Betty is the title of this Gerhard Richter painting in oil on canvas. Created in 1988, Betty is based upon a photograph he took of his eleven-year-old daughter. Looking away, the girl turns towards what maybe another of Richter’s paintings. Richter mixes the softness of the girl’s features with the precise rendering of her flowered jacket in a work that blurs the distinctions between painting and photography.
Betty is part of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s (SLAM) permanent collection. Betty is also the name of a dear in-law of mine and aunt to Anne. I also have an Aunt Betsy, my father’s sister and there are also other Betties in our family.
Yesterday afternoon, after Anne’s and my bike-capades, Anne went wool gathering with Joanie and I went to the SLAMmer. Chris of Chris and Alice fame first coined that name for me. He should know, because he spent a few years in the SLAMmer. Chris told stories as only Chris can of what went on behind art’s bars. Chris’ job was art restoration. I can recall one of his projects, a large, very old, wooden chest, infested with insects. I’m thinking that a large portion of the job was to extract just recently fumigated insect carcasses from their ancient wood bored holes.
My intent for visiting the SLAMmer was to gather blog fodder, as the pictures for this blog and today’s header are examples. There was a concert ongoing when I arrived, a string quartet that was finishing up their concert with the final Allegro from Brahms’s Quartet in C minor, Opus 51 No 1. I selectively photographed art throughout the museum. After photographing each piece, I also photographed its nameplate. Hence this blog’s way too descriptive, at least for my talents anyway, descriptions of the SLAMmer’s object d’art.
The header for today is a picture of Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum II. This painting is a 1966 oil on canvas, or more correctly canvases. Thirteen canvases have been joined to create a chromatic spectrum nearly 23 feet long. I offer my apologies to the artist for having to clip his work in order to fit it into the confines of this blog’s header.
Placed together, these panels of deeply saturated hues create color harmonies and dissonances that shift for the viewer. The visual experience of this 2D object expanding into its surroundings brings the painting almost into the realm of sculpture. The scale of the work further strengthens its presence.
One thing I noticed while wandering the SLAMmer’s many galleries was that quite a few of them are either empty or closed. The visiting show gallery was closed in preparation for next month’s opening of the Treasures of the Ming Dynasty, but also closed or empty were the main floor galleries on the east and south east side of the museum’s building. I asked about it and was told that these galleries were emptied in preparation for the construction of the SLAMmer’s new wing. Construction is expected to begin this spring. It was delayed from last fall due to the credit markets meltdown. The new wing will be built where the existing east parking lot is now.
Also Anne has calculated that it has been 37 years to the day since our first date, a concert with Bob Seager and the MC5.