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“I’ve been painting since high school, but I never felt like I had a specific ‘style’ until after my father passed away around six years ago,” relates Andrew Dykeman, the creator of Touch Me, showcased here.

“I felt the urge to paint but had no canvases. I found an anatomical chart that I had hanging in my clinic and started painting on it. It eventually grew into a style that’s heavy on characters and anatomy and outsider art traditions.”

Dykeman’s allusion to so-called outsider art, of course, may cause certain readers to cringe. That phrase nowadays rings with utter hucksterism – although one could argue that the French hustler’s elevation of “art” by the mentally ill and small children contributed to the present state of affairs culturally. 

Also, Dykeman, a practicing chiropractor, simply doesn’t sound socially or emotionally isolated. “I live in Soulard with my wife, Jennifer, and little dog, Sofi,” he relates, before also admitting to having written a children’s book titled Happiness, a 44-pager illustrated by Kris Wright, available through the online publishing platform Lulu.

Regarding details he’s provided, the artist similarly frets: “Hopefully they don’t sound too crazy.” No, sir, not at all.

That said, Touch Me – a 71- by 43-inch acrylic on cardboard – hardly “reads” like something from Bob Ross, the gone-but-scarce-forgotten host of the PBS TV program The Joy of Painting from 1983 to ’94. For one thing, it radiates painterly energy and, despite its unsettling details, a counterintuitive if definite joie de vivre.

“This was directly influenced by my father’s passing,” Dykeman notes of the genesis of Touch Me. “We spent some time at doctors’ offices and hospitals, and I guess the experience really affected me.

“My wife is an art therapist at a hospice house, so I’m certain that her experiences with death, grief and loss, along with my daily interactions with people suffering, in pain, have all contributed to how I see things nowadays.

“Since I’m a chiropractic physician, Touch Me seemed a perfect title. Plus, it’s a little nod to [Seattle alt-rockers] Mudhoney – they have a song called ‘Touch Me I’m Sick.’”

Beyond details specific to Touch Me, Dykeman sketches more general insights into his work.

“I’ve had no formal art training,” he says. “This year, I’ve had shows at The Gogh-Getters [gallery] at Sacred Grounds in Edwardsville and at 31art gallery in St. Louis. I’ll have smaller paintings at The Royale in St. Louis on display for the rest of the year.”

Dykeman also mentions a “diverse career path and various avocations,” having, among other things, provided percussion over the long haul for the Alton band judge nothing.

“Besides the influences mentioned [elsewhere],” he continues, “I’d have to say that my clinical life as a chiropractic physician is a direct influence on my artistic style. My wife is an art therapist at a [Creve Coeur] hospice house, Evelyn’s House, so between the two of us, we are always dealing with people in pain or suffering grief and loss. I think this often comes across in my paintings.

“I’m sure that my experiences as a punk rock drummer, chimney sweep and forensic autopsy technician also help shape my work.”

Otherwise, in a formal statement, Dykeman specifies “using materials at hand” and being “heavily influenced by the midcentury European avant-garde CoBrA movement and its devotees” to reflect his “interest in the science of histology, as well as the work of Frank Netter, renowned anatomy illustrator,” with American artist/musician Mikey Welsh and American artist Norris Embry, both, like Netter, now deceased.

In that statement, finally, Dykeman speculates that his “visual contemplation of our external influences – social, political, environmental and so forth – and their impact on our mental, spiritual and physical health give the viewer much to consider.” 

To learn more about our featured artist, visit instagram.com/andykemanart.

St. Louis-area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to bhollerbach@laduenews.com with “Art and Soul” in the subject line.

Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.