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!

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