exhibition slideshow

In a City Named for a Saint, Three Artists Explore their Sins

Josh Chapman
Mark Florida
Ruth Reese

On View
August 3 through August 31, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013,
7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Crime. Wickedness. Debauchery. Welcome to SIN CITY! In recent months, nearly a dozen articles (see bibliography below) have been written about the gateway city touting its sinfulness, ranking its crime, and heralding its dubious record in sexually transmitted diseases. Utilizing different media, three St. Louis artists, Josh Chapman, Mark Florida, and Ruth Reese, respond to these distinctions providing a glory hole view of life in the city named for a saint, but populated by sinners. SIN CITY opens with a free public reception for the artists Saturday, August 3, 2013, at 7PM and remains on view through August 31, 2013.

Josh Chapman tattoos at Iron Age Tattoo. Choose a design, he'll take your money, hurt you, and mark you for life. But many of his tattoos begin as something far more glorious. Chapman creates 22 x 30" watercolor paintings of skulls, dragons, leviathans, and tigers, rendered in a familiar flash style but showing intricacies which transcend the limitations of his flesh and ink creations. In addition to his original paintings, PHD Gallery will offer 18 x 24" prints of Chapman's work. The University of Wisconsin graduate was exposed to the art of tattooing through the punk scene and was instantly drawn to the imagery and outsider quality of it. By the time he was sixteen, he knew he wanted to tattoo as a career. Chapman relocated to St. Louis in order to work alongside more established artists such as Brad Fink at Iron Age Tattoo, where he's worked for the last thirteen years. Although his tattoo work and paintings reflect traditional American and Japanese styles, his paintings demonstrate influences ranging from Salvador Dali and John Singer Sargent to Audubon illustrations and traditional Thai patterns. The artist is a world traveler, but chooses to make Sin City his home.

Mark Florida creates a new series of narrative photographs which illustrates taboos of human behavior, including his personal favorites among the seven deadly sins. Despite the universal appeal of his narratives, they are intensely personal because he and his partner/muse "Melissa" are the only subjects depicted. In one photo we see a beautiful nude woman at her vanity mirror, literally held hostage (at gun point) by her own reflection. In another image we see a man on the floor, his chest split open, and his still beating heart held by a wild-eyed woman with a bloody knife. Not your typical Kodak moments, to be sure, but photo memories all the same. Says Florida, "Couples who take pictures together have more longevity because each image is a common memory and solidifies their relationship." Florida has been an artist and photographer in St. Louis for more than 25 years. The former engineering graduate is perhaps best known for his photographs of St. Louis landmarks and high profile events, including the statue of King Louis (under the Arch!), the Forest Park Balloon races, and the Botanical Gardens. Florida has worked as both a professional photographer and portrait painter, but now concentrates on doing fine art which comments on his personal milieu. Florida lives and works in Sin City.

Ruth Reese is a sculptor and ceramicist fascinated with pathos and the grafted identity. She is best known for her wonderfully disturbing surreal porcelain sculptures, which are a confluence of multiple species. A single sculpture might include octopus tentacles, horse hooves, a bird's beak and elk horns. Ruth Reese's work endeavors to challenge nature in a way that openly acknowledges loss, desire, anger, joy, lust, veneration and rejection. It's a rather open-ended question, whether her sensual human and animal forms are altogether depraved, prodigal or just divinely inspired. At present, she is an Artist in Residence, working in clay at Craft Alliance. Reese earned her MFA in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis, where she created architectural installations. She has also been a studio assistant for Esther Shimazu at Penland School of Crafts while exploring figurative sculpture and the nature of presence. You will find her work published in 500 Plates and Chargers, 500 Raku and Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America. She has exhibited nationally, including at NCECA, Visions in Clay and Red Heat. PHD Gallery featured Reese in two solo exhibitions where she also curated the exhibit "Feat of Clay." As faculty, Ruth Reese has taught at St. Louis Community College at Meramec & Maryville University. Sin City is her home.


  • Movoto Blog - Meet the New Vegas: The 10 Most Sinful Cities in America. June 13, 2013
  • Daily RFT - St. Louis No.1 "Most Sinful" City in America, Report Says; RFT Chooses Top 7 Places to Sin. Sam Levin. June 17, 2013.
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch - Being number one in sin has its possibilities. Reveran Christopher Keating. June 19, 2013.
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch - Go crazy, folks--St. Louis is where people go to be bad. Bill McClellan. June 21, 2013.
  • Huffington Post - Most Violent Cities in the World. Ryan Craggs. April 24, 2013.
  • Huffington Post - The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States. Drew Hendricks. January 30, 2013.
  • Daily RFT -Another Study Ranks St. Louis as Nation's Most Dangerous City. Chad Garrison. February 17, 2011.
  • Forbes Magazine - The Country's Most Dangerous Cities. Francesca Levy. October 10, 2010.
  • Daily RFT - St. Louis City: Fat, Drunk, VD-Ridden and Unhappy, but Still Loveable. Paul Friswold. April 4, 2012.
  • Associated Press - St. Louis Named Gonorrhea Capital of USA. November 11, 2005.

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