Monthly Archives: August 2016

jennifer bricker-pugh

Fall is right around the corner and KC Artist Lifestyle isn’t missing a beat this week with Kansas City painter, Jennifer Bricker-Pugh (@studiojbp)! We happened along Jennifer several years ago, when she participated in our KCAC Members One Night Stand Exhibition. Her abstract imagery and broad strokes drew us into her works and kept us watching for what was going to happen next. Jennifer’s works have evolved from blurry clouded landscapes to more formalized flower studies, but all along the way she has kept true to her style of abstraction.

So, without further delay, here are a few words from Jennifer about her work and her process:

“I am a story teller. I paint stories of love, lust, friendship, nature and music…all elements of myself. These visual stories I create are my way of connecting with the world and documenting my ever changing life. Like pages from my diary, my work is deeply personal and yet I feel the need to share it. By sharing these emotions and experiences, I hope to relate to others and consequently build relationships. My work is bright and optimistic, spontaneous and raw. It is meant to bring life to a space and happiness to those who view it. I am inspired by nature and humanity, serenity and chaos and the beauty that evolves from both.”

We are very excited to seeing what a week in the life of Jennifer (@studiojbp) is all about, but since we just can’t wait, here are a few images of Jennifer’s work and past Instagram photos…

Bricker-Pugh_Jennifer_Image-1_AL_9_16     Bricker-Pugh_Jennifer_Image-3_AL_9_16     Bricker-Pugh_Jennifer_Image-2_AL_9_16

Be sure to follow Jennifer on her KCAC Instagram journey Thursday, September 1st – Tuesday, September 6th!

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 social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Nov/Dec 1989

KCAC Forum Magazine Nov/Dec 1989

by John Mort

The avant-garde may be a hopeful note to end on; but, just now, there doesn’t seem to be much avant-garde out there.

Th fall of 189 marked the end of Helicon Nine, Kansas City’s “journal of women’s arts and letters.” Helicon Nine lasted for 10 years, a longer life than most little magazines enjoy. From the start, though it was not really a little magazine as we ordinarily conceive of them. It was much more ambitious, more handsomely produced and more widely read. One felt the editors had a sense of mission.

In her introduction to the first issue, Editor-in-Chief Gloria Vando Hickok noted that the magazine intended to “provide a genuine cross-section of the finest in women’s arts and letters,” with an emphasis on the past as well as the present.  Women’s studies programs and a larger awareness of women’s literature on the part of female and male editors alike had dusted off the reputations of a number of writers, but the public was “less aware of women architects, composers and sculptors.”

In retrospect, Helicon Nine‘s real contribution was in publishing detailed articles on the lives and work of visual artists from the past. Some issues read almost like an art-history journal, except that we were reading of the art of women neglected by a male establishment.  Particularly effective was Therese Schwartz’ “The History of Women’s Art: Sins of Omission and Revision,” an embittered survey piece that even speculated that much of Paleolithic art was female. The article, like every issue of Helicon Nine, was lavishly illustrated with reproductions of a number of neglected paintings, including, in full color, Rosa Bonheur’s magnificent “Buffalo Bill on Horseback” (1889).

Such loving production values are expense, but they were part of Helicon Nine‘s distinctive look.  One issue reportedly cost $20,000, but Editor Hickok says they were always in the black. several issues – notably the first, ad the “multi-cultural” issue of 1985 – sold out.  At its peak, the magazine had a press run of 5,000, and single-issue costs would range up to $12; but costs were otherwise kept low because contributors are paid little and the fairly large staff was mostly volunteer.

For the most part, Helicon Nine emphasized the positive, often-overlooked, accomplishments of women.  The journal published men with some frequency; but as a class, men often took drubbing.  In a 1985, interview with poet Maxine Kumin, for instance, the interviewer asked her about female groupies:

Most of the women writers I know are terribly married or monogamous… I certainly don’t see the kind of flamboyant, carrying-on that you see in the male poetry mafia where the man is a service station and the women are just standing in line…

Kumin also predicted, and hoped for, a time when “men will be put in the same position that the WASP novelist was put when we had that enormous spate of Jewish novelists.” There would be mmore women editors publishing women writers, some of them extraordinarily fine, speaking to women’s concerns, and to universal concerns. Five years later, to many editors, Kumin’s remarks would seem not prophetic, but descriptive.

Midway through the run, the magazine doubled up some of the numbers into theme issues: the multi-cultural issues, which featured a gorgeous section of Puerto Rican artists; an issue on peace, which Hickok says remains her personal favorite; and a fat issue on Southern womanhood, guest-edited by the historian Robert Erwin.  The latter included pieces on women strikers at a Tennessee textile plant, on the no-longer-neglected black writer Zora Neale Hurston, and on the “Southern Belle,” meaning Scarlett O’Hara and such. Most Helicon Nine issues contains a phono-record insert, but the one for the Southern-womanhood issue was particularly delightful: a recording from 1946 of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the “hottest all-women’s jazz band of the 1940s.” The article on the band, with its accompanying photos, was also instructive; the band was the first racially integrated women’s band, but playing mostly for black audiences and was virtually ignored by white newspapers.  How could a magazine have done its job any better? Here was an article about an obscure black band that should not have been obscure, illustrated not only with photographs but with recordings.

After the Southern-womanhood issues, there were two more: number 19 celebrated Marianne Moore, while the last issue is devoted to “The Avant-Garde.” This is another solid, issue, with Hickok’s essay/interview with Yoko Ono, and some extraordinary photo-collages from Ruthe Thorne-Tomsen. Thorne-Thomsen’s work experiments by turning the human head into various forms, suggesting “Views form the Shoreline”; in one, a woman’s head twists upward into a conch shell.  Perhaps this is avant-garde, but the rest of the magazine seems in line with what went before.

This is a period of stagnation for the nation, and its arts, too – the avant-garde may be a hopeful note to end on; but, just now, there doesn’t seem to be much avant-garde out there.

In 10 years, Helicon Nine published a great deal of poetry and fiction, articles on dance, animation, sculpture, filmmaking. It held with great devotion to its original intent, to seek out female talent in the arts, both in thepresent and the past.  it never had the popular success Hickok hoped for – it was pitched a little too high for that, and wasn’t quite safe enough – but it was far more successful than an outside observer would have thought possible.  it has the great advantage over other magazines, it must be said, of being able to plunge into the past, which for woman has been new territory these last several decades. It was the past that thrust Helicon Nine into the avant-garde, not the present.

And if that’s the case, the magazine did its job, and Hickok is right to move on.  She will be bringing out The Helicon Nine Reader in mid-1990, the best from the 10 years in 500 pages, including 32 pages of color plates.  The pre-publication price is $20; send to Helicon Nine, PO Box 22412, Kansas City, MO, 64113. There will be other books down the line.

For now, imagine a woman in her early 20s coming of age in this time of vexed relations between the sexes, about to begin her career.  Maybe it’s too much to hope for, but she could sit down with Helicon Nine‘s 10 years of work, and perhaps a stack of the Women’s Review of Books as well, and educate herself splendidly, at something short of a radical consciousness.  in a culture where the mainstream alternative is “Three Men and a Baby,” and Jackie Collins and George Bush, all we can do is hope that that young woman exists.  If she does, then Helicon Nine will not only be missed, it will live on.

megan leong

We are loving this weather as it cools down after a HOT Kansas City summer, but KC Artist Lifestyle is still on fire with our next artist, Kansas City painter, Megan Leong (@meganleongart)! We met Megan here at KCAC, back in July 2012, when she had a solo exhibition in the KCAC Underground Gallery. Her broad painterly strokes, combined with embroidery stitching and dreamy skyline paintings left us asking for more. We have stayed in touch over the past four years and delighted in watching as her art has grown and developed along the way. We love the recent addition of watercolor into her practice and enjoy the paintings she creates for her viewers each day. It was a no-brainer when the KCAC Artist Instagram project came about that Megan needed to be included in the take over fun!

So, without further delay, here are a few words from Megan about her work and her process:

“My paintings are inspired by nature and everyday life and relationships. I use images and colors that inspire me and cause me to recall memories. I celebrate a sense of wonder and exploration of nature. My thoughts, prayers, hopes, and daydreams are scribbled down on the canvas through words and images. It is my desire that people will feel a sense of connection, inspiration, hope, and joy when experiencing my work. My work includes acrylic, watercolor, and mixed media paintings. Many of my pieces include stitching as a conceptual and design element.”

We are very excited to seeing what a week in the life of Megan (@meganleongart) is all about, but since we just can’t wait, here are a few images of Megan’s work and past Instagram photos…

Leong_Megan_Image 1_AL_8_16      Leong_Megan_Image 2_AL_8_16     Leong_Megan_Image 3_AL_8_16

Be sure to follow Megan on her KCAC Instagram journey Thursday, August 25th – Tuesday, August 30th!

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 social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Nov/Dec 1988

KCAC Forum Magazine Nov/Dec 1988

by Michael Cadieux

Animals are inescapably connected both to bestiality and humanity, to wildness and domesticity.  Like us, they can be cruel but loving, ruthlessly aggressive but humble and domestic.  The writer Edith Wharton has remarked:

I am secretly afraid of animals – of all animals except dogs, and even some dogs.  I think it is because of the us-ness in their eyes, with the underlying not us-ness that belies it, and is so tragic a reminder of the lost age when we human beings branched off and left them.

Images of animals have maintained their symbolic vitality throughout history precisely because this opposition has never been reconciled.


Recently, the formal exhaustion of modernism in art has encouraged the use of an expanded symbolic-mythical vocabulary where animals are a key motif.  This new work does not instruct or edify; instead it questions the power of the human will to govern actions and solve problems.  Its subject is instinct; signs of feeling replace issues of form.  The “iconography” is jammed between archetypal dreams and the sorrowful present.

Gwynn Murrill

Animals, real or mythological, are signs of transcendence in Frank Fleming’s meticulously crafted porcelain sculptures.  “The Winged Dog,” from the “Peace Keeper,” like the winged horse, Pegasus of Greek legend, implies the flight of fanciful inspiration.  Fleming, nurtured by the animal folklore of Alabama, elevates the lowly humble dog to the status of a poetic muse, a creative vehicle.  Often his animal-headed, human-bodied hybrids, like Egyptian deities, seem about to release some hidden wisdom residing between the human and the animal.  He attributes to animals an “inner life of the mind.” Fleming seeks the mystery of human beings by reminding us that, however removed we are from instinctual processes, we are still basically animals.

Some artists, like their romantic predecessors, recognize the limits of material progress.  They find rationalism insufficient, often preferring a more unreasoned view of life.  One of the artists seeking to authenticate her contemporary-artistic identities with signs of vital animality is West-coast sculpture Gwynn Murrill. Her life-like sculpted animals are determined by feeling, not theory.  At first they remind us of Brancusi until we realize that the artist has subverted their cool, stream lined order.  She positions life-size sculptures of dogs and coyotes directly on the gallery floor, inviting us to interact with them as beasts, extensions of our own tamed instincts.  Our impulse is to pet or pull away rather analyze. Discouraging intellectual discourse, she encourages our response in behavioral rather than critical terms.

Frequently, this art urges us to relinquish control to yearnings that are candidly romantic.  Mary Warner’s painting “Gambol” features a white horse, mane and tail flowing, cavorting across a field of silvery moon-lit enchantment.  The unfettered horse and a mass of swirling dense clouds exude a storm of pent-up energy. The hunger for unbounded freedom and the wide-open spaces materializes. Stephen Pace’s “Two Horses Approaching Fog” presents a cautious, silent embrace between two horses and a soft blanket of delicately brushed blue fog.  The moon softly illuminates the primeval symphony.  Pace’s painterliness, liberated by the sophisticated expansiveness of New York abstract expressionism contrasts with Warner’s fidelity to forms locked together by a controlled intensity; “objectivity” is only a mask for deeper feeling.  They recall Franz Marc’s yearning to commune, through animals, with wild unbounded primal force.  Animals become means of transcending the bonds of material reality.

JP Hutto, “Dogs Dressed As Men”

Pace and Warner, a former Montanan, choose animals rather than the hard-edge forms of human habitation and transportation. Right angles and confined passages are barriers to freedom. These artists dramatize emotional and artistic aspirations through animals no longer subject to geometric brutality.  Modern, human made environments, while providing mechanical efficiency and material well being, often promote frustration and alienation.  The exercise of human “reason”results in modern landscapes that are ecologically unsuccessful.

Donald Roller Wilson

Mankind has consistently imposed its will, in one form or another, on animals, particularly dogs, who rapidly became instruments of societal expediency, modeled to reflect the presumptions of human aspiration.  Plato characteristically thought of the dog as a philosopher, while Cicero assigned it the aspiring virtue of fidelity. The 19th-century portraits of Sir Edward Landseer and the romantic characterizations of Sir Walter Scott praised animals as personalities capable of sharing, with humans, a common emotional niche.  Donald Roller Wilson’s portraits of splendidly costumed animals in elegant settings, and J.P. Hutto’s photo series “Dogs Dressed as Men” are recent instances of the imposition of the human upon the not human.  Wilson and Hutto reflect man’s insatiable need to shape the world and its creatures in his own image.  These artists, natives of the South, are steeped in the tradition of anthropomorphize animals.

However, animals obey promptings beyond the intellectual grasp of our psyches and are content to act on them without judgment, measure or censure.  We admire and fear the natural form of creatures, obedient only to their instincts.  Wolf-like creatures agitate resisting the restraints of the civilized world populate the paintings and sculptures of two Midwestern artist-teachers, James Pink and Jim Leedy.

Wolves are powerful symbol wedged between man’s psyche and its animal counterpart. Pink feels mankind’s struggle with, and fear of the beast, has become fear of himself.  This fear, coupled with a longing for primeval innocence is the dominant disposition of his work.  For Pink, unlike Warner or Pace, dreams are never released from the dark malevolent mood of modern-urban life.  There is no freedom from fetters here, only the tension of the attempt.  In “Twin cities,” a wolf streaks across a darkened highway.  Lights twinkle in the far distance; reminders of the fragile but ever-present power of civilization.  Pink’s leaping, snarling animals signify the dark eruptive forces of our psyche, longing to be unleashed from measured certainties.

Jim Leedy links the primitive virility of clay to the immediacies of idiosyncrasies of primordial emotions. In the ceramic “Dog Metamorphosis,” he crumples, twists, and overextends the clay to suggest pent-up seismographic energies resulting in a temperamental transformation of the material. Intellectually and the “search for beauty” are precluded by this penetration into the sub-strata of life itself.  Shape relinquishes its claim to permanence and is integrated with a life force of feeling.

The elemental power of Pink’s and Leedy’s work is strengthened by the representation of animals actively snarling, twisting or crying out in agony, not unlike the famous horse of Guernica.  Like Picasso’s horse, these animals suffer a powerful, disquieting visceral anguish.  are we witnessing Joseph Campell’s often-expressed vision? Instincts, rather than being repressed, must be harnessed, integrated and accepted if we wish to achieve psychic wholeness and harmony in our lives.

The elevation of rationality above the intuitive properties of the mind has distanced us from the rest of the natural world.  our “instinctual childhood” lies dormant beneath the fragile artifice of reason.  Perhaps this art animates our subconscious yearning for an emotional life embedded in primal innocence.