The Sam Fox School-based art collective Punish Babies held an art show on Sept. 19 and 20 benefiting Tent Mission STL, a group that provides aid and shelter to unhoused people in the St. Louis area. The show took place outdoors, covering several blocks in the nearby Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood. The art on sale ranged from t-shirts and dolls to eggshells and sculptures; also on display were a series of paintings and a short film accessible by QR code.
The primary organizers of the show were senior Avery Johnson and junior Kale Day, both students in Sam Fox. The two have organized Punish Babies exhibitions repeatedly in the past, staging multimedia exhibitions in apartment units. This show was notable for the wide range of student artwork displayed as well as the outdoor setting in consideration of COVID-19 safety measures.
Art ranged from the sweetly absurd to grim and melancholic; Johnson’s work “Butt Butt And Her Throne” featured a hot pink child-sized stuffed figure slumped on a chair, gazing at the viewer with bulging eyes. Senior Lena Cramer’s “My Quarantine Pod” featured handmade dolls bearing stitched messages on their chest: one read “Live, Laugh, Love,” while another read “My Loneliness is Killing Me.”
The show displayed remarkable artistic ambition; Day’s multimedia works blurred the line between painting, sculpture and collage. His deeply evocative piece, “Homestead,” incorporated poetry and photography into an otherwise unembellished house frame, creating an aura of austere starkness infused with nostalgia. Senior Annie Kern’s piece “An Umbrella For Summer Rains” featured an umbrella with layers of cloth composing a figure curled around the brim.
Art pieces were displayed on discarded doors, wicker arches and neighborhood posting signs. Paintings by Day and drawings by senior Madeleine DeMichele were installed over Gregory Freeman Park, while detailed illustrations by senior Betsy Ellison hung above public benches. Graphic t-shirts by junior Daniil Gerasimov were strung between pine trees, sporting slogans advocating to defund the police and featuring illustrations of protests against police brutality.
Innovative display ideas continued with the work “Kinder” by senior Andriana Levytsky, which involved cracking blown-out eggshells that had been carefully decorated and filled with miniature scrolls of paper.
Senior Jina Hyun’s film “In the Fifth Season” was accessible for viewing by scanning a QR code; instructions for viewing listed standing “back-to-back with another person” as part of the piece, making it an interactive viewing experience. Hyun’s work intermixed grotesque and romantic imagery, resulting in a striking film that was both compelling and unsettling.
On the whole, the show was a remarkable development for the student-based art collective and a tremendous assembly of works demonstrating the potential of Sam Fox students. The bold, diverse collection of works heralds a bright future for the young artists and the collective as a whole.