On Cherokee Street
Tue January 7, 2014
Reflection: Revisionist Inn Provides High Quality Artistic Productions With Low-Level Promotion
The Revisionist Inn has hosted many events you have probably missed. The current offering – an art exhibit titled Still Moving opened Jan. 3 with the type of fanfare that is typical of a Revisionist Inn event. There was live music, lots of it. The gallery owner/director, Paul Fernandes’ daughter Bernadette cooked up a feast of vegetarian curry and miscellaneous deliciousness.
In the past two years or so, Fernandes has created theatrical and artistic play and pageantry. He typically makes fliers to advertise upcoming productions, but hasn’t yet spread the news over radio or news sources. This limits his public exposure to Cherokee regulars and the lucky many who’ve heard from others. For this show, however, consider yourself informed.
The four artists whose work is on display -- Jeff Miller, Dan Huck, Eerie Geller and Mike Pagano -- are all locals whose professional orbits center on Cherokee Street. Their practices involve assemblage compositions that place natural and manufactured objects, not originally intended as art materials, into unexpected roles.
Miller has put together objects that have a personal history. The most haunting piece in his collection is the frame backing he found when he took an old mirror off of his grandmother’s wall.
He discovered, to his amusement, that for all the many years he and his family had stared at their reflection another face sat opposite theirs. Miller has turned around the framed mirror to reveal that face: a ghostly but beautiful woman in an aged advertisement. In the upper corner the words “A Skin You Love to Touch” are visible.
Miller has coated the surface of the advertisement placard with clear polyurethane, raising the surface at the woman’s pupils. He’s also attached a decorative bindi, or third eye, to her forehead, adding further dimension to the play on what is seen and unseen.
Geller and Huck use eating utensils that have made their way into local waterways. As Huck says, “Everything eventually finds its way into the river.” In this work, the artists give the objects a third life – from useful, to discarded, to art elements. Their multipart spoon sculpture on reclaimed wood is surrounded by knife and rock creatures and fork bugs where the tines become tendrils.
Geller’s Bird of My Heart is an intriguing sculptural triptych, incorporating a bird’s nest, placed on top of a decorative architectural detail; rusted metal scraps; curls of wire and carved insignia.
Pagano has made mosaics of broken glass. His tree bark sculpture resembles a cobra raised to strike, and he’s transfixed a painted paintbrush onto a pedestal in homage to his friend and mentor, Dick Pointer.
Miller, Huck, Geller and Pagano are all creative agitators, providing art instruction and engaging in efforts to create art opportunities in the St. Louis community. Miller teaches yoga at Cherokee’s Community, Arts, and Movement Project (CAMP). Huck is an accomplished musician. Geller has been instrumental in the conception and establishment of a number of Cherokee area institutions; and Pagano has an active career in a film and video.
Fernandes, director of The Revisionist Inn, is a high school teacher in San Jose, Calif., during the academic year. He is also a playwright and artistic provocateur. His work to create an art and theater space in St. Louis for up-and-coming performers and creators has resulted in theatrical happenings that are in the top-10 list of “most breathtakingly strange events” the participants ever witnessed. And in those theatrical happenings, the witnesses all participate in one way or another.
The Cherokee buildings Fernandes rents so he may improve them were literally crumbling when he began this venture. A space goes through radical transformations with each of his school break trips to St. Louis. He is not a St. Louisan, but has family here. Disclosure: He is my former brother in law.
Fernandes’ daring, do-good spirit may seem to be foolhardy craziness as his roof work, tuckpointing and window installations all require a flight from California, and all on a teacher’s salary. But his madness is also magic. Organizing art exhibits and theatrical productions with next-to-no material support requires an unflagging faith in himself and those he herds into action.
Fernandes describes his St. Louis philanthropy almost like a guilty habit, “Other people save their dollars like babies or they invest in fancy cars or take trips to Europe. I want to use the little extra I have to create these moments in which the arts can thrive. My time in St. Louis has provided me the opportunity to bring together creative people and make great art.”
Where: 1950 Cherokee Street, St. Louis 63118
When: Closing event Jan. 31,
Hours: by appointment, contact Daniel Huck at 314-809-9735
'Materials' By John Watson