66th Annual Membership Show

66th PC-HR-2

I must admit, when I was asked to review the 66th Annual Spiva Membership Show having never really familiarized myself with the work that is happening in the area, I was a bit hesitant to agree to it. The first image that came to me when I thought of a show displaying the work of mostly Joplin-area artists was a gallery full of Thomas Hart Benton knock-offs and a collection of less-than-inspired ceramic pieces that all generally played by the rules of modern convention and followed the idea that art should just be pretty landscapes and paintings of pretty people. But, now having visited the exhibit, I must say that I feel rather guilty for ever having a sense of such doubt and elitist cynicism of the show.

The show was anything but uninspired. There happened to be a vast expanse of styles, media, and content to be enjoyed and I ended up spending more time with my nose almost touching the works before, admittedly, tripping over my own feet a few times as I backed up to view the creations as a whole. I was truly amazed by the incredible amount of minutia that had been injected into these pieces by artists who obviously poured themselves into every pencil and brush stroke as much as they invested themselves into the content and meanings of their work.

But, as much as I marveled at the individual pieces, I don’t think they would have been nearly as impactful had they not been arranged in the way they were. What made the show so great was the aforementioned variance in styles all rubbing shoulders. It was amazing to be afforded the opportunity to view these pieces that one would normally see all separated and sorted by their differences and arranged into gallery battalions to forever war against each other for the attention of viewers as one giant celebration of art, not a competition of style.

Beautiful ceramics were holding hands with marvelous paintings that were hugging wondrous pencil drawings that were necking with gorgeous installation and sculpture pieces. It was so fun to just spin around and turn corners and take one step this way and lean my head that way to be in a totally different world of art. And that’s what the show is really about, community. It’s not about trying to say that my charcoal piece is better than your acrylic still-life that is better than his non-representation conceptual work. It’s about celebrating the joy of creating and sharing art in this area.

I think more important than anything else in the show is the word “membership”. I don’t think it was ever intended to say that it is an exclusivist show. I think it was intended to encompass the membership that we all share as artists in the worlds of creativity and expression as well as the membership we all claim in being part of this region and the art that comes out of it. And that’s exactly what comes through in this show. The pure expression, emotion, and freedom that art allows us to make for ourselves, but also to share it with others, free of the worry of category and genre and movement. The category, genre, and movement is art, and shows like this are truly the spearhead of such an important collectivist love of all things expressive.

-Submitted by Aaron Balentine

Show sponsored by Empire District Electric Company and runs November 16, 2013-January 5, 2014.


Fiber Inspiration

In December, I spent some quiet time in the Regional Gallery of Spiva Center for the Arts. The show was Four Women / Four Visions – Contemporary Fiber. Each artist is from Oklahoma, has a distinctive sensibility, but as a whole, the works talk to each other in this intimate but strangely vast gallery space. I went seeking respite, to connect with some art, to look hard, and try to wake my drawing hand from a too-long slumber.

I was immediately grabbed by this series of small works by Julie Marks Blackstone of Shawnee, Oklahoma. The color screamed, of course, but my recognition of art historical references cleverly juxtaposed is what kept me there, only reading the signage after I tried to make my own connections. I giggled and even guffawed with delight at her cleverness. This series made me wish that I had Artist Card packs as a kid, complete with a flat sheet of tasteless bubblegum. I avidly collected the Topps baseball cards, why not Artist Cards? I have no idea how time-consuming and/or difficult French knots may be, but as an artist who enjoys making highly crafted pieces that take hours, I was in love with her obsessiveness. I wanted to turn the pieces over and read the stats of the art history, the listing of colors and lines and values.

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If Courbet had Kandinsky’s Palette…
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots

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Knotty Girl: Mme Gautreau meets Messrs. Seurat and Klimt
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots

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The Smile? Because I’m a Knotty Girl!
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots

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Knotty Girl: Theda Bara as Cleotpatra
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots

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If Durer had Delaunay’s Palette…
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots, cotton floss

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To really spend time with the show, to get back to drawing, a much slower medium than my smartphone, I sat and observed. So many pieces in the show were luscious and curvy and begged to be studied carefully, but I settled on these two for quick contour ink drawings: Sue Moss Sullivan’s Drenched, and Stephanie Grubbs’s Good Morning, Good Evening. The unrelenting repetition, the variation in thread texture, and the often subtle coloring on these pieces sparked my interest. It felt divine to drag the pen across the paper. It’s been much too long.

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I tried my hand at a blind contour drawing of Heather Clark Hilliard’s Interrupted. I should have drawn at least three more blind contours. This is a drawing technique where you stare at the piece being drawn, but never look at your drawing as you make it, even in peripheral vision. It makes the direct connection between eye and hand, and takes away the Judge that often kills my work before it even starts. It’s loose, but takes concentration or you’ll lose your place, in which case you don’t look at your drawing, you just pick a spot and continue drawing. Hilliard’s piece was six-foot cut felt pieces tacked to the wall, hung heavily.

I want to return before it comes down. A dark, dreary winter is the perfect time to make drawings and revel in these fragile threads. Just like those individual threads create insanely strong pieces, these four fiber artists – Julie Marks Blackstone, Stephanie Grubbs, Heather Clark Hilliard, and Sue Moss Sullivan – come together to create a vast tapestry of talent, elegance and wonder.

This show is sponsored by Nancy G. Holland and Jim Stratton with additional financial assistance from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

-submitted by Josie Mai, Associate Professor of Art

Spiva Mural Interview: Taylor Kubicek


TANK: Public Art (a.k.a. The TANK) is a collaborative public arts group aimed at keeping public art in the community’s consciousness as a necessary and essential facet of culture in Joplin, MO. After populating Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center with wildlife sculptures earlier this year, they have struck again, this time in downtown Joplin on the side of Spiva Center for the Arts at 3rd and Wall. Following is an interview of Taylor Kubicek, artist member of TANK by Josie Mai, Spiva Board’s Vice President.

Can you tell one story about the process of making the mural, perhaps an obstacle you all overcame or a funny or surprising moment you didn’t expect?

Making the mural on the Spiva building was an interesting process.  On paper it seemed like a fairly simple task and overall that was true if you omit the math aspect. We didn’t project that mural but instead drew all the lines out with straight edges and tape measures. The horizontal lines are a different width than the vertical lines.  Finding this magic number left all of us artistic folk scratching the right side of our heads.  I’m pretty sure a group of high school or maybe even junior high students were employed to find the dimensions that would work with the existing space.  That is kind of embarrassing but is what community art is really all about!

How did you hear about The TANK and get involved in their work?

I first heard of the Tank through my good friend Shaun Conroy.  He invited me about a year ago.  My first project with them was the chicken wire sculptures now installed at Wildcat Glades.

What do you gain personally from creating art with a group? How does public art fit with your growth as an artist?

I feel that creating art in a group environment compared to making art by myself is easier in some ways and harder in others.  It is easier in the sense that you can rely on others to help problem solve and overcome logistics obstacles.  It’s harder yet healthy to have to compromise.  This translates to my personal work in that I am better able to question my own ideas.

Public art is a great way to build confidence as an artist.  It requires me as an artist to put my creations in front of the world and that can be a hard thing to do.  It also keeps me civic minded and tied to the world outside.  All of these things again are easier to accomplish when done in a supportive group setting.

What is the importance of public art in general, and even more specifically for Joplin?

In regard to Joplin and its culture, I feel, public art must expand and evolve.  Joplin is still recovering from the tornado and that needs to happen but, resilience should also be discussed and defined.  Is it enough for Joplin to simply rebuild or should we also focus on cultural growth?  Let’s face it; the tendency has been for Joplin to bleed out all of its culture. I think it will be a fine day when people start coming to this town for its appreciation of the arts.   Despite the attitudes of some, I believe that everyone is an art appreciator.  It connects us across all boundaries whether they are religious, political, or financial.

Any further thoughts, Taylor?

While there are plenty of murals in Joplin, our series of optical geometric murals bring something distinct to the area.  Non-representational murals do more for the viewer than just portray an image; they allow the viewer to inject meaning. My hope for these murals is that they encourage others to take part in the creative process.  Creating is one of the things people do best.  We should celebrate that.

ArtPortUnity Knocks: Brenda Sageng

High Country Wheat by Brenda Sageng is an oil painting on canvas, approximately 28 by 24 inches.  It is a simple painting at first glance.  The viewer’s perspective begins on a dirt road overlooking a fenced-in field of wheat rising into a hill. On top of the hill are a few cattle. The depth of the painting implies a very large, steep hill.  Part of this is achieved by the size of the cattle, which are very tiny. Towards the bottom of the painting a barbed wire fence is shown. The painting can be separated into three main sections.  Upon closer inspection to the bottom section one can see the various shades of paint used to provide a realistic portrayal of wheat.  Fine brushstrokes are painted with multiple hues of oranges, greens and brown giving the wheat a wispy appearance.  The texture of the paint is very delicate, and gives the wheat a very realistic representation.   The detail used in painting the road, fence, and wheat in the bottom section helps provide perspective in the painting making it seem as though these objects are closer to the viewer.  As the viewer looks further up the hill, in the mid-section of the painting, the color of the wheat changes to more golden shades of yellow and light orange. The paint strokes become more blended and give the wheat field a softened look.  The yellows and oranges used in the painting provide a glow. On top of the hill are tiny figures, although they are not clear the viewer can easily assume that the figures are cattle.  While most of the painting is monochromatic, there is a deep contrast between the warm golden shades of the wheat field meeting the clear blue sky on the horizon.   In the top section of the painting, the vivid blue of the sky reflects the golden glow of the wheat field.  Some of the light seen in the painting can probably be attributed to the very slight , almost undetectable, brush strokes of a lighter blue in the sky , close to the left of the horizon.  Even with the lighting effects created in the painting, it is hard to tell exactly what time of day it is.

Considering that the painting resembles scenes in the local area, it is possible the artist was inspired by views they had personally viewed and wanted to share the beauty of the wheat field.  The painting has a simple composition, which can make it difficult to ascribe meaning to.  The painting, while similar in subject to van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, evokes more warmth and comfort with its color content and lack of dark shades.  Sageng’s painting depicts contentment and happiness, which people tend to associate with the colors used. Maybe by using the golden tones which are also associated with wealth, she implies that the wheat field has great value aesthetically and for physical nourishment .

-Kelly Wright

Tools in Motion: School of Fishes

Arman’s School of Fishes                                                                                                                   

On display at Spiva as part of the Tools in Motion show is an assemblage by Armand Fernandez, aka Arman.  The work is aptly titled School of Fishes.  The “fishes” are actually vise-grip pliers and there are hundreds of them welded together.  Positioned in a directional left to right flow, the practical usage of the tools fades into biomorphic eye candy.  Light plays off of the chrome pliers mimicking a school of silvery fish.  While the assemblage is nearly rectangular, the invisible edges of the piece are swollen and untamed.  The soft curve of handles and plier heads overshadow the more empirical parts of the tools. Being in great number the pliers create a blanket of cold metal fishlike texture.

You cannot view School of Fishes and see individual vise-grip pliers.  Contrarily, the pliers must be seen as one thing.  That one thing moves and breathes as each “fish” is locked in a symbiotic dance with the others.  The placement of each tool creates a unified image filled with slow yet forceful flowing lines of fish.  A few jot up or down nearly as random as a fishes motions can seem.  Rebels.  

Perhaps School of Fishes is simply a fun piece and impressive only in its construction and design.  But maybe this was Arman kicking in his two cents in regards to the expansion of human ingenuity.  These “fish”, with exception of a few quirky strays, work with purpose and bend under one accord.  And isn’t this type of pliers unusually strong for its size?  These fish work as a body but function under their individual strengths.  Also, rust or the absence thereof should be noted.  By replicating in metal a group of animals that live in water, the sheen of the metal is relatively unspoiled by rust.  Perhaps this was to simply create a silvery shine like that on a big bunch of fish.  But perhaps this also is a showing of resilience.  When walking away from the work the viewer is assured that the mighty fish will continue riding an invisible current.

-Taylor Kubicek


Meet Jacque McDonald

What is your role in this exhibit? What kind of art do you make or support?  

My role is a visual artist…I sculpt inner emotion, conversation and thoughts.  I am a sculptor of children.

Is making stuff really work for you, or is it play? Why? Why even engage in the arts?

Of course in the beginning it was work but as the work progresses it begins to have life and feeling of a real little person. When doing the details I actually pull from within, when I interview the person I sculpt or watch them, I observe the mannerism and try to match that with my work.  I thoroughly enjoy my work and I’m excited each day I have to privilege to know the person I’m sculpting.  My desire is to convey expressions, thoughts and the true inner person of my subject. In doing so I become a better person.  I understand children are important and their story is important by placing myself in their world I can feel what they feel and find the emotions of their reality.  Clay is play.

What is your perception of the ArtWorkers exhibit and your involvement in it? 

Invigorating; it is so interactive and there is so much for everyone to feel part of; be it a painting, music, dance or photos it is an experience only one can have if they come.  Honestly, I had no idea how in the world this would come together, it totally blows me away by the reaction of the public and the artists involved.

Any advice for future ArtWorkers? 

Dream it make it and enjoy the moment; your art becomes the world’s and enjoy the results.   Remember, no one else does it just like you.