Sunday, June 3, 2018

In Plain Sight at Laumeier

I have lead over 100 tours of Laumeier Sculpture Park as a docent. It is no secret that this place in the Saint Louis suburban setting is a treasure. Today is Sunday and I am scheduled to lead a tour for the general public. It is never entirely clear who will show up for these tours that are offered from May through October on the first Sunday of each month. I have come to think of this showcase of sculpture in the heart of the Midwest as a home. Not just because It was in fact a home since it was built in 1917 and occupied by Henry and Matilda Laumeier from about 1941 to 1968.

In the spirit of visiting someone’s home, I plan to conduct today’s tour as you might welcome guests. Laumeier Sculpture Park is a sprawling 105 acres with plenty of nooks and nuances. My plan today its to use this glorious summer-like day as an opportunity to lead my guests to see some of the extraordinary works IN PLAIN SIGHT.
As I reflect on Sunday tours in the past it seems I try to give a broad brushstroke overview of the park. It usually lasts 90 minutes. As a matter of fact, I can never get to everything I want people to see and learn more about. So today, I plan to take a leisurely stroll with emphasis on just ten of those items that are (in my view) too often overlooked. As with a tour of a beautiful home, we sometimes forget to enjoy the curb appeal and first impressions of the foyer and living spaces. So here are my notes for today:

Saint Louis Project by Richard Fleischner (b. 1944) is part of Laumeir’s ten-sites initiative (between 1980-2000) in which artists were challenged to create an installation that is site specific. This piece is 425 feet in length and incorporates trees, shrubs and limestone structures. The Artist earned his BFA and MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. The site is a sort of grand entrance into the park that reaches across the street and into the neighboring community.

Canto IV 1974 by Ernest Trova (1927-2009) is now appropriately in the Northern Grove and highly visible as one looks toward the estate house and grounds. Trova is a local artist who may be best known for his Falling Man Series. I will point out an example as we get closer to the estate house and you will note the sharp contrast from this work.

Walking Roots by Steve Tobin (b. 1957) is a cast bronze sculpture that has moved to make room for Farid’s Bird #1. Tobin created a similar but grander scale piece that, for a time, was a 9-11 memorial in NYC of an uprooted tree that fell near a church not far from ground zero.

Bird #1 by Farid Rasulov (b. 1985) is an installation that complements the featured exhibition in the fine arts building from April through July. The artist lives and works in Baku, Azerbaijan.

MIX by Alexandre Da Cunha (b 1969) is a example of what Marcel Duchamp would call a readymade. The barrel of a cement mixer is proudly on view. The artist was born in Rio de Janeiro and studied in Sao Paulo and London. He now lives and works in London.

Man with a Briefcase by Johnathan Borofsky (b. 1942 Boston) is Fiberglass with epoxy enamel and features a number the artist was on as he was engaged in a cognitive exercise of a numbering sequence. The artist earned his BFA at Carnegie Mellon and MFA at Yale.

Laumeier Project by Jackie Ferrara (b. 1929 Detroit) is another example of a site-specific installation. This one is a structure that is reminiscent of a puzzle made of red cedar. As with the Saint Louis Project by Fleischner it was part of the ten-sites initiative. Interestingly this is a “second original” since it was rebuilt to the artist specifications (when the original installation began to show signs of weathering).

Tower Hybrid and Linked Forms by Richard Hunt (b. 1935 Chicago) are two pieces that show a range and creativity of the artist.

Untitled 1984 by Donald Judd (b. Excelsior, MO 1928-1994) is a fine example of Judd’s Minimalism (a term he did not much care for) – made of concrete cubes with partitions that alter views from the sides.

Public Goddess and Heartland Garden by Judith Shea (b. 1948 Philadelphia) is a tribute to women who are placed on a pedestal (while simultaneously imprisoned by it). Her work shows her interest in fashion design which was her principal area of study initially at Parsons in New York.

So there you have it. The IN PLAIN SIGHT tour.        

Friday, June 1, 2018

Talent Show Highlights (NEU)

It was the school year 2014-15 when Katie decided she was not returning as Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) teacher. She owned additional responsibility of coordination of the annual talent show. I was paraeducator and a reliable substitute for Katie that year. So it was only natural for me to accept the responsibility for the Neuwoehner High School talent show when she announced her plans to leave teaching for a while and focus on her growing family.

The TALENT show became mine. I did not expect to own it forever, but something keeps bringing me back as the talent show coordinator (for three years running now). The show generally happens as the Spring break approaches. A theme is offered as teachers and staff are encouraged to work with students to prepare appropriate performances. What happens next is a kind of magic. Several weeks of chaos lead to showtime that features more than 25 acts which may be song, dance, magic, reading a poem or playing an instrument. Students elect to perform as solo, duo or groups. Some teachers decide to present their classroom as an act. It all comes together as a show that typically runs 90 minutes.

The remarkable thing is how these students rise to the occasion. All have learning disabilities in one form or another but they face fears and ignore obstacles. The result is an entertaining production that showcases both courage and talent. Three years ago our theme played off of reality TV - Neuwoehner Talent Search. Last year we leveraged literature with Fantastic Talents. Our most recent production took its cue from the school year that began with a Solar Eclipse – A Space in Time.
Some memorable highlights:

A young man with Down Syndrome dons a leather jacket and wig complete with sideburns to sing and enthusiastically dances like the Elvis (thank you very much). A teenage girl performed a rap song she wrote in honor of one of her former teachers. A classroom takes the stage in five wheelchairs with staffers on hand to help roll out a banner that celebrates the Age of Aquarius with peace signs and smiles. A boy with impaired hearing explains (with assistance of an interpreter) as he escapes from a straight-jacket, chains and locks on stage like Harry Houdini. Behind the scenes, students volunteer to serve as ushers, distribute programs, and work the lights. PowerPoint images featuring student art serve as title slides between performances. Music fills the room as the show comes to a close and students and guests in the audience anticipate Spring Break. It is at that moment you cannot help but see this community sharing the joy of all the little things that are so very big.

Stay tuned. The Show must go on. In Spring of 2019 the theme - The World Awaits.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

Mom I miss you, That’s for sure.
I wish you could see what I see, so sweet and so pure.
And maybe you do - It’s just so profound.
Mothers make the world go round.

My wife talks to her mom every single day.
It’s the little things, I always say.
Standing through thick and thin, the mother of our two;
For richer, for poorer, we smile, we do.

She's mom to a girl and a boy...
They bring us so much happiness and joy.
Astounding as it is, our baby girl is a mom now;
She knows exactly what to do, and how.

And he married a girl, a beautiful bride for our son.
As a mom, she is nearly a perfect one.
Incidental as I am.
I am a very happy man.

Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso, 1921
Art Institute of Chicago

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fantastic Wedding Memory

Karen Raidy is poised on the terrace of an historic venue adjacent to Washington University with brush in hand. She has carved a niche for herself as a portrait artist who captures moments. The work in progress is shaping up as a fantastic image that surely the couple will cherish. Norma and Carlos celebrate their wedding dinner on April 21, 2018 while the artist ponders the poetic license of a composition that will most certainly be a treasure.

Visit her website to learn more at  

UMSL PANEL – The Future of Marketing 2018

Marketing Club president Amber Daniels did an artful job, as moderator, including each of the eight panelists: Alison Boland (Purina), Elizbeth Ledbetter (Creative Group), Angela Marino (United Way), Nick Sylvia (Anheuser Busch), Sarah Dalton (Nolan Investment), Steve Bauer (Fleishman-Hillard), Travis Estes (Saint Louis Symphony) and Wes Morgan (Morgan Studio/East).

Questions included probes of: a good academic breakdown of traditional vs digital content; learning digital/social media skills; staying current; mobile and the next disruptor; breaking down silos between creative, PR, customer relations, development, etc; marketing as service;       leveraging influencers; and how brands earn trust. The panel is rich in diverse backgrounds/experience. They came prepared to share insights and have been well briefed by UMSL organizers from the marketing club.

The Summit Lounge in the J.C. Penney conference center was converted into a lively venue with about 100 people in the room on a Wednesday afternoon from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. (April 17, 2018). A streaming of the panel is posted for students and others to view and review. This event is part of what Professor Perry Drake defines as a mission in the College of Business to help students build personal brands, shape careers, futures, and provide access through networking opportunities, with speakers and companies.  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Farid Rasulov at Laumeier

Coffee, Conversation, 1001 Skewers and Bird #1

Azerbaijani artist Farid Rasulov and Curator Dana Turkovic sat comfortably at one end of the Aronson Fine Arts Center to discuss Farid’s 1,001 Skewers (in the gallery space) and the artist’s Bird #1 abstract installation (outdoors in the Northern Grove) at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Dana has an easy interview style that allows the artist many opportunities to embellish his motivation for creating the composition of 1,001 skewers. Farid draws attention to 75 skewers arranged on one wall and the invitation to add a sort of social media conversation. He notes another wall and a gallery space installation that is reminiscent of a DNA strain. He has taken advantage of the height of the wall to the west to create a tree composed entirely of skewers. The remaining wall, as one guest suggests, may have a calculated mathematical significance.
Farid is soft spoken and not at all boastful or arrogant in spite of a long list of artistic accomplishments. He represented Azerbaijan at the 53rd Venice Biennale. His work includes large scale paintings, installations, 3D graphics, animation and sculpture. Dana invited the artist to comment on his training in medicine. His response in a measured tone is a statement that an artist does not need to go to school to learn art. He adds, matter of factly, that an artist can learn a great deal from the study of medicine as he has. (This notion gets a polite laugh from patrons seated in the gallery.) A local artist employed by Kiku Obata & Company Design Consultancy defends the formal artist training. (This is a comment from an man originally from Baku, Azerbaijan himself).

Farid’s Bird #1 sculpture was inspired by a graphic representation of an abstract and angular bird design he wondered about in a carpet from his native country perhaps while working in Baku. Now he is part of this exhibition and the outdoor installation in Saint Louis which is the continuation of an exploration series of works from emerging national economies around the globe. 

Azerbaijan, the nation and former Soviet republic, is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, which span Asia and Europe. Its capital, Baku, is famed for its medieval walled Inner City. Within the Inner City lies the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a royal retreat dating to the 15th century, and the centuries-old stone Maiden Tower, which dominates the city skyline.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Morgan Visits Macondo

Macondo is a fictional town described in the Gabriel García Márquez novelOne Hundred Years of Solitude. It is the home town of the Buendía family. I finally made some time to read this book (with the help of 14 hours of discs from Blackstone Audio borrowed from my local library). Here’s a sampling from midway through the story of seven generations of a family spanning one hundred years.  

It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía under the chestnut tree with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight. Ever since the railroad had been officially inaugurated and had begun to arrive with regularity on Wednesdays at eleven o’clock and the primitive wooden station with a desk, a telephone, and a ticket window had been built, on the streets of Macondo men and women were seen who had adopted everyday and normal customs and manners but who really looked like people out of a circus. In a town that had chafed under the tricks of the gypsies there was no future for those ambulatory acrobats of commerce who with equal effrontery offered a whistling kettle and a daily regime that would assure the salvation of the soul on the seventh day; but from those who let themselves be convinced out of fatigue and the ones who were always unwary, they reaped stupendous benefits.

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) grew up listening to family tales, eventually becoming a journalist. His fiction work introduced readers to magical realism, which combines more conventional storytelling with vivid fantasy. His novels Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera) have drawn worldwide audiences, and he won a Nobel Prize in 1982.