The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis hosted an on-site media and guest preview for its fall/winter exhibitions on Friday, Sept.3; its first preview since January 2020.
“It has been a challenge for artists and arts organizations, but art didn’t stop, CAM didn’t stop and it really is because of the people in this room,” Lisa Melandri, CAM executive director said during the preview.
“Our members, our friends, our patrons, our incredible board of directors have really steered us through all of this time and have allowed us to come back and offer another season of wonderful exhibitions.”
Shara Hughes’ On Edge presents paintings, drawings and monoprints from 2015 to the present. Her landscape pieces demonstrate a love of colorful, unique imaginative paintings that don’t indicate a clearly defined location.
“They’re very much about where I am personally in my own place,” Hughes said.”I call them imagined landscapes or psychological landscapes. They’re completely unpredictable to me and teach me a lot more than I’m controlling them in lots of ways.”
Kathy Butterly’s exhibition is separated into two parts which showcases over three decades of her small-scale ceramic sculptures. In one gallery, you’ll find Out of one, many, a “micro-retrospective” of work created from a pint glass mold, displaying her eye for differences in a single, tiny form.
“I try to find unique personalities within each form and so that’s what that gallery is.” Butterly said.
Headspaces is on display in another gallery and it includes new and recent work larger in size and permeated with discussions surrounding daily issues.
“Headscapes is a body of work which was created in the last two years,” Butterly said. “They’re really interesting to me because they’re much larger and go from a mere three inches tall. I really feel like I can pull out a lot in three inches and I can make something that has a very loud statement kind of whispers it to you. That’s the three inches being powerful.”
Farah Al Qasimi’s Everywhere there is splendor is a new site-specific installation centered around her family’s history. The idea for the work came from her experience being quarantined at her family’s house and finding photo albums for the first time that documented her family’s emigration from Lebanon to the United States in the 1950s.
The title derives from a quote about a hotel where her grandmother worked as a line cook in the 1950s.
Her family’s willingness to assimilate to American culture through their design decisions, attention to color, and home decor details is reflected in the installation.
“I really love it when people interact with the work by taking pics with it,” Al Qasimi said in an interview. “I encourage people to photograph it, to photograph themselves in front of it, think of their own family archives, and what new things can come of them.”
Lorna Simpson’s Heads is part of CAM STL’s Street Views installation, a projection on the side of the building that spotlights from dusk to midnight. Blue Love and Redhead are the works included.
Both utilize photographs from Ebony and Jet magazines with watercolor hairdos to highlight Black representation.
“The notion of fragmentation, especially of the body, is prevalent in our culture, and it's reflected in my works,” Simpson said in a statement provided by CAM STL. “We’re fragmented not only in terms of how society regulates our bodies but in the way we think about ourselves.”
Summer Brooks, was selected by Teen Museum Studies participants because her work challenges the damaging perceptions of biased societal beauty and hair standards.
Her work, The New Garden Variety is inspired by the events surrounding the June 2020 protests of George Floyd’s killing. As a Black woman, she saw how important it was for her to talk about what happened. That’s when her ideas sparked for her showcase.
“These ideas were definitely manifesting in my head for a while before I was able to get it down,” Brooks said. “Crown [a large piece with a Black woman wearing a voluminous afro in black, gold and purple hues and crown hair jewels] was created in 2020. This was the pinnacle of ‘I got it.’ It's just so big and beautiful. That’s when I took off, I got this idea of beauty and afro.”
Another piece is called Don’t touch, and it features a cake made from clay with smear marks and fingerprints on it to symbolize when white people touch Black women’s hair without permission.
“Why are you touching my hair? I don’t know where your hands have been and I don’t want you to violate my space cause I’m not gonna touch you in that way,” Brooks said. ”Don’t touch is represented with the fingerprints and the smear. That was really important for me to relate that aspect of me being violated in that way and kind of in this really innocent cake form.”
Other works in the exhibition include LEAP Middle School Initiative enMask & Mythos, created for middle school artists interested in an in-depth exploration of contemporary art practices and mediums.
The free 10-week after-school program provides students with the opportunity to work closely with professional St. Louis-based artists and educators in a mentorship relationship.
New Art in the Neighborhood Making Comics is also part of the exhibition. It's an education program, which provides St. Louis high school students with pre-professional art instruction and opportunities to work with contemporary artists all over the world.
For more information about the fall/winter exhibition, visit CAM STL’s website: https://camstl.org/.