"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, April 29, 2010

archie scott gobber

ASG07 17" x 7"

Scott received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1988. Since then he has been in countless group and solo exhibitions and has garnered well-deserved recognition and praise. To get a sense of who Scott is and what his work is about, I thought it would be helpful to share the titles of some of his one-man shows:

“Don’t Come”
“Archie Scott Gobber is Not Guilty”
“I’m Archie Scott Gobber and I Appprove This Mess”
“Mission Accomplish”
“Archie Scott Gobber is Better Off Now”

“If you’ve ever been at a loss for words, then you will recognize and appreciate the precision of Archie Scott Gobber’s use of text in paintings, sculpture, and works on paper. In 1998, he received a Charlotte Street Award for artistic excellence. Gobber found the calling of early inspiration in the nostalgic and iconic signage of a bygone era, referencing the imagery and text of promotion, propaganda, and pinup. Since then, however, Gobber has turned his attention toward the politics of world opinion, global events, and personal conviction to inform his artistic vision.

Specific to moment or milieu, the artist’s messages have grown increasingly concise. While his work often comments clearly on perceptions and responses to events that happen to and around us, it manages to do so in such a way that allows space for a viewer’s own response and interpretation. Gobber’s handling of found and selected materials and the manners of manipulation he employs have gained from a growing sense of confidence, but the works also benefit from his steady infusion of wit, punning, and open-ended meaning.

What grounds and distinguishes Gobber’s work is the delicate interplay between the personal, the artistic, and the political. The artist has been strategic in his appropriation and projection of voice, intentionally blurring the boundaries of authoritarian directive and internal questioning. Considerations of leadership and craftsmanship, alike, are cause for the artist to invite speculation about the way we look and listen. Ultimately, the artist reminds us—just as he is mindful himself— that we all assume public responsibility for the choices and decisions we make as we form our opinions, develop our convictions, and move through the world.”

—Raechell Smith (From the Charlotte Street Foundation website)

Kansas Citians know Scott not only as an accomplished artist, but also as picture framer extraordinaire. He can be found most days designing, constructing and assembling frames at our city’s beloved Dolphin Gallery. One of Scott’s piece’s “Broker” is actually the signage over the entrance to the gallery, and that is where I recently photographed him.

Please visit Scott’s website so you can see what the fuss is all about – you’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Isabella (Izzy) is eleven years old. She is Nicky’s younger sister and Petra’s older sister. Each Change the Truth team member who meets Izzy falls in love with her.

If you know Nicky’s story, then you know that Izzy lost both of her parents in the war in northern Uganda.

I think she is one of the most artistically talented of all the children at the orphanage. Over the course of the last three years, I have watched her skills develop in a way that is really unusual for someone so young. She gets looser with her strokes; she seems more and more comfortable expressing movement, emotion and the interactions between her subjects. She is confident and sure with her use of color. She is not afraid of interesting juxtapositions, bold shapes and complex patterns.

Izzy is one of the few children who consistently draw people. I wonder if these are scenes she recalls from better days or if she imagines them in her head. Either way, Izzy is clearly an astute observer of the world and the people around her… the way people move, gesture, relate and feel. She usually draws women and children. And her work sells quickly at our events. She has a lot of fans!

The latest CTT t-shirt was done by Izzy.

I think her work is lovely; I think she is, too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

nedra bonds

NB06 18" x 9"

When I first started talking about my desire to find artists for this doll project, more than a few people told me I needed to get in touch with Nedra. Not only has she long championed children in need in the US, Haiti and Africa, she often makes artwork for social change AND she’s a fiber artist who happens to make dolls. I’d not met Nedra before this, and I’m so glad I have now had the opportunity to do so!

Look closely to see the pom-poms that have been glued to her doll’s head for hair, the peace dove necklace, the open (welcoming) hands and the faces on the base (which pay tribute to children all around the world.)

“A contemporary art quilter, Nedra Bonds comes from a long line of traditional quilters. Both her paternal and maternal grandmothers quilted, as did her mother and father. Each child in the family had a ‘real’ quilt and a ‘play’ quilt. The real quilt went on the bed, and the play quilt was used by the children when taking naps. ‘Sunday’ quilts are also a part of Bonds’ heritage. Every Sunday the beds were covered in the best quilts, awaiting the admiring eyes of those who would come to Sunday supper. As a six-year-old, Bonds was told that idle hands were the Devil’s workshop and was encouraged to begin preparing a hope chest. To help her prepare that hope chest, Bonds’ grandmother taught her traditional quilting techniques. At that young age, Bonds was shown how to make ten stitches equivalent to the length between the tip of her forefinger and the first joint. If she failed at her task, she was required to remove the stitches and to start again. As a teenager, Bonds turned her back on the family tradition of quilting.

As an adult, a private-school and college art teacher, Bonds looked at the tradition with fresh eyes. Bonds, who embraces quilting as a fine-art form that has grown from a folk tradition, incorporates three-dimensional elements and a variety of textures and colors into her art quilts to interpret the world around her and express her views on various social issues. One of her best-known quilts is the Quindaro Story Quilt, a traditional appliqué quilt that tells the history of the Civil War settlement of Quindaro, Kansas. The quilt, approximately four by six feet and bordered in a bright yellow fabric, depicts black people who escaped slavery in Missouri and followed the Underground Railroad through Quindaro. In recent years, an eight-year battle was waged by environmentalists because the state had wanted to convert the Quindaro site into a landfill. The quilt was displayed during a Kansas legislative hearing on a bill that was to declare the Quindaro site a historic area, saving it from pollution. The quilt traveled for more than a year as a reminder of the important historical events in Kansas and the impact of those events on the United States in general. Quindaro did not become a landfill, and some community leaders attribute that, in part, to the creation of the Quindaro Story Quilt.”

- from The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore

Friday, April 23, 2010


Willy, like so many at the orphanage, is a really special kid. He is one of five boys; all the brothers are personable, bright and talented. He and one of his brothers, Brian, play trumpet in the marching band. Willy has a warm smile, is soft spoken and has a gentle and serious nature. He began Senior 1 this year and is being sponsored by Change the Truth. He is forever expressing his gratitude to me for this chance to succeed, and he works hard to maintain a top position in his class.

Willy’s mother died of AIDS in 2004. His father, Anthony, spent time in prison after that for an alleged theft and subsequently had great difficulty finding work. He was employed for a while as the gatekeeper at the orphanage, working in exchange for room and board for his family. He was there when I was in Uganda in 2008, but not when I returned in 2009.

According to Willy, “our father one day went away and left us here.”

As far as art goes, Willy would be content to draw all day long. “I started loving art since I was still young. I started by drawing pictures which made children to laugh at them, but they liked the drawings and they started buying them from me. But since I came to St. Mary Kevin, my artwork was being put in power, whereby I can paint things that are amazing.”

There will be several of Willy’s paintings for sale in the silent auction on June 25th. The proceeds will help Change the Truth pay for his school fees. This hard working and determined 14 year-old is really proud that he can help provide for himself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

gloria baker feinstein

GBF05 front view 9" x 17"

back view

Yes, this would be mine.

I wasn't really planning to do this, but when I saw how much fun everyone was having with the project, I thought I'd jump in!

This was a real stretch for me. I think the last time I actually made something with my hands (other than a photograph or a chocolate chip cookie) was during arts and crafts at Camp Birch Trail during the summer of 1967. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

leslie mark

LM04 11" x 8"

“These dolls totally spoke to me the minute Gloria sent the first photos out. I spent four years in Burundi (Central Africa), which neighbors Uganda to the south and west, during my early teens. The dolls are similar to ones Barundi children made and played with, though I better remember other toys like bicycles and trucks made from old flip-flops and wire hangers.

My artistic background is in the two dimensional realm: paper and calligraphy and books. I studied art through high school in Africa and England. In college, I stumbled on typography and calligraphy and took a job with Hallmark Cards in Kansas City in 1984. I have had my own freelance studio since our first child was born in 1989. I dabble in various media, but I am still primarily a two dimensional, paper person. Even so, I think this little fella channeled my ‘inner doll’ and is evocative of my African childhood!”

Leslie and her son, Josh, have been friends of Change the Truth from day one. Josh is part of our pen pal program and has developed a nice relationship with Nicky over the years. They both love soccer and drawing. The boys exchange artwork through the mail. One day, they hope to meet. If you look closely at the banner the doll is holding, there's a photo of Nicky. Leslie told me she actually made the doll in his likeness, imagining how happy he'd be riding around on a moped! I love all the accurate little details: "St. Mary Kevin" is written on the back of the bike and on the banner; the doll is wearing flip-flops, a beaded necklace and shorts. Leslie said she made the nappy hair by making lots and lots of knots in yarn.

Nicky would absolutely love it!

Here's Leslie as a toddler in Switzerland with her own doll, and here she is in my front yard.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

gerry trilling

GT03 20" x 8"

A Saint Louis native, Gerry Trilling received a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1990 and currently lives in the Kansas City area. She makes constructed paintings based on a mid-century coverlet pattern, using commercially available materials including vinyl, lenticular plastic, fabric and paint. Gerry's patterns often consist of thousands of 3/4" squares of chipboard. This is how she chose to treat the base of the doll stand.

Trilling’s work has been exhibited in Kansas City and regionally, including shows at Byron Cohen Gallery and Jan Weiner Gallery. She has received multiple awards, including the Kansas Arts Commission Mini Fellowship in 2001 and a Professional Development Grant from the Creative Capital Foundation in 2008.

My photo of Gerry's doll does not even begin to do justice to the explosion of yellow that is the base and the dress. You've got to see it in person! And please visit her website to see what she's normally up to in her studio.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Along with the forty fabulous banana fiber dolls (more of which will be featured here on the blog soon) paintings and drawings by the children from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage will also take the stage at the June 25th CTT fundraiser.

Nicholas was one of the first children I met during my initial journey to the orphanage in 2006. He was quiet and kind of somber. He was tall for his age and very lanky. He and I took a quick liking to one another. In his broken English, he told me about the day the LRA rebels burst into his family’s home in northern Uganda and changed everything. His parents were killed, and he and his siblings had to find a way to begin again.

It was clear to me from the start that Nicholas was smart and resourceful. His gentle spirit and hesitant, but winning smile stuck with me, and he was one of the first kids to eagerly greet me when I returned to SMK in 2007. Since then, we have grown close. I have watched him blossom into a handsome young man, who at age 13 is making his mark as a strong student and talented artist, musician and dancer. He goes by “Nicky” now. He is a doting big brother and a friend to all. He is kind and has a fun-loving spirit. His English is impeccable.

He adores Michael Jackson and does an unbelievable impersonation of him. His moonwalk at the talent show this past December brought the house down!

At the top of his class, Nicky recently began Senior 1 (high school) and is being sponsored by Change the Truth. He wants to become a doctor.

I think of Nicky every day. You would too, if you knew him.

I’m aware of at least one collector of his artwork (besides me) in Kansas City. There may be some spirited bidding on his painting at the auction in June!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

shea gordon

SG02 21" x 8" (including stand)

As the finished dolls make their way to me, I am thrilled to see that each one truly does have the “signature” of the artist who has worked on it. I’m also pleased that the project is giving me a chance to meet some artists for the first time and reconnect with some I haven’t seen for a while.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending time with my fascinating friend and amazing artist/thinker, Shea Gordon. Her studio is one of the most beautiful in town; her work is layered, complex, spiritual, gorgeous and thought provoking. Her paintings, drawing and sculptures have been shown worldwide.

Shea has long been interested in the Dead Sea. I was so happy to see the gold shape of the sea spreading all around the doll and especially the gold earrings that frame her face! (The earrings are actually made from folded gum wrappers.)

The following is an excerpt from a 2004 article entitled “Reweaving the World" written by Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Nelson-Atkins Musuem:

“Symbolism is the warp and weft of Shea Gordon’s work. Together, the delicate threads of synchronicity, numerology, alchemy, androgyny, complementarity, politics, ecofeminism, prophecy, morality, energy, magnetism, biography, and beauty form a fabric of conceptual intricacy and visual simplicity. Pull one strand and the pattern unravels. Stretch the cloth tautly and sail.

Gordon believes that a masterful design informs and unites everything in the universe, that purpose and meaning are revealed to those who seek them. Her work conveys the nuances of that design, extricating the codes written into and onto all things: life, death, rebirth; space and time; the immanent and the transcendent.

Her drawings, paintings, and sculptures represent milestones in Gordon’s search for meaning, a search that led to the Dead Sea and, paradoxically, to the life that it signifies. Human life. The gold standard. For Gordon, the Dead Sea is more than a body of saline water geographically situated in the country of Israel. It is the theory of everything. It is water that dehydrates. It is a sea within a desert. It lies within a holy land shattered by unholy conflict. Its waters evaporate, then fall as rain upon distant continents. It denies life, yet takes the form of a human embryo – head down, ready for emergence from a womblike hollow in the land, the lowest point on the earth at 1,340 feet below sea level.”

Being with Shea, I am always reminded that there is so much about life to consider and so much lovely art to take in. Do yourself a favor and check out Shea’s website here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

allan winkler

AW01 23" x 9" (including stand)

I’m pleased to present the first of the dolls that have been completed for the Change the Truth fundraising event. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will feature all of the talented and generous artists involved in this project, providing an opportunity for you to learn a bit about them. I will also give you a sneak peek at the doll that has been lovingly adorned and that will be sold at auction on the evening of June 25th. The artists have donated their time and creativity; all proceeds from the sale of each doll will go directly to help the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage in Uganda.

Allan Winkler makes, among other things, metal and paper cut-outs. His most recent solo exhibitions have been at the Epsten Gallery, Bluebird Café and Shiraz Restaurant in Kansas City. His work can be found in many private and corporate collections, as well as the High Museum of Art, The Kansas City Art Institute and Hallmark Cards.

The following article, “A Whacked-Out, Cut-Out World, Brought To You By Artist Allan Winkler" written by Elisabeth Kirsch for the Kansas City Star, is a wonderful piece about Allan and his 2009 exhibition at the Epsten Gallery:

"It’s Allan Winkler’s planet, and the rest of us are just living on it. Fortunately, it’s a whacked-out, fun place to be, and often quite rewarding.

San Franciscans found that out in the 1970s, when Winkler received an Art in Public Places grant to transform the display windows of an abandoned building at Market Street and Fifth.

What was to be a three-week installation on one of the busiest streets in San Francisco turned into a three-year phenomenon, as Winkler’s hand-painted landscapes, giant papier-mâché animals and plants, and life-sized ceramic people and monsters gradually took over an entire city block. He got lots of newspaper coverage, while passersby contributed gifts and letters (including one signed ‘Madonna’).

Many in Kansas City are familiar with the 55-year-old artist’s metal and paper cut-outs, which have hung through the years in restaurants, community centers and other public places. His calendars have sold at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and his T-shirts at the Reading Reptile bookstore.

And people regularly drive by his house on the West Side, with its code-breaking assortment of bottles and artworks that sprawl on the front porch and beyond.

But even if you think you know Winkler’s immediately recognizable art, his latest exhibition of new work at the Epsten Gallery in Village Shalom is a marvelous installation with some real surprises. It’s as if this seasoned veteran has gotten a second wind and has risen to a new level of inventiveness.

Which is saying something.

In many cases Winkler has upped the scale of his work, to great effect. Five-feet-tall collaged heads made from boxes of consumer products hover on one wall, and in that scale their wide-open eyes have a trace of menace that adds to the overall intensity of the art.

Winkler has always been a master paper-cutter, but for the first time he is making cutouts in a variety of colors, and Epsten Gallery curator Marcus Cain has done a superb job assembling a mural-sized grid of multicolored faces, moons, animals and abstract forms together, creating a mosaic of pure energy.

On some of Winkler’s newest cutouts, different colors of paper are layered together and then cut open to form three-dimensional starbursts of various sizes. These forms could be flower petals, or they could be bullet holes; Winkler always manages to keep his work from being saccharine, which is what gives it staying power.

Winkler has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and has received numerous grants and commissions over the years. He also has been an artist-in-residence at various schools and has taught kindergarteners as well as university students. He is an accomplished drummer who plays with various bands.

Still, his work is distinguished by a genuine outsider art quality. Artist Garry Noland, who curated an exhibit of Winkler’s work 10 years ago at the Writers Place in Kansas City, observes: ‘I can’t tell if Allan is a naive sophisticate or a sophisticated naif.’

Winkler grew up in Chicago. ‘In high school I was a real outsider and a horrible student,’ he said in a recent interview. ‘I got straight F’s.’

His childhood, he said, had been difficult.

‘At 5 I had an undiagnosed illness that caused me to lose weight,’ he said. ‘I would pass out and hallucinate.’

His father — ‘not a nice man’ — was a brassiere salesman who stashed mannequins wearing bras all over the house, Winkler said. His mother sold motorcycles, and there were visits from Hell’s Angels. At 14, he lived in Berkeley during the Bay Area’s notorious 1967 Summer of Love.

Fortunately, Winkler’s high school English teacher, Richard Gragg, liked him enough that he arranged for the art department to give the failing student a big, empty room with a potter’s wheel where he could do what he wanted.

During his senior year, scouts from the Kansas City Art Institute saw his ‘art room’ and offered him a scholarship. He moved here. At KCAI, he wheedled his way out of the Foundations Department to move to the legendary ceramics department under Ken Ferguson.

Since then, Winkler has worked in textiles and glass, as well as paper and metal. He is a serious student of folk art and lived briefly with the renowned Rev. Howard Finster."

Friday, April 09, 2010

friday night opening

Tonight is the opening reception for the four-person show at the Leopold Gallery. Jeremy Collins, Kim Casebeer, Adolph Martinez and I hope you'll stop in and say hello! 6 - 9 PM, 324 W. 63rd St. KC MO.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Every now and then, a very special young person steps forward and decides - all on his or her own - to find a way to help the children at the orphanage. Meet six-year-old Helena.

The following was written by Helena's mom, Shana, who (along with her husband) had committed to providing school fees for two orphans, Rosemary and Vincent - children who began their lives at St. Mary Kevin's several months ago (thanks to an assist from Anna!) Read the story about the two children here.

"I wanted to explain to my children why we decided to help two orphans, Rosemary and Vincent, who now live at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and decided the best way was to show them the Change the Truth video from the website. Helena (age 6) and Jack (age 5) were riveted by the video. After it was over, Helena commented on how the kids put themselves to bed every night. This really hit home for all of us...little children putting themselves to bed. In our family, nighttime rituals are so important, and to be a little one without mom's and dad's hugs and kisses at night... almost too difficult to think about.

After the video, I showed them photographs of Rosemary and Vincent. When seeing the beautiful photo of Vincent, my son asked, ‘Why is he smiling?’ It was a wonderful opportunity for me to explain that joy can be found everywhere and that one does not need much in the way of things in order to be happy.

I explained that as a family we are going to help Rosemary and Vincent so they can go to school... we are going to make a difference in their lives. We talked about ways to raise money for Rosemary, Vincent, and other children in Uganda, and she decided she wanted to do a fundraiser of her own. She would sell drawings for $1 apiece.

Next, she emptied out the ‘give’ section of her piggy bank into a glass we designated for Rosemary and Vincent. Then, she declared she would tell her class about the orphans in Uganda on the next ‘share day.’ Twenty minutes later, she announced she was having a meeting with her best friends in the front yard. Shortly after the meeting began, I had the second showing of the CTT video... this time for four kids rather than just two. When the video ended, the best friends went home and came back with their precious piggy bank loot.

I guess one can clearly see she is a girl of action. She takes her ideas and runs... no FLIES with them. And, I am proud of her.

The first draft of her fundraiser flyers has been completed, and she has decided she would like to put them up at the parks in town. Not sure where the flyers will end up, but I will get some distributed! I want her to know that her efforts matter and that she can make a difference."

- Shana

Inspiring, yes?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

thank you ("webale")

Each day in the Change the Truth office (my kitchen) I get more and more excited about our upcoming fundraiser. There has been a steady stream of area artists stopping by to select the doll he/she will adorn for the auction. The contract with the band Blue Orleans has been signed and mailed, the graphic designer and I have been working together on the invitation and well, I’m just getting pretty psyched about the whole thing!

I also received a package from the orphanage that contained some sweetly written love letters from the children. 99% of them asked me to please say “thank you” to the friends of Change the Truth. We have made such a difference in their lives, and they couldn’t be more grateful.

So… thanks to all of you who have helped make that difference happen. Thanks from me, and thanks from Sheila, Rosette, Geoffrey, Sandra, Nelson, Amanda, Nicky, Tina, Claire Faith, Isabella and the rest of the kids at SMK.

I took this picture one day in the computer lab when I was at SMK this past December. I just happened to glance over toward one of the monitors. The words that were being typed made my heart soar.

Messages like this one are what keep the activities in the CTT office humming along.

Monday, April 05, 2010

some smart boys

I recently received this snapshot from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage’s director, Rosemary. Pictured are some of the boys who have just begun Senior 1 (first year of “high school”) thanks to sponsorships from Change the Truth.

From left to right are: Joseph, Willy, Samuel, Abbas, Nicholas and Paul (he's in Senior 3)

They are smart young men. Nicholas and Samuel, for example, are at the top of their class. All these guys had to demonstrate a high level of achievement to begin studying at the Senior level, and now they’re working hard to maintain their positions AND their sponsorships.

They LOOK smart, too, don’t you agree?

In Uganda, when a person is dressed up and looking especially handsome or beautiful, people look them up and down, smile broadly and then say,

“Ah, you look so smart!”

Saturday, April 03, 2010

last shot

Yesterday I finished making stills for the Operation Breakthrough project. The video, shot and edited by my talented partner in crime Lynne Melcher, will be shown on April 30 at the annual fundraising event. Please visit their website for more info.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

the unspeakable: child sacrifice

Italian photographer and writer Marco Vernaschi has documented the ugly truth of child sacrifice in Uganda. This is a gut wrenching and important series of pictures.