Nothing abstract about artist's success

Friday, August 6, 2004

Tonight is a busy night for the visual arts in Cape Girardeau.

The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri is opening an exhibit featuring the work of David and Taylor Crowe and the Garden Gallery is having its first reception for its newly formed artisans co-op.

There is even a new exhibit at the H&H building at 400 Broadway which will feature the paintings of Cape Girardeau artist Kristopher Naeger.

"At the last show at the H&H, I thought, what a wonderful space. I always look for alternative spaces, it's a better setting," Naeger said. He contacted the building's owners about holding an exhibit at the building, which Naeger said they were excited about. Now about four months later, everything is in place.

Although he only graduated in May with a bachelor of fine arts degree from Southeast Missouri State University, the 27-year-old Naeger has been making a living from his paintings well before that.

"A lot of people have bought my work," he said. "I sold 30 paintings in 2003, that was my best year yet. I couldn't paint them fast enough. It was mind boggling."

One of his paintings is currently on display, and for sale, at Mollie's Cafe and Bar.

Naeger has shown his work at the Juden Schoolhouse Gallery, the Garden Gallery, the Schock Community Art Center, the Shawnee Extension Center and three juried shows at the university.

The exhibit at the H&H Building showcases ten years' worth of Naeger's abstract expressionist artwork and features between 25 and 30 paintings.

According to Naeger, even though the work spans 10 years, there are no glaring changes in his artistic style. "A lot of the mark-making techniques and colors remain, but the way they're applied are very different. You can definitely tell, but it's a subtle change."

One thing that has not changed is his use of acrylic paint on canvas as his medium of choice.

"Acrylic seems to work with the way I paint," he said. "I tend to dance with the paint, it's really fast." When he comes away from working on a painting, Naeger said he and the room are covered in paint.

Naeger primarily uses bold, primary colors in his paintings, which he said conveys bright and cheery emotions.

In the past few years, Naeger has been influenced by trips to the Caribbean, where there are plenty of bright primary colors on display.

On a recent trip to Key West, Naeger took digital images of color, focusing in on small portions of larger items, whether a boat or a house.

The emotions conveyed by the colors and the technique are more important than creating a specific image. Naeger said he approaches a blank canvas with no idea of what the painting will ultimately look like. He just starts applying paint and covers over marks he does not like.

"I don't draw on the canvas and there's no specific way I go about it. It's really pouring emotions, colors and thoughts of my past onto the canvas," he said.

Naeger's artwork will next make an appearance in Costa Rica for a December exhibit, which his friend and manager Robert Gifford helped him procure. Gifford has dual citizenship in the United States and Costa Rica.

"We decided Costa Rica is a good market because it's an untapped market," Naeger said. "If we could get in on the ground level, we thought it would be a good opportunity. Part of being an artist is taking these gambles."

Naeger will attend the opening of the show in Costa Rica, but his artwork will remain until April.

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

What: "Size Matters" exhibit of work by Kristopher Naeger

When: 5 to 10 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: H&H Building, 400 Broadway

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