Elle Décor, February/March 2004
"Elle Décor Goes to St. Louis," by Stephen Henderson
A four-page article, chock full of postcard photo-opps and a loopy cartoon map of town, capitalizes on (what else?) the Lewis and Clark bicentennial in its pitch of St. Louis to Elle Décor readers. The text manages to squeeze in our history of urban flight, Emily Pulitzer on the core city, the Wainwright building, a lot of ink on Grand Center, Tennessee Williams, the CWE, Forest Park's renovation, U City, Charles Eames, Bob Cassilly ("known around town as the 'Mad Max' of design"), a nod to the white-hot Maplewood strip and downtown, which Henderson says is "where St. Louis's revival is most evident." Even the First Fridays gallery walk rates. One of the few off notes is the inclusion, in text and photo, of Hannibal you might get the impression that it's just a couple of highway exits out of downtown. Also unfortunate is the inclusion of Kroma, which closed its doors after the article went to press. Worth clipping out, nonetheless, and mailing to all those East Coast friends who are still struggling to figure out exactly where in flyover country you live.
"Into Iraq": Photography by Andrew Cutraro
January 2 - 31
Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 N. 10th St.
The usual chatty art show crowd was there, to be sure, but amidst the hubbub, the subject matter on the walls of Urbis Orbis caused a thoughtful hush to fall over many viewers as they took in the stark, black-and-white images captured by Cutraro, a Post-Dispatch photojournalist, while he was on assignment last year in Iraq. Scenes seen through his lens include American soldiers walking along the side of the road, grinning and surrounded by Iraqi children; a long view of a stream of soldiers with their transport helicopter in the distance; disturbing details of some of the fighting's casualties; and the show's signature image, a tight, haunting shot of a soldier who has painted his face in a grisly death mask, staring out from hollow eyes. Cutraro is interested in developing an ongoing presence for documentary photography exhibits in town, and based on the strength of this outing, we expect he'll have an audience for future projects.
Genesis House poetry series
January 8: Payda Paid, Aaron Belz, John Ryan
If you're not familiar with Genesis House, you really should pay a visit: before the current trendiness of the Cloop (city-Loop), its founders were right there on the unfashionable part of Delmar, slinging coffee and optimism for all who walked in the door. Some of the best nights there are performance nights, and the St. Louis poets' reading in January was no exception. A diversity of voices is always good to help the unfamiliar weed out what they like and don't, if for no other reason. The poets each got two reading slots, with a short break in between rounds. Payda Paid, the self-described "poet of love," brings a definite slam-inflection to his work, resulting in sometimes-singsong, sometimes-shouted words. It's dramatic, for sure, but also probably exactly the kind of style that people who say they just don't like poetry readings, well, don't like. To his credit, Paid throws himself into his performances, unafraid to rap, moan and channel others' voices if the poem calls for it. Aaron Belz, convener of a great local reading series, has a kind of wry style when reading his own work, like "Trouble in Transportation":
I have to say, these fellows from John Deere
can be a handful from time to time.
That said, the company has a strong
track record, and I will still do business with them.
Following the thread of his poems is a bit of work that pays off for a focused audience. John Ryan, an English teacher at Clayton High School, shows a great versatility in his selection, at its strongest on topics like the small, daily disappointments of intimacy:
The milk truck comes
and goes past me
because you never believed
in such nonsense
as home-delivered milk.
Maybe that's where the rift began.
At the end of the evening, it's a poem of Ryan's that brings down the house, an ode to the Kubla Khan of bathrooms, called "Ben Ho Leahy":
Soft chants broadcast
through hidden speakers,
thick Asian rugs lie braided
and warmed underneath,
literature of the Western world
stand nestled on shelves within easy reach.
Behind me an armless David and a Boticelli
have sealed off the space.
The attendant is gone.
Excitement tugs at my innards.
Dear God, am I meant to here?
"Yesss," comes Ben Ho Leahy's voice
through the mouths of the saints overhead,
Ah, the local shelves at Dunaway Books on South Grand is there anywhere finer to while away half an hour? We've extolled its virtues in this space before, and a recent perusal yielded a fun little slice of hands-on St. Louis: "Pushcarts and Stalls The Soulard Market History Cookbook," by noted local historian Suzanne Corbett. The lay-flat binding indicates this book is intended for actual use, with recipes from market vendors divided into sections like "Butcher Shop Specialties" and "From the Roost and River." (Where exactly would those skinned raccoons fit in? Better not to ask.) Corbett gives a concise history of the market, on the same site in various forms since at least 1779. However, she wastes little time getting to the good stuff, everything from Bevo German potato salad to big river catfish gumbo. Get your hands on a copy, whip up a sweet potato pie and savor the tastes of your town.