This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When do we want it? Now!
The birds are on their way. The daffodils and hyacinths are waiting just below the slush. But spring is apt to take you unawares. At the Tavern of Fine Arts Spring Art Opening Celebration, spring is happening right now.
It has been conjured from the cold and awaits art enthusiasts to make its glowing appearance. If you flee the March drizzle and snow for the Tavern’s March 8 reception for artists Terry Corcoran, Tom Hunt and Terri Shay, you will find nothing less than l’esprit du printemps.
Corcoran designed the installation of his mixed media work so that his brilliantly colored compositions on board emerge from the walls, glowing and glimmering. Corcoran is a St. Louisan who grew up in Dublin where he worked with stained glass. Corcoran’s mid-sized artworks draw light through gem-colored surface, like sunrays through colored glass. His work is titled Lacuna/Equipoise.
Pieces by Terri Shay and Tom Hunt line the walls of the larger gallery space, “the salon.” Shay’s work is precise but playful: Detailed drawings and mixed-media compositions made small by the grand size of Hunt’s giant canvas paintings. The interspersion of large canvas after small presents an interdependent variety further emphasized by Shay’s precise, tight lines and Hunt’s expressionist paint application. Shay’s tendriled line-drawings evoke images of a focused artist while the textural materiality of Hunt’s work seem to require an athletic approach.
Often gallery viewing is a singular activity. Good conversation and complimentary treats are expected parts of the gallery opening experience, but the enterprise rarely comes with as many extra enjoyments as a viewing at the Tavern of Fine Arts. The Tavern integrates art into a full sensory theatre of synesthesia.
The visual menu changes completely with the addition of live music. In the early days of Modernism, interaction between art and music gave considerable impetus to the development of new art forms - think of the German artist group der blaue Reiter who experimented with combinations of painters, composers, theater and dance. At the Tavern of Fine Arts, the music played is likely to change your experience of the artwork on the walls. (Article continues below Hunt's painting.)
As I viewed Tom Hunt’s paintings, pianist Marco Nuevo Valenti played Chopin’s Nocturne #20 c sharp minor, making the landscape break up into tree couples. Valenti works for a local airline and plays for audiences at the Tavern during his evenings in St. Louis, another chance arrangement that brings unexpected magic.
The Tavern salon doubles as a classroom on occasion, as it did the night I came for a sneak peak at the Spring Art Celebration. On the first Wednesday of every month, the St. Louis Drawing and Painting Group meets at the Tavern to sketch a live model. The model, wearing an orange sundress and floppy sand-colored sunhat, seemed to be gazing on a spot of the sunburned grass in Hunt’s large-scale painting of lush green trees and soft afternoon shadows, placing her in a season better fitted to her strappy costume.
Hunt’s paintings center around the Meramec River Bottom, broad waves of paint form abstracted meadow and sky, fairly called sublime. Hunt paints his landscapes in plein air tradition and refers to his truck as his easel. His work is large enough in scale and ambition to feel encompassing, even transporting.