Seeking balance

Friday, June 3, 2005
Local artists, from left, Megan Thrower, Dennis Wilson, Kristopher Naeger, Lindsey Baker, Charlie Kent and Harry McDaniel held up their creations Thursday.

Local artist Harry McDaniel thinks Cape Girardeau is on the cusp of a revolution, and he wants to be on the cutting edge.

"This town is on the verge of a cultural explosion," said McDaniel. "We are branching out and growing. There's this whole younger generation of people wanting to do creative things."

If McDaniel is right, it's likely that his work will fit right into that changing cultural climate. McDaniel combines a variety of media to create three-dimensional abstract works full of symbolism, with some motion thrown in.

An example is a piece he calls "Industry," a work made from recycled material, primarily aluminum foil, that combines paint, sculpture, lights and motorized movement into a statement on the rigid and confined schedule of an industrialized society.

The colorful lighted background of the piece moves back and forth in a precisely timed sequence.

"Fifteen minutes on, 15 minutes off, just like industry," McDaniel says as he explains the piece.

McDaniel is just the newest addition to a group of artists that seeks to change the status quo, hoping to turn the local art world on its ear and redefine what is classified as art in the conservative Southeast Missouri area.

The group is Integrated Counterbalance, a gathering of six core artists and those who support them. That core consists of Kristopher Naeger, an abstract painter; Megan Thrower, a painter incorporating symbolic meaning with realistic imagery; Dennis Wilson, a printmaker who uses abstract lines to converge into recognizable forms on a large scale; Charlie Kent, a painter and multimedia artist whose three dimensional works resemble relief sculptures; and McDaniel.

The group burst onto the art scene in Cape Girardeau last November with a successful showing and followed that up with another show in March. Tonight Integrated Counterbalance will open another show at the H&H building on Broadway from 5 to 10 p.m.

But having shows in the H&H building isn't the group's long-term goal. Instead they're looking for their own gallery space to rival other groups in town like the Visual Arts Cooperative.

It will be a place where a variety of contemporary art -- two-dimensional, three-dimensional, music, video and performance art -- will come together for exhibit to the local community. The group also hopes to provide educational opportunities to familiarize adults and children with modern art.

"It's mainly because they want to be taken seriously," said Elle Anders, the group's spokeswoman. "They are a fairly young group, most of them are in their 20s and 30s. They wanted to show people it's not just about making art and selling it -- they're interested in education and promoting serious types of art.

"We want people to appreciate what art is about, the aesthetics of it, to appreciate it for its beauty."

Integrated Counterbalance is trying to get people away from thinking about art only in terms of what Anders calls "couch art," or art that's just around for decoration.

Landscapes, still lifes and busts are not what this group seeks to promote. Instead, it's the abstract, modern art climate of larger towns that Integrated Counterbalance is hoping to make a permanent and important part of Cape Girardeau's art scene.

"We're looking at contemporary art and breaking away from traditional art," said Anders.

That perspective made McDaniel a perfect fit with the group. McDaniel is a transplant from the Kansas City area who has family in the Bootheel near Poplar Bluff, Mo. Growing up in Kansas City, he was used to the myriad of cultural opportunities that setting provided.

When he came to Cape Girardeau five years ago following his motherL's death, culture shock set in.

"It was a big transition ... but you just got to have change," said McDaniel.

Even though he loves the friendly atmosphere and security of Cape Girardeau, McDaniel said he felt like a loner culturally. With his love of science fiction (one of his works is called "Alien Carcass in Containment Field") and his fascination with quantum mechanics channeled into new forms of artistic expression, McDaniel didn't think he would find others of like mind.

Until he went to an Integrated Counterbalance show, that is.

"I saw a show and it was radically different," said McDaniel. "They were thinking outside the box. They are some of the most talented people in Cape. They're visionaries."

McDaniel is eager to incorporate the synergistic concepts the group has in mind, bringing music and video into his work. He's already working on a sculpture of a female head with a TV screen inside it.

If plans go well, Integrated Counterbalance will feature some of this synergy, with static art and video incorporated at a show later this year, and maybe even a film invitational.

Whether those plans come together or not, what is clear is that the group will continue its efforts to defy convention and bring abstract concepts into the mainstream in Southeast Missouri.

335-6611, extension 182

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