Saturday, October 10, 2009


While making my way through northern Kansas I notice dark circulating clouds in the near distance. In Kansas storms can sometimes look more intense due to the rolling planes and vast landscapes. And of course parts of Kansas are known as "Tornado Alley" for a good reason.

I call my roommate Ben, a notable computer guru, for a weather report. "According to the National Weather Center: Clear Skies," he tells me. "Well, except for this storm but its nowhere near you according to this map." So I keep driving, getting closer to the storm. 10min later I call again.

"Really Emily its nowhere near you but it does look like its growing in intensity," he says sternly. I can tell my call is a little anoying him this time. I keep driving. The winds start and a little hail.

I call again."Listen, there is definatly a storm. There hail the size of golf balls. When was that report made? Storms move fast out here you know," I'm a more that a little concerned a this point. I grew up in an area with tornados and the clouds I was seeing were not friendly.

"Alright, well.. it seems that the map I was looking at was not updated. In fact, there is a dangerous storm right on top of you. You're near Colby you say? The weather service says there is a tornado warning," Ben says this like a computer. He's not known to deliver bad news in an easy to hear way. I notice an exit ramp for downtown Colby and exit immedatly. The wind is blowing harder. I'm scared.

As I pull into town it looks nearly empty. Buisnesses are closing. Everyone appears to be going home. I notice a woman painting what looks like a mural on the side of a salon with a little girl standing next to her. Another artist maybe? Not having any other option I stop.

Still a little scared, I depirately introduce myself. "Hi, I'm Emily. I'm from St Louis and am traveling cross-country with a mobile art gallery. I've never seen a storm quite like this one. Not really sure where to go for shelter... do you have any suggestion? I don't know anyone in this town." She tells me not to be scared and explains that storms like this happen all the time. I'm told to wait as she walks towards the back of the salon with her daughter.

It seems to be taking her awhile or maybe time was just strange in that moment. I start talking to the two women cleaning the shop. They tell me to go to Wal-Mart since the salon is closing and so I leave.

About a 1/2 mile down the main street I noticed a local bar. Just as I pulled over a car pulls up behind me. Its the woman from the Salon. "You don't want to go in there. Beleave me," she seemed to notice my fear. "Don't worry I promise I'm not a serial killer. Besides, everyone around here knows me." She smiles. "Why don't you follow us to our house. I've got soda and food. Can't beleave those women told you to go to Walmart. That's not safe at all." She introduces herself. "I'm Devin."

I follow Devin to her aparment in a complex. Its simple but nice. There are art prints on the wall including Van Gogh and Klimt hainging next to family photos. I notice a family photo of her and her husband with a son and daughter. Everyone in the photo is smiling but her husband. There are art supplies covering the living room table including markers, paints, and pencils.

"It's a mess in here. I'm so sorry," she appologizes. "No need," I say. I notice a drawing on the table of an animated sugar cube holding a phone. It says "Ok Girls. Remember to use your suga voice." Its a good drawing. "Did you do this?" I ask. "Oh yeah," says Devin shyly. "I do a lot of the illustraitions around the shop. I love doing art but I'm not an artist," She says this quickly. "What do you mean?" I ask. "Well, you know... I don't call myself an artist. I did got to school for a few semesters. Always wish I could have gone to the Art Institute in Kansas City but then I had kids. I love my kids," she says this in a way that makes me think she still thinks about art school. "Its never to late," I say.

We end up talking for a while about our lives. She tells me about Colby and what its like growing up there, her kids, and seperating from her husband. Her daughter hangs out for a while and they goes to bed. She's 8 and has school in the morning. I'm quickly forgetting all about the storm blowing on the galss door. Its loud. "I should call my husband," she says after returning from putting her daughter to bed. The storm seems worse than usual and my son is with him. She talks for a while and then sits back on the couch. "Well... he tells me there is a wall of dirt. I'm not really sure what that means but its not good. Lots of cars on the side of the road, people taking cover. Its a good thing you stopped when you did. The storms get crazy out here sometimes." I am glad I stopped and that I met Devin.

The next hour went even faster. I was attempting to make it to Vale Colorado that night to a condo my friend Charle shares with several of his snowboarding buddies. Soon Devin and I got on the topic of tornados. She tells me about photos she took of a town in northern Kansas that was leveled in 2001. Soon she pulls them out of a drawer. The photos were taken with an SLR, some in black and white. "These are good photographs," I tell her. "Yeah?" asks Devin shyly. "Its been a long time since I've taken any. I really like photography." She speads them out on the kitchen table and tells me about them. "This X is for when no bodies are found," she's pointing to a large red X covering the front side of a delapidated house. I feel chills. "This photo is of the old man's car that died. Its crazy how these storms can do this." The car is lodged into a tree. She shows me about 20 or so photographs. All of them intense. The last one she shows me is of a nearly demolished unrecognizable building. "This was the Dairy Queen. 30 people survived hiding in the cooler." I had seen photos of tornado devistation and watched Hollywood movies but nothing compared to seeing these photos in person and hearing Devin explain them.

"I want you to have these," she tells me. "You like them and maybe you can do something with them. They've just been sitting here in this drawer." She hands me the photos, taking a few for herself. We talk for a while longer and I notice that the wind isn't blowing quite as hard. After a while I thank Devin and say goodbye.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Behind on the blog again and so much has happened. Made it to Portland and spent a few days with old and new friends. Loving Vegan Food Carts, cuddling with Sandra and my former kitty Cleo, biking everywhere, Craft Night, Voodoo Doughnuts, cocktails made with real fruit, the Potato Captain, $1 vegan corndog night, and gardens as front yards. Oh yeah and I keep seeing art by Nikki McClure and absolutely love it. Had a show of sorts at Tender Loving Empire run by one of the cutest couples I think I've met in a while. They were super rad and let me set-up in their alleyway for the First Thursday event. Some really superb bands played that night too. The White Lighters had about 7 kids playing everything from guitars to xylophones and do this collective harmonic singing thing. The set was followed by an eloquant girl and her guitar. Her voice in some ways reminded me of Joanna Newsome but also containted a sofistication using multiple languages.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trip Blog

Running WAY behind on blogging. Somehow made it all the way to Washington State to Port Angeles. 2,000 miles. Giving most of the credit to my friend Iain who worked on van's brakes before I left St Louis. There is a piano in the coffee shop I'm sitting in, a girl just walked in and started playing Chopsticks and the Figgy Pudding Christmas song. Though I admittedly dislike both songs something about hearing them in this moment is making me laugh. So I guess this is a "sorry folks" traveling is too amusing to spend another afternoon on the computer. Here's why...


An hour before I left for the trip Elinore called me up bringing some Soft Serve, hot pink prints of elk and a tent to borrow for the trip. Holy Shit! Here's a hilarious interview with Elinore
check out if you have a minute. As for me, running out of writing energy. In Port Angeles Washington at a coffee shop full of non-ironic Mulled and bearded men. I think I love it here. She also performs with Skakrau Radio as seen here.

Arcadia and the Complex

Arcadia (my studio) and Floating Laboratories Studios are part of former pharmaceutical company built in the 1800s, portions of the complex are built in to the cliff.

SPORE Project was largely constructed at Arcadia, many of the other inhabitants contributed to this project. Thanks to Kevin Harris and Jacqueline Wallace of Floating Laboratories. Iain Disney of West Bank Auto, who specializes in classic cars, custom paint jobs and specialty vehicles. His latest acquisition is a ginormous monster truck. Thanks to Reis, an ambulance dispatcher and loft renter who has helped throughout the project with painting, general labor and support. Also thanks to Nina of Skif International and Robert Van Dillen who donated fabric for tent construction. Here's some photos of the complex.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SPORE send-off

This past Saturday, we held a SPORE send-off event at Arcadia Studios and Floating Laboratories studios.

St Louis Urban Landscape & Space Adaptation Postcard Project

Jordan Hicks is a founding member and current inhabitant of Open Lot. A home, studio, and exhibition space in St. Louis, Missouri that occasionally hosts concerts and gallery exhibitions. The space is focused on art, design, and music, but we are open to other poss- ibilities. It is a converted yeast factory, located in the Lafayette square neighborhood. Open Lot was moved in and inaugurated in October 2007.

For SPORE, he's contributed a rough run of a series of postcards high- lighting unique uses of space throughout the city. Photographer Dave Johnson, a collaborator on the project is resp- onsible for many of photos.

Included in the series is a photo of the Ackno- wledge Mural on Cherokee St created by comm- unity artist, activist and visionary Lyndsey Scott. The mural, created by comm- unity members working along with Lyndsey was destroyed by a lone member of the neighborhood association who considered the piece to be an "eye-sore". Since the mural Lyndsey has continued to be a critical member of the Cherokee St community working on a slew of projects. Recently she has become the programing coordinator for CAMP (Community Arts and Media Project).

Another postcard highlights A
rtica is an outdoor multi- media art festival, parade and workshop series developed to provide the people of the St. Louis metropolitan area with the opportunity to come together as a community through creative self-expression.

The event takes place along the Mississippi riverfront in order to revitalize an area that has been polluted, neglected and abandoned for far too long. Although our audience is primarily all of the citizens of the St. Louis metropolitan area, the whole world is invited to attend and expected to participate as co-creators during the festival.

Artica 2002 from mmmelt on Vimeo.

Keith Buchholz and Fluxus St Louis

Keith Buchholz and I met for the first time at event called Wall Ball, a fundraiser for a non-profit I work with, the South City Open Studios and Gallery (SCOSAG). That night I was wearing a red gingham apron while painting, Keith remarked that I would fit-in well with his kitchen. I laughed. Keith and his partner Paul have become good friends of mine. In many ways Keith is like an older brother, we often have weekly coffee dates in his apartment talking about art and sharing ideas. We became better friends this past year while in a fellowship program through the Regional Arts Commission this past year called CAT (Community Artist Training). Saint Louisians love their acronyms. He has contributed a set of poetry cards for SPORE.

Keith is a Fluxus artist and runs a publication known as Fluxus St Louis and Art Farm. Keith's blog is occasionally updated with shows and events. You can see a collection of his work online at the Flux Museum site. Keith will be in New York on September 11th for Flux Fest (see flier).

Fluxus is similar in spirit to the earlier art movement of Dada, emphasizing the concept of anti-art and taking jabs at the seriousness of modern art. Fluxus artists used their minimal performances to highlight their perceived connections between everyday objects and art. Fluxus art is often presented in "events" consisted of a minimal instruction, opening the events to accidents and other unintended effects.

The Fluxus artistic philosophy can be expressed as a synthesis of four key factors that define the majority of Fluxus work:

  1. Fluxus is an attitude. It is not a movement or a style.
  2. Fluxus is intermedia. Fluxus creators like to see what happens when different media intersect. They use found and everyday objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
  3. Fluxus works are simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief.
  4. Fluxus is fun. Humour has always been an important element in Fluxus.

Michael Allen and the Ecology of Absense

Met Micheal earlier this year after stalking his blog, the Ecology of Absence. Our first meeting was at Arcadia where we spent an afternoon exploring parts of the city near the studio. Michael's blog is well- known to many St Louisans and is often researched by historic preser- vationists. Michael might be best-known for discovering the plan of developer Paul Mckee in 2007 who is currently proposing a development plan for North St Louis that would result in the demolition of much of that portion of the city and displacement of current residents. Michael contributed several photographs to SPORE from the blog.

The Ecology of Absence is a voice for historic preservation and a chronicle of architectural change in the St. Louis region that started as a companion to the website of the same name. The blog focuses on changes in the built environment that come about as a city attempts to stem the deindustrialization, depopulation, shrinking public services and loss of architectural fabric that define the modern American urban condition. There is occasional coverage of other cities and rural areas. The site contains a great array of photographs as well as information available to anyone interested in these issues.

In 2007, Allen discovered that a developer Paul Mckee, was buying up hundreds of properties on St Louis's North Side using various companies one of which, Blairmont is currently proposing a development plan for North Side. The development would result in the demolition of much of the existing building in that part of the city as well as displacement of current residents many of whom have roots in the area dating generations. See the article here that was run in 2007 in the River Front Times (RFT) exposing the developer's plan to St Louis residents. Presently there are many residents throughout the city concerned with this development and actively working to stop it.