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Reflection: Hinge Gallery’s Terpening Show Gives Regional Support For Regional Artist

The exhibit's postcard is from Virginia Terpening, Morning Prayer (Self-Portrait), nd.  Oil on board. 28 x 17 inches
Provided by The Hinge

The Hinge Gallery’s Eileen G’Sell and Bryan Laughlin have organized an exhibit of artist Virginia Terpening’s newly discovered work. The show’s title, Yes Virginia, There is… is “an affirmation: of the value of an artist making art for the sake of making it, of the possibility that art from a marginalized vantage can endure as accessible to all.”

The story of Virginia Terpening came to light for most St. Louisans last October through Chad Garrison’s cover story for the Riverfront Times. Since the posthumous discovery of Terpening’s artwork in her Lewistown, Mo., home by Jason Geisendorfer, a whirl of activity has taken place around this previously little known Missouri artist.

Geisendorfer auctioned about 700 paintings last November drawing bidders from across the country. And the Hinge acquired the selection of Terpening’s paintings now showing there.

Monica and Kim Fleer, neighbors of Terpening in Lewistown, were eager to see as much of her work as possible stay in the Missouri. They came to the Hinge for the opening of Yes Virginia. Terpening’s paintings can be found in many of the public buildings around Lewistown and some of the paintings at The Hinge depict places the Fleers see daily: the local pool hall, the church where they were married.

Virginia Terpening, Pool Hall, nd. Oil on canvas. 22 x 26 inches
Credit Provided by The Hinge
Virginia Terpening, Pool Hall, nd. Oil on canvas. 22 x 26 inches

Monica Fleer recalls that Terpening was often commissioned to paint something in celebration of a local event, such as a cherished schoolteacher’s retirement. But the extent of Terpening’s career came as a surprise even to the Fleers who were just as pleased as everyone else to find out that such a store of canvases had lain amid the accumulating cobwebs in the artist’s abandoned home since her death in 2007.

About The Hinge

The Hinge is an “apartment gallery.” As such, it is a private space made public. Creating a live/work environment in a residential setting is an increasingly common big city solution to financial limitations that make it difficult to show lesser-known artists and to start not-yet-known art galleries. The Central West End has long been the center of the commercial art scene in St. Louis, but such prime real estate is not easy to come by. For Laughlin, who calls The Hinge ‘home’ it must feel like living in a house that is on the market, ever ready to hide all traces of life and again become the curator.

The living room is a gallery space, the hallway is gallery space, a sitting room is arranged with artistic accouterments and personal belongings found in Terpening’s home. G’Sell has arranged an assortment of articles spanning Terpening’s long career along a panel as wall text. An alcove in the hall is used for storing the exhibit checklist and postcards. Prints of Terpening’s paintings, available for $10 each, are arranged on an end table. The newspaper headlines on the clippings G’Sell has found in her research reveal Terpening’s impressive exhibition history. Terpening was, purportedly, travel phobic. The furthest she seems to have traveled is to St. Louis, where she lived while attending Washington University's School of Fine Arts. Her paintings, however, traveled extensively: to California, Kenya and Paris.

When: The exhibit can be viewed by appointment and will remain open throughout February.

Where: 3663 410 N. Newstead, St. Louis 63108

Contact: eileen@thehingestl.com or bryan@thehingestl.com

Cost: Free

Information: www.thehingestl.com