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The Building

RAC exhibit marks 25 years of artists creating works in century building at 1007 Russell Blvd.

A light-filled landscape by Ken Worley. (click for larger version)

December 02, 2015
Take a vintage 1910 building in Soulard. Blend in a toy factory and a dairy. Churn in a few other businesses until the year 1990, when Webster University art student and sculptor Robert Michelmann buys the building.

Twenty-five years later, stir together the 17 current artist residents for an exhibit at the Gallery of the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), 6128 Delmar Blvd.

A print by Betsy Morris displayed on an easel made by John Lesch.
At RAC's opening of "The Building/Soulard Fine Arts," visionary curator Anne Murphy also included two other building residents — a band, The Darrells, and treats from the building's yogurt shop. The exhibition is a mixed bag of delightful people and materials. Some are full-time artists; some juggle studio time with day jobs.

Ken Worley here unzips his earlier Renaissance ideas of perspective to include more depth. He uses oil-stick and bold color to lead the eye into light-filled landscapes.

Brian Smith brings various harmonies of nature to his oil on canvas abstraction, with primary colors and varied textures that dance across the surface.

Self-taught artist Karen Landon welcomes beauty into her vibrant narratives with splashes that spread across the paper with the immediacy that watercolor demands.

A cyan-blue encaustic print by Betsy Morris is perched on an Art Deco easel made by John Lesch. The elegant easel is made of sought-after figured maple, wood noted for its singular patterned beauty.

Leah Babette yearns to make retro clothing that a musician such as Alice Cooper might wear. Babette balances her day job with a clothing manufacturer, while creating this alluring attire of ambiguous identity.

Natalie N. Burton, a costumier in musical theater, weaves organic sweaters — undulating garments that retain a bit of believability as street wear, while casting an over-the-top dramatic wallop.

After a career in television advertising sales, glass artist Mike Murphy forms both 2D and 3D mosaics, using ceramic tile, china and beads.

Cecelia Younger makes metal furniture and frolicsome sculpture that has no boundaries — an unexpected contrast, in view of her Ph.D. in measurement and statistics.

A sample of Leah Babette's retro clothing. (click for larger version)
Margaret Keller exhibits widely, teaches, and is co-director of the Meramec Contemporary Gallery. She directs her laser-eye attention to the stalking intrusion of technology, as she follows a delicate line of pervasive morphing — from countryside flora drawn in graphite to urban surveillance cameras rendered in pixels.

Architect John Newman applies vivid color and figure-ground reversals, using words to create highly designed digital prints. His braze-welded sculpture offers up number play, as a Rubik's cube to be solved.

Architect and fine art photographer Kristen Windmiller's wet darkroom techniques and digital formats capture architectural structures, with oozy patinas that document fragile beauty and the impact of time.

Chemist, artist and inventor Ted Gast has found a sustainable way to repurpose cotton clothing into rag paper for his paintings. His wife, Katie Gast, draws on an iPad to illustrate her children's book in comic verse — about hens having unique problems at work.

Bill Keaggy photographs life and things left behind — an assemblage of old tools and materials that he employs to commingle art and visual journalism.

The taut sculptures of Robert Michelmann dance both with and against time. His steel "Tango" figures reflect playful humor and boundless energy.

Hand-crafted bicycle frame by bike shop owner Matt LaBerta. (click for larger version)

Bike shop owner Matt LaBerta learned welding from Michelmann. LaBerta recently built a five-grand hand-crafted frame on display here, which I've been coveting. My wife told me to keep dreaming.

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Photographs by Dickson Beall, who video blogs at stlouisan.com

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