Artists open their doors

“That’s the thing about contemporary art, you’re not supposed to get it,” a mother said to her 13-year-old daughter as we stood across from the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) on Friday night watching Marilyn Minter’s “I’m Not Much But I’m All I Think About,” a slow motion video of letters falling into a silver liquid as projected onto CAM. The letters spell out “me” and keep returning for another plunge into the metallic goop. I thought about the mother’s words as I watched another letter fall into the molten lava-like liquid; I laughed because I thought it was true. I began to think about all the contemporary exhibits and installations I had seen at places like the MoMa in New York City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and how at first, I never really got them. I remember seeing Basquiat’s “Hollywood African” hanging on a wall in the Whitney and how it seemed like nonsense. Or even Jeff Koon’s exhibit in Chicago, which seemed so abstract that anyone could do it.

But then again, maybe it wasn’t true. I continued to fix my eyes on the video projection. Maybe the video wasn’t nonsensical, but actually had an autobiographical quality – the artist’s own initials “MM” came back every few frames, playing with the self-consciously narcissistic quality of the film. I guess the actual thing about contemporary art is that it is so avant-garde because it represents something more than what we see.

Oct. 2-4, marked the 10th annual Open Studio tour in St. Louis. Over 200 contemporary artists opened up their studios and other art spaces around the area so the public could visit over the course of the weekend. Art teachers, studio artists and curators all had a spot here during the Open Studio Tour weekend. Venues ranged from the City Museum to Soulard Art Gallery, and even to Xavier Hall here at SLU. Throughout the weekend, self-guided, bus, bike and walking tours were offered as ways to cover as much ground as possible.

CAM, located a few blocks north of SLU’s campus, organized the event and hosted a kick-off party the Friday before the weekend began. They had live music and works from artists Hurvin Anderson, Sheila Hicks, Cole Lu, Wyatt Khan and others.

Some of the most interesting textiles from Sheila Hicks really caught my attention. For almost 60 years, this Paris-based American artist has been creating fiber-based, hand woven and abstract sculptures.

CAM had some of her works ranging from the 1960’s to present day, and features some pieces from private collections and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Hicks’ textiles have a very playful attitude to them, but still combine elements of our world, like feathers and quills from porcupines. The Evolving Tapestry: Blue, had a great visible weight to it—something that is entirely human and emotional in nature. Hicks did a great job with contrasting elements in this sculpture. One side is very heavy and thick, the individual parts almost in the shape of bacteria, and then walking around to the other side of the sculpture, it offers a lighter, fuzzier, almost dream-like entity.

The City Museum in the downtown St. Louis area held over 10 artists on Saturday. Edo Rosenblith is a Tel Aviv, Israel, native and does all sorts of studio art like printmaking, drawing and ceramics. Many of his works focus on how traumatic events can shape people’s lives, making viewers think about ideals concerning themselves within society.

There is an interesting contrast between his all-colored pieces and his black-and-white prints. Those that were black and white in nature had a more serious and introspective tone about them, but the colored pieces brought an entirely different mood. His use of a bright prismatic color scheme lends itself to a happy, juvenile feeling, but the subject of those works was anything but.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the thriving art scene that St. Louis showed this weekend. Contemporary art engages a wide audience and challenges their perceptions and ideas about society. This weekend was a site for discovery, and a gathering place for makers and lovers of the arts. CAM did a great job facilitating many different free events that anyone could attend, and it makes me proud that St. Louis has a museum that is dedicated to the art of our time.