Monthly Archives: October 2015

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Nov 1980

KCAC Forum Magazine November 1980

by Edward Navone

Since there are a number of paintings by well-known artists in The Fascinating Cat exhibition (at the Mulvane Art Center during October), it ought to be of particular interest to members of the Coalition.  But there is something about the cat that has brought the best from many unschooled artists; they steal the show.

Over the years artists who consider themselves superior have tried to devise ways of having their works exhibited in shows which keep them segregated from the works of the unschooled.  Unfortunately the same people who enter regional competitive shows in which the judges, always outside people, pick work that looks like what is current in the magazines.  That in turn becomes a pressure for regional artists to paint a la mode – not much innovation there.

Primitives or Naifs, on the other hand, are always trying to get respect for their efforts by seeking exhibitions in museums and galleries.  Curiously, some so-called “advanced” artist have become wary that formal sophistication can lead to unimaginative repetition, for which the only solution is a conscious effort to liberate oneself from this.  A great deal of modern art is the result of both a satiation with sophistication and a rebellious move to newer things.  Everyone from Picasso to the German expressionists found his way to the primitive artists.  As a result both the Douanier Rousseau and the same Picasso figure into our picture of the 20th century.  To paraphrase the Douanier, “I in the modern manner, Picasso in the Egyptian!”

edward-hopper-five-catsSo all of this leads to The Fascinating Cat exhibition at the Mulvane.  Among the “sophisticates” is Edward Hopper’s Five Cats, a study of same, quite in the same manner as the famous studies of heads and gestures by artists such as Watteau.  It is not one of the artist’s famous works, but rather another side of him. There are several other works in this vein: pieces which represent cats in various poses.  If you’re getting the idea that this writer is less than fascinated by theses cats, you’re right because in this show the Fascinating Cats are the works of either primitive artists or of skilled artists who threw caution to the winds and drug into the problem of feline nature.

Of course, the previous remarks about “us” and “them” really hits a nerve when the matter of expressiveness is raised.  It is certainly possible, and often a fact, that many artists really mute their expression in the process of acquiring skill.  It is also interesting to see how certain of the primitives have approached the look of the work of the well-known artists.

One anonymous work done by stencils comes so close to the elegant neo-cubist qualities of Charles Demuth that the question of distinction between the two kinds is posed forcefully.  Malcah Zeldis has produced three paintings in this show which in their witty use of form also tend in the same direction.  Blue Cat shows a pie-faced cat whose bodylines carry a languid elegance and monumental scale to a doll house like room with little chairs.  In fact each of Zeldis’s is as complete both in form and in its sophisticated wit.

Cat in a Garden by Mary Shelley is a curious kind of archaic fellow, carved in relief and surrounded by equally tangible clouds, sky, plants, trees, and a milk bottle.  The most moving aspect of this – the perplexed expression on the cat’s face – is perhaps related to its woody Pinocchio-like existence, as though awaiting some Giapetto to make it a real live cat!

8070857_1_lMattie Lou O’Kelley’s Barnyard Cat, is a giant, white cotton-like creature with a very “age of Reason” smile, walking among some candy-like bushes and trees.

Among the works of this show is a group which expresses the idea of a portrait of the artist metaphorically, through the cat.  David Dreisbach, whose works have been exhibited nationally for years and is a renowned printmaker, has such a piece in this exhibition. Entitled Tabby or Not Tabby, it contains three strange little cats, one with a bird in its mouth, one making a black-eyed wink, and a third prancing in the grand manner.  In addition, there is one large cat with a humanoid face and a funny hat.  This is the one that seems to be the artist looking at us and at himself.  The dominant tones are two values of silver gray contrasted against accents of black and ochre.  A large Cat in Paradise by Jenny Novik shows another humanized cat, very Germanic in fact, with a handle-bar “moustache” a la Charlemagne.  A red and black horn like crown helps the conceit.  The eyes are those of a person, definitely not a cat.  This pink and red dominant painting depicts things that must comprise a heaven for cats – birds and fish, plus a few flowers and butterflies.

Amidst the many anthropomorphic cats, the most powerful is by Elizabeth Layton. Grandma Layton’s House Cat is the title of a fascinating work showing a cat and its hungry invasion of a refrigerator full of goodies.  The delicate and sophisticated fusing of cat and human is certainly one of the most awesome and moving aspects of the work. The tail is supporting a candy wrapper, just one of the many signs of nasty and lusty consumption of candies, red salmon, eggs, peas and other things.  The triumph is completed by a package of hot dogs – appropriately torn right across the label.  The color is always subtle, a compliment to the sensitive line that is used to define the basic form.  It is always a special experience to see Layton’s work.

Sculptures have a special place in this exhibition. Pucho Odio has several wooden carvings of cats in an almost one-to-one scale.  They are painted and have curiously abstracted archaic muteness somewhat like the work of the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio from the 13th century.

There is a small sculptural composition by Joan Danzinger of a couple holding their huge cat.  This delightful work contains the two people with white featureless faces which contrast with the fully painted animal on the laps.  One could say the couple “recedes” as the cat “increases”

Jack Wright is a justly well-know ceramist.  Perhaps less well known is his equal ability in ceramic sculpture, especially in portraiture.  The work he has in this exhibition is a remarkable relief of a chest of drawers on top of which is a plant, a bowl, and a sleeping cat.  While the work is a relief, it can also be said that the nature of it is environmental, and therefore akin to certain types of recent modern art.

To return to my original premise regarding the professional background of the artists and the effects it has on the art, in this show distinction between school and unschooled artists may be clear as far as skill is concerned, but in terms of expression there is none.  As a matter of fact, certain works such as Layton’s question the validity of such distinctions.  If a work is the center of a total concept, and if it is direct and intense, it is an impressive accomplishment. Period!

teresa dirks

There HERE (in our best Poltergeist voice)…

The KCAC Artist Lifestyle project on Instagram is back this week with Kansas City artist and painter extraordinaire Teresa Dirks (@artist.teresadirks)

Teresa was born in Southeast Missouri and spent many years living in a rural setting. She taught environmental education and art education in public schools. She holds numerous awards including the 2011 Missouri Arts Council Poster Award as well as having her work featured on all 2012 MAC publications.

“Growing up in the rural quasi-south, around seamstresses, quilters, gardeners, and farmers, I learned to love nature, nurture, growing and making. When I create art, my aim is to reconstruct those experiences from my life, from my environment, and share the connection that I have.”

This week we will take a look at the world through Teresa’s (@artist.teresadirks) Instagram account and we can’t wait to see what inspires and motivates her in her creative path. Here are a few images of Teresa’s work and past Instagram images…

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Be sure to follow Teresa on her KCAC Instagram journey Thursday, October 29th – Tuesday, November 3rd!

If you missed any of our previous Artist Lifestyle Artists you can always catch up on the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search all social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle

Throwback Thursday – International Artists in Residence


One year ago, October 2014, Argentinian printmaker Alejandro Thornton and sculptor/videographer/photographer Nina Staehli came to the International Artists Residency at the Artists Coalition for separate projects. From different backgrounds and cultures, the artists both tackled everything Kansas City had to offer during their short stay.

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Alejandro Thornton graduated from the National School of Fine Arts Prilidiano Pueyrredón, he is one of the emerging artists of the 2000 generation of Buenos Aires and has received awards and been included in biennials in Argentina and many other countries around the world. He came to Kansas City in collaboration with “Crossover KC-BsAs,” an international printmaking project organized by local artist Miguel Rivera and past KCAC artist-in-residence Alicia Candiani at Proyecto’ace. The Crossover KC-BsAs show included a piece from Alejandro but he also created a solo exhibition in the KCAC Charno Gallery. During his stay at KCAC, Alejandro was able to collaborate with the Kansas City Art Institute, lecturing about his work and career at the university and joining in on classroom experiences and critiques in the printmaking department.

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Nina Staehli went to theater and acting school in Rome (1983-85), attended the University of the Arts in Zurich (1988-92), and the “Instiuto d. Arte G. Ballardini” institute of art in Faenza (1997-98). She has received studio bursaries for Berlin and Casa Zia Lina on Elba Island and has been publicized in a number of books and catalogues. Staehli’s performances extend from public works and interventions, to video and film. She was awarded the FLEX bursary of the State of Zug in Switzerland, of which she used for her art research project in the United States along the Trail of Tears. Once in Kansas City, she processed the results of her research to create her film “Glory Land – Trail of Tears, ” and presented her work in an artist talk/performance.

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Staehli and Thornton hit it off during their stay at the KCAC International Residency and hosted a very well attended Open Studio in October 2014. Despite the distance, Nina and Alejandro continued their conversation and artistic partnership over seas; at long last the two artists have reunited in person!


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Staehli and Thornton are collaborating together again in their joint project International Monkey Business, an exhibition taking place in Schauraum, Switzerland. You can follow International Monkey Business from anywhere in the world at their Facebook event! We are so excited that the International Residency has fostered a lasting collaborative relationship between two artists across the world and that Kansas City was able to participate in that joint effort! So don’t miss it: International Monkey Business is opening tonight, one year after Staehli and Thornton’s meeting in Kansas City!

For more information and photos of Nina, Alejandro and their exhibition, here is a wonderful article published in the Swiss news! Also, be sure to let us know what it says…it is all in GERMAN! 😉

nina staehli

The KCAC Artist Lifestyle project on Instagram is back this week with a twist here and a turn there. This go around we are featuring TWO artists through ONE lens!

Former KCAC artists-in-residence Nina Staehli (Switzerland) and Alejandro Thornton (Argentina) have been reunited this month in Switzerland and we are going to get a look at what they are up to for 7 full days.

Nina and Alejandro first met back in 2014 in Kansas City at the Kansas City International Residency at the Artists Coalition during separately scheduled residencies. In the first few days, the two artists became fast friends and began to collaborate within weeks of working in the KCAC Residency studio space. Despite the distance, Nina and Alejandro continued their conversation and artistic partnership over seas and at long last the two artists have reunited in person!

Alejandro has spent the last several weeks working with Nina in Germany/Switzerland on a two person show that opens in Lucerne, Switzerland on October 22. Be sure to follow International Monkey Business along from anywhere in the world at their Facebook event! We are very excited to see our dear friends again through social media and share their work and exhibition with our KCAC community near and far!

Our journey will take place through Nina’s (@ninastaehli) Instagram account and we can’t wait to see what shenanigans our friends are getting into together. Here are a few images of Nina and Alejandro’s work over the past few weeks…

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Be sure to follow Nina and Alejandro on their KCAC Instagram journey Sunday, October 18th – Saturday, October 24th!

If you missed any of our previous Artist Lifestyle Artists you can always catch up on the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search all social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle