Wendy Wees and Milo Duke, artists who moved to the CWE from Seattle last April, are exhibiting their work at Horsley Arts, 4374 Olive Street, this Thursday, March 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. Linda Horsley, proprietor of the newest gallery in the neighborhood, met the artists when she too was living in Seattle.
When the couple, who have been married for 25 years, were thinking about retirement, they chose St. Louis. Seattle has gotten very expensive, and zoning requirements discourage living and working in the same space, which would have meant additional rent for an art studio. Wendy grew up in St. Louis, went to Ladue High School and earned her BA in Art and Art Education from Webster University. She still has family here, another reason to want to return.
They moved to a loft building in the CWE that was designed by Wendy’s great-grandfather, J. L. Wees. “We snapped this place up as soon as we saw it,” Wendy said. “We already knew the building from previous visits, and fell in love with this unit. I can’t imagine what this would have cost in Seattle.” The pair have designated a light-filled north-facing room as their art studio. I asked how they’ve adapted to working side-by-side. Milo replied, “Our art feeds off each other.”
Wendy and Milo mentioned several times how much they love the architecture in St. Louis—”they don’t have many brick buildings like this in Seattle.” They are also blown away by the art scene, and mentioned the surprising mix of generations involved. Last summer, Milo had a showing at the Soulard Art Gallery and met two younger artists who were exhibiting at the same time. They’ve kept in touch and are now collaborating on a project that Wendy’s become involved in too.
Shown above are two paintings from Wendy’s Bird Series, which will be on view at Horsley Arts. The aforementioned love of brick buildings are prominent in each.
Wendy, who lived in Seattle for 38 years, met her husband-to-be at a science fiction convention. Sci fi had been an interest of hers since high school, and years later she illustrated pages in Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural for Arbor House. She also took classes at the Gage Academy in Seattle and taught at the 54th Street Atelier, which Milo had founded. Wendy’s art has been exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery, and other galleries in Washington & Oregon.
In addition to working as an artist, Wendy became a gallery assistant for a wholesale Japanese kimono business, which later became the Kagedo Gallery, an internationally-known authority on Japanese art. For the past 10 years she worked for the Seattle Art Museum.
Milo, whose art is shown above, got into the field in a really remarkable way. He became a public defender right out of law school, and then went to work for the #1 criminal defense attorney in Seattle. In the midst of a trial, he had what he described as an “epiphany moment,” wondering what he was doing defending people he didn’t care for. He gave up the practice of law in 1980, did an about face and became a street artist, much to the chagrin of his parents and the firm he left.
Milo set his art up at Pike Place Market, which was undergoing a renaissance at the time. On his second day on the streets he met a few artists from Holland and the East Coast. They banded together and decided to set up alongside each other to form an art gallery of sorts at the market. They sold more art that way and the competition between them made them better artists, Milo said.
The artists became known as the Dharmic Engineers. Over the years they were involved in group shows and collaborations with other artists, dancers, and poets on performances, music albums and movies. Milo went on to teach at the Gage Academy in Seattle and as mentioned above, founded the 54th St. Atelier, where he taught art.
Milo has worked in watercolor, oil & acrylic painting, woodcut relief printmaking, photography, model making, book design and publication. Wendy is currently working on what she calls “Vertical Verses,” which contain asemic writing. Milo realized he was also incorporating asemic writing into some maps he is making, an example of how they draw inspiration from one another. Learn more about asemic writing here.
More photographs of the studio, above.
Wendy uses Melitta coffee filters for her morning coffee and then turns the filters—coffee stains and all—into art, above.
Milo is shown in front of his portrait of St. Luke, the patron saint of painters. Milo has painted a whole series of saints, which has been shown extensively. One of his spiritual paintings was featured in Redeeming Beauty, a 2007 national touring exhibition that began at the National Shrine in D. C. “It’s interesting,” he said, “since I’m not a Catholic.”
A second floor space is devoted to Milo’s maquettes (small models) which he started working on when his 2 sons were young. He also used maquettes as teaching tools in his art classes. Top 2 photos: He’s holding a figure he made of Leonardo DaVinci. The maquette is called The Drawing Lesson, and features miniature machines Milo built based on Leonardo DaVinci’s designs. Bottom Left, a model of Africa. Below Right: Traffic on Mars. The turtle, lower right, is sporting a camera, a “slow motion camera,” Milo said.
More vignettes from the artists’ loft including bottom right, the paint rags which Wendy uses to clean her brushes, works of art themselves.
And finally, a “Kura” (a collection of boxes), tucked under the stairs with a painting by St. Louisan William Burton placed on top. Wendy began collecting the Japanese boxes when she worked at the Kagedo Gallery. Wealthy Japanese would keep their valuable possessions in individual boxes called “tomobako.” The contents might be labeled with a poem or a drawing, and the treasures within would be brought out seasonally. Wendy and Milo continue to use the Kura for storage.
For more information, contact Wendy Wees: firstname.lastname@example.org, or Milo Duke at email@example.com. Better yet, stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood this Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Horsley Arts, 4378 Olive Street (east of Taylor, near Jackson Piano).