SEMO professor, artist Louise Bodenheimer displays Hybrid gallery at Crisp Museum
Behind layers of paint or the composition of a design is a story, one with years of experience, hardship and emotion built into it. Louise Bodenheimer has many stories to tell, all of which are being featured in her “Hybrid” gallery at Crisp Museum.
Bodenheimer began her journey at SEMO as a professor 32 years ago in the department of graphic design and illustration. Her work on the “Hybrid” series began even earlier.
“This stuff from “Hybrid” is all coming from one place,” Bodenheimer said. “It’s like a creative well of some sort or a place where, you know, my brain is constantly looking and constantly creating.”
Upon visiting an antiquities shop in Chicago, a silver amulet caught Bodenheimer’s eye. Small figures of seven mothers and a single guardian were depicted on the piece of jewelry, and the shopkeeper described the meaning: for the protection of pregnant women.
After this visit, Bodenheimer received harsh news from her doctor: pregnancy wasn’t recommended, and later, she underwent a hysterectomy.
She began sketching the house shaped amulet over and over in new variations, eventually creating 100 pieces relating to this topic. Bodenheimer said they reflected her feelings of pre-surgery, during surgery and the aftermath littered with confusion.
Following this hardship, Bodenheimer was also diagnosed as a type two diabetic. She said this led her to create an additional 135 pieces of a series depicting body image issues.
COVID-19 is another topic Bodenheimer covers in her “Hybrid” gallery. In the pandemic, her husband left for New Orleans to Uber for Mardi Gras. Upon his return, he had contracted COVID, and passed it on to her. This led to her being put on a nebulizer, and eventually she was faced with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“It was so horrible, and I looked up the word for a virus, and it’s from Latin, the word for poison, slime and venom, so I called [one of my pieces] Parasite, because I felt like I had something in me that I didn’t even ask for, and I couldn’t see,” Bodenheimer said.
A student of Bodenheimer’s, Brennan Higgins, said he worked closely with the setup of the “Hybrid” gallery and even had the chance to clean off pieces of her work.
“Just seeing all of her work together made me learn even more about her, and gave me almost a glance into her personal life and her past interests,” Higgins said.
He said Bodenheimer’s skills impress him and he enjoys how she is able to work with students on any issue that is troubling them.
Professor of Music Chris Goeke started at the university at the same time as Bodenheimer in 1992. He said they have kept up with each other’s careers over the last three decades, and even worked on an opera together called “The Magic Flute.” Goeke said Bodenheimer was in charge of creating the set imagery.
“I’ve always really been impressed with the detail, the vision and the precision that she brings to what she does,” Goeke said. “She’s a very caring individual, very talented with her art. She’s been a good friend here for many many years.”
Bodenheimer doesn’t limit herself to art about complicated topics, she also enjoys creating art relating to seashells, natural science and even nature blueprint making.
Bodenheimer attended a workshop where she was taught field sketching in 1996.
“I was obsessed with collecting shells,” Bodenheimer said. “[During the workshop], I pulled up next to someone’s car and she had like feathers and seashell’s all in her dashboard. Now that’s a friend of mine.”
In her nature blueprints, she enjoys using morse code, engineer symbols and most commonly an infinity symbol to represent the continuation of the universe. The prints have elements of a real diagram mixed with randomness that tells a story.
Bodenheimer’s art also expands into community outreach with her design and creation of the Music Heritage mural portrayed on the side of Shivelbines Music in downtown Cape Girardeau.
“That’s one of my favorite pieces. The provost at the time wrote me a note, and it said [‘the mural] just enhances the quality of life in downtown’,” Bodenheimer said.
Bodenheimer is hosting an artist talk for the “Hybrid” gallery on Friday, Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. at the Crisp Museum. To learn more about Louise and her gallery, visit the Crisp Museum exhibitions website.