This past March I was invited to photograph the Iowa Burlesque Festival in Davenport, Iowa. How does an offer like that happen? It actually began the October prior when I met Danielle Colby star of the History Channels “American Pickers.” We were across from each other at Vintage Garage Chicago and we struck up a conversation. We shared a picker friend and I was giving an update on a project I was working on with him. The conversation quickly went over many subjects as she is just as warm and friendly as her image on the TV show. We traded contact information.
In Spring of 2014 I was trying to come up with one more photographic series using my vintage Panon Widelux camera. I was searching for an “old school” subject like Roller Derby, Rodeo or something else nostalgic. I wanted a subject that was intriguing. Something so curious viewers couldn’t help but look. This is where Danielle and Burlesque came in. Danielle has her own dance troupe named Burlesque Le’Moustache. Though never mentioned on American pickers she has made quite a name for herself in the Burlesque industry. So I contacted Danielle once again and pitched my idea, my camera and my goal. She immediately responded and was on board. I only wanted to visit one of her small shows she had scheduled but she insisted I come to the Iowa Burlesque Festival in October. It seems she wanted me to have all access to her most popular festival. Her parents were photographers as well as her grandfather so she loved where this shoot might go.
I must admit prior to this that I knew nothing of Burlesque. I had never seen it, heard it, been exposed to it nor knew anyone in it. What had I just gotten myself into? I must also admit there were many soul searching conversations with myself as to whether this was a good move. I needed to rely on the storytelling characteristic of this panoramic camera. Sometimes it takes vintage technology to do a vintage subject justice. I wanted to see how it might see this performance. Why is Burlesque considered dance? What makes it performance art? This was to be a new experience and just what I was looking for. With this new attitude I packed up the camera and a pile of film and went to Iowa.
This is where the story really begins. Gallery Zeke in Steeleville, MO has now offered me the opportunity to expose to the public what I experienced this May. If you want to know and see more, join me at Gallery Zeke for BOLD’E BURLESQU’E, an exhibited collection of panoramic photos. Share the “behind the curtain” experience of Burlesque. More information will be released as the event nears. Until then, save the date and be BOLD’E.
In 2007 I illustrated murals in three churches in central Missouri. One of these was St. Michaels church. I received a call this Spring that there had been a roof leak leading to some minor damage in the alter mural. I was asked to come in and do spot repairs. Eventually the roof was fixed and the small spots had been patched. Awaiting the contractors call that the little areas were prime coated and ready for painting, I received a different type of call. The contractor informed me there had been some “miscommunication” between the painter and himself. Instead of priming only the few small areas, the painter whited out the entire alter mural measuring some sixty feet! I am meeting with them today to discuss a new mural on that alter wall. Lesson here…Listening is paramount! Here is a photo of just one of the Tromp L’Oeil scenes.
This is peak season for mural painting. While most of my murals are exterior the weather is perfect now for new public art. I have new projects in the bidding process and others in the scheduling stage. It is sometimes difficult painting outdoors in Missouri. Afternoon thunderstorms, heat and humidity can take its toll on me and the painting. While additives are used to extend drying time on the paint and cool refreshments are needed by me, northern exposures and overcast days are my friends. The few cool breaks we have enjoyed this sumer are rare and valuable. It allows for early starts and extended painting hours.
If you see me up on a lift or scaffolding don’t forget to wave or honk and don’t forget to support your local artist this summer!
Every once in awhile you’re asked to step out of your comfort zone and create in a different way. This past week my client was in need of a seven foot tall Lamborghini emblem. Since even Lamborghini doesn’t apply them you do the next best thing…call the artist. His desire was to have an emblem to be installed in his car garage/museum that looked as if it was an old metal sign discovered possibly in a Tuscan barn. Getting a custom laser cut wooden emblem produced was out of the question due to schedule and budget. It was decided a more practical decision would be to make it out of styrofoam since it would be seen from a distance and weight would be a factor.
Layers of foam were sandwiched and cut to shape to make the silhouette of the emblem including the letters. It was covered with layers of plaster slurry to give a surface to sand smooth. I then primed and painted the background. a chemical was added to the black to create a rust effect area. I then was given a shaped block of foam for the bull. With a snap-off blade and sanding block I sculpted the Lamborghini signature bull. When shaped and sanding completed I primed and painted the gold leaf finish. The entire process took a little over a week but was finished for his first Lamborghini party with friends in the new space.
What began nine months ago has reached it’s final leg to completion. On January 2nd I began this fifteen thousand square foot mural assignment. This upcoming week I will begin the final wall in the atrium. The last wall of this virtual Trompe L’oeil community is 17 feet tall and 250 feet long. It will complete the community of homes, brownstones, businesses and civic buildings that will complete the living area for the new independent living community.
The project was initially scheduled to be completed at the end of 2013. Due to a permit shutdown and a well-deserved vacation the new completion date may extend to a few additional weeks. Here are a few shots of some of the atrium progress complete with new landscaping.
It has been roughly six months since the first day I unloaded the many gallons of paint, scaffolding and enough miscellaneous paint tools in anticipation of the year long battle I was about to begin. I had entered into discussions with JP Quick Development several months prior when he informed me he had purchased a B.A.U.M. (Big Ass Ugly Motel) as he described it. Once a Super 8 and Holiday Inn this 150,000 square foot building would be completely gutted to its raw walls and foundation.
What would eventually bloom would be a senior independent living facility that would be state of the art for the St. Louis area. The name will be Victorian Gardens. It will be an all-inclusive living facility for residents 55 and older. It is NOT a nursing home but rather a living community for independent, self-motivated individuals who want the freedom to live and travel as they please. Each studio apartment is around 800 square feet in size. Amenities include meals, spa, pool, theater, church, drug store, lounge. salon, dining, cafe and library. All is included in the price of the rent. Just imagine a cruise ship without the water.
My purpose in being brought into this was to take 15,000 square feet of flat, white walls and turn them into a visual living community. With the use of a creative painting method called Trompe L’oeil I will illustrate the stores, home facades and businesses one would typically see in a small town community. All walls are primed white when I begin. I discuss the basic look of an area with my customer and then do a rough sketch. Once agreed upon I begin to paint. While I usually never use standard wall paint for all of my murals I have chosen high quality finishes from Sherwin Williams for all of this art project. To date the material has met all positive expectations.
The project at this point has progressed half way through the contracted twelve month term for completion. There are two remaining 200 foot plus walls in the atrium, a chapel ceiling and a few more storefronts to complete before the end of December. The job has developed it’s own rhythm of progress and momentum is carrying it through. I look forward to posting photos of actual completed rooms but at this point some illustrations are in front of raw floors, trim-less doors and missing lights. Until that day comes please look around at these progress photos.
It has been almost two months since I began this 800 foot plus project. In that time the eighty foot long City Hall was painted followed by two adjoining row houses. When the north wall is complete at the end of February I will then leave the atrium area temporarily and move into the front of the building. here I will illustrate the store fronts for the Library, Saloon, Spa and Drug Store. Moving on to this area will free up the atrium space for the landscaping and all concrete re-surfacing to be completed. In about three months I will return to the atrium to continue the row house mural. Take a look at the progress so far!
On a related note, also in this time the word that all of the Victorian Manor facilities where I have illustrated were sold to Americare. This is great news for Quick Development but on the sadder side, the word that most of my murals will be painted over by the new owners was disappointing. The new ownership seems to be working hard to make a complete separation with the old management and all of the art is on the list. At least the scenes made people happy for awhile!
Drawings have begun on this monstrous project. The first section to be illustrated is about 150′ wide and 16′ tall. While the scope initially is overwhelming, the more time I spend there helps me get comfortable with it all. All walls are built, covered and primed. Windows and doors will be installed next week. The entire area will be cleaned and sprayed. There will be nothing but my paint and I as the workmen will move on to other areas of the building! My first design for the “City Hall” will be transferred to the wall. All of the following designs will be decided upon as the project develops.
The theme of the entire space will be 1930′s small town including the City Hall and courses of row houses and brown stones. The style will be done in Trompe L’oeil (fool the eye). The walls are flat but when finished will be seen as real buildings with detail. There will be cars, people, pets and landscaping that looks real but really doesn’t exist. This will be very fun for the residents and their guests. Design of the city hall is a merge of the Kirkwood city hall meets the “Back to the Future” city hall. There will be brick, columns, carving and a clock on top. stay tuned for more progress photos!