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.
____________________________________

"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
_____________________________________

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.
_____________________________________

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.”
____________________________________


"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
_____________________________________

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 
_____________________________________

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.
____________________________________

"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
_____________________________________

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 
_____________________________________

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!