Playing Favorites: Katy Thompson & Christos Palios

We’ve asked FWMoA staff the hardest question you can ask art museum people: so, what is your favorite artwork currently on display? As “art museum people”, we often get asked about our favorite artists, artworks, and the art we choose to hang on our own walls. Since not all of our staff are front-end, and not all of them write for the blog, this series gives everyone a chance to get to know them, too. Taking advantage of our rotating exhibitions of artworks, from painted portraits to sculpted bronzes, FWMoA staff from all departments are choosing artworks that enthrall and enchant them; or, in other words, playing favorites.

Katy Thompson, FWMoA Associate Director of Education. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

Facilitating tours for visitors, students and adults, means she spends a lot of time in the galleries with the artwork, so picking a favorite is tricky! Right now it’s Ohio Theatre, Columbus, OH, a photograph from Christos Palios’ series entitled the Architecture of Gilded Dreams, now on view in The National: Best Contemporary Photography 2022.

Christos Palios, American, b. 1979. Ohio Theatre, Columbus, OH, from the Architecture of Gilded Dreams series. Archival pigment print on paper, 2022. Loan from the Artist.

Q: What is the first thing you noticed about this artwork? What drew you to this particular piece?

A: The glittery gold and rich red! The ceiling looks like someone threw sparkling, glittery stars onto it and the glimpses of floor (I’m assuming carpeting) between the seats mirror it. The symmetry, and resulting balance, of both the seating and the stage is especially pleasing. I feel like I could fold the building in half and everything would align exactly. I think Palios did this intentionally; the composition of the photograph is cropped to simultaneously make the space feel small (through the seating in the foreground) and grand (by including the ceiling). Standing in the balcony, it’s as if I’m the first to arrive, program in hand and full of anticipation.

I went to a few shows at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis as a kid (we took an elementary school field trip, too!) and have vivid memories of the awe it inspired. The air felt different, more weighted, and it had us all speaking and acting like “grown ups”. Similar to this photo, there was so much to look at: the stage, the velvet curtains, the decorated ceiling, the columns, the cornices; a structured balance of wealth, luxury, and gaudiness. The photograph is bright but warm.

Q: Would you hang this artwork in your home? Why or why not?

A: Yes, absolutely! I haven’t seen a show at this particular theatre, but it makes me think of The Moulin Rouge, a favorite movie I watch with my sister. The colors, especially, make it feel bohemian though it could use an elephant! It inspires me to visit this theatre! It’s such a pretty photograph; I know that I wouldn’t tire of looking at it day after day.

Q: What does this artwork mean to you?

A: I never planned to move back home to the Midwest. I’m originally from St. Louis, and after traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad, I wanted to live in a large, fast-paced city and “escape” my hometown. I think the Midwest gets overlooked in what it brings to both the art scene in general and architecture in particular. Overshadowed by San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans, I often get asked: “What does the Midwest have to offer?” This photograph is a perfect answer to that question.

Q: Why did you choose to work at an art museum?

A: I originally planned to work in a history museum because I have a history degree. When I realized that what I truly wanted was to just work in any museum, I broadened my search! Art is history, too! Artworks act as visual primary sources into the past and as windows into the present.

Q: What has been your favorite exhibition at FWMoA during your employment? What exhibition are you most looking forward to in the next year or two?

A: I absolutely loved Liz Whitney Quisgard’s solo exhibit, which was on display this past winter. In my last staff pick, I was most looking forward to The National, so I knew my next pick had to come from that exhibition! Now, I’m looking forward to the exhibit of Native American artwork and of student work in The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Q: What kind of art do you have in your home?

A: I have a penchant for re-arranging my apartment (and my art!) so I have mostly prints that I can switch out to match my mood and the season. Most of my art is colorful; I collect prints when I travel, local St. Louis artists, and anything that makes me laugh.

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