ArtworkW.M. "Bill" Christman


     This month’s featured collection is different, not antiques at all but artwork by the well-known St. Louis artist Wm. "Bill" Christman. Christman was trained as an artist, has taught and made art, and has worked for years in the design and production of signs, murals, billboards, exhibits, sculptures, assemblages and theatrical scenery. He’s the Proprietor of Beatnik Bob’s, and the Director of the Museum of Mirth, Mystery, & Mayhem at St. Louis’ City Museum, and he’s the owner of Christman Studios and the Impresario of Thursday Nite Music at Joe’s Café in the Skinker/DeBaliviere Neighborhood.

     After receiving his undergraduate degree in art and art history from the University of MO at Columbia, Christman first taught high school art and then worked as a theatrical scene painter (with the Municipal Opera and elsewhere), helped in the creation of Blueberry Hill in the U. City loop, and for years has run his own sign business. He has designed and created signs and exhibits for a variety of clients, including the City of St. Louis, Metrolink, the Missouri Historical Society, Faust Park, the Soulard School, the Fox Theatre, O’Connell’s Pub, Duff’s Restaurant, the Maya Café, the Antique Warehouse, and many, many others. In addition, he has made art, organized and participated in group Performances, and had numerous group and solo exhibitions. At one time or another, he appears to have done just about everything that a public artist can do. More recently, he has devoted much of his extraordinary energy to the creation of a miniature golf course, sculpture garden and community center at his Christman Studios location.

     A Christman artwork is a kind of Pop Art, meant to be enjoyed and to surprise – artworks that are striking and bold, mostly made from available and remembered images and elements, but in new combinations and therefore always unexpected and often very funny. Some are zany and high-spirited, some are curious and thoughtful, and some are almost beyond description! They’re brash, irreverent, iconoclastic, as well as gaudy, pulpy and sometimes even vulgar and crude. Like advertising, this art is designed to grab you, to get your attention fast. It has a slapdash look to it, as compared to the usual Pop Art, because it’s meant to counter commercial slickness. The ragged surfaces, the ordinary materials and even the look of these artworks contradict commercial, high-tech finish and sheen.    

     Christman’s art is restlessly inventive and alert. It has all the energy of popular culture, all the energy of a perpetually adolescent rambunctiousness. In fact, it often harkens back to the time when Christman himself was an adolescent in the late 1950’s and 60’s. Hence the frequent tinge of nostalgia, and hence, as one might expect from someone whose idea of an artistic vocation was formed at this time, the irrepressible exasperation with things as they now are.

     Always interesting, often laugh-out-loud funny, this art is an ironic response to the superficial, the contrived and sheer phoniness of so much contemporary consumer culture. It honors that culture, or at least acknowledges it, with a kind of equivocal affection, but seems to derive, paradoxically, from a deep reservoir of seriousness. Christman was raised a Catholic and had until college a Catholic education. And whatever his current attitude towards the Church – and one suspects that it is ambivalent at best – he has, it seems, retained a yearning for community and meaning, for spiritual and aesthetic wholeness. The corn-dog and nougat works, the pseudo-shrines, the pseudo-signs and billboards, the signs of an alternative self, signs of the times and signs of an imagined yesteryear, they all express, in some way, the aim of transcending the world as we know it. Bill Christman’s art aims to make us laugh and to jog us into the reminder that what is and what is all around us, what so dominates our everyday lives, isn’t all that might be.

     The Antique Warehouse currently has 9 Christman artworks in its permanent collection which are now on display, including one sidewalk sandwich board made specifically for the 2007 Cherokee-Lemp History Fair and an Antique Warehouse special event.

     To view and to learn more about each of these artworks, click on the “learn more” link below to view the collection page, which will allow you view each item.


Written By: Keith Spoeneman, Assemblage artist and freelance writer who lives in Des Peres, MO.

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