Archive for November, 2009


A study of gratitude

Above is a picture that my seven year old daughter painted of me.  I keep it at my desk to remind me of the good things in my life.  I work at being a glass half full person.  I am a small business owner.  I do own an art gallery in a challenging market, during a very challenging economy.  I have plenty of opportunities for growth that I could talk about, but not today.  Today is a study in gratitude.  I have a sign in my office that hangs on a wall just beside the door.  It reads “This is the best month ever”.  It has hung there for about two years now.  I have friends who kid me about the sign, but in reality This IS the best month ever.  Let me tell you why.

I am grateful to have a happy, healthy, and beautiful daughter who can come hang out at work with me.  I am grateful (and somewhat amazed) that in second grade she knows who Picasso is, and allows herself to be inspired by his work.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to send her to a public school that celebrates the arts.  I am grateful to go to a school assembly and hear an amazing drumming troupe.  I am grateful to walk through the halls and see rich artwork done by incredible children.

I am grateful to have a step-son in high school who still thinks art is cool.  I am grateful that he brags to his friends that his parents own an art gallery instead of hiding it.  I am grateful that he is handsome, smart, and incredibly sure of himself.  I love watching him talk to people at the openings.  He wears a name tag that says “Clayton Stevens, Owner”.  I am grateful that at 14 he has a sense of ownership in the gallery.

I am grateful to walk in a space every morning that is beautiful and fills my soul.  The gallery resides in the old Hays Hardware building.  It has white washed brick walls, an old elevator shaft, and a beautiful glass transom in the front of the building.  It is warm and inviting.  It provides the perfect backdrop for art.  It is easy, day in and day out, to take your environment for granted.  Sometimes when I am frustrated or discouraged I go sit on a bench in the middle of the gallery and breath in the beauty that surrounds me.

I am grateful to live in a community that values art enough to support it.  I am grateful to live in a city that has a percent for art program.  I am grateful to live in a city that has great public art.  I remember as a child growing up in Columbia, passing the Flying French Fries or “La Colomba” as the sculpture is actually titled.  I am grateful to live in a community that I am proud to tell people about.  In addition to all the visual arts venues, we also have a great live music scene, independent film, and theater.  For a town of this size we are very fortunate to have the arts community that we have.  I, for one, am grateful for that.

I am grateful for the amazing customers that we have.  I am grateful for the support and encouragement that each of them provide.  I am grateful for the people who know when I am hanging a new show and make a point to one of the first to see it.  I am grateful for the people who make art a priority in their lives.  I am grateful for the people who have my postcard hanging on their fridge.  I am honored to be a part of your lives.

I am grateful for the incredible artists who trust me with their work.  I am grateful to be surrounded by creativity.  I am grateful to know many of the galleries artists on a deeply personal level.  I am privileged to be able to experience the creation of art first hand.  I am proud of the part I play in bringing said art to the community.

I am grateful to have two wonderful employees who work for peanuts, because they love PS:Gallery.  Joel whom has been with me from the beginning, is invaluable (read the previous post about Joel if you want to know how much I truly appreciate him).  Sarah, who started as an intern soon after we opened is now my gallery assistant.  I am grateful that they know that in many ways the gallery is as much theirs as it is mine.  I am grateful to have the ability to leave and not worry about what might happen.  I am grateful that often my desk is cleaner after they have worked than after I have worked.

I am grateful to all of the people whom I have worked for and worked with that have helped prepare me for this.  I don’t have a degree in business or in art for that matter.  Somehow along the way, I have obtained the skill sets I needed to run a business.  I have had some pretty incredible mentors.  I will always be grateful for them.

Mostly, I am grateful for my husband.  I am grateful that every day he puts on a suit and tie and goes to work so I am able to run the gallery that he always dreamed of opening.  I am grateful that he has complete faith in my ability to run the gallery that bears our names.   I am grateful that he is as crazy as I am and rarely questions what we are doing.  I am grateful that even though my messy office drives him (and many others) crazy, he doesn’t say anything most of the time.

Thanks to all of you who allow me to do the work I love.  I am grateful.


A Lot of Ball Point Pens

I love process-driven work.  I enjoy the voice that process is able to convey, and particularly the unique nature it lends aesthetically, almost as fingerprinting to an artist’s body of work.  Probably what I enjoy most, though, is the danger.  Right now you think i am an art nerd.  And you’re right, but truthfully, process-driven work so dangerously walks that slippery slope potentially leading directly below to the valley of kitsch.  Done poorly and the work inevitably falls flat on its face after the shine wears off.  I don’t mean the humorous, ironic failure either.  I mean terrible, bad, fly-by-night work, images of which most likely to be found via email forwards from one’s more embarrassing side of the extended family.  However, when an artist is able to successfully conquer that slippery slope with integrity, uniqueness, and peculiarity, they are able to change the foundations of art, how we perceive it, and the nature of creation.  In this sense, we have a conventional example in Chuck Close and more obscure one, depending upon your exposure, in Great Britain’s Banksy.  Some of the most interesting work being created, in my opinion, is process-driven (in its more positive sense, of course), and one such artist I am currently obsessed with is Juan Francisco Casas.  Casas creates realist portraiture, candid moments of his socialite friends in the drunken and often sordid context of night life.  So what’s the process?  They are all rendered in photographic precision with nothing more than a ball point pen.  Let me correct myself…a LOT OF BALL POINT PENS.  His pieces’ average size is around 3 meters (or 10 feet) and around 14 pens are used per image.  This process concept is so simple, yet one that can be easily appreciated for its ingenuity with a completely common-place medium.  Enclosed is Casas’ link.  Enjoy!

-Joel Sager


Painfully Midwestern

Painfully Midwestern is/was the name of a local record label. They produced a couple of Columbia bands that I know of, but their claim to fame is putting out three compilation discs of the best music Columbia has offered over the last 20 years. I am fortunate to own all three. They are all excellent and bring back lots of memories. The three discs comprise some of the best representation of  the “mid-west“ music scene and what separates it from music from other parts of the country. It reminded me a lot of the current exhibit at PS:. All of the artists hale from the mid-west and the art represented is painfully “mid-western”.

Hans Droog has created majestic portraits of farm animals reminiscent of those of royalty of the 18th century. The animals peer out at the viewer with all confidence as if to say, “ I still rule your world.” And in the mid-west, they do. The common farm animal still plays an huge role in what shapes the mid-west economically and culturally. Hans’s creations are not going to let you forget that.

Hans Droog

"Hamburger Rooster" Hans Droog

Pull over to the side of the road anywhere 15 to 20 miles outside of the city limits and you’ll find the photographs of Chris Dahlquist. Her indiscernible “mile markers” could exist anywhere in the mid-west. Rolling farm fields, scattered cows, an occasional random hay bail, an abandoned barn, the kind of scene we pass everyday along the highway at 70 miles per hour. To make the even more nostalgic, her process of printing her photos on gold, painted steel reminds you of the old daguerrtype photos.

There has always been a mid-west influence in the works of Joel Sager. He has lived here most of his life and that ”mid-west” influence shows greatly in his latest exhibit. Again, I say nostalgic, like you walked into one of those farm houses on the side of the highway. Wood floors, an antique television sitting on a lace doily, a bare foot girl in her Sunday best with her pet lamb, a dime store piggy, painfully mid-western.

Even the colors of Julie Hansen and Rebecca Crowell reflect the mid-west. Those deep, grey blue skies of a fall rain approaching, the dark oranges and yellow of the leaves just after they have reached their peak, those purples and golds that form in the sky when the falling sun hits the scattered clouds just right, all of these exist exclusively to the mid-west.

Even Katie Barnes has gotten into act. Her photos of rusted tools and trucks, dilapidated farm houses, an occasional farm animal are the kind of scene most people would stereotype seeing in the mid-west. An outsiders “ideal” view of what

goes on in “these parts”.

Lastly the current alcove show too, is a reflection of what is all that is mid-western. Our “Mini” show represents some of our favorite local artists. All come from Columbia and all show the influence their time in the mid-west has had on them and their work.

The current show is up through the end of the year. I encourage you to come by and take a look at what some of the best artists in the mid-west have to offer. Perhaps you will feel nostalgic enough to take a piece home with you.  By the way, if you have any of the compilations put out by Painfully Midwestern, they would make a great soundtrack to the current exhibit.



Our own Katie Barnes

Charlie Perlow Stevens captured by Katie Barnes


I do promise I will return to my series of articles about my Friends the artist, but I couldn’t resist posting this link to a recent post on the NPR’s The Picture Show.  Our own Katie Barnes (ok and her boyfriend Max Bittel) had her fall photography featured.  Katie’s photographs are currently being show in the Autumn Exhibit.  I personally think she is one of the most talented photographers I know.  Katie moved away recently and I miss seeing her, but I am fortunate that I can keep up with her via her blog  She has an amazing way of capturing people.  I am including one of my all time favorite picture that Katie took of my daughter Charlie several years ago.  It seems so easy, but for all of us who try to take pictures that look easy, we know it is not.  I encourage you to come by the gallery before the end of the year to see Katie’s work.  Also check out her blog and the following piece on the NPR website.


Congratulations Katie….