Textile Artist Bridget Kraft: Let Them Eat Tamales!

Local textile artist Bridget Kraft prints silk scarves, dresses and wall hangings with images of food stamps, with the aim of, as she puts it, "celebrating poverty so that [it] is no longer stigmatized." In imbuing art and fashion -- two pursuits that are typically viewed as luxuries -- with weightiness and an air of necessity, her work is a reminder that we can't all eat cake.

We can, however, eat tamales. Kraft's homemade tamales.

For the opening of the three-woman show Lueken Kraft Yang at the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts this past Saturday, Kraft assembled about 120 of her famous tamales, which she also intermittently supplies out of an insulated backpack to weekend bar-goers on South Grand Boulevard for two bucks a pop. Apropos of her artworks, Kraft's tamales take on a communal edge in their labor-intensive preparation, as she enlists friends to help with rolling. The fillings typically are a vegetarian mixture of spinach and cheese; at the opening on Saturday, red and green peppers added splashes of color, and a smoky sauce drizzled on top added spice.

Kraft's tamales also make occasional appearances at fundraising events at SIU Edwardsville, where she's a student. "I have considered getting a farmers' market stand, but I've been too busy with the artmaking thing lately," she says.

Co-exhibitor Brittany Lueken furthered the exhibition's food theme with photographs of cabbage fields and daikon radishes from a recent journey to Japan, while Beverly Yang echoed the focus on textiles with jewel-toned stained-glass knitted squares.

Until last year, the Beverly Gallery was the only space in St. Louis reserved for women artists. That space is now home to the offices of STL Style, but 2010 marks the return to Cherokee Street of a women-only artistic showcase, as Fort Gondo celebrates Beverlyear.

The exhibition runs through Sunday, February 28 at the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street; 314-313-0912 or www.fortgondo.com. Gallery hours: Saturday 12-2 p.m. or by appointment.

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