at all. So it is really a contrast to what I was doing before.


John DenHouter. Dead In The Water. 2010. Oil on Canvas, 57”x43”.

The other type of work I do, of course as you know, is the plein air work. Where you go out and paint on location and I really enjoy that because it is so spontaneous and you get out there and you’re really put on the spot to perform. It’s sort of like sports in a way. Where you’re in a baseball game batting and every eye is on you and you hit a home run or sometimes you strike out. There is a new game everyday and there’s a new painting to be done everyday. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t, but you have to keep working away. I do love work in that mode as well. Where you’re out there in the field working directly trying to capture the sense of light, atmosphere, time and season. I think in a way I try to duplicate the lighting conditions I see in the field in my studio paintings. They are more invented metaphorical paintings and are definitely influenced by my time spent painting on location.”

John DenHouter. Nut Case. 2010. Oil on Canvas, 19”x13”.

Nichole: With a background in sports how do you think you got into the arts?

John: “That’s a very good question. I think that I did probably inherit some ability. I think I had a distant relative like a great grandmother who was a painter and a couple of uncles on my dad’s side who I think were commercial artists. It’s interesting, something that is hard to explain--it was just something there that I just kept coming back to.

When I was an undergrad at Michigan, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I kept taking art classes one by one and eventually I said ‘well I have to commit to this.’ So I got into the art program and my dad said ‘well why don’t you try medical illustration.’ And so I did that after I graduated with my BFA. Michigan had a graduate program in medical illustration and that’s where I think I really honed my drafting skills and my perspective skills. It was really sort of a boot camp for this really very rigorous academic drawing. And I didn’t really get that in undergrad so I picked that up when I was in medical illustration.


John DenHouter. Deep Threat. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 49”x36”.


And I worked in prosthetics for a while after I graduated. So I was making artificial eyes and fingers and ears. That was very fulfilling helping patients who were really disfigured. But after a few years of that I felt it was not creative enough. There wasn’t enough room for me to be an expressive artist because it was very technical. And I decided well I have to go back and get a MFA in painting. I did that at Eastern Michigan, and that lead to my job here.

So interesting how artists have different paths that they take and different ways that they get into the field. There are all sorts of niches that artists can fill and there’s a demand for artistic talent and I think as long as your motivated and you have ability and ambition. Usually the good artist will carve out a good niche for themselves and land on their feet.”

John DenHouter received his BFA from the University of Michigan and his MFA from Eastern Michigan University He has been teaching at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for sixteen years. John's work has been exhibited in numerous shows at Art Saint Louis including six of the annual "Art St. Louis, The Exhibition," including in 2003 (juried by David Pagel, critic, Los Angeles Times), 2005 (juried by Christian Rattemeyer, Curator, MOMA, NY), 2006 (juried by Elizabeth Thomas, Curator, Berkeley Art Museum, CA), 2009 (juried by Sheryl Conkelton, independent curator, Philadelphia, PA), 2010 (juried by Stacy Switzer, Artistic Director, Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO), and this year's exhibit juried by Richard V. West, Director Emeritus, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA.
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"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis October 29-December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public M and Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays and holidays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org
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Nichole Lance is a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will graduate this Fall with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. A solo exhibit of Nichole's work, "Celestial Horizons," is presented December 7-28, 2012 at the Edwardsville Arts Center, 6165 Center Grove Road, Edwardsville, IL 618/655-0337. http://edwardsvilleartscenter.com 
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If you know of a undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jason Ackman: Ideas & Inspiration

by Nichole Lance

Jason Ackman. Except for This. 2010. Reclaimed Lumber, Reclaimed Clay, Latex Paint, 48”x28”x51”. This artwork is featured in "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" and was selected for an Award of Excellence by exhibition Juror Mr. Richard V. West.





When Art Saint Louis' Artistic Director Robin Hirsch asked me to consider the artists in the current exhibit, "Art St. Louis XXVIII" and write something for this blog, I found that I was particularly drawn to the sculptural work of Rushville, Illinois artist Jason Ackman. I was struck by his choice of materials and design. But moreover, I was impressed by the simple and yet complex messages conveyed behind each of his works. I interviewed him via email and what follows is our conversation.

Nichole: What inspires your works?

Jason: "This is an ongoing ever-changing list. Ideas and inspiration come from all over the place. Often times it is the unexpected that really gets my gears turning."


Jason Ackman. Things we choose to forget. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 55.5”x28.5”x14”.

Nichole: Your works feel like they are created with a strong purpose. Could you elaborate on the message you are trying to convey?  

Jason: "For me, the medium is as important as the work itself. Almost all of the materials I use are reclaimed. Whether it is wood or clay. I suppose I am trying to communicate the relationship I notice between the material and people. Materials, like people, have a history a story. This connection is very important to me. I don't think my work would convey the same message with newly purchased materials."

Nichole: What are the symbolisms behind Except for This?

Jason: "We all have baggage and a history. Those things we carry with us for one reason or another. Life experiences, joys, tragedies, all impact what we choose to hold onto and carry with us. Yet when  all is said and done and my time here on Earth is has come full circle what can what can I take with me?  Nothing except for this...our heart, our soul."


Jason Ackman. Turning Point. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 72”x64”x156”.

Jason also explained two other sculptural pieces.

Turning Point (pictured above): "This piece deals with transition and stepping out into uncharted territory. Our past is deeply connected to who we are. We often feel ourselves bound to this past or history. Ultimately we come to a point where we either continue on in the same direction or we cut ourselves loose and respond to where we feel called or drawn to. Moving in this direction forces us out of our comfort zone, taking us somewhere we have not been The lower boat symbolizes stability, comfort and safety. It is turned over, as if out of the water with the milk crates acting like supports and roots to my childhood. The upper boat is symbolic of a new direction. The stability is not there and the stern is precariously balanced on a stack of children's blocks. The oars are up as if to say I can't necessarily steer myself and I have to let go."


Jason Ackman. Early On. 2011. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 52”x60”x60”.

Early On (pictured above): "This piece was created in response to my childhood and small town upbringing. As a young boy I spent many hours with my father in the various grocery stores he managed in our hometown. It was during those times and through those experiences of watching, learning and absorbing that I learned quite a bit about life…what is important and what is not, things to hold onto and things to let go of, how to interact with and respect people and the list goes on and on. The blocks represent all of those experiences, those in the cart the ones worth holding onto and those outside the cart representing those we leave behind. The cart is symbolic of how we carry our experiences with us and how they continue to impact what we see and experience in life around us."

Nichole: In the end our work's perception and interpretation is ultimately left up to our viewers but what do you hope your works will convey to your viewers? 

Jason: "I hope that they will ultimately start a conversation. Art affords the perfect opportunity for dialog."


Jason Ackman. Breach. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 95”x38”x24”.

Nichole: And how do you use titles to aid the viewer in grasping your ultimate vision?
 
Jason: "Titles are a tough thing. Often times the titles I choose reflect what I am thinking or feeling through the work. I have a specific concept or vision for each piece I create and I try to choose a title that I feel can communicate that vision."

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"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis October 29-December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays, including Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

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Nichole Lance is a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will graduate this Fall with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. You can see Nichole's thesis artwork exhibited in the “SIUE BFA Fall 2012 Exhibition” on view in the Morris University Center Gallery at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL (November 27-December 5).

If you know of a undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Life is constantly changing. You can wallow in the clichés or adapt.”

by Diane Reilly

As Art Saint Louis adapted its space once again to present a new exhibit, "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition," a certain name jumped out to me from  the list of accepted artists. Jim, or Professor Burwinkel to me, has an artwork in the exhibit—his first public showing since he was in the 8th grade. Intrigued, I plunged in to find out more about a former professor of mine. On a recent rainy Monday morning, Jim Burwinkel and I were able to meet in a warm St. Louis café and he shared his frame of mind with me about how he balances his roles in the theater, the studio and the classroom.


Jim Burwinkel. "My Other Brother Darryl." 2012. Wood, Wax, 16”x46”x18”.

Diane: What is the focus of your set design work as opposed to your creations in the studio?

Jim: “Theater approaches the idea of functionality with interpretation, it’s ephemeral, it happens for a couple hours a night. Five or six weeks later, your design is gone, and you try something different with the next one. Not really new, but I concentrate on creating an environment instead of picture. The focus becomes a lot more about space. Build upon the character and the context in the spatial environment; my work guides and directs interactions, helps the story line come along. Theater is very elaborate, has more to do with helping tell a story. I bring my own personal experiences to that process when designing, but between the script and director what ends up on stage is a product of the story, an outside me. I own it since it’s something I care about and created, but it’s not anywhere near the same kind of output as working in the studio, freely trying to tell something that is truly you.”


Jim Burwinkel. "Phi." 2012. Acrylic on Cast Plaster, 24”x15”x1.25”.

Diane: How has the studio shaped your current story?

Jim: “Having the confidence finally that what you have to say is something worthwhile for others to come experience. For me, the hardest part of any piece is coming up with what you want to say. Surface and materials interest me. Bricks are fascinating. The clay that makes them up then the different weather and conditions that surround them make each surface different. I want the audience to really analyze surface when they look at my pieces. For me, it is a kind of a process of figuring out what the material is and what I want to do with it. It’s an idea I’ve kept with me for several years. Painting is a lot about surface, taking a material and applying it. I then manipulate the surface. Plaster absorbs at different rates/properties. So I started applying simple colors and abusing the surface a little to bring in the properties of plaster. It absorbs only a small amount and picks up marks quite easily. After a lot of layers, I created an experience for the audience to share when they see the piece. They get a little closer to the idea of what the surface of plaster is.”


Jim Burwinkel. "Suburbia." 2012. Wood, Wax, Graphite, 63”x8”x6.5”.

Diane: How does your role as a professor play into all of this?

Jim: “I was in administration for ten years, it was exhausting. No time. When your hand spends all day writing, hard to convert that into drawing afterwards. Stepping away has allowed me to be a little more focused again on my art. Things I do simultaneously. Negotiate professor and artist, part of the gig. Not being an administrator lets me forget about all these outside things; simplify back to my art, my students, and so forth. For the time being, this is very satisfying. I am going on sabbatical in the spring and will really develop a project working with texture and light, something similar to an assignment I give my students every semester.”


Jim Burwinkel. "Divide." 2012. Acrylic on Cast Plaster, 13”x13”x2”. This artwork is currently on view in "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" at Art Saint Louis (through December 27, 2012).


Diane: Any parting words?

Jim: “I have two major pieces of advice I tell all of my students. First, food is not just a hobby. Oftentimes people lose sight of how important it is to choose food that enriches your body, not whatever is most convenient. Second, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be fun. The easiest pathway will not necessarily bring you enlightenment. It is well worth expending the extra effort to take something to the next level or incorporate a new idea into a project than sitting around and taking it easy. Boils down to simple choices we make every day.”

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"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis October 29-December 27,  2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays, including Thanksgiving & Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

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Diane Reilly is currently serving as Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. Diane is a Junior at Saint Louis University with a double major in Marketing and Communications Design.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breaking Boundaries with Irish Artist Patrick Graham

by David Brinker

Patrick Graham has been credited by critics and art historians with changing the face of painting in Ireland. St. Louis audiences are now offered the rare opportunity to discover Graham's work with the exhibition, "Patrick Graham: Thirty Years–The Silence Becomes the Painting," on view September 23-December 16, 2012 at Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA). Through paintings, collages and drawings, this retrospective exhibition, curated by noted art historian Peter Selz, offers an extraordinary view of the continuum that marks Graham’s psychologically charged explorations into revelation and transcendence.

Selz says that Graham “confronts the viewer with drawings and paintings of shattering force … [he] makes us aware that great painting has a presence and a future.” Art historian John Handley notes that Graham’s work “addresses the timelessness of time, the repetition of history, and the continuous cyclical nature of silence, abandonment, and redemption in the creative process.” In the artist’s own words, “The silence becomes the painting, the painting comes from silence. It is the moment when painting is no longer an act of doing or making but of receiving.”


Patrick Graham. Cold and Fatal Heroes. 1988. Mixed media on Board. 32"x 44". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.






Patrick Graham was born in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland in 1943, and studied at the National College of Art in Dublin. He has exhibited in Ireland and internationally since 1966, and is represented in major public and private collections at home and abroad. Graham’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and symposia internationally, at venues including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Trinity College Dublin, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England, the Hokkaido Museum in Hokkaido, Japan, the University of Michigan, Northeastern University in Boston, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.


Patrick Graham. Dead Swan/Captain's Hill. 1998-99. Oil, Mixed media on Canvas, diptych 72"x132". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.



Graham’s inspiration is deeply rooted in the Irish landscape, in vistas and places that hold deep meaning for him. The Irish affinity for nature, combined with profound experience of the pain which comes from both oppression and repression, has led to extraordinary artistic expressions in poetry, music, and dance. This cultural and artistic milieu formed Graham’s visual expression. His work incorporates ambiguous symbolic forms and scripted phrases that resonate like fragments of traditional song and lyrical poetry which spring from a unique historical consciousness; through them he explores the elemental processes of life and the existential journey. Among the realities he acknowledges in a sensitive voice is the Irish religious experience, particularly of the Catholic faith, yet his work has universal appeal to those who struggle with issues of identity, freedom, or faith.


Patrick Graham. The Blackbird Suite. 1993. Mixed media on Board. 32"x 44". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.




To further explore Graham’s impact, MOCRA has assembled "Breaking Boundaries: A Conversation about the Art of Patrick Graham," a panel discussion that brings together five distinguished voices to consider Graham's work from diverse perspectives:
  • Peter Selz, art historian and curator
  • Ken Baker, Chief Art Critic, San Francisco Chronicle 
  • Jack Rutberg, gallery director and international representative of Patrick Graham
  • Ellen Crowell, Associate Professor of English, Saint Louis University
  • Eamonn Wall, Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor of Irish Studies, University of Missouri - St. Louis
The panel is free & open to the public and will take place at MOCRA from 1:30-3:30 p.m., Sunday, November 11, 2012. A reception will follow the discussion, with an opportunity to view the exhibition.
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"Patrick Graham: Thirty Years–The Silence Becomes the Painting," is presented through December 16, 2012 at Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is located on the campus of Saint Louis University in Fusz Hall, 3700 John Connelly Mall (SW of clock tower), St. Louis, MO 63108. 314/977-7170. http://mocra.slu.edu MOCRA is free & open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

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David Brinker is Assistant Director of Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Intern's View: "[context]Texture" Exhibition at Art Saint Louis

by Nichole Lance

When Art Saint Louis Artistic Director Robin Hirsch asked me to select the artworks I admired from the current "[context]Texture" exhibition in the ASL Gallery, it was really a tough decision, for there are so many wonderful works from which to choose. For this assignment, I chose works by two artists: Patrick Nolan and Barbie Steps.

One of the pieces in this exhibit that intrigues me is Ecosystem by Patrick Nolan. The artist’s ability to use bright vibrant recycled fabrics drew me in. Brightly colored tubular fabrics project out and into the viewer’s space. It is the shear amount and variety of these projecting forms that gives the feeling that we are being given a rare glimpse of a small intricate and vibrant microscopic world. In his artist's statement, Nolan expresses that “Everything is made of vibrating particles, energy. I seem to keep that in mind and in my way, feel it.” His artwork in this show is a playful expression of creative and kinetic energy.

Patrick Nolan. Ecosystem. 2010. Recycled Fabrics, 48”x24”.  

For Nolan, it is a joy and a responsibility to use recycled materials: “ I believe strongly in recycling so try to use fabrics, metals and glass that was once something else. I get to play even more by going to thrift shops for fabric; usually from women's clothes since girls get most of the color.”  It has only been within the past ten years that Nolan has made serious attempts to show his works. He notes that he enjoys experimenting with a variety of media and credits the time that he spent as an assistant to a university sculptor-in-residence as a time during which he felt had “stirred his love for texture.”  Nolan states, “Art has been my best friend. Thru times when life was very challenging it always gave me feelings of peace and confidence in who I am.”

Another talented artist I admired for her keen eye and exquisite ability to capture photographs with strong lights in dark areas was Barbie Steps and her two photographs in the exhibit, Swirls of Faces and Ascension. I was eager to learn about her and what her artworks meant to her.


Barbie Steps. Swirls of Faces. 2012. Digital Photograph, 20”x26”.  

Nichole: Have you always been a photographer?

Barbie: “Not really. I can't really say that I started when I got my first camera at age 10, like I have read for other artists—that always sounds so good! In truth, I was a late starter. I really started when I got the travel bug in my 20's. I loved seeing other worlds and wanted to record what I experienced for others and myself. I used to give slide shows for friends when I returned from a trip. In 2005, a friend pushed me to enter the St. Louis Post Dispatch travel contest. It was my first contest and I won! It really opened a whole other world to me. Although I never had much time outside of my work as an engineer with IBM to spend much time on art & photography, in 2007, I retired and found time to take classes and start exploring the other side of my brain. And I love it! I enjoy being able to combine my two passions: travel & photography.”

Nichole: In your words what would you say makes a great photograph?  

Barbie: “Not any one thing. Something that transports someone into another world, that makes someone stop and think. And sometimes just letting the viewers just enjoy the colors or patterns. There are the standard rules that you learn, but then I believe the rules are made to be bent or broken.  That is the wonder of art—it is always in the eyes of the beholder as to what attracts one to a particular image!”

Barbie Steps. Ascension. 2012. Digital Photograph, 20”x26”   

Nichole: What inspires you as an artist?  

Barbie: “Sharing my vision, trying new things.”

Nichole: What is it about photography that captivates your imagination? 

Barbie: “So many worlds to explore. There is the image that you see, the image you photograph and the image that you can expand via additional photographic printing techniques—I have tried solar plate, Polaroid transfers and lifts—combining with other art forms, and the various computer programs. Always more to learn and try. I am amazed at what people can do with this media. I have recently begun exploring the capability of my iPhone (especially with Hipstamatic app) and have found that I love the excitement of surprise at how the photo looks at times!”
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[context]Texture” is presented at Art Saint Louis August 13-October 4, 2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

View highlights from this exhibition and our August 11, 2012 opening reception in our Facebook album.

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Nichole Lance is a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will graduate this Fall with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. If you know of a undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Friday Afternoon with the Women behind "Waiting"

by Diane Reilly

It is a Friday afternoon and I'm at the small, round table in the Art Saint Louis gallery with Muriel Eulich and Mary Ellen Havard sitting across from me, pleasant and willing to expand upon their exhibit "Waiting" currently presented at Art Saint Louis (through October 4, 2012). What follows is a snapshot of what I learned from them that afternoon:

“What was the goal behind "Waiting," an exhibit dedicated to breast cancer?”

Muriel: “We wanted to tell the truth, for the public to look at it and learn something, but not be put off. With my paintings, I hoped to deliver something alluring to the eyes with the message of truth, while not so shocking that the audience fears coming close and examining the content. Look, learn, and see the bigger message. I wanted this to happen while retaining my love of color to express these scenes.”

Mary Ellen: “I wanted to capture the real human experience of breast cancer. When the audience starts squirming in their chairs as they read, that’s when you’re hitting the truth. The more real the writing is, the closer it gets to the truth, that’s when the reader really connects and becomes present with the text.”

Muriel Eulich. Show and Tell. Watercolor on Paper, 15"x23".


“Speaking of your text, Mary Ellen, can you go into more detail about your writing process?”

Mary Ellen: “The best writing is based on what you know. And when you do that, there’s a story. So there’s an unlimited pool of things people can write about.

A part of my story is that I will be treated for breast cancer the rest of my life. No good news came with the initial diagnosis. Couldn’t sleep, nor eat. Cocooned myself. In the middle of the night, I would write what I was afraid of and put it on the dresser. Then went back to bed and put distance between the fear and myself. Just kept going and eventually these writings lead to my co-authoring a book. Writing became my emotional therapy and will continue on, because there is no cure for cancer, so the treatment will never be complete.”

Muriel Eulich. The Colors of Cancer. Watercolor on Paper, 59"x40".

“Mary Ellen, your line in "Colors of Cancer" has left a big imprint on many readers, could you expand on your thoughts behind that particular piece?”


Mary Ellen: “Colors of Cancer" was a snapshot of my life at the time. ‘The real colors of cancer for me are shit brown, puke green, necrotic black, blood red.’ I was just so angry, sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was a nun in my past, but right then I just wanted to rally against the pious talk and mollification I had to face on a daily basis. I understand now that most of the different emotions and actions stemmed from the same source. The cakes, cards, and books from my loved ones as well as my anger and resentment all materialized from the fear of the situation. I learned it’s very difficult to just sit there and be quiet support when you know a loved one is suffering; you have the urge to do something to try and make them better. Although I was angry with it all at the time, now I see it was just their way of displacing some of their fear for my health.”

“Did fear play any role in Waiting for you as well Muriel?”

Muriel: “Mary Ellen and I were vulnerable to do an exhibit like this. Cancer is scary for a lot of people out there. In the end though, to share the experience with others, I don’t look at that time as difficult, but as a gift because I learned so much.”


Muriel Eulich. The Call. Watercolor on Paper, 15"x23".

“Mary Ellen, what were your reactions to Muriel’s pieces as the exhibit developed?”

Mary Ellen: “I saw it in stages. As it came together, two paintings stood out and I really got a sense of what their subjects are going through. Muriel’s Waiting and The Call took my breath away, as someone with breast cancer and who will be going through treatment the rest of my life. I can really identify with those moments she caught on the canvas. Overall, her pieces relay the actual perspective of breast cancer. These are real people; these are not models. I’m actually in one of the pieces, receiving chemotherapy. The reality of the show really hits me every time I look at it.”

Muriel Eulich. Waiting. Watercolor on Paper, 23"x30".

“Finally, I’d like to wrap things up by learning how has the feedback been for you two since the show’s opening?”

Mary Ellen: “I think a card I received in the mail just really wraps it all up in one sentiment: ‘your vulnerability helps heal us all’.”

Muriel: “Both Mary Ellen and I have received really kind feedback, including women and men who have never been exposed to breast cancer on a personal level. In another instance, I received a phone call from a woman who finished treatment three years ago. She thought "Waiting" was wonderful, not hard to look at in any sense. Also, the night of the opening, a woman came up to me and said: ‘I just had to be here, I just had to see all of this.’ She was like an angel present in that moment. The show meant so much to this woman that she had a friend drive her out, although she was in the midst of treatment. She embodied the show, with streams of bright colors clothing a body fighting breast cancer. She just shined, such a positive light that showed real joy while looking at Waiting. This woman really left an impact on both Mary Ellen and me, especially since we still don’t exactly know where she came from or how she had heard of the show.”

Both Mary Ellen and Muriel were smiling and bright through the whole conversation and made the couple hours I had with them fly by. As I reflect on the time "Waiting" is no longer on view at Art Saint Louis, all I can do is hope we are just the first stop on its journey to the public; for there is so much yet to learn from the show and the women behind it.
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Waiting” is presented at Art Saint Louis August 13-October 4, 2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

View highlights from this exhibit and our opening reception in our Facebook album.

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Diane Reilly is currently serving as Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. Diane is a Junior at Saint Louis University with a double major in Marketing and Communications Design

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Artist Interviews from the “[context]Texture” exhibit

by Jacqueline Klene

Gallery view: "[context]Texture" exhibit at Art Saint Louis. Photo by Robin Hirsch.

Art Saint Louis’s latest exhibit, “[context]Texture,” features approximately 44 talented artists from the area. Of those, five artists were given Awards of Excellence. Once again, before the Awards had been given out, Robin Hirsch, ASL’s Artistic Director, asked me to look at the work in the exhibit and find the pieces that I thought were strong and clearly embraced the theme of “[context]Texture” and select ones that I believed had the potential to be awarded. From there, I interviewed the following artists: Bruce Broyles, Elizabeth Adams-Marks, Nicole Noronha, and Shanna Smith.


Pictured in back of Gallery view of "[context]Texture" is: Bruce Broyles. Lost in the Woods. 2010. String, Oil on Canvas, 80”x120”.

Bruce Broyles’s work, Lost in the Woods is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The sheer dominating size of the piece captures any visitor’s attention. The size alone though is not what keeps your interest, the fine use of color and string art captivate the viewer’s eye. Inspired by modern artists like Jackson Pollock and authors like Neil Gaiman, Broyles creates work that has a spiritual quality. He says, “No two individuals see color, expression… the same way. … it is an attempt at something spiritual, colorful, intelligent, interesting, and soulful.” By using intuitive design, Broyles captures that spiritual sense that he was striving for.

Elizabeth Adams-Marks. Sun Pans and Mica Drags. 2011.
Handmade Paper, Indigo & Walnut Dye, 17.5”x49”x3”.

Sun Pans and Mica Drags by Elizabeth Adams-Marks is truly a unique artwork. Inspired by the 19th century china clay mines from her husband’s native Cornwall, UK, the piece is clearly the product of a long and thought out process or reading, recording, drawings, painting, collecting, etc. Creating handmade paper in and of itself is a difficult undertaking, but Ms. Adams-Marks has created a piece that speaks strongly of the natural beauty and industrial history of Cornwall. Having been an illustrator for 25 years, Ms. Adams-Marks is now a proud fine artist, “driven by natural materials… making and meaning with focus on craftsmanship.”

Nicole Noronha. George. 2012. Wax, Oil on Wood Panel, 30”x40”.

Nicole Noronha’s piece, George, explored a very different interpretation of “[context]Texture”. Using encaustic methods, she is able to isolate the subject and add a blurred movement, addressing both the {context} and texture portions of the show. As an artist who favors the more narrative approach, Noronha finds the human figure easiest to connect with, while allowing the viewer to ponder the meaning behind the subject. Her goal in her works is to “achieve a sense of calm… escape reality.” However, as a narrative artist, she finds that capturing that is a difficult task while maintaining a vague, universal spirit. Clearly though, “George” represents all those qualities quite well.

Shanna Smith. Fat Daughters. 2012. Fibers, .5”x8.5”x10.5”.  

Finally, Shanna Smith has two works in “[context]Texture”: Fat Daughters and Tape. Her work is highly unique in the sense that the texture is meant to be felt and touched, bring the viewer closer to the meaning. Her pieces center around food and the side effects: “weight, over consumption, female form, criticism, relationships, and society’s view,” just to name a few. With such relatable subject matter, Smith addresses weight and the issues that surround it. This contemporary subject provides for two excellent pieces that have been created in a very original fashion.

Shanna Smith. Tape. 2012. Fibers, .6”x9.1”x9.1”.

Be sure to come see these fantastic works and many more at Art Saint Louis! There is an opening reception on Saturday, August 11 from 6-8 p.m.! Hope to see you there!
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[context]Texture” is presented at Art Saint Louis August 13-October 4, 2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org 

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Jacqueline Klene is currently serving as Summer 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. Jacqueline is a student at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in drawing with a minor in Spanish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Artist Interviews from the "Blur" exhibit

by Jacqueline Klene

Awards of Excellence Interviews

Art Saint Louis’ current juried exhibit, "Blur," features works by approximately 60 talented artists from the St. Louis area. Of those, five artists' works were selected to receive Awards of Excellence (Ashley Drissell, Naxin Fan, Christine Giancola, Joe Johnson, Nichole Lance) and one was awarded an Honorable Mention (Miguel de Aguero).

Before the exhibition officially opened (and before Awards were selected), Robin Hirsch, ASL’s Artistic Director, asked me to look at the works in the show and find the pieces that I thought were strong, clearly embraced the theme of "Blur," and select those works I believed had the potential to be Awarded. From there, I interviewed the artists about their work. Two of the artists that I happened to talk to earned Awards of Excellence: Ms. Naxin Fan and Ms. Ashley Drissell.


Naxin Fan. Leopard Man. 2012. Gunpowder Drawing, 50”x86”.

Naxin Fan’s piece, Leopard Man, is a truly unique work. One of the largest pieces in the exhibit, this gunpowder drawing really grabbed my attention when I saw it for the first time. Using a variety of natural elements like beeswax in combination with the gunpowder, “those blur images become clear to me,” says Naxin. The piece itself embodies the physical theme of "Blur" as well as the mentality behind it, too. Naxin continues discussing her references to the theme of "Blur," “the Leopard Man, is it a leopard or a man? Is the fire going to destroy it or is it set them to rebirth… there is no clear answer for where, why, what and how.” The simple beauty in nature inspires her work. She chooses subjects that give way to the imagination and “let the viewer transform the work… and become a part of it.”

Ashley Drissell. 1651 Sugar Grove Ct. 2011. Porcelain, Wood, Lazertran Decal, Pillows, 76”x33”x33”.

Ashley Drissell’s work, 1651 Sugar Grove Ct., takes the theme of "Blur" to a whole new level and really finds an original way to express it. This piece constantly offers new things for the viewer to find and discover. Constructed with porcelain tile, wood, lazertran decal, and pillows, this piece is an attention getter right away. However, it continues to keep your attention with its many layers and the use of text and imagery. 1651 Sugar Grove Ct. utilizes mixed media to execute the narrative element of art. In reference to her piece and the theme of "Blur," she says that her “work addresses the idea of memory…our memories are fuzzy. My memory is certainly unreliable.” When asked about how relatable she thinks her work is, she replied, “I think my work is very personal, but within the personal is a dialogue which is universal.” That statement could not be more accurate.


Additional Artist Interviews from "Blur"

With so many excellent pieces in the exhibit, there was no way I could have just picked two artists to interview. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with "Blur" artists Joyce Trotter, Josh Mann, and Suzy Farren.

Joyce Trotter. Venice Canal. 2012. Photograph, Lenticular, 26”x37”.

Joyce Trotter’s work, Venice Canal, is one of my favorite pieces in the gallery to watch as other people look at the artwork. Trotter created this work as a lenticular image because, as she notes, “Blur"extends the normal sharp lines to possible movement. Thus lenticular image extends the edges of an image.” Her subject matter is easily relatable. The romantic image of Venice and the gorgeous colors create an inviting image, and, with that, create a definite mood that Joyce strives for.

Josh Mann. The Little Blue Rectangle. 2010. Acrylic on Wood, 42”x24”.

Josh Mann’s piece, The Little Blue Rectangle, is a piece that I can’t look away from… partially because it is right in front of my desk but also because of his fantastic use of layering the chaotic explosion of colorful curvilinear lines. As an artist, Mann wants to “visually tease and entertain the (viewer’s) mind.” It fits in quite nicely with the theme of "Blur" and the other selected pieces even though he might not understand why. “Galleries decided what is and isn’t fitting… so I’ll leave these blurry intricacies up to them.” And lucky for him, we have some wonderful jurors to take care of that.


Suzy Farren. The Writing is on the Wall, you just can’t see it. 2012. Mixed Media, 19”x18”.

Finally, Suzy Farren’s piece, The Writing is on the Wall, you just can’t see it, is really intriguing and visually interesting and full of texture. Farren states: “My work is about laying down something and then covering it up; laying something else down, covering it up and … wiping away… to reveal what remains… a blur.” She uses found objects and complies them to create something truly unique and full of character. Never creating anything precise, her work truly showcases the wonder of the creative process, which she says can take a year or longer and even then, who knows?”

This exhibit is full of wonderful pieces which everyone and their brother should come see!
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"Blur" is presented at Art Saint Louis through July 26, 2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

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Jacqueline Klene is currently serving as Summer 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis.  Jacqueline is a student at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in drawing with a minor in Spanish.