Maroon Melodies and Mythology

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Cow tongues and harmonicas turned into switchblades are a glimpse at one of the latest exhibits in the Skyline College gallery in Building 1 from Saint Louis artist Christopher Burch titled “Maroon Melodies (Soliloquies of a Slight Sound)”. The exhibit will be open until March 15 and a reception with the artist took place on Feb. 28 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. The artist not only has his work displayed at Skyline, but he has also collaborated with the hip hop learning program CIPHER on Feb. 26 and March 5 as a guest speaker showing students how to explore their inner personality.

Paul Bridenbaugh, the gallery coordinator for Skyline and an art professor, spoke about how he decides when and what artists to bring to the college gallery.

“In a way, the art gallery and the shows in it are like a textbook for our art students here,” said Bridenbaugh. “Part of my job as a gallery director is to bring artists here to Skyline College to exhibit their works.”

Bridenbaugh kept in contact with Burch since 2017. They took one year to plan the setup of the gallery and understand where each piece of art would be presented in the gallery. Having such a large list of artists on a roster of sorts ensures that students always have the ability to learn from contemporary artists. As Bridenbaugh said, it is in a way their textbook.

Bridenbaugh also spoke specifically about two of the pieces in the exhibit which are both 14-foot black and white murals in the gallery: one called “The Great Dismal Swamp” of a swamp with a native American holding a skull, and the other mural of blues musician Robert Johnson. “It took him [Burch] more than two weeks for him to paint those murals,” Bridenbaugh said. “They’re painted right on the wall, he painted them here on site in the last couple of weeks and then when the show’s over we’ll have to paint over them.”

Connor, a Skyline College student, talks about his experience at the exhibit and mentions that had it not been for the large doors leading to the gallery because of the reception, it is otherwise difficult to see.

“We literally just got out of class and I’ve never actually been in this building. I saw this mural with the guitar player and the forest and I thought ‘oh, let’s check this out.'”

Within the workshop that Burch created for students, they worked to create, “reflective mythologies” in which students, through creating personality mappings and understanding archetypal structures within general mythology, they will be able to create a deity of themselves. Burch explains the process some more and the way in which students could utilize what he teaches them in order to explore their perception of themselves.

“Myth is one of those things that allow people to understand themselves and their place within the world,” Burch said. “So the more that people understand myth, the more they know their own … Even if you don’t utilize this information in your quote-unquote artwork hopefully you’ll be able to utilize this information just understanding yourself”

Burch also gave a brief idea as to why he decided to choose Skyline College as an area to showcase the work that he has created.

“I really just wanted to bring a very impactful show, a show that was an experience,” Burch said. “I feel like that’s the most generous thing that I can give towards anybody who wants to pursue the arts or interested in the arts, something that resonates with them.”