Catching the Moment

Artwork depicting a red cardinal with the letter "C."  This piece is from the exhibit.

Dan and I decided to spend a few moments at the St. Louis Art Museum. That’s because we met a lovely lady in our neighborhood’s mail center who encouraged us to take in the current exhibit, “Catching the Moment.” This exhibit displays the art collected by Ted and Maryanne Ellison Simmons. Ted Simmons was a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player in the 1970’s. Dan loves baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. If I’m ever gonna get Dan inside the art museum, this is the hook.

The exhibit features 39 artists; however, many of the pieces are from three artists on which the Simmones chose to focus their collection. The collection is made up of contemporary art pieces which by their nature, focus on the issues of the day. Of course, I am not going to recreate the exhibit, but rather just present my thoughts and reactions.

The first artist of the main three is Kiki Smith. According to the St. Louis Art Museum’s website, her pieces focus on “explorations of the body and self as well as environmental concerns.” Her “Finger Bowl” piece was the first purchase the Simmones made for what would become their contemporary collection.

Finger Bowl
Notice the “legs” of the bowl

I also was drawn to this porcelain piece where the artist depicts herself as a young girl. The museum card on this sculpture describes her as “humble yet confident.”

Me in a Corner

The second artist featured prominently in the collection was Enrique Chagoya. He is described by the St. Louis Art Museum’s website as having “wide-ranging post-colonial critique.” Below are two depictions of the same historical event – Daniel Boone’s daughter, Jemima, being kidnapped by a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party. The first piece is a lithograph by Chagoya.

Detention at the Border of Language
from Daniel Boone’s Home
in Defiance, MO

The second portrayal of the kidnapping of Daniel Boone’s daughter is a picture I took when we visited Daniel Boone’s home in Defiance, Missouri. Of course, it’s a completely different perspective of the kidnapping.

Regarding Enrique Chagoya’s “Detention at the Border of Language”, the museum display says

The kidnapping of colonist Daniel Boone’s daughter Jemima is recast as the activity of a border patrol. As Enrique Chagoya notes, “Today, some politicians call refugees from Central America and other countries ‘illegal aliens’ but for me they are no different from the Pilgrims or Daniel Boone’s daughter.” Chagoya scrambled the identities of the figures, who take on heads borrowed from different Indigenous communities, while Jemima becomes a cartoon duck. In doing so, the artist calls attention to the irony that people living on historically stolen land carry hatred toward foreigners.

St. Louis Art Museum
Catching the Moment exhibition

Which one reflects the truth more accurately? Perhaps we can all agree that viewing history can be done from many perspectives. I’d venture to say that taken together can perhaps give us the most accurate, and perhaps complex, interpretation of the actual events.

The exhibition also contains a video where Maryanne and Ted discuss the collection. Ted’s favorite piece is a simple depiction of a fertilized egg. Ted said he is a fan of “lowest common denominators.” I really didn’t understand why this piece would be anyone’s favorite until after I had seen a bit more of the collection.

The collection contains a photograph which is “Untitled”; however, it has been given the description “Face in Dirt.” This photo was another self portrait and was created by the artist, David Wojnarowicz after he had been given an AIDS diagnosis. About a year after the photo was taken, David died from AIDS, and it was then his friend and traveling companion printed the photo and shared it with others. Other pieces in the exhibit speak of the cruelty often felt because of sexual preference.

My heart goes out to all those who suffer or are hurt by others due to some critical judgement for one reason or another. No matter what our differences may be, our humanity connects us all. Perhaps this is why Ted Simmons chose that simple fertilized egg as his favorite – because that piece reflects our basic humanity.

The third artist featured was Tom Huck who is noted as “rural Missouri scoundrel epics in woodcut form.” The “Catching the Moment” exhibit contained over 200 pieces, and I could only absorb a portion of it. You can call me a Missouri scoundrel, but I came up short with regards to Tom Huck. It’s no commentary on the artist; I had just reached my saturation point. The Simmones, on the other hand, collected Tom Huck’s work extensively.

The exhibit also includes a video where Maryanne and Ted are talking about the collection. In this video, each discussed which piece was his or her personal favorite. I’ve already mentioned Ted’s favorite. Maryanne’s favorite was a piece entitled “Pay Attention.” While I wholeheartedly agree with this piece’s sentiment to “pay attention” to issues, I don’t like the vulgar words in the art work. I realize these words are supposed to shock the viewer, but it doesn’t inspire me to pay attention. It just inspires me to move along. He used the “F” word. Big deal.

For full disclosure, I have to say that contemporary art is not my favorite. While I appreciate and value its societal commentary, it’s not all that pleasing to look at. Some of it is disturbing.

Art showing a hung person with one of the seven dwarfs viewing it.
Liberty Backwards
Enrique Chagoya
…human suffering…media…treated as entertainment

Some of it is too abstract both literally and figuratively – for me. Even after reading the piece descriptions, for some of the art, I just didn’t get it.

Hard to describe.  One two legged animal with a creature riding it and one four legged animal with a flower like thing coming out of its neck.
Do you know what this means?
Because I sure don’t !

Other pieces, I got, and while in general I agreed with the viewpoint, my own opinion was a bit more tempered. For example, in Chagoya’s “Detention at the Border” piece above, wouldn’t Jemima be considered a “dreamer?”

Even still, the exhibit challenged me to experience and to think outside of my own comfort zone. For some art, like this exhibition, I think that’s the idea.

Visiting the art museum, which is located in Forest Park, reminded me of the wonderful cultural institutions St. Louis has to offer. Forest Park was once the site of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Today it is home to the art museum, the zoo, the history museum, the science center, and more – with much of it being free. The day we were there, the park was bustling with people, and the park was absolutely beautiful with its architectural features enhanced by flowers and landscaping.

Dan and I kind of forget about all this sometimes. We often focus on our local area in St. Charles, which we enjoy so much. And we focus on places we visit or hope to visit in our travel trailer. But this visit reminds me to “pay attention” and to “catch more moments” in Forest Park – St. Louis’s jewel .

Statue of Saint Louis
in front of the St. Louis Art Museum


  1. Love, love love the St. Louis Art museum! I’ve seen lots of exhibitions there, and also their usual collections. I enjoyed reading about your visit, although I, too am not usually a fan of contemporary art. I like the two kitties you posted earlier, and the cardinal at the top of this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The museum really is a treasure. And it is so big! One of my favorite special exhibitions years ago was – the Gees Bend quilts. I loved many of those designs! Thanks for reading, and enjoy your day!


    • There was another very small special exhibit (which was free) called “Memory Painting.” We took a few moments to check it out. One was a painting of a church picnic. I liked it very much. It’s featured on the main page; you just have to scroll down. I am definitely a concrete and a practical thinker. Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can see why you liked Church Picnic. It is a beautiful piece. It is similar to a painting one of my doctor’s had in his exam room and I always enjoyed looking at it while I waited on him.

        Liked by 1 person

        • They only had two paintings by this artist, but they also had a few others who represented “memory painting.” I had not heard of “memory painting”, so that was another thing I learned that day! The colors were wonderful.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You are in Missouri (pronounced Mystery as my husband calls it) who also happens to be from Missouri. Nice art pieces, not all of them are my cup of tea. I love modern art and abstract art as well, as for the drawing it’s called “The Road to Bremen” says Google and knowing that Bremen is famous for the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Animal Musicians in the city of Bremen, standing on top of each other) I suppose he tried to have more animals go to Bremen to join them. Or I am off by a mile 🙂

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  3. This was an excellent exploration of contemporary art and your reactions to it. I find the symbolic representations interesting as it leads me to ponder what is the intent? For example, in the piece you ask “Do you know what this means?” I had to expand it to a larger size in order to examine it. It seemed to me a commentary on the current condition–the bizarre mutations of human like features, which are recognizable, but clearly different from the ideal. We can see legs, and mouths, but they don’t look like the usual legs and mouths. The murkiness of the environment speaks to our wanton destruction of the air and land. The picnic is ruined, so to speak. Now that was just what I thought in attempting to discern meaning. Looking up the artist, Michael Barnes (information gleaned from the museum website), the lithograph is consistent with his work, which features other similar bizarre translations of humankind and where we might be headed. In that sense, he connects with Chagoya and his focus on post colonialism. Given the focus of the exhibit, it makes sense that it would be overwhelming in exposure.

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    • Thank you for all your research and interpretation. Your interpretation does shed some light for me. And you are right, in that this exhibit was a bit overwhelming. So much meaning to take in! The museum had stools which could have been borrowed and brought into the exhibit. I thought it was a wonderful idea, as sitting in front of a piece is much more conducive to thought – especially with so many pieces. I also appreciate your comment that my post was an excellent exploration. I worked really hard on this post! You’d think someone was paying me! It took me a week to write! However, I am so glad I wrote the post as doing so really contributed to my experience of seeing this art – even though I wrote it after viewing it. I had to research the art and artists to complement what I saw. In the video at the exhibit, the Simmones said they chose to follow a small number of artists – but then they also followed the artists’ contemporaries, kind of making a connecting web. Just as you describe how Michael Barnes connects with Chagoya. Thank you again for your research and your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Betty, for those kind comments. It was obvious you had worked hard on this piece. I also noted your usual wit about how to get Dan to go to an art museum with you. I did like the piece with the cardinal on it, too–I am frequently drawn to colorful graphic pieces. I learned a good deal from this post, and having never been to St. Louis, I am now contemplating a short trip. Now how to get Rando to agree?

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are welcome. There were other pieces in the exhibit where the artist did needlepoint on pictures of superheroes. These were colorful graphic pieces. There really was so much to take in! I did offer to go to the exhibit alone, but Dan didn’t take me up on the offer. To be honest, next time he might. 🙂 I think the Ted Simmons hook drew him in. When we viewed outdoor art at Cedarhurst a couple years ago, Dan was really engaged and seemed to enjoy it. What does Rando like? Perhaps I can suggest a hook for you to use. I mean, I could suggest something he would enjoy. The St. Louis Art Museum is huge. I inspired myself (can a person inspire oneself?) to visit again and to take in more of it, in smaller but full amounts.

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          • I think self-inspiration is the Crème de la Crème of expression. Rand likes video games, guitars, music and anything computer geek. He used to have his own dark room, but he does not really do photography any more. He used to play tennis, and still loves to watch but his knees and shoulder really prohibit that any more. One can only have so many joint surgeries before you have to take heed. I will be awaiting the hooks you might find in that for St. Louis!

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    • You are welcome. When I visit a museum, I tend to focus on just a part of it and really take in that part. There is always more than one can absorb in one trip – at least for me! Hope you enjoy the weekend!

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  4. I sure don’t last long in an art museum Betty. I really don’t know why I don’t enjoy art as I have an artists temperament and bent. I suffer from looking at pieces, sigh a lot and say to myself “Why did you do that?” It’s a place to go if my home is being fumigated (which it never has) and the weather is too bad to be on the lake fishing or my keyboard (piano/ synth) quit on me.

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    • 🙂 I understand! However, I would venture to say – there may be a certain type of art that would appeal to you. Perhaps more “nature-based.” But even so, we like what we like! I hope none of those things happen which would send you to the art museum!

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  5. Love this post. I shared it with a close friend of mine who’s born-and-bred St. Louis but lives in Virginia now. I appreciate your right-on comment about the David Wojnarowicz piece. We too often are judgmental about others when we have no right to be. Well done, Betty. – Marty

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    • Thank you, Marty. The pieces by David Wojnarowicz were very moving. That’s when it occurred to me as to possibly why the fertilized egg piece was chosen as Ted Simmons’ favorite. I appreciate you sharing my post. Have a great week ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating post. It’s evident that a lot of thought went into it. However, , art museums have never been my thing. We’ve passed a lot of them in our travels and never stopped at a one. Maybe I’m missing out but I don’t think so. But, one sentence in this whole blog really hit home with me. I quote “No matter what our differences may be, our humanity connects us all.” Betty you need to shout that from the rooftops, You are so right. Why can’t we understand this? Why can’t we learn to respect one another? Thanks for your thoughts and insights. I appreciate them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill, if I thought it would help our world, I’d be the crazy lady and shout it from the rooftops. While art may or may not be our thing, some of it does try to make us a better people. I appreciate and value those voices in our world. Even though you are not an art connoisseur, the post resonated with you and for that I am glad. Thank you for your comment, and I hope you have a good week ahead!


    • Thank you. The art was very thought provoking, and there was so much there. I am glad I went. Writing the post helped me to absorb even more of what I saw.


  7. I remember Ted Simmons, the baseball player. His career in the 1970’s was over shadowed by Johnny Bench. Who knew he would become a renowned art collector that not even Johnny Bench could match.

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  8. I’m a “Dan” type of museum person. There must be a hook to get me in the doors. Thanks for “taking” me without me going through the doors!! I could relate to your response to the Tom Huck 200+ piece exhibit: ” I had just reached my saturation point.” 🙂 And I agree with your wisdom: “No matter what our differences may be, our humanity connects us all.”

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    • Dan told me he was good for ten years as far as art museums go. 🙂 I do like historical places and being in nature better. But I think it’s good to visit something different once in a while. Enjoy your day!

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      • I am really loving historical places/museums, too!! We recently visit Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Ks, which is very near the Missouri/Kansas border south of KC on Hwy 54. And….nearby is Crawford State Park which is absolutely a lovely heavily shaded park on a beautiful little lake. I think you’d enjoy camping there! It’s a Ks State Park. Anyway, Ft Scott Historic site is a wonderful place to check out.

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        • These both sound like great places for us to visit. Thank you for the recommendations. I have made a note of it. And it is not too far from where we live! Enjoy your evening!

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