For reasons still a bit mysterious, Jess Dewes and Stefene Russell incorporated me into a project that will debut on Friday night at Mad Art Gallery. I’ll post the text of the press release below, noting that a very intriguing, second photographer (she’s Finnish!) will be in the exhibit, as well. What’s most perplexing to me is that I created a piece of “art” that will be hanging in a bonafide art gallery. Sweet Jehosaphat. That it came together under the gun of a deadline, finished on my front lawn in the waning sunlight of Sunday evening, namely due day, is of no consequence and will not be mentioned again. Anyway, the other works are done by the pros and I look forward to seeing them. And thanks to the burned Nord St. Louis Turnverein for raw materials.
Contemporary Portraits Exhibit: Ilona Niemi, Jess Dewes, Stefene Russell
August 4-25, 2006
Mad Art proudly presents a contemporary study in portraits by artists Ilona Niemi and Jess Dewes, along with writer Stefene Russell. This exhibit runs Friday, August 4-25, 2006. A free opening reception will be held on Friday the 4th from 7-11pm with a cash bar available.
Ilona Niemi is a visual artist from Finland (b. 1975). Her works are psychological portraits inspired by the disappearance of the artist’s childhood friend, Piia, in 1988. Using traditional oil painting techniques, Niemi depicts faces of young women from her hometown in Finland, and surrounds them with candy-colors and rounded shapes. In contrast to the paintings’ initial impact of sweetness, her visual sources are morbid: the biomorphic shapes are based on diatoms found in the bodies of drowning victims, and the colors are often abstracted from autopsy photographs. The resulting works are reminiscent of childhood play but with a grown up, psychological twist – hiding the sinister under a sugary coating. Niemi has exhibited actively, and her work has been shown in the National Portrait Gallery in London, as well as in numerous group shows in Britain, Finland, Norway, France, Japan and the US. She has had solo shows in New York, Chicago, Scotland, and Finland. During her artistic career, Niemi has won various awards, such as the Royal Scottish Academy Painting Prize, and John Kinross Scholarship for a three-month residency in Florence. Visit http://www.ilonaniemi.com/ for more information.
Photographer Jess Dewes presents portraits of St. Louis artists and writers in their environments accompanied by text written by poet Stefene Russell. The subjects have been invited to create a piece of artwork or writing that melds the visual and written pieces of Dewes and Russell, creating a “triangular collaboration.” Dewes earned a BFA in Photography from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1996 and is currently finishing an MAT in aesthetic education at Webster University. In addition to photography projects, she teaches Sculpture and Ceramics at University City High School. She has exhibited in Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, and St. Louis. “I have always loved to photograph people I know. It seems that to photograph someone is to honor them, to set them apart from the daily routine by framing them in it.” Photographs include locals Andrea Avery, Jenna Bauer, Aaron Belz, Thomas Crone, Tom Dykas, Tim Garrett, Galen Gondolfi, Marie and Matt McInerney, Carmelita Nunez, Maryellen Picker and Eric Woods.” This collaboration is ultimately concerned with the value of connection and community, and why artists very deliberately choose to live and work in St. Louis,” explains Dewes.
Stefene Russell studied poetry at the University of Utah, where she learned to love Pablo Neruda and hate literary theory. She has no books to her credit, but does have one CD, Radioactive Cat Radio (UnHeard-Of Records, 2003). She is a co-editor of 52nd City Magazine (www.52ndcity.com), a member of the arts collective Hoobellatoo (www.hoobellatoo.org), and has helped Aaron Belz with the Observable Poetry series. Next year, Skuntry, Hoobellatoo’s skunkier cousin, will release Go South for Animal Index, a poetry score based on her poem of the same name.