Commentary on Culture | Midrash Blog

Midrash ArtTalks: The Great Rivers Biennial at the Contemporary Art Museum

ArtTalks, ArtTalks ...and more ArtTalks. They just keep coming and they just keep getting better! More and more folks are joining us for our First-Friday-of-the-Month art excursions, to take in some art and participate in engaging discussions about what we’ve viewed and the deeper issues and bigger ideas the artworks communicate. And it is gooood! We hope you can join us next time.

The most recent ArtTalks was held on Friday, June 6, 2014. We took a walk through the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), which is currently hosting an exhibit featuring three local artists who were each awarded a $20,000 grant as part of the Great Rivers Biennial. We met at CAM’s front door, and all 20 of us spent an hour or so taking in the exhibits. After viewing the exhibits and having some on-the-spot micro discussions among several of us, the whole group headed over to the outdoor beer garden at Urban Chestnut Brewery on Washington Ave. for our discussion. The conversation there was as lively as the exhibits were interesting, as we broke open what we saw, thought, felt, liked, hated, wanted more of, and could have done less with.

A particular favorite artist of our discussion leader for the evening, David Chappell, was Cayce Zavaglia. Her works involved friends and family portraits done in embroidery, and in many cases the work featured both sides of the pieces. On one side is a perfectly executed portrait, and on the other, a frenetic semi-jumbled, loose-threaded working end that still loosely resembles a portrait. The back side has the simultaneous presence of realism and abstract expressionism. It seemingly reveals the chaotic mental undercurrents that we all have beneath our finished, calm surface. Visually, it reminded David of the work of artist, Willem DeKooning.

The CAM website notes that Zavaglia “ in embroidery, blending colors and establishing tonalities that resemble the techniques of classical oil painting. Recto Verso, her project at CAM, features hand-embroidered portraits alongside a related series of small gouache and large-scale acrylic paintings. The paintings portray the verso, or reverse, side of the embroidery, revealing a portrait of loose ends, knots, and chaos corresponding to—but psychologically different from—the meticulously sewn front image. In the rich history of tapestry, the verso has traditionally been hidden from the viewer; Zavaglia exposes this concealed otherness, addressing the divergence between our presented and private selves."

We recommend that you take time for the Great Rivers Biennial exhibit for Zavaglia's work alone. Consider the others bonus!

Thanks to all who showed up for the June ArtTalk. We do NOT meet for ArtTalks in July, due to the July 4 holiday, and we hope to see a good crowd once again in August =when we host our next ArtTalks at an exhibit to be announced. Check out the Midrash St. Louis events calendar for updated info, and/or join our email list for event updates, and/or follow us on Twitter for micro-commentary on culture and event announcements.