Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In Tonight's Line-Up

I'm going to post a few shots of each of the six acts I photographed. The upside of this is that I can get some good visuals of moments that go by so quickly the audience may not notice them. The bad news is that I often pay more attention to what I see than what I hear, sometimes losing the essence of the comedy. Oh well. Ars gratia artis

This is a local group called Burnside. No idea about the significance of the name. There were nine of them (hard to make a buck), but that made for interesting combinations. May bring them back tomorrow.     

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Audience For Improv

There was a large, good-looking and youngish crowd at the Improv Shop, although I was be no means the oldest there. (I was in the competition, though.) There was a bar, of course, serving tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon - PBR, the hipster beer of choice. It used to be really cheap, but now that it's cool it isn't anymore. People keep buying it for its déclassé chic. 

Other people were more interested in their phone menu than the one at the bar. Nevertheless, MC Pete Papavlasopopulous says it's all A-OK.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Compass Improv Festival

Some of the People I know from the STL Fringe Festival do improv comedy. One of them, Pete Papavlasopopulous, works with Compass Improv, a very active company that just held a three-day festival. I had no idea how widespread the local improv scene is. The festival was held at the Improv Shop, a venue dedicated to the genre.

Pete invited me to shoot some of the festival. I couldn't make it all but photographed six of the acts on Friday and Saturday night. This group is Max A/C from Chicago. I can't explain what they were doing. You had to be there.        

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I'm finished with the Artica series and shooting an improv festival this weekend. That will take time to edit so I need something to fill the gap.

T Rex here has been on the blog somewhere in the past but I thought it would shake things up visually. It's in a back corner of Forest Park. You would never come across it unless you were on a certain running and biking trail. Best have your wits about you if you do.        

Friday, October 20, 2017


Artica's grand finale: Our Lady of Artica is put to the torch and reduced to ashes. The crowd gathers in a circle outside the fire control perimeter, gapes in wonder and eventually starts to dance and chant, revolving around the blaze.

In the end, nothing is left but cooling embers. The crowd drifts away. Very Buddhist.    

Thursday, October 19, 2017


The center of the Artica fields always contains a wooden structure, sculpture of a sort and different every year. This year's was called Our Lady of Artica, a lumber yard angel and symbol of impermanence. After dark on Sunday night it would burn to ashes. We will wrap up this series tomorrow.        

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Player's Choice

There are so many more pictures I could edit from Artica but I have to wrap it up sometime and get to the closing bonfire. For today, a couple more unusual sculptures. The top one seems to be aimed at attracting children, the bottom one gamblers. Nothing is for sale at Artica, so you couldn't start a giant craps game in that field.         

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Greater Good

Doors to . . . where? The old wood and Gothic lettering suggest a church entrance but then what lies behind? The words scattered on the ground may suggest an answer. There is a lot going on in this world to be afraid of.       

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light And Dark

More cruising the work on display at Artica. 

The figures above have words torn into the green fabric but even up close I couldn't read much of it. 

The diptych in the second photo represents the scene right behind me as I took the shot - grassy fields with the wooden structure of Our Lady of Artica (more about which soon), a single Doric column standing there for god-knows-why and the old Cotton Belt Railroad freight terminal, whose long east wall has been turned into a mural by Artica founders Hap Phillips and Nita Turnage. Looks quite Fauvist to me. 

The last is the hardest to understand.It brought back hazy associations with some Japanese cemeteries I've seen.       

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Who Put The Art In Artica?

Finally, a post going up on time. It seems to take a quiet Saturday evening to get it done (except that Madeleine is on the floor next to me banging on her toy xylophone).

The Artica festival had music, performance art, some painting and a lot of sculpture. I get so fixed on cruising the area for images that I don't talk to the creators enough, missing out on titles and interpretation. The piece above is intriguing. Never seen a figure in a lotus position with up-stretched arms before. See what you like in the colors and symbols on the mannequin. The second photo is, literally, a bed of crutches. Someone said they were going to burn it after the main bonfire Sunday night. I wasn't out that late.      

Saturday, October 14, 2017


It's been a bad week for posts. New dimensions in overwork and several other attention-suckers. I would so like to cut back but it's not easy.

Anyway, back at Artica, crickets were all over the place. A boy got one to rest on his wrist. He was fascinated but worried that the bug might bite him. Do crickets do that? No harm came to anyone.  Oh, and if you don't recognize the title click here.

PS: I am told on good authority that this is a grasshopper, not a cricket. I'm a city kid. What do I know?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Artica: Dangerous Clown

Performance art, I suppose. In a corner of the Artica field, a young man wore a collared shirt and skinny black tie, a bowler and clown makeup. He wielded a chainsaw and a machete, sometimes striking statuesque poses, sometimes attacking small logs at his feet. The clown never spoke. It was all very postured and, I must say, a bit puzzling. Maybe that was the idea.    


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Artica: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor

So there was this woman at the entrance to Artica dressed as a shabby Statue of Liberty. She had the torch and the tablet like the real one, some Americana bric-a-brack and a large artist's sketchbook. I asked her what she was doing. She asked people to stop for an interview about their fitness to enter the country. At the end you got a hand stamp that said either Retained (in the US) or Detained (sent to immigration jail, a square of grass marked off with yellow tape). I was retained.

The interview was interesting. Being an old guy, she let me sit in a lawn chair and put the torch in its cup holder rather than stand with my arm in the air. Some of the questions were odd:

Q: What is your heritage?
A: Irish and Polish. Very pale. 

Q: What is the most exotic place you've ever been to?
A: Mt. Everest.

Q: Did you climb it?
A: Oh my god no. The air at base camp was thin enough. I got bad altitude sickness.

Q: Of all the places you've been to, where would you least like to live?
A: Cambodia. Never seen anyplace so poor although I'm sure there are worse.

Q: Coke or Pepsi?
A:  Well, I don't drink soda. But I worked a couple of summers delivering Coca Cola and hated it. My father was in the commercial sugar business and he sold Pepsi all their sweetener back in the day. So Pepsi.

Q: Are you from St. Louis?
A: No.

Q: How did you get here?
A: St. Louis U. was the college farthest away from my father that let me in.

Q: Hammer or nail?
A: Hammer. I don't respect authority very well.

And so on. Turns out she was an actress. She and a colleague were working on a play that includes this concept to be performed in New York, where they live. Some people had problems with the interview, others not. I thought it was fun.     

Monday, October 9, 2017


People who participate in Artica. They may participate in creating art, help run the show or just enjoy the spirit. Above, founder Hap Phillips. Below, artists at work, artists at leisure, and friends and family. I'll show you what the clown did with a chainsaw later in the week.     

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Artica 2017

It's Artica weekend, The Lou's annual beyond the fringe arts festival. It takes place in desolate, post-industrial ruins along the Mississippi north of the Arch. Only the most adventurous show up. I was honored that the executive director gave me one of their artist's stickers for my camera bag.

The weather was miserable for much of the day, with showers and falling temperatures.They got the traditional parade in before it was too bad. Everyone walks to the river's edge and, if they want to, floats something down the mighty river with their wishes for now and the future.

Lots more to come.       

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Apocalypse Now

That was my first thought on seeing this section of the graffiti-permitted flood wall. I found it a little uncomfortable, like an attack was coming up out of the Mississippi. (We actually had a mock version of that once. It was enough.)  

Artica, a very out-there arts festival held in our industrial wastelands, starts today. (Example.) Heading over there shortly. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

We're Not Talking About Oregano

Just up the flood wall. You see this in a lot of places around town but this is the biggest and brightest version ever.

Plenty to shoot around here this weekend.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Missed It

I'm really sorry I missed Paint Louis a week and a half ago. I check the What's Happening lists frequently and didn't see any mention of it. Maybe the organizers didn't want a crowd of gawkers getting in the way of the artists.

This panel on the flood wall attracted me. It took a lot of planning and precise execution.  The sun and the earth, I suppose, although I don't know how the spiral fits in. And the scene has my favorite kind of light, bright sun coming from behind the shooter and dark cloud in the background.    

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Art Research

I was contacted last week by a student at St. Louis University, my alma mater. She and two friends were doing a presentation for a communications class about our graffiti-permitted flood wall, its artistic merit, place in the community and public reaction. They found some of the several posts on this blog about the wall (this one in particular) and sent me an email. Could they interview me? Sure. I'm an old Billiken, too. Happy to help.

We met late yesterday at the wall. Paint Louis, the annual re-do of the wall, happened a couple of weeks ago and I totally missed it. Still, it was all new and fresh, sort of an annual rebirth. Aubra, Jacqueline and Hanna put me in front of this section and did a video Q & A session. After I was done they stopped any passer-by they could find. The runner in the bottom photo was from Portland, Oregon. He didn't know much about the wall but he liked it.