GRANITE CITY — October is a busy month for the State Street Granite City Art and Design District, a subsidiary agency of Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts.
On Oct. 3, the foundation held its first show, presented by its first curatorial resident, artist J. E. Baker, at the city-block-size arts compound. Baker formerly was the features editor of Piecrust magazine and now works in the curatorial department at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.
Her first show for GCADD, “Everyone carries their own idea of north within them,” was held at 1822 State, with additional art next door at the nearby Launchpad, an empty lot equipped with church pews, a screen for video work and a dedicated stage for public sculpture works.
Christopher Carl and Galen Gandolfi are the directors of the GCADD and remain hands-on in every aspect of the organization. For this exhibit, Baker asked five artists — Stan Chisholm, Carla Fisher Schwartz, Amy Reidel, Rafael E. Vera and Robert Long — to respond to their own idea of “north.”
At the Insurance gallery, Amy Reidel created a floor painting with sand and glitter.
“It’s like a traditional meditative sand painting, but it uses the imagery she uses in her work … radar maps of storm systems as stand-ins for emotional landscapes, replacing the body, and in turn projecting emotion onto landscape,” Baker says. “She’s used this method of meditative repetition to create the painting, but the image is the chaos of the storm.”
Chicago artist Carla Fisher Schwartz, whose practice includes printmaking, drawings and small sculpture, shows work related to Sandy Island, a ghost island in the Coral Sea, just east of Australia.
“It was included in maps and charts as early as the 19th century,” Baker says. “Then, in 2012, it became ‘undiscovered.’ People realized that Sandy Island had been tricking mapmakers for centuries, and it was finally confirmed that it was a nonexistent entity. “Carla used imagery grabbed from Google Maps and other sources to recreate Sandy Island. So it’s an interesting relation between physical space and virtual space, what’s real and what’s imagined, what can be created from repeating information over time.”
Stan Chisholm reimagined a piece that Baker was very struck by, a sculpture/text piece entitled “Waiting for a Mountain.”
“It was text that was leaning up against pieces of asphalt,” Baker says. “He used that text to create a new video projection, and in the gallery he has two wall sculptures … what I would call ‘cumulative landscapes’ — combined representations of automobile parts, fragments of architecture and debris from the street, crumpled together to create one abstract form. Stan says it’s about illustrating the infinite, and the condensed forms seem to depict folded space. It’s a graphic abstraction that makes the viewer apply their own story to the piece.”
Over at Launchpad, Vera, based in Chicago and originally from Venezuela, showed a new outdoor sculpture made specifically for this exhibit.
“It’s made of cinderblocks, sod, and Astroturf,” Baker says. “There are all these layers. He provided the materials, and then gave me instructions on constructing this monument to the American lawn. All of the works in the exhibition reveal methods of repetition and explore how human beings use repetition to create and understand their own histories.
“Rafael repeated these two different kinds of grasses, one on top of the other, where it looks like one layer is protecting the other. The work brings up questions of authenticity and what is real, and conjures phrases such as, ‘things going south’ and ‘going to where the grass is greener,’ with all the positive or negative associations attached to those figures of speech.”
Six Mile Sculpture Works and Alfresco Productions presented the Hot Iron Pour. Noah and Alison Quellette-Kirby demonstrated small scale iron casting. The techniques were done literally in the shadow of the steel mill.
Christopher Carl put together a historical art piece on State Street that was presented to the public, with Ginger Marie Fett and Michael McInerney participating as well. They gave a walking tour of State Street and told anecdotes of the area. Carl’s work, along with the tour, helps people know what State Street had once meant to Granite City. Carl displayed a scaled landscaped architectural model of the future vitalization hopes for the stretch of road.
The GCADD will host a family-friendly art, crafts and vendor fair from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at 1900 State St., where this weekend’s art exhibit will enjoy a repeat display. For information, visit www.gcadd.org.