Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Opening, Another Show

The Cole Porter lyrics of "Another Opening, Another Show" ran through my head when I thought of this art exhibit, only because it was on the heels of "Time Wounds All Heels".  But then, as I pulled the images together, I realized it was so very appropriate, because there were in fact two openings for Christina Shmigel's, "This City, Daily Rising".

How exciting to have a show transported from Shanghai, where Christina has lived since 2004, to St. Louis!  First, opening night or not, half the show, the main part,  got stuck in customs. The lyrics go: "It couldn't be worse - will it ever be right?  Then out of the hat it's that big first night!"  Second, opening night coincided with a blizzard.  In spite of it all, there was a large group of 400 die-hards who showed up.

Christina Shmigel, artist
"On with the show!"

The following shots show the show in its entirety, at the second opening the following Friday.  Once again, a great turn-out for a great show. I've been very interested in China lately, with all of its rapid development, so this was a timely show to see a western artist's response to being immersed in its culture, both popular and classic.   

"A Foreigner's Cabinet of Chinese Curiosities"
Christina Shmigel

The most prominent piece was this old apothecary cabinet, with nearly every one of 67 drawers filled with the flotsam and jetsam of Chinese living.  It is an interactive piece, inviting viewers to climb the steps and explore what is in all of the drawers.  Drawers are left open or closed, and voila!  A utilitarian piece of furniture becomes a sculptural work of art.    

As I examined the drawer contents, I was fortunate to meet a Chinese doctoral candidate from Washington University, majoring in engineering no less!  He patiently explained the commonality of the curious items, which though rich in color and texture, were mostly ordinary and mundane, and thoroughly  inscrutable to western eyes.  He could translate for me, so I really lucked out in making a new friend.  Unlike many engineers, he was intelligently curious and open-minded about art and its importance in everyday life. 


As an aside, a couple of years ago I was pleased to find an apothecary cabinet for a client who has traveled the world several times over.  It may not be the most practical piece in the world, unless you're a hoarder or have some hobby or other that requires lots of little drawer slots. It does make a nice graphic statement, however.

Back to the show:  the artist had numerous glass cases spread out over the floor and sometimes stacked, suggesting high rise buildings.  Inside this one were little blocks of styrofoam tied up in red string.  Dang it!  And I just threw out a bunch of small blocks recently, not having had my muse visit me and tell me what to do with them!

It was a children's paradise:  all sorts of interesting shapes, materials, and colors distributed around the gallery space.  Not so good for drunken louts...you had to be nimble! I marveled at Shmigel's creative courage; even wondered about some simple cans that were in the mix with little towelettes in them and varying amounts of a brownish liquid...turns out they were catching rain drops from the ceiling; remains of the previous week's snow.  Bruno should have put a price tag on them; who knows, they might have sold! 

You can see how the pieces become part of a colorful conversation; aptly listening and involved. They created a foreign landscape of cities that never end, that are so populous but can still be intimate.  Fast-growing bamboo was a material frequently utilized in these grid structures, and are perhaps a metaphor for fast-growing China.  I've heard that bamboo is used for building scaffolding; it's lightweight, strong, and certainly plentiful!

I never tire of bundles, lattices and ladders.  I never tire of the ingenuity of artists. Christina built a bridge that spanned half the globe. Made in China by an American: now there's an interesting concept!


  1. The bicycle with all the junk tied to the back reminds me of the story you told me about the first time you took a plane. Maybe you should write an entry about that!

  2. This exibit is all about the bits and pieces of life. I was given a pine cabinet a while back ago with probably 40 little drawers. After reading your blog I am yanking it from the garage!! It would hold all my seedlings, garden equipment, then maybe throw in a few favorite rocks in some. Thankyou Renee. Your blogs bring out the best

  3. Emily, you had me laughing out loud recalling my first airplane flight! Maybe I SHOULD resurrect those memories.

    Joyce, thank you for your comment! Yesterday I found myself in a bead shop stringing beads for some old jewelry of mine that needed repairing. Now THERE'S a hobby that could use an apothecary cabinet!

  4. Now this is crazie! I THOUGHT i saw a picture of you in boots and tutu at this opening. Whattt?! I'd like to hear you version of your first plane flight, too!

  5. No, Arturo, that was another opening that I had on the tutu and combat boots. OK, I'll tell the story about my first airplane flight that was many moons ago...