Blinkered by the prospect of plenitudinous beer and positively excellent festival cuisine — macaroni and cheese should be offered at more outdoor events — I have often been guilty of ignoring the primary reason for the existence of Schlafly's Art Outside, specifically, the art. More than 50 local artists set up tents on the commodious parking lot of the Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337 or www.schlafly.com) and hawk creative wares ranging from jewelry to fine art prints, and yet I somehow overlook the possibility of browsing in favor of standing in line for another beer. But this year, I vow to find booth No. 42, that of Jay Thompson, Digital Art, to see in person the mystery and miracle of Cat Works. Thompson avers that he is not the creator of this collection of 200 hand-colored photographs and daguerreotypes, but rather the curator; the entire body of work was discovered by his grandfather in 1909, and Thompson the younger merely displays them to a curious public. These images portray the finely attired Victorian forms of young ladies and gentlemen of good standing; each of these bodies bears the majestic head of a house cat. Kitschy? No. In these beautifully composed images are juxtaposed the serenity of the gentle class and the strident intrusion of the Industrial Age. The nameless artist also captures the society of narcissism that pervaded that earlier era and, sadly, also pervades this current time. Cat Works is high art — high art at which you can marvel while eating macaroni and cheese. Art Outside is open to the public from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (September 11 through 13). Admission is free; bring money for cheesed pasta, beer and art.
Sept. 11-13, 2009

Speaking of Highlights, Jay Thompson

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