'Relative Values' keeps art in the family

The show is at Columbia Art League through June 19.

For John Louder and Annie Helmericks-Louder, love, work, time and energy together has been firmly established in and surrounded by art. Starting as art students in Arizona, the couple moved and studied around the country, sometimes together, sometimes separately, seeking to gain influence from the geographies and details of their environments. Now, as art instructors at the University of Central Missouri working in completely different media, the couple has found a happy duality with each other, working in an almost symbiotic relationship as teachers, partners, colleagues and now as judges in an art exhibit featuring people whose stories are strikingly similar to theirs.

On display at the Columbia Art League, an art gallery nestled between Elm and Locust on Ninth Street, is "Relative Values," a show featuring the art of family members. The show exhibits the works of husbands and wives, sons and daughters, aunts, sisters and brothers, offering a glimpse into the potential harmonies (or disharmonies) of artistic style passed down through generations or conversations at the table.

For Helmericks-Louder, artist and art instructor in Warrensburg, art is integral to her relationship with her husband, John Louder.

"Think about if you had a roommate who liked sports, who talked about sports and games and athletes constantly," Helmericks-Louder said. "It could and probably should affect the way you view sports. The same goes for art between my husband and me."

Helmericks-Louder, who met her husband at the University of Arizona, said knowing John and being with him has been one of her largest artistic influences.

"He was a graduate art student," Helmericks-Louder said. "I was an undergraduate art student. Art was the basis of our relationship."

For Helmericks-Louder, differences in artistic style in comparison to her husband exist most fundamentally in her chosen medium.

"A lot of people peg me as a fiber artist, and I have international reputation for being a fiber artist," Helmericks-Louder said. "But I consider myself an artist before a fiber artist. I pick the medium that I feel communicates what I want the best. A stitch mark is like a brush stroke or a pastel mark. They are not totally separate in artistic aims."

Helmericks-Louder, who calls herself an "autobiographical story teller" uses nature, intimacy, love and conflict with detailed subtlety in her works. On the other hand, her husband's art is more centered in one medium.

"I'm pretty much a painter, and I've spent most of my career working with paint," Louder said. "I spent a lot of time studying in Oregon, and so my colors, influenced by my surroundings, are more muted."

Louder notes being married has given him more than just a relationship.

"Well, Annie is a distinct colorist, her works focus around color," Louder said. "She's helped me add a lot of color to my palette."

Helmericks-Louder jokingly admitted she wasn't the only influencing agent within the relationship.

"John helped my work become less flat," Helmericks-Louder said. "A lot of times working with fibers makes my work inherently flat, but John utilizes great distance in his art, and he has helped me to add a little more distance and dynamic in my art."

The narratives and histories represented by John and Annie are not unique within "Relative Values," as other families with an art gene, passing down artistry through generations, comprise most the space at the exhibit. Lining the clean white walls of the gallery are groupings of art created by duos or groups of relatives.

Paintings of Columbia, photographs of the details of centenarian's body, digital art and sculpture represent just a fraction of the art at the gallery. It becomes clear in many of the pieces where influence is direct between family members and where younger generations diverge from the aesthetics of their older relatives. Some pieces, such as a stained glass piece created by a mother and her daughter, show the ability of families to collectively reflect their artistic values. Regardless of similarities or differences, "Relative Values" represents an array of aesthetics and mediums that unite families through the common desire to express and to create.

The gallery will show "Relative Values" until June 19.

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