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!”

[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.


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.

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.


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