About month ago, Mike and I finalized the details with an artist to do a painting for us. The artist happens to be a good friend of mine from college, Casey Kasparek. Casey does a lot of awesome work (check out his website here), and has some of his work on display in a studio in the Netherlands that also shows some of Andy Warhol's work. Casey has won awards for his work, including Best of Show at Chalk the Walk in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on two separate occasions . Some of my favorites are the pieces he does on newsprint, because they are so unique and interesting.
Anyway, I could talk up Casey all day long, but that's not the point here. Friday afternoon Mike and I headed out for St. Louis, where Casey and his girlfriend Jen live. The weather was not great, but thankfully the roads weren't too treacherous. We finally arrived at our hotel around 9:30 or 10:00 that night, and we were lucky enough to get a free upgrade on our room. Originally they had put us in a room right next to the elevator (ugh), but with our upgrade, this was the view that we were lucky enough to have.
We hooked up with Casey and Jen and met them at their apartment for some drinks and good conversation. Probably the thing that makes Mike the most uncomfortable is opening gifts in front of people, so he was nervous to see the painting for the first time and to feel like he was on the spot. We were both excited and a little nervous, wondering what would happen if we didn't like the painting. So after a few glasses of wine (for me, anyway), Casey showed us to his studio and opened the door, allowing us to see our painting for the first time without any extra eyes on us. We were not disappointed at all. We had told Casey which of the abstract paintings on his website were our favorites, and that we liked bright, vibrant colors. Casey also does this cool thing called "abstracting out," where an abstract painting actually has sort of a hidden figure in it, but it doesn't exactly jump right out at you. You will find a great example of one of those here. At first we didn't think we wanted anything abstracted out, but then we decided that we did want a cross abstracted out. Thus, Casey named the painting "Non-Secular." It's very difficult to get a good photo of our painting. With the flash on, there is a big glare that washes out the painting, but with the flash off, it's difficult to see the vibrancy of the colors. This seems to be the best photo we've gotten so far. Can you see the cross?
On Saturday we slept in and then met Casey and Jen for breakfast at a really delicious restaurant right by their apartment. Then Jen headed off to take a test for people applying for state jobs, so Mike, Casey, and I went down to the Cherokee area of St. Louis to peruse the shops. It reminded me so much of my childhood- being in a new place and going to a bunch of antique shops. I hated doing that as a kid, but enjoy it much more now. I don't think Mike did that much as a kid, so he's evolved to about the place I was probably as a teenager- he doesn't enjoy it, but he puts up with it and doesn't complain the whole time. Mike was a good sport about the shopping and actually didn't seem to mind it too much. There were a lot of neat shops, and it was fun to just walk and talk and catch up with Casey.
After Jen got done with her test, we met her and we all headed out to City Museum. If you ever go to St. Louis, I definitely recommend City Museum. It was a blast. It's hard to describe the place. Casey and Jen had never been there before, but they said it'd been described to them as "an adult jungle gym," and that was fairly accurate. I thought of it almost as a children's museum for adults, though it was great for kids as well. There were all kinds of metal tubes, like giant springs made of rebar and other materials, and you could climb inside of them from one floor to the next, or from the floor up to another structure. You'd have to twist your body all funny to get through the tubes. There were some big slides, including one twisty slide deep in the bowels of the museum that somebody told us was 10 stories long. That was fun. There's an aquarium inside City Museum, a shoelace factory, an art center, an arcade with antique arcade games, caves, and even a thrift shop. Then on the outside there's another whole huge climbing area. It was too cold for me to go out there, but I'd say it's worth a summer-time trip back to St. Louis just to try it out. Because of all the climbing and everything, we didn't take our camera inside, so I have no pictures of it. It was very cool, though, and a lot of fun.
We left City Museum to get some dinner at BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soup, Inc., and left just as a young, 18 year-old kid was starting to play some great music. We went back to our hotel and changed and then headed to Naughti Gras 3, which isn't as risque as it sounds. In St. Louis they celebrate Marti Gras for approximately one month, and we were there right in the middle of that time. Naughti Gras is an erotic art exhibition, so most of the artwork there consists of naked people, but it's not like it's pornography or anything. It's one of the things that Mike and I would probably never go to, but Casey had a piece in the show, so we wanted to go to see his work and support him. It was an interesting experience. There were a few pieces that left me wide-eyed and blushing, but the part I found most interesting was the people-watching. I noticed an unusually high number of short men there- shorter than me, and I'm about 5' 6". Anyway, interesting is really the most accurate word I can use to describe the whole experience.
Here is Casey with the painting. As I said before, the flash really makes it difficult to see what the painting really looks like. And no, Casey isn't wearing a Mickey Mouse hat. The way the light hit the doors behind him just makes it look that way.
Here's a cute picture of Casey and Jen shortly before we left them. Thanks so much for the hospitality this weekend, guys!
We didn't stay at the art show for terribly long because Mike and I needed to end the evening early so we could get up very early and get back home in time for Zach's one o'clock basketball game. We stopped by Casey and Jen's apartment one last time to pick up our new baby, as we were calling it, and said our good-byes. We were in bed by 11:30, and up again at 5:00 for the 5-6 hour drive home. Thankfully the drive home was uneventful and faster than the drive down. We hung our painting as soon as we got home, and we are definitely enjoying it above our fireplace. When Zach saw it, he said, "Whooooaaa! That's neat!" and then this morning he asked me, "How come your friend can paint such a better painting than I can?" I told him it's the expensive paint, lots of time, and lots of practice that make Casey's paintings so good. He also helped Grandma Linda and Grandpa Curt find the cross.
Though it was a lot of driving and little sleep for a quick trip, we had such a good time. Casey and I haven't seen each other hardly at all in the last 10 years, and we haven't been great about keeping in touch. I really enjoyed getting to see him and talk with him again like we used to do in college. Mike enjoyed getting to know Casey better, and both Mike and I enjoyed getting to know Jen. We couldn't be happier with our painting, and we think it's just so neat to have an original piece of artwork that was done specifically for us.