The Ballou Collection – Chris Hall

Chris Hall – Thrustmasters. Oil on panel, 7×10 inches, 2012.

Chris Hall is a great guy. He’s a solid dude. He’s easy to get along with, to talk about Dune with, to consider the pros and cons of kayfabe with, and to think about art with. Back in 2011 Chris came into the MFA program at Mizzou and quickly stood out. Not only was he a good painter with interesting ideas, he was also willing to let his assumptions go to grow. His thesis work was among the strangest and most unique I’ve had the privilege to see. Check out his ongoing work at his website.

Chris has the unique ability to draw out both mirth and serious, intense thought in those around him. I’ve loved partying with him over the years, and I look forward to more fun in the future.

Above: Chris as Nosferatu and me as Igor in a drawing I made… this is how we party, people. Ballou digital drawing, 2017.

I have two artworks from Chris in my home. The first, Thrustmasters, is at the top of this post. And here is an untitled fridge interior from around the same time – 2012 or 2013, just as Chris was moving into his Thesis work.

Chris Hall- Untitled Fridge Interior (Vampiric Food). Oil on panel, 7×10.5 inches, 2013.

Chris is one of my favorite subjects for illustration (I’ve drawn caricatures of my friends, family, and students for many years). Not to be outdone, Chris had me pose for a number of his paintings early on, and those sessions are some of my favorite moments in academia!

Me posing for Chris… meme-ified.

Chris shaking his groove thang… Ballou digital drawing, 2016.

The Ballou Collection – Borovicka, Gealt, Ballougan

Last year I started a periodic series about artworks that I’ve collected – through purchase, gifting, or exchange – over the years. I’ve been thinking of moving some art around in our home recently, so I gathered up a couple nice pieces that I have gotten – one very recently – and put them together with one of the collaboration pieces I made with Joel T. Dugan.

Here they are – A wonderful Joey Borovicka window painting that I got just this past month, a thick Barry Gealt work of juicy saturation, and that collaboration piece that Joel and I made. I really think they hang well together. A little song at the front door of our home.

Here’s a nice detail of the Borovicka piece, entitled 4 Minus 3 Equals zero. Check out Joey’s wonderful Instagram feed for lots more of this enigmatic, compelling work. Below is a close shot of the Barry Gealt piece Waterfall III. Barry is one of the most important people in my life. He has an influence within me that is almost unparalleled. There are perhaps only 6 other voices that guide me more than his has.

Finally, the collaboration piece with Joel – Pile. Joel and I are in the midst of a collaboration of nearly a half decade at this point. We’ve been recouping recently, digging in for another push. With a number of shows together and a collection of roughly 40 works, our partnership has been a long term joy ride into the space between understanding and complete mystification. It’s been powerfully transformative for me.

So there it is. Another installation of The Ballou Collection. Hopefully I’ll get back around to it before another year has passed. Buy art, people! Fill your spaces with art from people you KNOW and CARE about!

Marcus Miers: Halation at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center

My friend and former student Marcus Miers is returning to Columbia, Missouri to have a solo exhibition at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center.

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Marcus, installing Come To Nothing (The Minimalists Ascension) at Imago.

This exhibition is, in some ways, a second iteration of Marcus’s MFA thesis show that took place this past April at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In addition to several of his thesis works, Marcus will be creating site-specific pieces that play off the unique interior quirks of the Imago gallery space. Also on display are two drawings from Marcus’s undergraduate time at Mizzou. These drawings show the beginning of his interest in the phenomenology of color and the relationship between color, space, and anxious or awkward forms.

imageOne of Miers’s recent works (left) alongside an older drawing.

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Another one of Marcus’s undergraduate works.

The two undergraduate drawings will be for sale to support The Eric Sweet Memorial Scholarship. If you want to know more about these two pieces, visit Imago or shoot me an email.

imageAn evocative basket-like sculpture entitled A Soft Tongue Breaks the Bone.

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Marcus Miers – Halation, a catalog of recent work, is also displayed in the gallery.

imageKeep Them Close on view at Imago.

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Marcus beginning to install a site-specific woven piece in the strange brick niche at Imago.

I hope you’ll come see this exhibition if you’re in the area. Marcus will give a talk on June 2nd at 7pm. I’ll have the privilege to introduce him before he speaks. Always strange, sometimes awkward, and often mystifying, experiencing Marcus’s work is just like meeting him for the first time. Ultimately, both are rich and rewarding, so be there and start the journey.

Dream of Light

I attended the opening of Antonio Lopez Garcia‘s retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts – Boston back in April of 2008. It was a wonderful trip. I was thinking about it today. How momentous it felt to be there. Seeing so many friends from all over the US who were there for it – even Rackstraw Downes was there that day! Tim Lowly was there. Tim Kennedy and Eve Mansdorf were there. David Gracie was there. Sangram Majundar was there. A few low-quality photo pictures are below.

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The best part for me was at an early point in the day before the crowds arrived. I found myself standing next to the master, looking together at one of his paintings. It was nice to see him looking closely, finding a contemplative moment in a masterwork he’d painted many years before. There was a leveling there, an equanimity – the master must look, just as the audience must. We both see and take in what is before us. In that space and time of perception we try to understand. In those wavelengths of light we dream of a unity and order and meaning beyond ourselves. We dream of light.

Exiting Painting MFAs

Jacob Johnson, Jackie Lin, and David Spear all graduated from the University of Missouri Art Department this semester. I was on each of their graduate committees and was with them from the first days of their graduate experience. I could write a lot about their work, their thesis writing, and the things they’ve been trying to do. Instead I want to share just one piece of work (or so) from each of them.

Above: Jacob Johnson, Untitled (Neil’s Back, Green), Oil on Canvas mounted on Panel, 72 by 48 inches, 2009.

Below: Jacob Johnson, The Professor (Portrait of Matt Ballou), Oil on Panel, 8 by 6 inches, 2012. This was a tribute piece Jake made for me…

Above: Jackie Lin, Stir Fry, Oil on Canvas, 66 by 52.5 inches, 2010.

Below: Jackie took my family out for Peking Duck at House of Chow here in Columbia, MO as a gift to me… it was amazing!

Above: Harrison Bergeron (managed, directed and produced by David Spear), Who Are We, Where Do We Come From, Where Are We Going?, Oil on three Panels, 114 by 31.5 inches, 2012.

Below: Me and Harrison hamming it up at the Multimedia Extravaganza that was the thesis show…

The paintings above are three of my favorites from the production of these artists. I’m proud to have seen them develop and strive and fail and scream and leap for joy over these years. Here’s to many more years of learning to fail well.

IU Fine Arts Student Association Submission

IU’s Fine Arts Student Association recently solicited postcard sized works from alumni, like myself (MFA, Painting, ’05). Below is what I sent them.

Water From a Stone (Ballou, 2011 – For IU), ink on moleskin page.

Here’s a link what a fellow IU alum, Stephen Cefalo, submitted. The whole thing is to support FASA’s “Making Art Work” symposium on careers in the Arts. Click here for more information about it.

Inspiration: Natalie Hellmann

Natalie Hellmann, a wonderful ceramist and person, is holding her MFA Thesis Exhibition this month. She has been an absolute joy to work with over the last three years, and I know I’ve learned much that I would never have known if not for our discussions.

Aarik Danielsen talks to Natalie about her trajectory as an artist in this feature in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

And here’s a link to a shorter article about her and her show.

I was asked a number of questions about Natalie and her work for that short article. Obviously space didn’t permit them to publish all of my thoughts, so I want to include them here as a way to honor Natalie.


Interview Question: “What do you enjoy most about her growth as an artist since you’ve met her? How has she grown?”

My response: “I am most impressed with how Natalie has held onto the core things she has cared about for many years while at the same time found ways to grow in her understanding of the materials and integrated relationships of form, content, and emotion with which she has worked while in grad school. Practically, this means that she has made numerous attempts to invest her project with fresh investigations, often working with different forms, structures (and orientations of these two) in order to determine what felt right. In many ways what she presents in this Thesis work seems inevitable, as if it all just had to be. But this is not the case. Natalie has studied her own work and intuitive expressions while also looking to other artists, writers, and philosophers who seek poetical understandings of human experience rather than just rational, direct, closed meanings in that experience. Natalie’s work is thus not meant to function as didactic communication first and foremost. Instead, it has grown to become a kind of emotional sounding board, wherein viewers may, if they are inclined, examine themselves via the suggestions of the forms. The work is more about awareness of being than declaring some specific message. I enjoy the fact that I got to participate in her exploration, be around her welcoming spirit, and grow in my own apprehension of what art can do through my time with her. ”

Interview Question: “What do you think her viewers are going to enjoy most from her exhibition this coming week?”

My response: “I think that viewers who allow themselves to intuitively consider the objects and arrangements in Natalie’s show will find a resonance in their own past experiences of feeling, seeing and being. What I mean is that, to me, the strength of Natalie’s work has always been in its gentle invitation to participate in awareness and emotional connection to shapes, colors, and surfaces. Being with Natalie’s artworks is something akin to standing by a stream and looking at the smoothed stones beneath the undulating water – if you’re in the right frame of mind, your emotional and psychological experience can become one of calm awareness. I think that’s the “repose” that Natalie suggests in the title for her exhibition. I hope that viewers will both experience and appreciate that quietude and tenderness; it’s something not often seen in art.”

Thank you, Natalie, for your work, your spirit, and your presence.