St. Louis, Bernie residents featured in shows at Arts Council

Though they occurred decades apart, Tim Hahn and Teresa Mosley Dirks both had their first serious art experiences at Southeast Missouri State University. The art they create is very dissimilar, and they feel differently about teaching art, but one thing has been true for both: They have been drawn to lives in art.

Work by Hahn of St. Louis and by Dirks of Bernie, Mo., is on display through April at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, 32 N. Main St. in Cape Girardeau.

In the early 1970s, professors Rick Procter, Win Bruhl and the late Bill Chamberlain had an effect on Cape Girardeau native and Central High School graduate Hahn. "I saw how they worked, and I saw what it was like being an artist," he says.

Hahn transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute for his bachelor of fine arts degree, and earned a master's degree in fine art from Washington University in St. Louis. A former assistant professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Hahn is now an instructor at St. Charles County Community College. He likens his teaching situation to working in a fast food restaurant.

"They hire a bunch of part-time people and give them enough money to get by as long as they don't have to pay them benefits or guarantee them employment," he says. "... It is a business."

Hahn has exhibited regularly since 1975, when his work was seen in the "30 Miles of Art" exhibition sponsored by the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. He has received numerous awards and in 1989 earned a $5,000 Missouri Arts Council grant. He is represented by the Sonia Zaks Gallery in Chicago.

His exhibit at Gallery 100 is titled "Walkin' Down Main Street." It consists of butterflies, whales, moths, birds, trees, vases, phone lines and other images drawn on small wooden blocks with pencil, charcoal and acrylic paint. The smudges on some of the blocks are intentional, Hahn says. "I like to get charcoal on my hands and face."

The blocks are arranged into larger mosaics with cryptic names like "Cured of Any Last Chance" and "A Long Way to Kiss You." Though he says, "I never know how they're going to end up," the effect is contemplative.

Hahn hates the nervousness of openings, but showing his creations to people is also that thing about being an artist he loves most. He watched at last Friday's reception as a college-age student looking at his work began taking notes.

As a professor, Procter says, you can tell which art students are serious and which ones are taking art for an easy class. He remembers which one Hahn was. "He was so serious I told him to get the hell out of Dodge and go somewhere," Procter said.

Cape Girardeans Bob and Dorothy Hahn wanted their son to become an architect. For 15 years he supported his art by tending bar in St. Louis. He got to hear many great musicians. He was tending bar the night Sheryl Crow performed at the release of her first CD, "Tuesday Night Music Club." Only 30 people were there. "I got her drunk on Budweiser," he recalled.

The musicians he heard play, sometimes for meager crowds and pay, inspired him to continue being an artist, he said. "They kept doing it. That's all they could do."

For years his style jumped around. He produced the work in "Walkin' Down Main Street" after stepping back awhile. This show is a culmination of everything he has been doing.

"This has been accepted well," he said. "It took 50 years to get to this spot. Now I'm happy."

Dirks was a nontraditional student who majored in English and had only minored in art when she graduated from Southeast in 1998. She subsequently discovered that what she loves most is teaching art to children. She is teaching art in the Malden, Mo., schools while working toward her certification.

"If I had it to do over again I would have majored in art," she says.

Dirks studied with professors Lane Fabrick, Sarah Riley, Ron Clayton and former University Museum director Jenny Strayer. She still refers to Fabrick as her "color guru."

"Whenever I had a color question, I went to him. I pick his brain on subjects," she says. "He allowed me to express my freedom."

Dirks' show, titled "Pulp Elements," includes hand-made paper and digital photography. Her digital images of water on a leaf, a quilt, a rotting hand-colored apple contrast with paper creations with titles like "Chomsky Theories" and "Cowgirl in the Sand," the latter paper on tin.

Describing her photographic technique, she quotes legendary photographer Minor White: "Be still with yourself ... From that place the sacredness of everything may be seen."

This is Dirks' first solo gallery show.

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