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Belleville artist Paula Haniszewski is taking the spotlight in a new-as-new-gets solo exhibition at Houska Gallery in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.

That exhibition, which runs from Oct. 18 to Nov. 30, occupies the visual art showcase opened more than two decades ago by its namesake, local pop artist Charles Houska.

“Her imagery is irreverent and satirical, a little mysterious, yet also has an air of extravagance,” Jessica Mannisi, the gallery’s curatorial director, says of Haniszewski’s work. “Her treatment of both her subjects and the media in which she works is thoughtful, thought-provoking and humorous. Further, the juxtaposition of her imagery with a vibrant, nearly fluorescent color palette leaves the viewer guessing and asking questions.”

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That said, visitors to the Houska may experience disquiet to the extent that Haniszewski numbers among her inspirations two groups still inexplicable and vexatious to many Americans fully a century after those groups’ heyday: the Dadaists and the original Surrealists.

“Man Ray and Hannah Höch are just two artists that I continuously reference and find inspiring,” Haniszewski says, referring to the noted American visual artist expatriated to Paris and the German photocollagist. “Most often, the figures in my paintings come from a source, but a lot of my imagery is imagined, which tends to result in a surreal, dadaist outcome. For this show, I start with a figure that I want to explore in a new way and start layering in different environments, symbols and color, pulling from art history and contemporary sources.”

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Beyond the masks of Belgian great René Magritte (American Dream Beauty Queen, Inheritance, Trap Queen) and the freakazoidal follies of everyone’s favorite mad Spaniard, Salvador Dalí (Press One), Haniszewski, on her website, cites influences as strangely diverse as Grant (American Gothic) Wood, Edwardian-era American portraitist John Singer Sargent and (!) Walt Disney.

“The neurosis surrounding success and failure, right and wrong, and the past and present, are themes that inspire me,” Haniszewski’s website states.

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“Visitors should expect an exploration of portraiture,” she elaborates, in response to an inquiry into what art aficionados can anticipate from the Houska exhibition. “I like the challenge of pulling images from art history, vintage print ads and film stills, and then reconstructing them, resulting in the creation of a new persona.”

By way of sketching her artistic education and experience, Haniszewski mentions earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a Master of Fine Arts from the New York Academy of Art.

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“While living in New York City, I was lucky to get experience working at the Claire Oliver Gallery, and then for Philip Slein when I moved back to the [local] area,” she continues. “Currently, I serve as the art department chair at [Belleville’s] Southwestern Illinois College in addition to exhibiting my artwork.”

Mannisi relates that the new exhibition basically arose from a professional/personal connection of long standing. “I’ve actually known Paula for over 10 years … ,” she says. “For 8 years, I was the assistant curator of the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center, which is on Southwestern Illinois College’s campus. We worked together very closely with various art, exhibition and student programming. Of course, we became friends through such a close working relationship.”

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That connection between the artist and the curator led to another connection for Haniszewski, with the opening last November of a unique St. Louis venue now displaying a number of her works: the Angad Arts Hotel.

Haniszewski says that Mannisi, as curator for the hotel, “put me in touch with the executive managing director, David Miskit, who wanted eyeball drawings for each room. He later asked if I would be interested in creating six paintings for the Chameleon Lounge. It was an incredible experience to be a part of, and I love seeing people interact with the artwork on social media.”

Those “eyeball drawings” transformed into funnily unnerving paired pillows in the hotel’s color-coded bedrooms. The lounge, meanwhile, became the showcase for Haniszewski’s And She Wanders; Crisp, White, Sadness; Inheritance; Press One; Punk Ass for President; and Who Cares.

Moreover, Mannisi relates, the Angad work led directly to the Houska exhibition. In curating the hotel’s inaugural year of exhibitions and acquisitions of permanent artwork, she included Haniszewski in several proposals to Miskit. “Her works fit perfectly within the scope of the project and the director’s/owner’s vision for the hotel,” Mannisi says – and one thing led to another.

“During the grand opening reception at the hotel, Charlie [Houska] was immediately drawn to Paula’s work … As the curatorial director of Houska – yes, I wear many hats and have curated for a number of spaces – Charlie insisted we had to have an exhibition of her work.”

Haniszewski mentions how much she anticipates greeting visitors to the Houska. “One of the best things about art exhibitions are the people I get to meet and have conversations with,” she says. “Just talking with folks about the work and letting them know that I am all ears and genuinely interested in hearing their take on the exhibition is my personal approach.”

Otherwise, after noting in passing that she and her husband are restoring a vintage 1885 residence – no mean feat with which to occupy one’s spare time – the artist briefly discusses her future projects.

“My goal is to do a lot of experimentation after the exhibition at Houska Gallery,” Haniszewski says. “I plan on exploring sculpture and incorporating larger paintings into my practice. I am also doing some grant writing and will hopefully get the opportunity to exhibit my work on the West Coast.”

Houska Gallery, 4728 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, 314-496-1377, houskagallery.com

Belleville artist Paula Haniszewski is taking the spotlight in a new-as-new-gets solo exhibition at Houska Gallery in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.

That exhibition, which runs from Oct. 18 to Nov. 30, occupies the visual art showcase opened more than two decades ago by its namesake, local pop artist Charles Houska.

“Her imagery is irreverent and satirical, a little mysterious, yet also has an air of extravagance,” Jessica Mannisi, the gallery’s curatorial director, says of Haniszewski’s work. “Her treatment of both her subjects and the media in which she works is thoughtful, thought-provoking and humorous. Further, the juxtaposition of her imagery with a vibrant, nearly fluorescent color palette leaves the viewer guessing and asking questions.”

That said, visitors to the Houska may experience disquiet to the extent that Haniszewski numbers among her inspirations two groups still inexplicable and vexatious to many Americans fully a century after those groups’ heyday: the Dadaists and the original Surrealists.

“Man Ray and Hannah Höch are just two artists that I continuously reference and find inspiring,” Haniszewski says, referring to the noted American visual artist expatriated to Paris and the German photocollagist. “Most often, the figures in my paintings come from a source, but a lot of my imagery is imagined, which tends to result in a surreal, dadaist outcome. For this show, I start with a figure that I want to explore in a new way and start layering in different environments, symbols and color, pulling from art history and contemporary sources.”

Beyond the masks of Belgian great René Magritte (American Dream Beauty Queen, Inheritance, Trap Queen) and the freakazoidal follies of everyone’s favorite mad Spaniard, Salvador Dalí (Press One), Haniszewski, on her website, cites influences as strangely diverse as Grant (American Gothic) Wood, Edwardian-era American portraitist John Singer Sargent and (!) Walt Disney.

“The neurosis surrounding success and failure, right and wrong, and the past and present, are themes that inspire me,” Haniszewski’s website states.

“Visitors should expect an exploration of portraiture,” she elaborates, in response to an inquiry into what art aficionados can anticipate from the Houska exhibition. “I like the challenge of pulling images from art history, vintage print ads and film stills, and then reconstructing them, resulting in the creation of a new persona.”

By way of sketching her artistic education and experience, Haniszewski mentions earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a Master of Fine Arts from the New York Academy of Art.

“While living in New York City, I was lucky to get experience working at the Claire Oliver Gallery, and then for Philip Slein when I moved back to the [local] area,” she continues. “Currently, I serve as the art department chair at [Belleville’s] Southwestern Illinois College in addition to exhibiting my artwork.”

Mannisi relates that the new exhibition basically arose from a professional/personal connection of long standing. “I’ve actually known Paula for over 10 years … ,” she says. “For 8 years, I was the assistant curator of the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center, which is on Southwestern Illinois College’s campus. We worked together very closely with various art, exhibition and student programming. Of course, we became friends through such a close working relationship.”

That connection between the artist and the curator led to another connection for Haniszewski, with the opening last November of a unique St. Louis venue now displaying a number of her works: the Angad Arts Hotel.

Haniszewski says that Mannisi, as curator for the hotel, “put me in touch with the executive managing director, David Miskit, who wanted eyeball drawings for each room. He later asked if I would be interested in creating six paintings for the Chameleon Lounge. It was an incredible experience to be a part of, and I love seeing people interact with the artwork on social media.”

Those “eyeball drawings” transformed into funnily unnerving paired pillows in the hotel’s color-coded bedrooms. The lounge, meanwhile, became the showcase for Haniszewski’s And She Wanders; Crisp, White, Sadness; Inheritance; Press One; Punk Ass for President; and Who Cares.

Moreover, Mannisi relates, the Angad work led directly to the Houska exhibition. In curating the hotel’s inaugural year of exhibitions and acquisitions of permanent artwork, she included Haniszewski in several proposals to Miskit. “Her works fit perfectly within the scope of the project and the director’s/owner’s vision for the hotel,” Mannisi says – and one thing led to another.

“During the grand opening reception at the hotel, Charlie [Houska] was immediately drawn to Paula’s work … As the curatorial director of Houska – yes, I wear many hats and have curated for a number of spaces – Charlie insisted we had to have an exhibition of her work.”

Haniszewski mentions how much she anticipates greeting visitors to the Houska. “One of the best things about art exhibitions are the people I get to meet and have conversations with,” she says. “Just talking with folks about the work and letting them know that I am all ears and genuinely interested in hearing their take on the exhibition is my personal approach.”

Otherwise, after noting in passing that she and her husband are restoring a vintage 1885 residence – no mean feat with which to occupy one’s spare time – the artist briefly discusses her future projects.

“My goal is to do a lot of experimentation after the exhibition at Houska Gallery,” Haniszewski says. “I plan on exploring sculpture and incorporating larger paintings into my practice. I am also doing some grant writing and will hopefully get the opportunity to exhibit my work on the West Coast.” 

 

Houska Gallery, 4728 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, 314-496-1377,

houskagallery.com

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.