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St. Louis' Luminary art center takes a last look at who 'We Are'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 9, 2013 - If you wanted to take a real-time snapshot of the St. Louis art community, who and what would you feature? The Luminary Center of the Arts focused its attention on the work of four specific local artists in a series called “We Are.”

Michael Behle’s “Start all over, re volla trats” closes out “We Are” just before The Luminary embarks on the next phase of its construction. Running only five days, Dec. 13-17, it’s the last of the The Luminary's recent short-term exhibits reflecting its evolving new space at 2701 Cherokee St.

The series, in collaboration with New York-based gallery NURTUREart, began in October with work directly related to The Luminary’s construction. David Johnson’s “Your Walls Aren’t That White, Part 3” explored the process of repurposing existing space.

Behle’s upcoming exhibition fits the “We Are” mission not only in a nod to transforming space but in urging artists to step outside their comfort zones, according to Luminary co-founder James McAnally.

“It’s a quick exhibition opportunity for them to experiment,” McAnally said.

Deconstructing Santa

Behle is nationally recognized artist, primarily known for his painting, McAnnally said. But his “Start all over” features mostly new sculpture and video pieces. The centerpiece is a six-foot tall head encased in gold leaf, whose eyes and nose emit a steady stream of liquid.

“It’s something bordering on grotesque but it feels really human and natural at the same time,” McAnally said. “This fountain is a very interesting, beautiful object and the other element is that it’s transmitting some kind of emotion.”

Behle’s video is from a series called “Lifting Myths,” which deconstructs iconic figures. Weather-like conditions alter images of Andy Warhol, Santa Claus and others in an examination of power, success and social well-being.

In thinking about “Start all over,” Behle and McAnally folded in ideas stemming from Behle's newly created Paul Artspace residency program, on five acres in Florissant.

“We had a lot of conversations about process and what it’s like to start a space and the dynamics involved,” McAnally said. “It feels like the process of growth always involves one step forward and one step back.”

The Luminary will step back into the closed-for-renovations stage for several months after the “We Are” exhibition.

“During this time of transition, we wanted to think about what kind of art is made in St. Louis and what we can do to support and highlight it,” McAnally said. “If you came each week, you’d get a sense of what is happening, that this is the St. Louis art community at the moment.”

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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