"Art St. Louis XXXVII, The Exhibition" - Artist Interview Series Four

by Allison Carnell

We present to you our fourth and final in a series of interviews with artists whose works are featured in our current exhibit at Art Saint Louis, "Art St. Louis XXXVII, The Exhibition." Our 37th annual exhibit (on view November 6-December 16, 2021) presents works by 56 St. Louis regional artists from Missouri and Illinois. Art Saint Louis is located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri at 1223 Pine Street in downtown.

Interviews for this post were conducted by Fall 2021 Intern Allison Carnell.

We are pleased to introduce you to featured artists Greg Kluempers, Lina Zhang, and Ed Giganti.

Featured in “Art St. Louis XXXVII, The Exhibition” (November 6-December 16, 2021): Gregory Kluempers, Florissant, MO. “Eads Bridge, The Arch and Tugs, Sunset, St. Louis.” 2021. Photograph on Metal, 16”x24”. SOLD.
Artist’s statement:  “I have always wanted to get a Riverfront photo that included the Eads Bridge, Arch and Downtown. From October 2018 to August 2020 the MLK bridge was closed. I went to the bridge four times with some friends. This is my favorite photo taken the month before MLK reopened. We were on the bridge for about 1 ½ hours. Here I captured two tugs racing upriver to their work dock for the night.”

Allison Carnell: How has your art evolved throughout the years? Describe the different stages of creating.

Gregory Kluempers: When I first started doing photography in 1970, I did black and white film photos and processed them in the dark room for a couple of years. For many years I just did travel and my family photography. In 1999, while working full time, I started taking art classes in the evening at the community college. I applied the knowledge and skills I aquired in these classes to my photography. They had a color darkroom at the college, and I started doing high contrast vivid color photographs.

Greg Kluempers. “Wainwright Building St. Louis, MO.” May 2018. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 12”x18”. $135.

During this time, many of my images are extractions from an old building, a distorted reflection, an architectural detail, and the juxtaposition of adjoining buildings. In 2006 I started taking Photoshop classes. At first, I was scanning negatives and processing in Photoshop, but it was very time consuming. In 2007 I bought my first digital camera and switched over to a total digital process.

Greg Kluempers. “Windmills at Castillo de Consuegra, Spain.” February 2019. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 10”x20”. $135.

AC: Do you have a studio routine? Most creative time of day to work? Process of thinking or setting up before you begin making?
GK: My studio routine is at least two steps. The first step involves finding a location that has something interesting to photograph, framing aesthetic compositions and getting a good exposure. A lot depends on the weather and time of day. The second step is loading it on my computer and developing it using photo-processing software. To me this is the most creative part of the process. If the light and other conditions were favorable the processing can be very simple. Since many times I am traveling and I will only be on location for a couple hours, I take pictures under less-than-ideal conditions. I can go with a black and white image, adjust the lighting, or add clouds to a boring sky. Sometimes I add a texture layer to give the image an aged look.

Greg Kluempers. “Virginia Theater Dutchtown St. Louis. MO.” October 2020. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 12”x18”. $135.

AC: What themes do you pursue in your art?
GK: I have three main themes: Nature-City Landscapes, Architecture and Transportation. All three of these get me outdoors with a variety of subject matter. “Eads Bridge and the Arch Sunset” is one of a series of photos of the Mississippi River that I was able to capture because the Martin Luther King Bridge was closed for almost two years. I went out on the bridge about six times hoping to get good lighting.

Greg Kluempers. “Benton Park with Ducks and Clouds B&W." September 2020. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 12”x18”. $135.

AC: What are you struggling with right now?
GK: Working without my desktop computer. Fortunately, my master files are on a separate USB hard drive. The computer crashed about two weeks ago and I am using a laptop. I can’t process any new photos until I get my new computer and load my software onto it and recalibrate my monitor.

Greg Kluempers. “El Capitan and Three Sisters, Yosemite NP CA Sunrise.” April 2021. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 10”x20”. $135.

AC: What’s your workday like? Are you a full-time artist? Do you have a part time job?
GK: Up until seven years ago I had a full-time job. Many days I am up early and out all-day taking photos. Some days I am just out scouting a place to take photos. Back in August I saw that a Union Pacific Big-Boy Steam Engine was coming through St. Louis (trains are one of my favorite subjects). The route was published, and the train was running parallel to Illinois Route 3, so a fellow photographer and I drove to Chester to find a location to shoot the train without a big crowd. We found a RR crossing in a corn field that looked good. We arrived three hours before the train was supposed to show up. We were the second and third photographers to arrive. There ended up being over 100 people there, but we had the front row seat, and we got the shot.

Greg Kluempers. “Soldiers Memorial St. Louis, MO at Night.” November 2018. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 10”x20”. $135.

Greg Kluempers. “Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 at Baer and Bluff Roads Illinois.” August 2021. Digital Photograph on Aluminum, Matte Finish, 10”x20”. $135.

AC: How much time on average do you spend working on an artwork?
GK: That’s hard to figure. Back in the spring I flew to California and spent 8 days in Yosemite, Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks taking photos. When I returned home, I spent a couple of hours loading and reviewing images on my PC. When I find an image that I want to process, it can take 15 minutes to a couple hours. A few years ago, I spent three days cutting a bunch of peppers out of a cluttered background (fortunately this process has improved quite a bit). After I get done processing the images if I print it and mat it myself, that takes about another hour. I do a lot of metal images so I may spend a half hour submitting the file to the local photo lab.

St. Louis-based photographic artist Greg Kluempers. Photo by Randall Gusdorf.

Learn more about Greg Kluempers
: https://greg-kluempers.pixels.com/ and www.facebook.com/kluempers.photography and https://twitter.com/gklumps and www.pinterest.com/gkluempers/fine-art-photography and www.pinterest.com/gkluempers/missouri

Featured in “Art St. Louis XXXVII, The Exhibition”: Lina Zhang, Clayton, MO. “Downtown of Saint Louis 1.” 2021. Oil on Canvas, 47”x35”. $300.
Artist’s statement: “St. Louis was once a vary prosperous city in the USA, and, in recent years, it gradually declines over time and time because more and more companies and factories are moving out of here. The former bustling streets are in dire decay with white smokes everywhere. Rusty old factories and rundown buildings stand along sides of the streets, and almost no people are around. It seems that all gloomy places are full of dangers. By combining light and shadow effects, these old streets and dilapidated buildings exhibit mysterious and primitive scenes. When I walk there, my eyes follow the lights that go through gaps of those buildings. I was deeply attracted by all kinds of bright spots around buildings in Downtown St. Louis. I love these scenes where attractive highlights are surrounded by large area of darkness. The bright areas are simple and pure, the darkness is complicated and mysterious. These scenes are the perfect combinations of abstract and specific details.”

Allison Carnell: Do you have a studio routine? Most creative time of day to work? Process of thinking or setting up before you begin making?
Lina Zhang
: Yes, I usually start my work around 9 a.m. and I am more creative in morning. Before each creation, I usually start with an idea, and carefully analyze what I want to express in my work, and once I am clear about the whole profile of it, I will start to work on it and try my best to finish it as soon as possible.       
Lina Zhang. “Small Bench.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 23”x18”. $400.

AC: What work do you most enjoy doing?
LZ: I want to be an art teacher in the future. I really enjoy teaching painting and drawing to young students. By observing their creation processes, I am deeply inspired by their ideas and their freedoms in drawing or painting without considering any rules and aesthetics.

AC: What themes do you pursue in your art?
LZ: I would like to draw and paint more human figures. I want to show deep introspections of people of different ages, and their facial expressions, as well as the emotion behind each figure.

Lina Zhang. “Evening Bell.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 24”x29”. $300.

AC: What are you struggling with right now?
LZ: I'm in an inflection point of my life, it is really a challenge for me to spend a long time to do art without rewards, because I have two young children, and both of them in the elementary school, and I need to support their daily expenses.

Lina Zhang. “Downtown of Saint Louis 2.” 2021. Oil on Canvas, four panels, 33"x9” each. $300.

AC: What do you like best about being an artist?
LZ: The job to be an artist is like to do a self-expression, and I really enjoy the expression process. Sometimes I really have no idea on how to move forward, and even really frustrated in the process, but after a short break, I would like to continue my challenge, and once I overcome these barriers, I will be deeply moved by my work, and want to begin the new challenge. Being an artist, I can acquire the source of challenges and that is the most exciting point to me.   

Lina Zhang. “Downtown of Saint Louis 4.” 2021.Oil on Canvas, 24”x29”. $450.

AC: Do you use photo references when you work? Observe from life? From imagination?

LZ: Yes, I use photos as references. I like photography, and it is the most convenient way to record each memorable point in the life. These important points are source of my creation, and I usually follow my feelings in my creation processes, and I may go through hundreds of pictures to inspire my imagination.

Lina Zhang. “Forest Park.” 2021. Oil on Canvas, 35”x24”. $450.

AC: Do you listen to music when you create?
LZ: Yes, I like music in my daily life, and music is powerful and it is a good way to help me concentrate myself to my paintings. I like light musics, and with light piano music around, I can work all day along, and I do not feel any tired even after that.

AC: What's your work day like? Are you a full-time artist? Do you have a part time job?
LZ: I usually work on my art work for three to five hours. Nowadays, I work full time on my painting and drawing. Recently, I am also trying to find teaching job at school. I have got a para-educator position in a high school, I will have this part time job in the nearby future.

Lina Zhang. “Vague.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 24”x29”. $300.

AC: Do you prefer to make one specific piece or a series of works?
LZ: I like a series of work. The generation of a series of work is a good way to deep my understanding on some specific subjects! I will set up different goals on different projects.

St. Louis-based artist Lina Zhang.

Learn more about Lina Zhang: https://www.instagram.com/lina_zhang_art/
Featured in “Art St. Louis XXXVII, The Exhibition”: Ed Giganti, St. Louis, MO. “Say Something.” 2021. Oil on Canvas, 38”x26”. $600.
Artist’s statement:  "A realist painter, I try to create narrative, figurative work that intrigues and challenges the viewer. I paint in oil  because it offers the richness and subtlety of color found in live human skin. In composing a painting, I try to bring a contemporary perspective through decisions about scale and pose, and by isolating the subject within the picture plane, removing any reference to place or context. In this and other work, I am exploring the power memories exert over present perceptions and actions."

Allison Carnell: When did you begin to know what your art is about?
Ed Giganti
: I’m still learning what my art is about, but within the past year, I feel that my work has moved beyond acquiring a skill to using that skill to communicate a story, a feeling, a memory.

AC: What motivates you to continue making art?

EG: I continue to be surprised, even mystified, by the emergence of a believable image through the application of paint on canvas. Just when I begin to think that what I’m working on is a total failure, things will click into place and the image appears. It still feels like magic to me when it occurs.

Ed Giganti. “Waiting.” 2015. Oil on Canvas 24”x36”. $600 framed.

AC: What is the most challenging technique you’ve mastered or wish to master?
EG: I continue to study the human body as a subject. I still need much more practice to be able to render physical anatomy correctly, but I want to make work that tells stories about humans.

Ed Giganti. “Jeff.” 2020. Oil on Board, 18”x18". NFS.

AC: What qualities attract you to other artists’ work?
EG: I am a big fan of abstract expressionism, even though my work is representational. The energy of the New York School painters is thrilling to me. I’ve just come from seeing two exhibits of Jasper Johns’ work (in Philadelphia and New York). Johns has always been a favorite of mine, especially his early work. His brush strokes are incredible!

Ed Giganti. “Heads Up.” 2021. Oil on Canvas, 48"x48”. $2,500.

AC: When do your best ideas come to you?
EG: First thing upon waking up.

Ed Giganti. “Spring.” 2018. Oil on Canvas, 24"x36”. NFS.

AC: When you're facing challenges during the creative process, what do you do?
EG: I had a very fallow summer. I didn’t want to go to the studio at all and had no ideas about what to paint. A portrait class at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild led by my friend Sharon Charmley got me started painting again.

Ed Giganti. “Sketching Degas.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 11"x14”. $300 framed.

AC: Do you use photo references when you work? Observe from life? From imagination?
EG: I frequently work from photographs because I rarely have the opportunity to work with models. I’d like to have more opportunities to work from life.

Ed Giganti. “Holly.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 16"x20”. $300.

AC: Do you listen to music when you create?
EG: My painting teacher, mentor, and friend Anne Burgess Rowe always played instrumental music while painting, and while teaching me to paint. But while I don’t object to background music, I usually paint without it. I like silence, in the studio and in life.

St. Louis artist Ed Giganti.
Allison Carnell
is the Fall 2021 Intern at Art Saint Louis and a senior at McKendree University, Lebanon, IL.