more

 

 

 

COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE 2/20/2011

"Evidence of Life" in Sleadd/Teeter show

 
 

Courtesy Mike Sleadd and Chris Teeter

My column in Sunday's Ovation will take a look at the demonstrations of life, artistic prowess and concord palpable in "Evidence of Life," an exhibition featuring the works of Columbia College art department chairMike Sleadd and sculptor Chris Teeter. The show, running through March 5 at the Mildred Cox Gallery atWilliam Woods University, pairs Sleadd's distinctive pen-and-ink drawings with Teeter's dynamic sculptures.

Wanting to investigate the show - and the artists' motivations - further, I conducted an e-mail Q-and-A with both this week. Much of that exchange will appear in Sunday's column; however, the entirety of it was just too good not to publish here. So, here now, the full interview with Sleadd and Teeter:

Tribune: First off, just tell me a bit about your relationship. How did the two of you meet? What do you respect most about each other as artists? As people? What was the impetus for doing this show together?

Teeter: We met while we were art students at the University of Missouri, but we have gotten to know each other better over the last few years as a result of our participation with Orr Street Studios. I've always had respect for Mike, both as a person and as an artist. I love drawings in general, from scrap pieces and scribbles to finished figure drawings. There is something immediate and appealing about them because I feel the presence of the person that did the drawing and I have an idea of who they are, how their mind works, and what they find interesting. Mike's drawings, in particular, seem very personal to me, aside from the fact that they are technical marvels, and they are fascinating to boot. As for the impetus for the show, Mike asked me to do it with him.

Sleadd: This respect thing goes both ways. Chris is an outstanding artist, both sculpture and drawing. His show at PS: Gallery a while back included some dynamite drawing/sculpture combos. Jane Mudd of the William Woods Faculty approached me about this exhibit nearly a year ago. I knew that the Woods gallery was so huge that I didn’t want to go it alone. Seemed like a good mix to have Chris’s sculpture and my drawings. From seeing his previous work, I knew that our art would work well together. Also, I just like Chris! We seem to have a similar sense of humor, and a deep love of art and passion for life. Chris is very much a “giving” individual. One of those guys that everyone loves! A guy who would push your car out of a ditch or help you fix your leaky toilet and not give it a second thought. Our art gets along as well. There is sophistication about it all, but also an underlying sense of humor. We take our work seriously, but at the same time, we have fun making it.

Tribune: I'm always fascinated by show titles, especially when several artists are involved. Talk about the title "Evidence of Life" and what it means to you. Certainly, there's a natural corporeality in Chris's work and a very distinct personality to Mike's. Is that what the title speaks to or does it go further than that?

Teeter: I don't know why we settled on the title ... other than the fact that what makes art important and relevant is the life that goes into it, that it contains. It's that sense of life in art that makes it so fascinating ... I think all artists aspire to capture something about life in their art and it's the evidence of life that people respond to. I try, in my sculpture, to encourage people to think about what they are seeing using the title and the piece as a cue to think about whatever is under examination in the artwork, hoping that a link is established between my mind and the viewer's mind with the artwork as the go-between. The connection allows the spark to jump between our lives.

Sleadd: Well, Chris came up with the title for the show. We had lunch at Bangkok [Gardens] to come up with a title and all we did was eat and talk. We didn’t get anything accomplished concerning the show. We decided to come up with some potential exhibit titles and pick. As usual, Chris came up with about two dozen title possibilities, and I didn’t have anything. “Evidence of Life” just hit me from his list. It was great! It is what we do as artists. We create these things that give a glimpse into our heads … our lives. We also ask people to consider their own lives when viewing our art. Make connections! The drawings: a demon, a couple of birds, a heart, the MKT Trail, a half moth/half person insect thing — all evidence of life.

Tribune: Please describe a bit about the sorts of work each of you has in the show and how they might relate to your overall corpus of work as far as technique, inspiration, similarities, distinctives, etc.

Teeter: For this body of work, I definitely had two specific things in mind: Mike's drawings, which are ink on paper, and the space the work would be displayed in. For that reason, I wanted them to all be in black and white, both for the sense of continuity, and because the Cox Gallery at William Woods University is such a beautiful gallery for displaying black-and-white in particular. The hardwood floors and warm but neutral-colored walls make the contrast of the work take center stage. Plus, it's beautifully lit, and is one of Missouri's best gallery spaces.

As far as technique, inspiration, similarities, etc. are concerned, I see all of my work linked in one ongoing continuum that is the evidence of my involvement with the creative process and my life. I construct everything, anything, in whatever ways I can come up with that serve my ends.

Sleadd: I didn’t do a new body of work for this exhibit. These works date back about 10 years. I think the style remains consistent over the years. The ink works are generally created with pen and feather, but there are a few prints here and a few print/drawing combinations. Maybe I am in a rut, but I like to think of it as a unique way of expressing my vision. I had no idea what Chris was putting in the show. He works in his studio like Victor Frankenstein works in his laboratory. It wasn’t until I arrived at the gallery with my artwork that I knew what Chris had been up to — what fantastic creation was going on in his lab/studio! So, I can’t say that my drawings were influenced by Chris’s art, but it is beautiful and the art works great together.

Tribune: What are things the other does in their work you cannot do in yours? Certainly, there may be some technical qualities since the mediums are quite different. But, I'm speaking to more spiritual or intellectual qualities ... Are there things in the other's work you know you struggle to draw out or represent well in your own? Toward this end, how does your work compliment each other when sharing a space?

Teeter: For me, one of the most important things a work of art must contain is a certain sense of mystery. I like to think of people experiencing my artwork (and Mike's) as if they are confronted with a message in a bottle. The sense of wonder that you have holding a bottle (i.e. a piece of art) in your hand, and reading the message from some unknown person out in a vast ocean who is reaching out, in hopes that someone will read it and respond accordingly, is a perfect analogy for the art experience. Drawings have that sense of immediacy, a message from the pen of the artist to the eyes of the beholder. All of Mike's drawings have that feeling for me. The mystery, fascination depth, and detail ... all direct evidence of life, a life, all done with a special twist that is Mike's alone, and they are very, very imaginative.

I hope that my sculpture presents the viewer with the same experience but in the form of an object. We identify objects by appearance and function, but when you are presented with an object that you can't identify in the usual ways, you are forced to come into the artist's world and wonder what's going on here? What is it? Why did someone make this? I hope, at least, that the piece takes the viewer from a passive frame of mind to an active, questioning one. In that sense, I think we are both after similar responses, the one using a flat surface with marks on it and the other objects in space. All of my pieces in this show relate to music in some way or another which I like to think expands the overall realm of the experience. Mike's drawings refer to an interior, personal and psychological space, and my sculptures refer you to an interior space of understanding and ask you to think about music in that space as well.

Sleadd: I like to see my complex drawings as a short story to be ready. There is a great amount of detail in my works and to just skim over the art and not "read" it leaves a void in appreciating the totality of the work. I think that Chris’s sculpture is great in that it can be viewed in many ways. It can be explored. Perhaps this is more of a similarity than a difference in our art. Chris’ sculpture and my drawings are also similar in that they are composed of bits and pieces, woven into finished artworks. He “discovers” the beautiful bits and pieces that he weaves into his musical compositions and I draw mine. I think that Chris’s tie to music with his pieces in this exhibition is giving my art a chance to sing in a way that they haven’t before.

Tribune: There's always the question of what audiences and viewers find in your work. What "evidences of life" do you believe they will find there, beyond anything you said in response to question 2 or any of the above questions.

Teeter: Well, as someone said, 20th century art is about art. And ... art is about looking at life. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." In that sense what could be more important than art? It helps us live our lives to the fullest by asking us to take a closer look at everything.

Sleadd: Yeah, what he said. Damn, he’s good.