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Let's Talk Arts is a multi-format series of interviews coordinated by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, with the goal of providing context and consideration to the arts in the region. Throughout the year, you can look forward exploring the arts in depth through Interviews and Question & Answer Sessions with jurors, artists, performers, and others working in the creative fields.

Let's Talk Arts with Artist Juanita Wyman

Juanita is a native of Sainte Genevieve and holds a BSE and MAT, with a major in Art, from  Southeast MO State U.  She spent 30 years teaching H.S. Art at DeSoto H.S., retiring in1999.  Juanita was also an Adjunct at Jefferson College for 4 years teaching Art for Children,  and named the Missouri H.S. Art Teacher of the Year in 1998.  Juanita now makes her home, again, in Sainte Genevieve and is actively practicing what she preached, showing her work mostly in Sainte Genevieve at the Galleria Sainte Gen., and at European Entitlements.  Juanita has been working primarily in chalk pastel, and her subject matter is typically European and mid-western land and cityscapes. 

Her work can be viewed on Facebook and Instagram.

Question and Answer Session
October 25, 2019                                                                                                                                       By: Kelly Downes

1) Kelly Downes: You were named the Missouri High School Art Teacher of the Year, and served as an adjunct professor at Jefferson College. How did teaching affect your personal practice? What is one piece of advice you would give to young, aspiring artists?

    Juanita Wyman: I think I had wonderful teaching role models at SEMO, especially instructors Jake Wells and Grant Lund. Both of them were extremely knowledgeable but what I liked the most was the way they would demonstrate, or would draw along with us at times, such as in the figure drawing class. I'm a visual learner so this helped me personally, and also as a teacher. I taught by demonstrating, and during figure drawing classes I'd often draw the model along with them. Doing this helped to not only hone my personal skills but I thought it gave more credibility to me as an artist. I wanted my students to know that I could actually do what I was asking them to do. It was very difficult, though, to produce much of my own work, but I would do several paintings throughout the year and would enter some shows. But, it wasn't until I retired that I became a serious producing artist where "I practiced what I preached" all those years.

As to advice, I think it is important for any artist to know and to study the basics. This includes the Elements and Principles of Design. I used to say to my students, "Learn to do it right before you start doing it wrong", meaning changing it up, or trying to be more creative.

2) KD: What tool or trait do you feel is necessary for all artists to have in their arsenal, 
and why?

     JW: They need to develop their eyes to really see what they are looking at. Daily sketching with a pen keeps one sharp. I like the pen because you can't erase. It's quick, but yet it trains the eye to really look and the hand to draw what is observed. I used to say that learning to draw is learning to really see, but it's also what you know (that being the basic elements and principles). Of course, having a keen interest in art, and practicing, helps greatly in becoming a successful artist. 

3) KD: What period of art/work of art do you most identify with, and is it stylistically apparent as an influence on your work?

    JW: I used to be quite the realist and the more detailed the better. I think this is because I taught my students how to observe closely and to really draw what they were seeing as they drew. Once this was achieved we then moved into how to be more creative. My work now reflects a more creative and impressionistic style. John Singer Sargant is a favorite

artist of mine, but I also like Mary Cassatt. While these two are more figurative artists, I  still like their style of painting and compositions. I'm more a cityscape, landscape artist, but do incorporate figures and I think my recent pastels border some on their suggestive techniques.

4) KD: What are you reading or listening to that is currently inspiring you?

     JW: I am reading Water Dance and just finished the Outlander Series. But, I'm greatly influenced by my travels to Europe and by my growing up in Ste. Genevieve, which has a European look and feel. So what do these have to do with my own art? I am inspired by history, by stories, and by the people and places that are around me. These two books offerup history with colorful detail and stories of the past. As I look over my paintings, they are based on past places, events, stories, and people that were/are in my life. I do European scenes of my ancestral towns and scenes from locations where we've lived or visited. I like to incorporate people into some of these scenes that often represent the working class, or maybe everyday life activities.

5) KD: Describe a real life situation where art was a catalyst for change.

     JW: This one is tough, but after my husband died, I didn't really want to paint, and when I did it was lots of different media and subject matter. I needed to do something, so I was encouraged to join the guild and through this involvement I began doing art again. What I was producing was representational but nothing consistent looking. It didn't tell that

"story" or wasn't a medium that I truly enjoyed. But I was producing, so a start. One of my former students, Internationally acclaimed artist, Ali Cavanaugh, who now lives and works out of her studio in Ste. Genevieve became my "mentor" as I like to say. Part of this was discussing her own journey with me, which was finally finding a body of work that was not only true to what she most enjoyed painting, realism and figurative, but what would sell. After some exploration within herself and with galleries she found her niche. It was her journey, but yet it taught me a lot. I had been working with watercolor and pastel, and took a workshop in Italy. I came back with a love of historical landscapes and a renewed interest in pastels. But, still not satisfied, I worked in oils, tired of this and again went back to pastels, my first love. I found, quite by accident, that my pastels were looking like my oils; loose edges, layered colors, and lots of textured strokes. From there that "body" grew to where I am now. Art and the Guild got me through that "grieving" period and reconnecting with Ali gave me the push and the incentive to let myself do what I liked to do

most and to explore the medium.

6) KD: What research do you do when creating a piece, and what is your process for 
choosing a subject or medium to work with?

     JW: I pretty much work with pastels but I sometimes vary, using watercolor as an undercoat or maybe trying something else. I take lots of photographs on my travels, and around town, always with an eye on a composition that might be worthy of a painting. Capturing the light at different times of the day is also an important part of my paintings. Here lately I've been questioning my process and itching to try something new. Art evolves and I can see this beginning to happen again. In another discussion with Ali, she suggested that every now and then, to take a week or so and just explore the medium without trying to focus on "finishing" a piece.

7) KD: As a member of both the Ste. Genevieve Art Guild, and the Visual Arts Co-Op, why 
do you think it is important to join organizations that support and foster local artists/arts? What role does arts funding play in the larger society?

     JW: I've been in the Guild since 1999 and I joined because I wanted to be surrounded by people that had a similar interest. The same is true of the Coop. We are all at different skill levels, but yet we talk the same language, we learn from each other, and we inspire each other to do the best we can. Needing to produce paintings to show monthly at the Coop also forces me to stay on task. As to the Guild, besides having a common interest, we try to bring in accomplished artists that will demonstrate, or provide workshops where we can learn, and it has encouraged me, and others, to open up and to be able to talk about my art and to feel comfortable showing ones work. Up until this year our guild has not had a home, or even a regular place to display our work, but we have recently acquired a building. Since I joined in 1999 our guild has become a "presence" in this town and it's because we continue to provide a steady dose of art to the community. It might be a guild show, featuring artists of the guild, sponsoring an Art Colony show, working with the community on various events, or providing educational instruction to local students. Through funding we have been able to keep The Art Colony and School of Art of the 1930's and 40's in the forefront. It's our legacy and we have used funding for numerous shows of Colony members. We've sponsored shows for such notables as instructor Thomas Hart Benton, founders Aimee Schweig and Jesse Beard Rickly, Bernard Peters, and Joe Vorst, to name a few of the Regionalist Artists that made a mark on the Regionalist Scene during this time period. Today we have used funding to renovate the Matt Zeigler Gallery that was the site of the First School of Art and the Colony. An Art Walk has been developed by our Historian and President that takes people to various Artist sites and paintings around town. Funding is now providing money to help the County renovate the Old Museum that was donated to us to be used as a gallery, museum, and art center. Educational funding is allowing us to provide classes to elementary students on a regular basis along with workshops for young and old. Without funding from grants, we'd be very stifled in what we could actually provide to our members and to our community.

8) KD: Finally, if you could have dinner with one person, living or deceased, who would it 
be, and why?

     JW: The only person that pops into my mind is someone on a personal level. To be able to share my career, my accomplishments, and my achievements with my dad would be my first choice. My mother lived to be 92 yrs. old, so until 5 years ago she was part of my life on every level, at every turn. She encouraged me and was with me during my developing art career as a teacher and then as a professional fine art artist. My dad, though, died shortly after I started teaching. I'd also love to sit down with Jake Wells. We communicated during my teaching years and he mentored me in many ways as a teacher. But, I'd love for him to see my pastels. Until I moved back home to Ste. Genevieve in 2007. I wasn't really "producing" much. I learned pastels, not watercolor, from him so I'd love to see what he would say about my work .

Let's Talk Arts with Artist Janice Nabors Raiteri

A recent transplant, Janice now works from her studio in Ste Genevieve. In the past, she attended Memphis College of Art, painted for a decade with artist Persi Johnson, studied with other acclaimed artists, and curated a fine art gallery in Memphis. Over the years, she enjoyed solo shows and gallery representation in Memphis (TN), Portland (OR), Lawrence (KS), and Oxford (MS). You may see her work at Rust and Ste Genevieve winery and at the Visual Arts Cooperative Gallery in Cape Girardeau.
Janice says of her process, “I ink...working with inks and fluid acrylics that flow mysteriously ...creating images that encourage the viewer to explore that mystery.”    


1.) Kelly Downes: Your pieces have a theme of being Eigurative, while also embodying an organic sense of mystery and energy. What is the process of choosing a subject, and what choices are made to bring those ethereal qualities to a given piece? Is the process more logical, intuitive, or a combination of both?

Janice Nabors Raiteri: 
Definitely more intuitive, my paintings evolve organically (I like to call them “Orgastracts”). I may have an idea in mind when I start, but it will be vague like city energy or fantasy flowers or lonely landscapes. Then the inks go on and I’m really thinking color and composition, so my vision has to change and truly “go with the flow.” I have to work each layer energetically since the inks dry quickly. The end result comes after many layers, and lots of mistakes and detours!

2.) KD: What themes do you pursue in your art making? How did you come to explore these themes in your work, and how have they evolved?

JNR: For a number of years, I did traditional, representational watercolors. Then we moved to Lawrence, KS, into an old house with a very rustic carriage house that became my studio. It was liberating to be alone in a place where I could literally throw the paint if I wanted to. I ordered some different mediums and surfaces, and the inks just seemed to be me. As for themes, I usually get on to an idea/subject and roll with that for a while, then on to something else. Basically though, my urge is to create something oddly beautiful that forces the viewer to study and wonder. I keep my titles vague because I like people to see in my paintings what they will.

KD: One of the outstanding qualities of your work is your use of color. Are your color choices based on the subject, or are the color interactions created independently of the piece? What do you do in your own life to study and interact with color?

JNR: I love color! I recently had to paint two paintings using only coffee (for a new coffee shop here in Ste Gen) and I was absolutely miserable. Yes, I choose colors based on the subject, but again, they may change as the painting evolves. I don’t know that I truly “study” color, I’m just always aware of color everywhere in everything. (When I am stuck in a waiting room, I silently redecorate, certain that my colors would be better -- snazz the place up, or calm it down, etc.)

KD: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

JNR: Recently I had a show for Fourth Friday and it boosted my ego when Charles Rhinehart came in, really studied my paintings, and commented, “The only way I can describe them is that they are from another dimension.” I also love it when a painting reminds someone of a place or an experience that they hold dear. By the way, Rhinehart and Rhinehart Gallery now displays some of my work.

5.) KD: Based on your background in the arts, how has your work evolved, both academically and professionally?
How have these experiences shaped your career?

JNR: For many years, my painting was very part-time and just for me and my family or friends. You have no idea how many of my original paintings became Christmas or birthday presents! However, once children were grown and I could quit working full time, I was able to attend workshops and art classes, and do lots more experimenting, and painting. While living in Memphis, I was curator for a Eine art gallery for two years and that amped up my professionalism. I began to think more in terms of presentation and building a cohesive body of work. Curating shows was my cup of tea -- Eiguring out how to make the artists’ paintings look their very best. Now, I hang the paintings for the Ste Genevieve Art Guild group shows.

6.) KD: You recently settled in Ste. Genevieve and joined the Art Guild. What are some of your favorite regional places to visit, and why?

JNR: Oh dear. We are new to this area and spent most of our time and money the first year fixing up our historic home. We’ve enjoyed hiking in Hawn State Park and Hickory Canyon. And, the wineries close by are wonderfully scenic escapes. We are discovering places we like in Cape, and of course, St Louis is always interesting. Oh, and we love walking around downtown Ste Genevieve.

7.) KD: What current trends in the art world are you following and why are they relevant to you?

JNR: To be truthful, I don’t keep up with current trends in the art world (or any world really). My mantra is “Paint what only you can paint,” so although I love to look at contemporary paintings, I don’t consider any of the trends relevant to me.

8.) KD: What is your current dream project?

JNR: Short term -- building the fourth wall to my home studio so it will be a private studio (heated!) instead of part of the garage. :) Then, I can paint what only I can paint every day this winter! Long term -- I’d love to have a chance to try my hand at public art, perhaps a mural, painted benches, a colorful wood sculpture something- or-other.

Let's Talk Arts with Artist Mary Robbins 

Mary Robbins is a mixed media artist working primarily with drawing, ink painting, fibers, sculpture and graphic design. She is interested in exploring the experience of color interactions. She uses stitching to connect layers of collage, to create focal points, or to provide unseen structure to sculptural forms. Mary uses drawing to emphasize areas of interest. She has exhibited artwork regionally and nationally and also has created commissioned paintings, sculptures, and graphic design projects. Mary works in Cape Girardeau, in the position of Media Specialist for Kent Library at Southeast Missouri State University. Mary presented an exhibition at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the exhibition will be on display October 4th-31st, 2019. In an interview with Kelly Downes, Gallery Associate at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the artist discusses her use of color and form and expressing creativity through those things

Question and Answer Session
September 21, 2019                                                                                                                                       By: Kelly Downes

Kelly Downes: You are an artist employing many different mediums in your work. When working, do you tend to choose the medium or the subject first?

Mary Robbins: I almost always choose the medium first.

KD: How would you describe the imagination stage of your process or a specific piece? Is there a definable quality to your process that seems to work regardless of medium, or does each present a specific demand/approach?

MR: When creating Captured Moments, I studied each circle individually and stitched on
the surface in different ways, depending on my intuition for the color of the circle.
Some circles felt that they needed stitching that was more subtle, almost invisible,
and others felt that they needed a contrasting color. A visual language of mark
making began to emerge, created by the length, number, and proximity of stitches
on each circle.
I feel that every type of medium I use in my artwork requires its own specific

KD: In your current work Captured Moments you have created 198 circles. Was that an intentionally chosen number, and why?

MR: The work having 198 circles was intentionally chosen. I wanted the height to be 2 feet tall so that the viewer could comfortably see the detail in each circle. I wanted to have an even amount of space between each circle. The length was planned to fill the wall, without being too close to the corners.

KD: The circles in the piece are both individualized, and part of a collective, harmonious whole. When the viewer engages with, or removes, the singular piece, what effect do you think it has on the overall perception of the piece?

MR: I think that the viewer’s engagement with a singular piece creates a second layer of
experience. Viewing the collective upon approaching the piece allows for one type
of effect. Upon closer inspection, one of the circles might become more engaging for
the viewer. The overall perception of the piece would then be altered from the
original interaction.

KD: Color is an important part of your aesthetic. What choices do you consider when working with colors for a specific piece?

MR: First, I consider the overall color palette of the ink painted circles, as they are cut out. Then, I choose whether to use mixed media to complement, blend with, or contrast with the existing colors.

KD: Throughout this exhibition, circles have taken a central role. What do circles symbolize to you, and did this understanding change as you worked with them repeatedly

MR: In general, I feel that circles symbolize the continuous movement of our world physically, spiritually, and emotionally. To me the ink painted circles symbolize ideas, dreams, hopes, and emotions. My initial work with the circles was experimental. I felt that the circles were important to me, but I did not have a clear understanding at first of what that symbolized to me. The more I worked with the circles, they came to symbolize a contained or expressed idea, emotion, or thought.

KD: In your work Observing Moments, you create compositions that weave together mixed media elements in order to depict open-ended narratives that are open to interpretation. What role do you think the viewer plays when interacting with these pieces?

MR: The viewer creates their own interpretation when interacting with each of the pieces. Their role as a viewer is to either insert themselves into the artwork as either the circle, the thread, or the stone, or to view the artwork as an observer of the overall composition.

Let's Talk Arts with Artist Michael Baird

Michael Baird is a Lecturer of Art at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He studies folklore from across the globe and is particularly interested in the role monsters play in society. Baird enjoys bringing folklore creatures to viewers through the use of a wide range of materials and techniques including traditional fine arts materials, contemporary materials, and good old fashioned sideshow gaff. Michael presented an exhibition at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the exhibition will be on display October 4th-31st, 2019. In an interview by Kelly Downes, Gallery Associate at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the artist discusses his motivations for creating these "creepy" "fantastical" creations.
                         Question and Answer Session                                   
September 21, 2019                                                                                                                                         By: Kelly Downes

Kelly Downes: Which came first, the creature or the folklore?

Michael Baird: Wow. That’s an excellent question. As a skeptic and a person who is heavily rational,
as opposed to superstitious, I do not believe the literal reality of the creatures. Most violate laws of physics and biology. Some, like the modern concept of Bigfoot, can be traced to fabrications and misunderstandings of older folklore. But the literal reality of the creatures is not important, I believe. They represent various elements of
humanity’s complicated relationship with the world around us. Many of these elements predate spoken or written language, so I suppose all my babbling comes down to the “creatures” came first, if taken in context.

KD: Folklore is a very expansive topic. How do you pair the stories down to a singular moment/creature/mood?

MB: Folklore is an overwhelmingly expansive field indeed. Even the small portion of folklore relating to fantastical creatures boggles the mind with its magnitude. But for my interests, I tend to read tales and reports with particular attention to the descriptions of the creatures’ physical appearance and behavior. These descriptions are the core representation of the tales themselves. It can be oppressive work reading thousands upon thousands of reports filled with useless speculations, appeal to authority fallacies, and long-winded explanations of unrelated information. I often feel like, if I never read another reported sighting of Bigfoot again, it will still be too soon. However, I continue to wade through the volumes of folklore from around the world because it is an essential element of humanity. We need monsters. Frightening, mysterious, friendly, bizarre, even humorous, we need to have strange creatures in our lives in order to explore what it means to be human.

KD: In examining your own process and body of work, are pieces based on specific characters, are they personally invented/constructed, or are they an amalgam of the two?

MB: With the exception of the installation I created a few years ago for the Arts Council, I do not invent any creatures. I create representations of creatures from real stories. Sometimes, these stories are thousands of years old. Other times, the tales come from just days or weeks before. I also tend to shy away from individual characters; I prefer to present creatures representing examples representing imagined entire species.

KD: What do you want the viewer to experience when engaging with your work?

MB: I think our society has lost much of its sense of wonder and imagination. Families used to sit around the hearth and tell tales of far-away places and fantastical creatures said to live there or even just beyond their back yards. But now, we receive our stories in the form of television, movies, and social media. While there is nothing wrong with these forms of entertainment, they do tend to be less of a bonding experience. Contemporary viewers are very jaded and have difficulty suspending their sense of disbelief, even for entertainment purposes. But I would like viewers to feel a little spark of wonder, likely even chuckle a bit at the bizarre and fantastical. If just one person tells someone else about some crazy thing they saw in my exhibitions, I will be happy to know that I have helped perpetuate our storytelling traditions.

KD: Who/what inspires your work, and how has this person/idea helped your aesthetic evolve?

MB: How much time have you got? I joke, but the honest response is that there are innumerable inspirations for my artwork. The list of individual artists alone wouldbe an inhibitive undertaking. Sadly, in this field of research, most of the names of people who have created the things I’m inspired by have been lost. But that’s a terrible response. Specifically, I suppose you caould say that I love lies. I adore gaffs, faked attractions like P.T. Barnum’s Feejee Mermaid. I love stories of crazy, impossible creatures. Monsters represent the most powerful representation of human creativity and I always find a good monster to be endlessly inspirational.

KD:  Your work has a theatrical quality to it…what role does staging and lighting play in the presentation of your pieces?

MB: Art exhibitions should be dramatic, theatrical experiences. I am never happy with my exhibitions. I always wish I could have managed a more theatrical impression. But this is a difficult balance to maintain when creating artwork that is so far from the traditions of “gallery art.” So I tend to display my work in a manner similar to relics and artifacts in a natural history museum or some sort of formal display. Though, I do like dim, dramatic, creepy lighting whenever it is possible.

KD: What role does folklore play in modern society, and are there new folktales being created?

MB: Folklore is not dead be any means. It may look different, much more commercial, but we share folklore more frequently now than ever before. Our movies, television,radio, and internet feed our needs. I believe that the majority of the folklore created and shared through these media tend to be hollow and quickly forgotten, sadly. But we still communicate person-to-person to perpetuate folklore as well. As for new folklore, oh yes, there are new folklore tales created constantly. Specifically, there seem to be few people who have not heard of modern conceptions of The Loch Ness Monster, starting in the 1930s, Bigfoot, starting in the late 1950s, Chupacabra, beginning in 1995, or the Slender Man phenomena that was created only a few years ago in 2009. But even in the realm of cryptozoology, the pseudoscience, there are new examples seemingly every day. That is one of the most exciting parts of my research; there is never any end to the list of creatures and tales to explore.

Let's Talk Arts with Artist Kerra Taylor

Artist Kerra Taylor presented a solo exhibition of paintings to the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri Gallery titled, “The Falsehood of Memories.” The exhibit remained on display from March 3 – 31, 2018. In an interview by Dr. Joni Hand, Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University, the artist discusses the context of her work, including recurring characters and themes, as well as her technical process and artist influences.

Question and Answer Session 
March 7, 2018                  By: Dr. Joni Hand

Joni Hand: There is a surreal quality about your imagery, which transports the narrative to an almost metaphysical place. Is this characteristic of your work part of the filling in of the gaps in the narrative that you mention in your artist statement?

Kerra Taylor: That’s a tough question. You are referring to a quote out of my artist statement, “A (narrative) painting... functions more like a single scene from the story rather than the whole story. When we take a scene out of context, we are left to fill in the gaps.” This simply means that I am only able to paint one scene at a time, and that one scene can’t give you all the answers to the story. You, as the viewer, have to think about what led up to the events and what came after. The “gaps” are the viewer’s interpretation of the story. The metaphysical place, in which you refer, is simply embellished facts alluding to a space in which the story takes place. Is the reality or place in the painting possible? Or, is it so weird, it can’t possibly be true?

JH: The title of your exhibition is “The Falsehood of Memories”. Could you speak a little about memories and how they are morphed or manipulated in your imagery?

KT: When I first take photos of my family, those photos are based on true events. However, after I’ve manipulated the photos in Photoshop, they become entirely different memories or experiences. They become embellished, faked, and quite extraordinary. For example, in “Meandering Through the Woods,” I grew up out in the country surrounded [by] woods – but I don’t own pigs, nor does my husband know how to play the flute. Also, it’s hidden in the painting, but I’ve never discovered a T-rex exposed in an embankment, but I did collect small fossils when I was younger. In “Have You Heard the One About...” Bigfoot is a mythological creature, but it’s not beyond the realm to sit around a campfire telling ghost stories. I haven’t been camping since I was a little girl, but for that photo shoot, we did set up lawn chairs around a campfire at night. In “We Interrupt This Program,” my in-laws are in a space that connotes the love of food, but it would not be uncommon for a tornado to interrupt their Midwestern home. I am absolutely terrified of tornadoes. It’s about memories in my paintings, but it’s also about our personalities and quirks.


JH: Animals are a common motif in your work. How do they fit into the narrative structures you create?

KT: I grew up on what I consider to be a small farm with chickens, geese, rabbits, and other small animals. It’s part of my upbringing. I sold one painting that illustrates this idea more clearly, “Gather Around My Children.” It can be found on my website. I am an animal lover at heart. While some of my paintings appear happy, satirical, or tragic, animals always seem so innocent and playful. They feel like a necessary element of surprise. Sometimes people can be predictable whereas animals are random.

JH: Can you describe your process? How do you begin to compose a painting?

KT: My process almost feels theatrical because when I take photos of my family, I direct them on where to stand, how to pose, suggest to them what to wear, and I consider the environment, time of day, and props. After the photo shoot, I go into Photoshop and digitally alter the space such as changing the background [and] lighting, and I add in more props. I find many of my resources online. 

Once I am done with this process, I print off the photo and build a canvas according to the dimensions of the photo. I grid both the photo and canvas to convert the same composition to the canvas. Lastly, I paint from my photo. It’s a lengthy process. Most of my paintings take a couple of months to complete. Sometimes – midway – I find that I dislike the original composition and will paint over an area until [I] resolve it.

JH: What do you want your audience to gain from your work?

KT: The large scale of my work reinforces that these stories are milestones worth commemorating. The paintings feel like epic events. The 5’ x 6’ canvases invite viewers into the scenes as witnesses to the events. In order to visually communicate these scenarios, I paint in a representational manner. Working in traditional oil medium, my technique is a means to convince my viewers that the given space alludes to a reality. My paintings understand that it is in our nature to second-guess “the facts” of what is or isn’t real. They question how far would one go to stretch the truth. Each painting functions more like a single scene from a story rather than the whole. None of the paintings are related or follow consecutive order, however, I use the same family members as my models. When we take a scene out of context, we are left to fill in the gaps. For every person, for every story – their interpretation of the scene will be unique. In this manner, I allow room for the viewer to enter into my paintings and complete the stories with their own past experiences.

JH: What advice would you give to younger artists?

KT: I am currently a Per-Course Instructor at Missouri State University. No matter what class I teach, I always want to instill in my students the value of hard work and perseverance. Through countless hours of practice, a student can only grow, but a student must be open to constructive feedback. I see the potential in students, and I want them to see that same enthusiasm. Also, in my opinion, students do not do enough research. I give them assignments that require them to do research. Everybody wants to be original these days, but everything is borrowed in this age. The sooner a student can understand where their inspiration comes from, how it relates to other artists’ processes, the sooner they will find their own voice and style.

JH: How does the work you are producing now differ from your earlier paintings?

KT: A lot of my older paintings can be found on my website to illustrate how my work has changed. I’ve gone through many series that have investigated different ideas about “home”. In undergrad, I painted old decrepit houses as an embodiment of the soul and I made replica sculptures of the houses as the vessels. I saw the human condition in the old houses: we are born into the world; we age, and then cease to exist. My work then shifted to self-portraits with me carrying around a cardboard shaped-house – a commentary on how we carry the weight of “home” everywhere with us. I also questioned what it means to be a woman today and my place within [the] home. I felt that neither body of work really addressed what I needed, and graduate school helped me develop those ideas. I lacked happy, more memorable memories with my family that my newer work provides with the narratives. I feel these paintings are necessary. I was a very lonely child growing up with two working parents, in which the paintings give me a venue to belong to a life worth celebrating.

JH: Which artists influence your work?

KT: In my research, I read books such as the Renegade Regionalists, American Gothic, Narrative and the Consciousness, and The Identity of the American West to help me formalize my identity. I also read books that specifically address the ideas of home and place such as Yi- Fu Tuan’s Space and Place and Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values and Wendel Berry’s Standing by Words and People, Land, and Community. I also read fairytales that helped spark my ideas for how to create settings, props, and characters. Finally, I look up artists that are not necessarily dealing with my same themes, but I carefully study their mediums, techniques, and concepts. Just to name a few: Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Jonathan Wateridge, Nicholas Poussin, Joseph Wright of Derby, Petrus van Schendel, Jeremy Gedds, Amy Bennett, Andrea Kowch, Pamela Wilson, Haley Hasler, and Adam Miller. My artist list grows every day.

For more information on Kerra Taylor visit:


Let's Talk Arts with Artist Kris Rehring

Artist Kris Rehring presented a solo exhibition of paintings to the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri Gallery titled, “Form and Figure”. The exhibit remained on display from October 6 – 28, 2017. In an interview by Dr. Joni Hand, Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University, the artist discusses the context of her work, her interest in other mediums, and Kris' favorite place to paint! 

Question and Answer Session 
October 6, 2018                    By: Dr. Joni Hand

Joni Hand: Many of your urban images are timeless in that they are not anchored to any one place. They are like stages awaiting actors. Is this aesthetic intentional, or more of a formalist exercise as you describe in your artist statement?

Kris Rehring: I have to say I really like that they come across as timeless. There is a certain tone that attracts me to some of the architectural motifs and which I certainly hope comes across in my work. Overall though, I suppose much of what draws my eye is the more formalist nature of the motifs. In the much of my urban work it is the structure, rhythm and layers that pull me in. And when you add the intangible element of light, another layer is added that is fugitive and can alter the arrangements in any number of ways. It is endlessly fascinating. Contrasted to the perceptual painting I exercise in certain landscapes and still lifes, I feel like I am using a different set of muscles when making this urban work. I’ve often thought it satisfies the former, orderly graphic designer in me.

JH: According to your CV, you have shown your work in a variety of galleries across the country. Has the reception of your work been different in urban galleries when compared to rural spaces?

KR: Work which I consider a bit raw or work which is more concerned with an abstract concept or arrangement seems to translate better in places like New York or California. However, my figurative work seems to be received well wherever it is shown, perhaps because it is more easily relatable.

JH: Your figurative work has a quiet aesthetic reminiscent of Edward Hopper or Lucian Freud. What is the role of the viewer in these works?

KR: I hear that a lot in comparison to Hopper’s work but Lucian Freud is a first and I am absolutely delighted in the comparison. Yes, I am all about the psychology behind the figure in my figurative work, so much so that sentimentality is a concern and I try to make sure I strike the right balance in my treatment of the subject. I want the viewer to engage and to relate on some contemporary level. Narrative is secondary and if someone interjects their own story as to what is happening, then all the better.

JH: What advice do you have for young painters? Conversely, what is the best advice you received from a professor or mentor?

KR: Broadly speaking, I applaud all forms of personal expression and anyone who devotes time to actually making art with their hands and minds. So to young painters I say keep painting and keep seeking. Try to understand and relate to all genres of painting because even if you strictly adhere to one in particular, constantly increasing your understanding of the historical contexts in which painting has evolved only serves to make your visual language even better. There is an endless amount of reading and study available that can serve as times of meditation and inspiration in what we do as artists. Never stop learning.

The best piece of advice I received was from contemporary painter, Hollis Dunlap. He basically said to stop waiting for the perfect set-up to paint. At that time I was concerned that I did not have a proper studio in which to hire a model; I did not have proper studio lighting on stands; I did not have this or get the point. That advice snapped me into a work- with-what-you-have mentality. And from that point on my work grew.
JH: When choosing a subject from a still life, how important is the local color of the objects?

KR: In my statement I mention how the act of painting still life is like quiet contemplation, so I’d say local color is very important. I tend to choose something with a minimal palette in

mind and hope I can capture it with as direct approach as possible. But looks are often deceiving!

JH: In one interview, you mentioned an interest in other media, such as printmaking. Have you been able to pursue this interest?

KR: In fact I have a weekend workshop coming up where I plan to brush-up on the basic printmaking skills I learned in undergrad. I’m looking forward to it because its intent is to keep it manageable. In other words, I should be able to incorporate some printmaking into my studio practice without a total upheaval and accumulation of more stuff. The German artist Kathe Kollwitz is an absolute favorite of mine and I remember reading in one of her journals how the ease of printmaking helped her practice.

JH: Light is extremely important in your work. Do you have a favorite place to paint where the light is “just right”?

KR: Yes! Light is what it is all about. Light is fundamental. Forgive me if my answer comes across as a complete cliché – Italy! 

For more information on Kris Rehring visit: 


Let's Talk Arts with Natasha Giles 

Artist Natasha Giles had a solo exhibition, titled Social Voyeurism, in March of 2017 at the Arts Council. In a recent interview by Dr. Joni Hand, Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University, the artist discusses her motivation behind the exhibit and her approach to creation.

Question and Answer Session
March 6, 2017                                                                                                                                                          By: Dr. Joni Hand

JH: Appropriation is a primary element in your work. How do you maintain a balance between found imagery and your own creative impulses? In other words, how do you manipulate these found photographs so that they become original works?

NG: The moment I begin drawing the image on the panel or paper (I like to paint on both) it begins to change. I start filtering the image and deciding what is important. In my newer paintings, I have begun to take the figures out of their original environment all together and place them in “environments” that are textured and abstract. As I start painting, I continue to make changes. In the more recent paintings you can actually see where I intentionally leave some of the original drawing after I have decided that it isn’t needed. I never really know what a painting will look like. At the beginning I have an idea of how I think a painting will turn out. The final result is always different.

JH: As you choses images from social media, are you drawn to any particular themes (other than people)?

NG: Right now I find that I am drawn in by the composition, the construction of the elements and principles of design. Images that have depth are the most interesting; depth of space, depth in possible narratives, depth of character and personality. There was only one time where I actively chose to work within a theme. That was a few years ago after the death of a close friend. Almost everything I painted for about 2 years was a reflection of her, our friendship, her death and the sense of loss.

JH: In your artist statement you discuss the idea of “shared experiences of memory.” Could you explain what you mean by this and how it is specifically demonstrated in your work?

NG: In this social era, nothing is private. We intentionally or unintentionally share things that happen in our day. There is subtle comradery or bond that we create with each online. Through a simple post, we connect and share our lives with each other. We are inviting each other into private moments. I become a part of each memory I find though the act of creation. I begin to feel like I’m there, watching and participating.

JH: Body language is also something that informs your work. Could you discuss the importance of body language in the images you create?

NG: I am a people watcher. There is a lot that we say without ever moving our mouths. Some people, like myself, can’t keep my emotions from my face. I have been told I have animated facial expressions. The same way we can learn about someone’s personality through a handshake, we can learn about people from the way they sit, cross their arms or if they look people in their eye. The unspoken words can be more important than the verbal ones. I look for the unspoken dialogue because it is really easy to say one thing and mean something else. Body language will always show the things we are trying to hide.

JH: When did you begin using multiple canvases and how does this technique strengthen your message?

NG: In the beginning, I wasn’t even thinking about it as a way to strengthen the narrative. I just enjoyed it from a formal perspective. It added an interesting element for me. It began to change after reading Relational Aesthetics. Layering and overlapping became a way to engage the viewer. I enjoyed making paintings where people had to bend, turn or move around a piece. Using multiple panels or sides allowed me to carry the narrative to every aspect of the painting if needed. I discovered I could create a visual footnote that enhanced the experience.

JH: What do you want the viewer to take away from this exhibition?

NG: I always love to see people engage with the more dimensional paintings. I love watching people imagine. I want people to think, to create stories, to wander, to consider. Some of the most interesting discussions along the way have also been about privacy and the social personas we construct. Social media is really an interesting phenomenon. It’s fascinating to think about how much it has changed how we interact with each other. Coincidentally, as I have been working from social media, it has made me question the things that I post and my reasons for posting them. None of this is to stay that people shouldn’t feel free to share. I love it and hate it all at the same time when I’m looking at people posting about their breakfast. It’s where we are right now culturally. People just have to think about how much they are willing to share.

M. Baird

J.H. Miller

Let's Talk Arts with Michael Baird & Justin Henry Miller

Artists Michael Baird and Justin Henry Miller will partner to bring “Dark Wonders” with painting, installation, and puppetry to the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri from October 7 – 29, 2016. In a recent interview by Dr. Joni Hand, Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University, the artists discuss their fascinations with science fiction, references to genre art, and their technical processes. 

Question & Answer Session
September 30, 2016                                                                                                                                               By: Dr. Joni Hand

JH: Both of you approach your work through a lens of nostalgia, Michael looking at a child’s sense of wonder, and Justin to a purity in the genetic make-up of living beings. Do you see your works offering an alternative to the encroachment of technology?

MB: I love technology. In fact, in this show, I will be displaying remote controlled creatures, automated critters, audio-activated lighting effects, and more. All of these live alongside manually operated puppets and big fake landscape forms. I have created this series of work especially with the feeling of wonder I receive from old science fiction books, movies and TV shows where the reader/viewer was invited to imagine what might await us in the far-off regions of outer space. The endless horizon technology presents can be very exciting.

JHM: I am not necessarily looking to offer up alternatives as much as I am an observer influenced by the ever changing world around me. I am concerned with our societal need to see the next technological breakthrough without considering the backlash, side effects, or mishaps along the way. I see my artwork more as cautionary tales. Each work is little window into what could be.

JH: Science fiction informs both of you and your work. Are there any specific examples from this genre that you are especially influenced by?

MB: I adore really cheesy B movies from the 1950s through 70s. Giant monsters, ridiculous costumes, pathetic plot lines, there is just something charming about them. I would have a hard time pointing to anything specific as an influence for this work. I love Gamera, Angry Red Planet, Lost In Space, The Green Slime, The X From Outer Space, and Ultraman to name just a few. 

JHM: For me an overriding attraction to science fiction comes from the endless possibilities the genre endorses. Worlds are created where seemingly anything is possible. I have become increasingly interested in the closing gap between science fiction and science fact. Take for instance cloning. This is a scientific practice that I am sure my parent’s generation would have deemed fiction earlier in their lives, now it has become a reality. 

I find myself drawn to films that use the concept of synthetic mimicry to question what it means to be human. In essence films that deal with the creation of artificial intelligence. These include Blade Runner, Ex Machina, Terminator, etc. Even the c3po and r2d2 characters of Star Wars seem at times “human” to me. 

JH: What made each of you interested in exhibiting together?

MB: When the Arts Council invited me to exhibit my work again, I was concerned that I would struggle to fill their generous space with my installation. Thankfully, the Arts Council suggested that I could exhibit with Professor Miller. I have always adored his fantastically immersive paintings and his wild imagination, so I was ecstatic. The more the idea soaked in, the more exciting the pairing became to me. 

JHM: Michael and I both installed separate shows at the Arts Council in the Fall of 2013. After experiencing each other’s work firsthand I think there was a mutual admiration and realization that we shared several similar interests. When Murielle Gaither, the Director of the Arts Council, approached me about exhibiting with Michael I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity. The macabre nature of work makes for a good pairing, especially for the month of October with Halloween and the Arts Council’s ‘Trick-Art-Treat’ event.

JH: Your artists’ statements outline things that are lacking or skewed in contemporary society, yet both of you embrace play and whimsy in your work. How do you see the serious nature of your intent coexisting with this playfulness?

MB: Play is serious. In children, it is a means to learn about the world. The type of play may change as we age, but we must never stop playing, never stop using our imaginations to probe the limits of our inner and outer universe. Whimsy too, is crucial in many ways. Whimsy allows us to address ideas that would otherwise be repulsive, taboo, or just plain boring. My intent in bringing this installation to the public is to invite a little whimsy, a bit of playfulness, and with luck a little wonder into the viewers' lives. We can never have too much wonder.

JHM: I enjoy artwork with a certain push-pull experience. That is to say I like being seduced into an artwork because of its approachable aesthetic only to find myself in a content-rich message. I try to pull viewers into my work with candy-coated palettes, high technical resolve, and cartoonish characters. Once pulled in hopefully the viewer finds something deeper. A perfect example of this would be an artist like Takashi Murakami. If you look at his mushroom painting series you at first glance seem to be simply be looking at candy-colored mushroom characters pulled from a manga comic.  However, after closer inspection of the composition and a consideration of Murakami’s Japanese heritage you realize a more ominous connection to the mushroom cloud and the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

JH: Which artists are you influenced by and why? 

MB: I am influenced by slews of artists. Though some of my most beloved would be Jim Henson for his work toward bringing puppetry to adult audiences, Douglas Adams for his unbound humor and imagination, and Eiji Tsuburaya for his work in making giant monsters a cinematic phenomenon. 

JHM: From a technical standpoint I love looking at the Dutch Golden Age painters. Abraham Mignon is a particular favorite of mine from this era. Not only are their works exquisitely crafted but I love the visual payoff of viewing them in person. Housed within their still lifes and floral paintings you often find little micro-worlds, insects chasing other insects, and other tiny details. I similarly try to encode little visual details within the larger narrative of my paintings. In a similar, but more bizarre way, I am a fan of Hieronymus Bosch. I remember seeing his most famous work, The Garden of Earthly Delights, in the Prado and I think that by the time I left the museum I had returned to that painting 3 or 4 times. I love paintings that keep you coming back to discover something new. Not to mention his paintings have some downright wild stuff going on in them. From a more contemporary standpoint I have found myself increasingly drawn to several pop surrealist artists like, Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto, and Camille Rose Garcia. Aside from their technical prowess, I find myself drawn to their social consciousness. 

JH: How do the materials and processes of your art making support the overall intent of your work?

MB: The materials I use vary widely depending on my physical needs. Installations create huge challenges that demand creative solutions. However, I tend to utilize materials and processes that present a softer, more organic appearance. I feel like this is helpful in creating an approachable atmosphere that I hope viewers will feel comfortable investigating, even if it's really weird.

JHM: On a technical level I like for my paintings to feel void of an artist’s hand. I want my images to feel somewhat mechanically made. I think this plays into our present day where we consume so may images through a screen or monitor and where visual products themselves are increasingly synthetic. 

For this particular show I am broadening my typical working process and media. 
While I will be displaying some of my more traditional paintings and drawings, I am also going to be creating a 17-foot long mural. I think the increased scale will help the kraken creature I am painting feel a little more imposing and leviathan-like. 

JH: What do you want your audience to learn from your work?

MB: Ultimately, I would love to inspire viewers to tap into their childlike sense of wonder, to imagine seemingly crazy possibilities that could lay just beyond the edges of our knowledge.

JHM: On a very basic level I want the viewers to be entertained. Hopefully they will find relatable moments within the show but experience them in new and thought-provoking ways. 

For more information on Michael Baird, visit:
For more information on Justin H. Miller, visit:

Let's Talk Arts with Chris Wilson

Christopher Wilson is a fast-rising artist who has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician and clinician throughout the United States. As a soloist Mr. Wilson has helped to introduce the marimba to public audiences outside of the concert hall, and he will continue this path at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri on July 1st, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.! In a recent interview with Dr. Gabrielle Baffoni, Arts Council Board Member and Instructor of Music at Southeast Missouri State University, Mr. Wilson expanded on his role as a musician performing in different settings.

Question & Answer Session
June 24, 2016                                                                                                                                               By: Dr. Gabrielle Baffoni

GB: You are a proponent of bringing marimba performance to the public, outside of the traditional concert hall. Why is this important to you? What challenges do non-traditional performance spaces present? What advantages do they present?

CW: It started as something of a necessity, and quickly grew into a passion of mine. In the initial years after completing my Master’s degree it took time before I began to find opportunities to perform solo recitals in traditional settings. Because performing is so vital to my identity as a musician, I created opportunities to play the marimba, but they were mostly in informal settings (including nursing homes, schools, libraries, hospitals, coffee shops, etc.). I still find a great amount of joy introducing both the marimba and classical music to a variety of public settings. In some cases, like performing at nursing homes and retirement communities, it feels as much like community outreach as it does performance.
The biggest challenge I find is in repertoire selection. The marimba is capable of being rather loud and abrasive, but it can also be a calm and soothing instrument. For a concert in an informal setting, like say in a coffee shop, I have to coordinate music appropriate for an audience that is not only in attendance to listen, but to also eat and converse. 

GB: How do you select solo repertoire for performance? How does your repertoire choices change depending on the setting of the performance? 

CW: I personally prefer to perform original compositions for the marimba, as opposed to arrangements or transcriptions. However, when performing for an event like First Friday, throwing in arrangements of more well-known classical works can help spice up the concert. Adding a few easier transcriptions can also help with the depth needed to perform on such a lengthy event. 

GB: Do you prepare differently for performances in a non-traditional setting? 

CW: When playing a formal solo recital, I will prepare forty-five to fifty-five minutes of music. However, when playing in a non-traditional setting I am often asked to perform anywhere from two to four hours. When practicing for an event such as this, it is important that I am not only prepared to perform with excellence, but that my endurance is where it needs to be.

GB: You are currently working on a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Percussion Performance. In what area are you conducting your dissertation research?

CW: I am researching percussion pedagogy in beginning to intermediate students. I am mainly concerned with diversifying skill sets on multiple instruments, and the development of technical skills on those instruments.

GB: In addition to percussion performance, you have also studied wind conducting. Does this inform your work as a performer? In what ways?

CW: My studies as a conductor, my studies as an orchestral percussionist, and my general love of all music by non-percussionists have all greatly informed my work as a performer. I often try to approach the marimba as anything but a percussion instrument. For example, I often ask how would a wind instrument approach this section of a work? What articulations would they use? How can I emulate that? In works where I am providing every layer, from accompaniment to melody, I ask how I would balance an ensemble performing something similar, and how I can emulate that on my instrument.

GB: Is there a particular piece, composer, or musician that has been inspiring or unforgettable to you over the course of your career so far?

CW: If you visit my website, you can view a performance of Ney Rosuaro’s Marimba Concerto No. 1. I first learned the finale to this work for two competitions the Junior year of my Bachelor’s degree, both of which I won. As a result of winning one competition, I had the opportunity to perform the movement with the Spokane Symphony. The assistant director was so taken by the piece that I was asked to perform the movement again with the symphony on an outreach concert at the Spokane Indian Reservation. When I returned to school for my Doctorate, it seemed fitting that I compete on the entire piece for the Rocky Mountain competition, which I ended up winning. Not only has that work seen me through many stages of my development as a musician, I think it is one of the absolute best marimba concertos ever written.

For more information on Chris Wilson, please visit:

Let's Talk Arts with Hannah & Blake Sanders
Blake and Hannah Sanders are collaborative artists whose work focuses on environmental concerns including pollution and sustainability. They strive to involve the viewer in their commentary on how we interact with our environment. Their exhibition at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, from October 2 – 31, 2015, places their own work at the center of this discourse as they question their own impact on the environment. In a recent interview by Dr. Joni Hand, Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University, Blake and Hannah expand on some of the issues they confront in this exhibition.

Question & Answer Session
October 2, 2015                                                                                                                                        By: Dr. Joni Hand

JH: The dinosaur is a reoccurring motif in your work. Would you explain its significance and how it references the issues of sustainability and climate change in your work?

HBS: The dinosaurs depicted in this exhibition are living fossils reeking havoc on the landscape as an expression of the damage fracking and oil and pipeline leaks has inflicted on much of the country. Unfortunately the benefits of the uptick in domestic fuel extraction—cheap gas prices and utilities paired with the nationalistic pride of “energy independence”—have clouded our collective perspective of the dangers of these shortsighted, toxic practices. Earthquakes are now commonplace in Ohio and Oklahoma; shrimp and fish in the Gulf of Mexico are still carrying cancers and lacerations caused by the oil and dispersants remaining from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. Those examples are not expressions of the Earths’ natural cycles. They are tangible effects of reckless energy practices. 

JH: Do you make a distinction in your work between manmade environmental disasters, such as the BP spill, which could have been prevented, and phenomena like naturally occurring methane gas leaching into the air?

HBS: Generally, we discuss the contemporary effects of human-made environmental impact. To comment in any detail about naturally occurring phenomena would presumably water down our message; essentially letting humanity off the hook for our verifiable contributions to what is an increasingly warm, sickly planet.

That said, natural history does have an important role in our work. Dinosaurs reference the cycle of mass extinction and regeneration the planet has been through many times. Strata of earth is another recurring motif that references the geologic- broad view: we as a species have made one heck of a mess and may make the planet uninhabitable for ourselves, but in the long view, the planet has taken a lot of abuse over the last 4.5 billion years and has always
recovered. It has survived before and it will survive us. Our question then becomes, just because we may not be WHOLLY responsible for rising temperatures, increasingly acidic oceans, and the mass extinction of species, is there any reason why we shouldn’t change our behavior so we are consuming less and living a cleaner lifestyle? How is conserving resources and thinking about how our behaviors affect others a bad thing?

JH: How does the printmaking process speak to the issues of sustainability and environmental consciousness that permeates your subject matter?

HBS: That’s a tough one. Printmaking in and of itself can be a pretty messy medium. Traditionally printmakers use oil based inks, heavy solvents, and waste a lot of paper. The irony of preaching environmentalism while using dirty processes is not lost on us. This is partly why this show focuses so much on our own complicity in the mess. However, we’ve made major strides to clean up our practice whenever possible. We print on repurposed fabric, mostly worn out bed sheets. Old clothes, fabric scraps, and proofs on sheets are turned into the crochet “footprints” that reference clouds, oil plumes, and weather systems. Our plush sculptures are stuffed with plastic grocery bags. In the studio we clean up with vegetable oil and dish soap in the place of paint thinner and other petrochemicals. 

Metaphorically printmaking works for us for a couple reasons. First, printmaking is known as the democratic medium. Being able to print multiples allows our message to get to a larger audience. We can increase consciousness about our issues on the cheap. Also, printmaking has had to evolve its practices time and again in order to remain a relevant art form. As a species we must evolve our behaviors and priorities in order to reduce our global impact. If we don’t we’ll have to evolve biologically to be able to survive an increasingly hostile environment. 

JH: Audiences differ in their understanding of environmental issues. How does the location of an exhibition affect your work? Do you see your work as instructive?

HBS: We think about the location of our work only in that when possible we choose pieces that speak to the specific environmental concerns of the region the exhibition is in. For example it made more sense to include work that discussed fracking and oil extraction in a recent exhibition in New Mexico rather than work that focused on ocean pollution. We do not soften our message for an audience that may be unresponsive or even hostile. Instead, we encourage a dialog. It is difficult to make artwork that communicates an explicit message without coming across as preachy. By taking a stark look at our own behaviors and their impact, we hope that this work provokes our audience to examine their choices as well. I don’t think the work is instructive per se; I don’t know that it teaches, but it does ask the audience to consider the themes presented. Fortunately, I don’t think the work requires much prior knowledge of environmental issues, but hopefully folks will want to learn more after checking out the show. There’s definitely potential to skew the work in the future toward being more didactic, more instructive, á la youth oriented natural history museum exhibits. Stay tuned!

JH: As educators, how do you instill in your students the importance of the environmental issues you address in your work?

HBS: We encourage greener shop practices: conserving materials and using cleaner alternatives to solvents and petrochemicals. We try not to be explicit about our ecological beliefs in our classes since professors already get a bad rap for political proselytizing, so instead we focus on health and safety when explaining these choices rather than environmental impact. 

We foster a culture that focuses on the studio community, how one’s actions affect the lives and conditions of others. This is made obvious every time someone leaves an ink mess that screws up the color of the next person printing. It’s easy for students to see how the benefits of clean shop practice can be extrapolated into a greener, conservation minded lifestyle in general. 

We practice what we preach in our studio practice as I mentioned above. We also set an example by walking as much as possible (can’t tell you how often students remark that they see us walking all over town, it makes a difference!).

JH: How does installation expand on the important issues you confront in your prints?

HBS: The contemporary art world seems increasingly disconnected from the general public. Unfortunately art is seen as stuffy, self-consciously cerebral, and unapproachable. A frame is literally a barrier between the viewer and the artwork. Installation breaks that barrier. Taking our pieces out of the frame, and sometimes off the wall invites the audience to interact with the work. It breaks the mystique of art in a useful way. In our case if folks get up close and personal with our work and actually handle it they will gain an appreciation for how the recycled/repurposed materials we use incorporates our message into our process. 

For more information about artists Hannah and Blake Sanders, visit their website at

Let's Talk Arts with Shelby Prindaville

The second edition of Let's Talk Arts is a Question & Interview Session with Shelby Prindaville, an artist in the Wild Things exhibition currently on display at the Arts Council. Prindaville's painting Confrontation was selected by Juror Ruth Ann Reese as Best in Show. The interview was lead by Dr. Joni Hand, Arts Council of Southeast Missouri Board Member and Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University.

Shelby Prindaville is a studio artist and the Art Program Director and Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. To see more of her artwork and read view her biography, please visit her website at

Question & Answer Session
June 23, 2015                                                                                                                                           By: Dr. Joni Hand

JH: You tend to create series of works utilizing the same subject matter, such as the bison in Confrontation, which was your winning piece in the Wild Things exhibition. How do you determine when you are finished with a certain subject?

SP: I don’t know if I’m ever finished with any particular subject matter! I can be very obsessive in continuing to revisit the same subject over and over, and I believe that type of repetition has great value in terms of exploring the conceptual and compositional possibilities that arise from ever deeper investigation into specific animal behavior and form. The environment that I am in plays a huge role, though, which is one reason I really enjoy attending both domestic and international residencies. Being an artist in residence exposes me to new ecosystems which in turn generates new bodies of work with different subjects. Confrontation and my other bison paintings stem from my two week-long residencies at Madroño Ranch in Medina, TX.

JH: Ruth Ann Reese, the juror for the Wild Things exhibition, commented that in Confrontation you were able to maintain the integrity both of the bison and the viewer. How does this observation relate to other works you have created?

SP: I appreciate Ruth Ann Reese’s observation, as I do strive to maintain the integrity of my subjects while still allowing room for the viewer to make their own connections and conclusions. My ultimate goal is to demonstrate the value of engaging with nature particularly to those viewers – and there are far too many – who have been deprived of such important experiences, while incorporating a suggestion of the losses we’ve forfeited thus far. Some series are more weighed toward value and others toward loss, but all of my pieces are meant to encourage curiosity, conversation, and reflection. I think my intensive studies and interactions with wild fauna and flora aid enormously in terms of capturing my subjects’ presence and vitality.

JH: When did you become interested in the connections between art and science?

SP: The two have always been intertwined for me. My work’s focus and level of representation necessarily involves interest in the fields of anatomy, botany, ecology, and zoology. I’ve also always enjoyed learning about the chemistry of art media. I had wanted to create very delicate, small-scale sculptures for some time but never found the perfect medium to do so until I collaborated in actually formulating a new polymer clay with Dr. John Pojman while pursuing my MFA at Louisiana State University. This collaboration resulted in the launch of 3P Quick Cure Clay and allowed me to create the sculptures I had been envisioning. Working with Dr. Pojman has been a marvelously rewarding adventure that has also led to my recent collaboration with our mutual friend Dr. Patrick Bunton of William Jewell College in creating functional and aesthetically attractive aquaponic systems.

JH: In your artist statement, you discuss the isolation of the subject in your work as a reference to taxonomic illustrations. These types of illustrations often reduce the animal to a specimen rather than regarding it as a living thing. How does this approach to your subject matter demonstrate your idea of the role of humans in shaping an ecological balance?

SP: My pieces reference taxonomic illustrations, but they don’t follow the standards for taxonomic studies and are instead composed with the aim of engaging viewers into emotional connecting with the subject matter. I think there’s something purgatorial about removing an animal from a strictly representational landscape which increases the intimacy between the viewer and the subject while also reflecting on ideas relating to discovery and documentation as well as the species’ historical record, habitat loss, and conservation status – all of which have been and will continue to be shaped by human intervention.

JH: According to your website, you have lived in a variety of places in the U.S., such as Philadelphia, Baton Rouge, and Leavenworth, KS. You have also spent considerable time in Spain and are currently completing an artist’s residency at Nau Côclea. How do these divergent environments affect your work?

SP: Each place has a completely different ecosystem, and my work responds and adapts accordingly. At exhibitions held in the same geographical location that generated the work, the highest praise I can hear from familiar locals is that I have captured the spirit of their environment. Different places sometimes require distinctive color palettes or media. Two watercolor on panel paintings I recently created specifically for a show in Philadelphia depict pigeons on abstracted, gritty backgrounds that call urban sidewalks to mind, whereas my work from Baton Rouge has a more tropical atmosphere. On residency in Peru, I worked in watercolor on locally sourced, eco-friendly banana and sugarcane papers, while the bison paintings are acrylic on basswood panel. Here in Spain, I’ve been using new papers and panel supports and am working in acrylic as well as watercolor. I typically choose to paint on residencies because for me, paintings and the supplies needed to make them are more easily transportable than sculptures and installations. I would like to make some new sculptures later this summer when I return to Leavenworth.

JH: Your interactive plant pedestals seem to encompass all of the ideas you are trying to express in your work concerning the role of humans in the shaping of an ecological balance. How did you come to design these micro-installations and how do they fit into your overall aesthetic?

SP: I primarily focus on fauna in my pieces instead of flora because it’s easier for viewers to empathize with and sustain interest in animals, but I’m also really fascinated by plants – I keep over a hundred different plants in my home just for my own personal enjoyment! Through research, I found that there are a number of plants that react in a human time frame to human action (most react, but far too slowly for us to perceive). The two plants I have used so far are Mimosa pudica, which will collapse its leaflets and petioles in response to a number of different stimuli but will open them back up minutes later, and Selaginella lepidophylla, which will unfurl into a lively green display or close into a desiccated tan tumbleweed depending on the availability of water. I thought that bringing such animalistic and therefore sympathetic plants into the gallery could function as an interactive encapsulation of the relationships my viewers can choose to have with nature and of the consequences of those relationships. I visually connected these interactive pedestals with my other pieces through using a cohesive color palette, reflecting my pedestal building choices in my framing choices, choosing a delicate typeface that references my artistic hand for the pedestal text, and incorporating representations of the plants into several paintings. A looped video and the pedestal text demonstrate and provide all necessary information, and viewers can choose to lightly and knowledgably engage with the plants, enjoy them, and preserve them for future viewers, or they can ignore, forget, or purposefully harm the plants; if the plants die, they are left dead in the pedestals until the end of the show and later viewers only get to watch and read about what they missed instead of getting the chance to experience firsthand the wonders these captivating plants have to share.

The Wild Things exhibition was on view at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri from June 5-27, 2015.  More Information>

Let's Talk Arts with Ruth Ann Reese

The first edition of Let's Talk Arts is an interview with Ruth Ann Reese, the Juror for the Arts Council's June exhibition: Wild Things. The interview was lead by Dr. Joni Hand, Arts Council of Southeast Missouri Board Member and Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University

Ruth Ann Reese is a studio artist living in St. Louis, Missouri and the founder of The Reese Gallery, where she curates exhibitions of other emerging and mid-career artists. To see more of her artwork, please visit her website at and to see upcoming exhibitions at The Reese Gallery visit

Question & Answer Session
May 22, 2015                                                                                                                                            By: Dr. Joni Hand

JH: One issue that you speak about is the division between craft and fine art. You said in an interview that ceramics is making its way out of the realm of craft and is reinventing itself. How do you see that manifesting in the work of younger artists?

RR: For the artist young at heart, there really is no distinction between craft and fine arts. Clay, the medium in question, is malleable, sensual and alive as the earth itself. It has the ability to be representational, non-objective, design orientated or even functional. Clay is abundant under our feet and is as old as time itself. As an ancient material force, it helped define how we understand materiality. 

However, that being said… the emerging MFA artist pursing clay in their studio is walking a fine line between two worlds. That line was drawn in the sand by New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith when she made the distinction between “art world, as opposed to ceramics world, ceramics.” These emerging artists have one foot in the legacy\tradition of ceramics - which has promoted and archived clay learning. It takes years of investment and lots of expensive equipment to become proficient in clay. Clay needs a system of specialty studios, foundations, niche museums and galleries to support that - that is the craft world. To gain access to clay you must access the community – the craft community. On the other hand, these young emerging artists also may find themselves at a sort of contemporary art round-table with a variety of other mediums where they need to speak the language of the dominant contemporary art culture and where they must also contextualize their own work for the broader art world. However, we all are becoming more fluent in each-others “worlds”. Think Theastor Gates – clay artist gone contemporary. Or, maybe Julie Green or Sterling Ruby who crossover from the contemporary world and into clay. I might mention, John Mason, who exhibited “ceramics world, ceramics” at the Whitney Biennial 2014. In Missouri, I think of artists like Gin O’Keefe, Arnie Nadler, Phil Finder, Kahlil Irving and Erica Iman. These artists have created clay work with real agility and sensitivity to both traditions and trajectories. They have taken risks that not everyone will like and are aware of their simultaneous and yet very different audiences as they commit to a body of work. Today, young artists have to be fluent in both cultures. Nevertheless, I still think clay will surpass these momentary delineations (between craft and fine art) in surprising ways for eons to come.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t think functional work is simply craft (whatever that slippery word means!) For one, functional work offers a counter-narrative to the shapes and forms of mass production found in big box stores. For me, dishes from most store shelves have an overly produced cookie cutter moment that is ultimately very de-humanizing. It’s a restorative/healing act to make a cup or bowl and then to use it. That may not be philosophy or contemporary art - but it’s a vital, rebellious act in such a commercial environment as what we live in. 
"What are you pretending not to know?" Ruth Reese
JH: There is a lot of whimsy in your work, even though some of your pieces address serious issues. How do you reconcile the fantastic elements in your work with these themes?

RR: I hope that my work can connect with people on a variety of levels. I’d like to draw people in with voluptuous forms and at the same time give the more sophisticated viewer something to consider. The work is whimsical, especially in form, but there are deeper (sometimes darker) under currents. At my best I hope I’m double coding. I enjoy looking at porcelain figurines that come out of the Baroque period. Arising from that aesthetic, there is exuberance, tension and exaggerated elegance. Somehow it fulfills my needs as an artist to take those Baroque and Mannerist conventions and make monsters out of them. Most of these monsters are female and allude to an evasive archetype: the monstrous feminine as discussed by Kristeva, Lacan and Frued in psychoanalytic criticism. My work explores concepts of divine femininity which can be devouring, toothed and/or peaceful. In some cases, these are mother figurines, icons that consumes individuality. These figurines are often a way to make peace with death, with ones changing identity, with the idea that we are one yet separate. I’m allowed to work out the psychological content of these ideas, as does
the viewer and culture at large. However, we don’t have to talk about these ideas directly – that’s a little too scary – even for me. Instead, I make whimsical monsters out porcelain, that mimic the gallantry and coquetry of Meissen figurines. Even though these are difficult and hard-to-pin-down topics, I think the culture is relieved to engage in them – even if these ideas aren’t acknowledge directly. Terms that help me get a hold of the work are manifest content, mythology, psychoanalysis and fantasy.

JH: How does your undergraduate degree in English literature influence your art? 

RR: The English degree gives me a rich sense of metaphor, poetry and trajectory of narrative. Reading stories, plays and novels still gives me an interest in characters and even absent protagonists. I like to think of my work as representing absent or hidden protagonist. 

JH: In a promotional video for the exhibition, “Feat of Clay” at the PHD Gallery in St. Louis, which you curated, you spoke about the “anxiety of completion” that ceramicists face. How does this anxiety affect your work?

RR: For me, ceramic sculpture is not a quick process like making functional ware. It’s not really a direct process, either, like painting, drawing, stone-sculpture…. A piece must be tried by fire before you really know what the finished product will look like. For instance, an applied but unfired glaze doesn’t look anything like it will after it comes out of the kiln. I might be applying what looks like a green toothpaste to my piece, which will (if all goes like planned) be a shiny cherry-red glaze when it comes out of the kiln. You have to learn to use your mind’s eye and imagine how you might want it. Even all the consideration in world often leaves me stumped when I open a kiln. How did that happen, I wonder? However it’s the thrill (the flip side of anxiety) that makes opening a kiln so wonderful. Long tentacles move in the firing, cracks open, colors change….but sometimes an unexpected miracle happens, too. So, mainly I’ve learned to do a lot of testing, pray to the kiln gods and hopefully detach a little bit!

JH: How does your approach to selecting work for the Reese Gallery compare to selecting work as a juror for another location and audience? 

RR: When I organize an exhibition at Reese Gallery I’m thinking of two artists that will pair well. When their work comes together, I hope that a dialogue emerges. It’s very interesting me, at this point in my life, to hear the visual conversation between two concentrated bodies of work. In a group show, there are lots of individual voices. I’m listening for the voices that stay true to themselves, that are focused and driven. Even as I’m looking for strong compositions, I’m also looking for clarity of intent – which can be intuitive! It’s true, I’m also captivated by pieces that are essentially outside of artistic clichés offering new viewpoints. Sometimes, the quietude of piece speaks volumes. I often think that the artists chosen will bring their communities and provide the audience. In a sense the audience is an extension of the artwork chosen.

JH: How can shows, such as “Wild Things” at the Southeast Missouri Arts Council inform the public of issues in contemporary art? Do you think that these types of shows, which are sometimes conservative in their offerings, perpetuate the divide between craft and fine art?

RR: I don’t think so – I’m going to be glass half full here! Because of this exhibition, more people are going to see more art. The more art we see, the more subtle our understanding will become. Hopefully, by seeing this exhibit, more people will be bold and create art which gives meaning and context to their own lives. With exhibitions like this, people can take that next step and collect an art-object. People will feel more interested and comfortable going to a museums, art fairs and galleries. Perhaps they will grow a curiosity about artwork - not simply for being decorative - but because every object carries meaning and knowledge. If I want to be close to a certain line of questions, a certain knowledge, I collect that item. If you collect something, you become interested in its background and it’s art history, it greater framework. Eventually, our culture becomes more aesthetically literate – and that’s because of each and every exhibition.

The Wild Things exhibition was on view at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri from June 5-27, 2015.  More Information>