Event Details

Modern Kitsch
by Maren Leonard

Friday, June 25, 2021 through Friday, August 27, 2021
Frehner Gallery



These Danish modern-styled plywood light boxes illuminate translucent images of mid-century modern Americana. These light boxes are intended to preserve the memory of the gloriously designs of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s – from finned cars and flat roofs to pin curls and stilettos – from rusting metal signs to abandoned buildings all along Route 66, America’s mother road.

The light boxes are designed and handcrafted in St. Louis, with the help of a generous and talented carpenter. (Maren’s husband) They’re battery-operated modern art, complete with retro toggle switches and historically accurate blonde plywood.

After World War II, The Greatest Generation built a new America. They embraced chrome and sharp angles. Everything was shiny, new, and distinctively modern. Now, The chrome is tarnished and the rooftops bow under the weight of the post-modern world. The Greatest Generation’s masterpiece of modern culture is regarded as outdated and tacky; it’s kitsch….and it’s vanishing.

Although mid-century modern designs are appreciated by some contemporary subcultures, a mix of indifference and progress is surreptitiously eliminating mid-century modern artifacts from mainstream America. While the newest technology and conveniently located Starbucks can physically replace the relics of a modern America lost, when they’re gone, nothing will fill the cultural void. Save them – for yourself, for future generations, and for the legacy of the men and women of The Greatest Generation.



By day, Maren is an English teacher. However, by night (also by weekend, summer, and the occasional national holiday), she is an artist and an explorer.

Much of her artistic inspiration comes from the history of St. Louis and its surrounding communities. From nationally recognizable landmarks to decaying Route 66 motel signs, St. Louis has a history worth documenting and preserving. Maren collects the vintage items she can afford, from clothing to furniture, and settles for photographing the vintage cars and historic buildings that she covets. These aging treasures are the inspiration for her exhibit “Modern Kitsch,” which she describes as Danish modern plywood light boxes illuminating translucent images of mid-century modern Americana.