Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Four birds killed & a dead friend revived

Working in the media, you get buried in information. On the arts tip, this is good because you see how much is actually going on, and in St. Louis, that's way more than most people imagine. It is bad because you see how much you are missing, which is way more than I can stomach.

As a committed parent of a third grader with very few nights to myself, I stake out things that happen during the day, so I was delighted to get a press release at work announcing a gallery lecture for noon today by Daniel McGrath, curator of a show at one of the Sheldon Art Galleries titled I'll Be Your Mirror.

By attending, I was killing two birds, the getting out to actually see local arts programming and building on a new connection. Daniel and I were in the group of sculptors and poets invited to collaborate recently on the Poetry in Place: The Platforms events at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and met a number of smart, talented new people I promised myself to keep track of.

I killed a third bird as well. One of my best friends these days works next door to the Sheldon at The Pulitzer. Amy agreed to spend her lunch with me listening to Daniel spiel, so it was off to the lecture with my buddy.

We got there early enough to look at the show first, which was cool. I appreciated the mix of local, national and international artists, treated (I hope obviously) as equals; can't get too much of that in this town. I also gather that some of these artists from elsewhere are sort of "it" artists in the art world now, something of a coup for Daniel and the gallery, and I understand the value and appeal of that sort of thing without being compelled by it personally.

Daniel wrote a really eloquent essay that tied the show together and made connections that it would not be possible to make just looking at the work, which seems just the right way to go with a curator's essay. Reading his notes definitely enriched my experience of the show, though I also had a positive sensual experience of many of the works without having the contextual overlay. A painting of a mouse looking down into a mirror really did it for me, as did a video by Slater Bradley of a man in a moon suit playing a music box to stuffed animals in their diorama habitats.

Not surprisingly, given the premise of the show, I spent the most time looking at the piece that most closely resembles the kinds of things I try to do. Local artist Robert Goetz took a series of photographs of traffic passing (or not) the same four roadside smokestacks. He then did prints to accompany each photograph where the bands of color in the print related to how the smokestacks were intersected in the photograph. Photograph and print were then conjoined. As a final touch, he scored his own images musically, though the music pod for his piece wasn't working when I was there, so I didn't get the entire effect. Robert and I used to do similar work together in Poetry Scores, and though we have lost touch it was a pleasure to see he has continued in the project of scoring texts and translating between media.

Amy and I went to the Tap Room to talk about the show, which made for some interesting, mirroring connections. I tried to explain my prior working relationship with Robert, making the connection that he and I had played in a band together with Hunter Brumfield. Amy and I also had Hunter in common as a friend, until Hunter killed himself. When I made the connection, Amy blurted, "Hunter and I sang 'I'll Be Your Mirror' together!"

The coincidence with the Velvet Underground song that themed the show we had just seen was interesting. So was this. One of the pieces in the show was a sculpture by Hannah Greely made to resemble a bottle of beer crusted in dirt. I thought of Hunter when I looked at this piece, because I have the last bottle of beer he drank before he killed himself, given to me by his girlfriend at the time who knew I'd probably appreciate it.

This left me with the pleasant feeling that a fourth bird had been killed today, that the spirit of our dead friend who died too young had been recycled in our coming together to experience art today. The dead are only as dead as we allow them to be. We can be their mirror.

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