It seems you can't throw a rock into a gallery in St. Louis these days without hitting a picture of an animal (or however that old cliche goes). At the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in collaboration with Stray Rescue, has Urban Wanderers, representations of abandoned pit bulls. The Laumeier Sculpture Park has Dog Days of Summer, an exploration of "the relationship between humans and canines as depicted in visual art" that humans and canines can view together. The Schmidt Art Center has dog sculptures on display as well, most of which are on loan from the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in Queeny Park.
The proliferation of animal-themed displays bemused Matthew Strauss, proprietor of White Flag Projects in the Grove. He decided that this summer might be a good time to do his own animal-themed show, Für Elise.
The only difference was, instead of featuring depictions of cats and dogs, Für Elise would feature depictions of other things, made with the fur of cats and dogs.
"It's a strange idea," he admits. "I'm not claiming any kind of normalcy. I had this idea, and I expected everyone here would shoot it down as ridiculous and crazy. But they didn't. We'll see what happens."
Strauss is soliciting entries on White Flag's website. The art may be two- or three-dimensional, but it must be comprised of at least 90 percent "collected fur brushings." No pelts, hides or artificial fur will be accepted, nor will feathers or scales. Just fur. "I tried to troubleshoot," Strauss explains. "I don't want any sick people to take this the wrong way."
The work will be on display at the White Flag Projects gallery on Manchester Avenue from August 13-22, with a special opening event on the 13th. Each piece "will be installed like anything else," Strauss promises, and will be credited to the animal that donated the fur for it. The animals' names will appear on a special show poster, which will be distributed to the humans.
Strauss is still trying to work out the refreshments situation. Given the species of the artists, Schlafly, White Flag's usual sponsor, won't be able to donate beer, but Strauss is hoping that they'll supply water bowls instead. And Laumeier already took the idea of donating all exhibit proceeds to a dog charity. But Strauss is confident he'll think of something.
Meanwhile, Strauss is excited by the artistic possibilities suggested by pet hair. "It's weird and austere," he says. "Everything will be unified by the materials." One of his cats, Gravy Strauss, who sports of coat of "clumpy gray fur," may be making a contribution, possibly a bust of Beethoven.
"I'm looking forward to the opening," Strauss confides. "All the artists are invited. People are optional. I'm anticipating an abnormal level of interest by the artists in the other artists' work. There'll be a lot of smelling."
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