February 27, 2008

Cindy Tower paints in St. Louis's abandoned factories

Malcolm Gay reports in the Riverfront Times that ex-New York sculptor/installation artist Cindy Tower is painting in St. Louis. "For the past two and a half years, Tower, a petite woman with shoulder-length auburn hair, a surfeit of fierce opinions and a mannequin fashioned from old sofa cushions to look like a bodyguard, has ventured into abandoned local factories to continue crafting her 'Workplace Series,' a nostalgic paean to the nation's vanished industrial past. The series of oil paintings, a nearly decade-long project whose tremendous canvases capture both the cathedral-like scale of the abandoned factories and the echo of the human industry they once hosted, is the subject of a solo show that opens Friday, February 29, at the Crisp Museum in Cape Girardeau.

"'It's kind of like life is more interesting than art. Life already is art. This already is a perfect sculpture. You have little pointillist bits of broken glass, and beautiful little trees reclaiming it through the windows. It's gorgeous,' says Tower, moving nimbly through the Armour plant's wreckage. 'But I don't want to just run in and take a photo like a snuff film. I want to live it, experience it, breathe it, be part of it, so I can deserve to talk about it, because I'm sick of glibness. It's easy to be facile. It's harder to just be. That's kind of my thing.'

"Tower first made a name for herself as a promising young artist in late 1980s and 1990s New York. Her willfully anarchic work — hanging more than 500 pairs of rock-filled pantyhose from a gallery's walls, disassembling her old truck and turning it into a pirate ship, replete with an engine for anchor, sails made of painted canvases and a front end-cum-treasure chest — blurred the lines between painting, performance and installation....In 2000 Tower began her 'Workplace Series' in the Brooklyn's rotting shipyards, then relocated it to St. Louis, where she has been a visiting assistant professor of art at Washington University since 2005. It hasn't been easy, and she says her decision to simply paint has been questioned by many in the art world.

"'They say: Maybe you could project slides on your paintings, or maybe you could put some LEDs on your paintings. They were trying to make me hipper,' Tower explains. 'They were embarrassed that I was going out and just painting like an old fogy from the 1800s. They didn't think it was funny at all — but it's perversely funny in this age of technology with its special effects and trust-fund babies hiring fabricators to make their work.'" Read more.

"Cindy Tower: Workplace Series," Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Southeast Missouri Regional Museum, on the River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO. February 29-April 27.

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