Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Des Moines Art 2005

Best of 2005

Art Stories of the Year

1.) Ana Lives!
Des Moines Art Center’s (DMAC) “Ana Mendieta” resurrected an international artist from the ashes of an icon’s martyrdom. A Cuban political refugee at age 12, Mendieta grew up in Iowa’s foster care system. Her dramatic art took flight while still at the University of Iowa. Later, during husband Carl Andre’s trial for her murder, she became feminism’s poster child for abuse, in the art world’s dress rehearsal for the O.J. Simpson debacle. Mendieta used her body and blood in a chilling autobiographical style, pioneering rape awareness with beastly crime scene re-enactments. Susan Talbott’s final show as Des Moines Art Center Director was a swan song with a broken neck, posthumously birthing a terrible beauty.

2.) Public Architecture Takes a 180
Wells Fargo Arena completed the Iowa Events Center and signaled a 180 degree turn in our philosophy of public architecture. Previously public designs in Des Moines (e.g.: the Civic Center projects of 1900-1920 and of the late 1970’s) featured local architects and democratic designs intended to bring the community together. The new arena was most conspicuous for the way its out-of-state designers stratified the community, with luxury suites, valet parking, exclusive entrances and club levels.

3.) Door Closes, Others Open
Arthouse declared bankruptcy early last year, but, in a sign of a healthy art scene, most of its artists found representation elsewhere. New galleries opened: in East Village, specializing in the third dimension (From Our Hands); and downtown, with an inclination to design (Fitch, HLKB) and attitude (Verbotim). The East Village Arts Coalition expanded its program of exhibitions in non-traditional spaces. Grass root galleries (Des Moines Project, Art Dive) became scene-makers while Moberg continued to upgrade the image of a new arts generation, coaxing expanded repertoires from Frank Hansen, John Philip Davis and T.J. Moberg in particular. Most significantly, some long-time street fair artists outgrew that life style and committed to exclusive relationships, a sign the art community is maturing.

4.) “New New II”
Karolyn Sherwood Gallery’s off beat exhibition “New New 2” included three artists wrestling with originally inspired demons: Mitchell Squire created abstract human victims out of police gun practice targets, revealing a dialectical dynamic in an artist whose other shows (including an exhibition at Anderson last year) have been serenely meditative; Joe Biel brought reworked drawings of iconic moments in American culture. The maniacal and tortured subjects in his work tapped the psychic condition of the disturbed underworld; Jay Vigon conjured a “Little Monster” series of paintings that layered wet acrylic and hand scratched forms ranging from whimsical to devilish.

5.) Mary Kline-Misol’s Big Year
After a “Mid Career Retrospective” at the Dubuque Museum of Art, Mary Kline-Misol prepared her “Alice Cycle” for the State Historical Museum’s “Victorian Iowa” exhibit and the Lewis Carroll Society’s International Conference, which was held in Des Moines because of Kline-Misol. Then her “Wives of Henry VIII” cycle was shown at the Salisbury House.

6.) Dan McNamara Adds Dimension
Dan McNamara took a break from his Zen fling with monoprints and the color green to layer oil on canvass. He showed a Byron Burford-sized talent for catching the human form with its guard down - a new dimension to his prodigious talents, at Olson-Larsen.

7.) DMMO Debuts “Gloriana”
Daringly, Des Moines Metro Opera took on Benjamin Britten’s “Gloriana” last summer, only the third staging ever by an American company. It was the season’s kept mistress, a sophisticated lady for opera aficionados, with Elizabethan court costumes, historical choreography, a Madrigal troupe and massive choruses. All supported audience favorites Gwendolyn Jones and prodigal son Ted Green.

8.) “Iowa Artists 2005”
DMAC’s 55th annual Iowa artist show focused on emerging talent -- Jamie Burmeister, Nathan Carder, Tova Carlin, Amze Emmons, Jessie Fisher, Andrew McCormick, Michael Perrone, Brian Roberts, Lee Running, Jean-Marie Salem, and Pete Schulte. Emmons’ minimalist visions of environmental structures had a visual appeal that most political statements lack. Fisher just laid it out there viscerally, with freaks and horrors redefining the genius of beauty - high Renaissance style with a Gothic twist that stuck like leeches to the veins of the psyche.

9.) Moe Dana Rides Into the Sunrise
By sheer force of personality, Moe Dana convinced Des Moines to support an ever-growing art fair which she built into a rite of summer and a bone fide tourist attraction. So much so that, before she left town last year, Dana’s job description had grown like Pinocchio’s nose, into a year-around series of events that civic leaders hope will become as successful as the art fest.

10.) DMAC Promotes Fleming
For the first time, DMAC promoted a museum director from within its ranks. Jeff Fleming’s selection was a just reward and a novel idea. In this era of fundraising-first, Fleming’s forte is as a curator. Because of his personal contacts with emerging artists, he has been able to assemble shows here that travel well and raise the international profile of the museum.

Zeitgeist of the Year

Self esteem. A twentieth of the way through the 21st century, Des Moines found an artistic verve that had been hiding much of the previous century. At last, it was possible for artists to make a living without leaving town.

New Artist of the Year

Ryan Clark is the only artist Karolyn Sherwood has ever signed off a walk up interview. At 25 he is also the youngest in her stable. His debut solo show here, “On the Mortality of Memory,” considered both the ambiguity and consciousness of time, juxtaposing images that evoke memories: grave yards; library archives; a tattoo dated like a death camp memory. All this while framing insider jokes on Raphael and Michelangelo.

New Artist of the Year (with an asterisk)

Elaine Hudson Hamilton. This 82 year old artist moved to Iowa last year. Her woodblock series “Stoneworkers” (Fitch Gallery) does for prints what Wendell Mohr does for watercolors, conveying monumental insights with minimalist embellishment.

Political Artist of the Year

Fred Truck. Des Moines‘ thoughtful iconoclast exhibited a “Medicine Cabinet” of bombs (Sherwood), cracking a dead serious joke on terrorism.
“Bombs are most effective if you don’t use them, as deterrents. Art is similar. Once it is used, it’s the property of advertisers and media, etc. It loses power,” he explained.

Environmental Artist of the Year

Bill Luchsinger. Luchsinger’s mathematically complex “Poplar” series” (Sherwood) beautified the fate of trees grown to become toilet paper.

Historical Artist of the Year


Will Mentor. Mentor’s “Bionic Farm” (Sherwood) deconstructed the history of farming to symbols and icons.

Concert of the Year

Pianist, composer and AIDS survivor Fred Hersch played a tribute at Sheslow to Thelonius Monk on the occasion of the master’s 88th birthday, on an 88 key instrument. Like the numerology, the evening was an epiphany.

Deal of the Year

Both Civic Music and the DMAC’s music series brought big time performers to intimate venues, at prices a fraction of what they would be in Chicago.

Angel of the Year


Melva Bucksbaum gave sculptures by Joel Shapiro and Sally Petrus to the Art Center, for placement on the Principal Riverwalk.


November 2005

Poplar Art: Painting the Forest for the Puns


Bill Luchsinger and Karen Strohbeen are the godfather and earth mother of Iowa art. While prepping their new show at Karolyn Sherwood Gallery, Strohbeen reflected on how much has changed for artists since their first exhibition.
“When we started at Percival Gallery there weren’t many artists in Des Moines and it wasn’t a livelihood for anybody. Now there really is an art scene here, there are lots of galleries and we make our livings as artists, in Iowa. It’s really pretty amazing,” she said.
Probably the state’s most popular artists, Luchsinger and Strohbeen never fell into the trap of just reproducing variations on a successful template. Instead, they continually experiment. Strohbeen even paid respect in the new show to Richard Kelley, with a series of triangles evoking the Des Moines master. The couple’s new work is more collaborative than before and sometimes combines pure simplicity with inconceivable complexity. For instance, one series of single line drawings (Strohbeen’s signature methodology) of a rabbit evolves into an image spiked by repetitive, unrecognizable images of the hare, manipulated through fractal-based software by Luchsinger. He uses an offbeat painting discipline that is based on quantum mechanics and recognizes infinite possibilities. The result becomes a visual memory puzzle. So too is a Luchsinger series on poplar forests.
“They are planted for rapid growth, to supply the world with toilet paper,” he explained. That incite into his subjects’ destiny revealed some sardonic visual puns, and a squeezably soft appreciation for his sense of texture, created in part by deconstructing the trees’ bark.
“Black and White Heads,” a dazzling montage of Strohbeen drawings, is a time-lapse metamorphosis, from human to floral forms. Where have all the flowers gone, indeed? “Dancing Scratches” seamlessly blends an African wrap skirt pattern with adobe scratches and a meadow of flowers. The couple collaborated on several reflections on lisianthus, from pure still life to deconstructions of bouquets fallen on the floor. The latter make the point of this show -- that a quantum universe accommodates infinite error and whim. Strohbeen said her personal title for the exhibition was “Accidents and Scratches.”
Mother Nature couldn’t have said it better Herself.

Art Skinny

The “Old Bags Luncheon” for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Des Moines brings a high-end silent auction to the Downtown Holiday Inn, Dec. 8. Designer purses, handbags and cases, some created for the event by local and national artists, raised over $60G at last year‘s sold out event. Reservations ($125) are essential dahlings: 515-262-5695…Steve Gerberich’s “Holiday Tree” will be displayed on the Waukee Triangle through New Year’s. The nationally prominent mechanical artist has relocated from New York City and hinted to us about a major art development in downtown Des Moines…T.J. Moberg stars in Moberg Gallery’s Holiday Show. Three new constructions showed both a unique imagination and a serious innovator’s technique…Olson-Larsen and 2Au Galleries co-host combined holiday show openings Dec. 2 (through New Year‘s eve), with new magical realism from the inimitable Michael Brangoccio at the O-L…“Still Life w/PEACHES (and a little black boy atop a spotted pony),” at the Anderson Gallery until Dec. 9, is a thoughtful undertaking by Mitchell Squire. Complementing his brilliant bullet hole exhibition earlier this year, PEACHES uses funeral trappings and manipulated hair pieces to comment on racial assimilation and the passage of modes of thought…Jane 360, a new support group for women artists, held their first show last month in East Village. Glass bones, santos and neon veves (voodoo amulets) cast spirits at more traditional media…Absolute Art’s Photography Show runs through Dec. 6 starring timeless Iowanna by Bob Bergazyn and graceful nudity by Jay and Marilyn Anderson… Eric Wickes & Michael Lane’s “DaVinci Dress Code” runs, wild as rumors, through December at The Lift…Photography, the opening round of SMASH Gallery‘s high school art competition is on display. Each of four disciplines will be shown for 3 weeks, then winners return for one-person shows.


October 2005

Things Fall Apart: Art & History

History is the blood of Iowa October, the season to slaughter pigs, commune with the dead and honor ancestors. Appropriately, three thoughtful artists share unique visions of history with Des Moines this month. Will Mentor’s inspiration came while driving in Iowa. That lucky coincidence has led to regular career stops at Karolyn Sherwood Gallery between the two coasts. Mentor, who hangs his hat at MIT, is a painter of exponential analogies, commenting simultaneously on the historical relationships between technology and nature, on the methodologies of landscape painting and on the development of Op Art.
Originally his “Bionic Farm” series took form in straight line paintings using the colors of corporations that converted Iowa from virgin prairie to biotech laboratory. As much as any contemporary artist, Mentor is adding a Post Industrial chapter to art chronicles of the American Midwest, picking up brushes dropped by Tom Benton and his Regionalist minions. Mentor’s recent show at Sherwood developed new styles and analogies. “Feral swirls” replaced straight lines and paid tribute to the Op Art ancestors. On a superficial level, these look like psychedelic computer art. Look closer and brush strokes betray more complicated technique.
“Flipping and duplicating on the computer takes 30 seconds. The painting takes 6 months and that’s with two assistants working full time,” Mentor explained of a process that involves 4 layers, taping off with pliable automobile striping tape, gesso; and hand painting in both oil and acrylic.
His interest in Op Art is more scientific than hippie.
“Op Art tires the eye. It beats up the rods and cones leaving the impression of an after-image on the brain. Duchamps’ ‘Roto Leaf’ was an attack joke on Op Art, reducing it to a visual pun. When the Freudians wrote about Op Art, it acquired their vocabulary. The Sixties added psychedelics. Then computer art became the last of the lineage of things tiring the eye. So I started asking ‘What happens when that happens, in this complete historical context?’”
Mentor creates 3D illusions by adding earth tones next to bright acrylics. Because the earth tones are the last painted on the canvas, he flips the order of traditional landscape painting.
“Abstraction has been expunged by analogy, but I love analogy,” he joked.
That is clear in his use of colors, which employ the signage of rural Iowa: “true blue” Garst (and the orange hunting jackets that Mentor remembers Garst giving to their good customers); the blue on blue of Henry Ford tractors; and the cornfield colors of John Deere and Pioneer.
“Agricultural Iowa has four layers. There was virgin prairie, then animals traced trails of convenience on that landscape. Then came Europeans with their horse drawn plows, who cleared the land and drained it and left more dramatic marks. Finally the Industrial Age brought mechanized grids of townships, then hybrids, chemicals and genetics introduced new analogies,” Mentor explained.

Historical painting takes traditional form at the State Historical Museum and the Salisbury House. Mary Kline-Misol’s “Alice Cycle” brings together, for the first time, two decades of the artist’s paintings of both the historical Alice Liddell, and the amazing adventures of the Lewis Carroll literary character she inspired. Like Alice, Kline-Misol channels the power of strangeness, from the far side of wonderland. Assembled from dozens of private collections, this is an astounding array of portraits, so much so that the Museum Director told us Kline-Misol broke down when she saw them all together.
“They are her babies,“ said Curt Simmons.
They are also the highlight of the museum’s Victorian Iowa exhibit, two months of parlor games (including chess boards made by Des Moines Public School students), teas, talks, storytelling and hat making. The Lewis Carroll Society will conference here and at Salisbury House, where Kline-Misol’s collected portraits of the wives of Henry VIII are exhibited. Those subjects also channel from beyond, but they are grown up girls without the aura of innocence. All Kline-Misol’s work is best observed in October, when souls cross the bar and broadcast the sinister urges of otherness. Through November.

Ledelle Moe tells tales of historical upheaval with elemental media and metaphor. The South African is a hot artist, her name keeps company with expressions like “major contemporary.” Interpreters of her large-scale sculptures see timely commentary on the willful destruction of monuments, from the World Trade Center towers to synagogues in Gaza. We found her last week wearing a tool belt and heavy gloves, reassembling two tons of molded concrete, broken down into over 100 hinged pieces for their cross country trip to Drake’s Anderson Gallery.
Her exhibition includes a ruin of three giant heads and a baker’s dozen of small ones. They have never been exhibited together before, and one of the large pieces debuts in Des Moines. Moe told us that one of the heads is modeled after a photograph of a young Liberian who was murdered by Charles Taylor’s rebels.
“Originally I thought he was alive. Looking closer I saw just a severed head. His expression was so serene, despite his horrible death, it reminded me of a feeling I have of personal loss. Big immovable objects are like heavy memories of things you can’t get past,” she said, adding that she lost several friends in South African riots.
She insisted that the inspirations for other heads remain anonymous. “It’s important that I didn’t know them, yet that I felt all this empathy for them,” she explained.
She works in concrete and dirty motor oil for symbolic reasons.
“Concrete’s such a strange material. Limestone and sand come from deep in the earth, get separated and then go under these extremes of heat to be put back together as cement. Yet, it is so familiar to us, because we’re surrounded by it in all urban settings,” she said, before mentioning that she recently lost her mother.
“When we lose our heroes, we all try to reconstruct them in our own way. People live through memories of other people. On this planet that is,” she clarified. Through November 4.

Big Grant

“I Love It, But It Doesn’t Match My Sofa” at the Iowa Genealogical Society included a couple works each by Sarah Grant, Jason Scott Hoffman, Jeni Johnson, Andrea Kraft, Michael Lane, Rachel Merrill. Anthony Pontius, Jeffrey Thompson and E. J. Wickes, along with sundry furniture. Grant brought wonderful big canvasses that the artist normally wouldn’t show in Des Moines. Her reputation here, for works on paper and for smaller pieces, is so well established that she shows her big works and canvasses only in the Palm Springs and Santa Fe markets. She explained that “The Moon and the Vessel on the Midnight Prairie” was autobiographical.
“I am the red vessel. I’m 51 now, the woman in menopause. Too much information.”
Andrea Kraft’s new collage deconstructs a female portrait in which everything except the foot looked Gothic. E.J. Wickes brought some chess puns that played with famous artists and Jason Hoffman showed interesting self portraits. All the sofas looked happy.

Little Big Shows

It’s the best of both worlds for music fans -- if you can get tickets. The Des Moines Art Center Music Series is filled with musicians used to packing big concert halls. In Des Moines they will play theaters as small as the Art Center’s Levitt Auditorium and no bigger than Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium. The lineup starts with Jon Nakamatsu and the German trio Jacques Thibaud. Kuss, another German group with a reputation for stirring classical fervor in the young, and the Aspen Ensemble follow. The Art Center’s biggest coup combines the Brentano String Quartet, oft regarded as the best of their generation, with revered violist Maria Lambros. We are blessed because Gilda Biel is a well connected impresario and her organization is generously endowed by music loving angels. So get your tickets before they sell out.

Big Grant II

Des Moines Metro Opera won an initial National Endowment for the Arts’ “Great American Voices Military Base Tour” grant. The company will take their production of Davies/Mozart’s “Three Little Pigs,” to Offutt Air Force Base. There is a timely, porcine lesson here. As the military takes a bigger role in the restoration of hurricane-blown cities, they shall now heed Despina Pig‘s wisdom -- Build levees that are huff & puff proof.

Now Boarding…


Des Moines Art Center’s re-opening “To All Gates” is a stunning demo of both restraint and employee morale management. Imagine having all the resources of the museum’s secret vaults at your disposal to accesorize a room. Even those of us without the decorator-gene can get excited about that. The amazing thing is that so many curators used minimalist discretion. The Anna K. Meredith Gallery, for instance, has just two pieces -- Alberto Giacometti’s “Man Pointing” and Mark Rothko’s “Light Over Gray.” Through February 19.

Orson Welles once said that movie stars can aspire only to a semblance of the immortality that Jean Renoir bestowed on his blooming models. The Faulconer’s astonishing Impressionist exhibition glorifies several of them: Julie Manet, the only daughter of Berthe Morisot (Renoir’s co-star in the show) and Edvard Manet’s brother; Lucie Hessel, Vuillard’s model and the wife a famous gallery owner; Germaine (so famous she had no last name), who was Renoir’s discovery from the Folies Bergere. These identifications are a small detail in dazzling show, but so was the meaning of “Rosebud.” Through December 11.

While visiting Thomas Jackson’s studio in Cedar Rapids, Karolyn Sherwood found some old photographs the artist had forgotten. She persuaded Jackson to resurrect them, and he begin pairing them with ironic partners. Later he painted versions of the pairings. In one, a man ties his necktie against six landscapes that indicate different comfort levels for men in suits and ties. Opening reception October 13, through November 12.

Valley Junction’s Gallery Night is October 14 with Olson-Larsen Gallery premiering new works by salty ceramist John Beckelman and bright colored painters Sharon Booma and Jan Zelfer-Redmond. Thorugh November 19.

Moberg Gallery ’s “Cohesive Pursuit” is a joint exhibition of new works and collaborative pieces by abstractionists Edward Blaze Brafford and Shawn Wolter. Through October.

“Attention Deficit” promises new paintings by Christine Mullane, dealing with “cowboys, snowboarders, topless dancers, bomb pops, canned corn, Buddha, veiled woman, the Taj Mahal, geisha girls, the Dali Lama and Marlon Brando,” plus a film by Mike Gustafson and collage & magnet art by a group of Kansas City artists. Huh? October 28 at Art Dive.

Salisbury House hosts an a capella choir from Norway at Central Presbyterian Church, October 28, $25. That concert is part of a Nordic chamber music weekend that also includes an a concert on the Salisbury Steinway and a catered wine dinner, $100 for all events. 274-1777.

Des Moines Project showcases new work by Vanja Borcic. Also at DMP, Arthur Martinez’ paintings show a serious eye for both portraiture and irony: “Country Road” is a sweet visual pun on the “grass is always greener,” with cows lingering longingly behind a gate that leads from their green fields to an utterly bleak mudscape.

We Are Who We Are

Brent A. Holland’s figure drawing course at ISU is having trouble finding nude models. The school is paying $7 and hour for clothed models and $10 an hour for unclothed models. 515- 294-4768.

September 2005

King of the Road


“My uncle used to love me, but she died.” Roger Miller

Visual arts are supposed to stand on their own two dimensions. But sometimes a little background music gets them airborne. Without Richard Strauss, “2001: A Space Odyssey” would have never found an audience beyond science fiction fanatics. Without the songs of Leonard Cohen, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” would never have been released. Similarly Roger Miller songs, chosen by the artist, helped clarify Frank Hansen’s big show of 70 paintings at Moberg Gallery, “The World According to Frank.”
Like baseball and opera, Hansen’s art is best appreciated in person, and with complete acquiescence to the implausible. Moberg Gallery has the dang good sense to realize that, so they added a second artists’ reception, September 9, for the show. Hansen’s work has always reminded us of Southern folk artists, because every painting seems to have a confounding, personal story. Other artists compare Hansen to Basquiat and Frank admits that Goya’s grotesque period might have been an influence. But he says he isn’t arrogant enough to go there.
“What do I know about Europe 200 years ago?,” he asked, adding that he prefers to call his art “Emotionalism,” which just means that it expresses his personal emotions.
“Art doesn’t have to be pretty, the best art usually isn’t,” he said.
Yet, some of these paintings are, in spite of themselves. “Pretty Woman” is lovely, in a naïve and minimal sense. For the most part, the paintings in this show seem stuck in the Roger Miller repertoire of sad songs, childhood memories and hitch hiking discoveries. Some of Hansen’s titles sound like Miller songs: “Fish Outside the Box;” “Human Succotash;” “Dirty Birds Lay Bad Eggs;” “Sad Betty and Her Bobcat,” etc.
This is blasphemy to purists, but Hansen deserves to be considered among the landscape artists in Iowa. His rural visions are comical and have more narrative than a field trip to the farm. His urban skylines find every lock that ain’t locked, when no one’s around. So, chug a lug down Ingersoll this Friday. Hansen and Miller will be telling stories that complement the paintings. You can’t roller skate in a buffalo head, but you could win a limited edition print of some 280 “Lost Images.” That is a story too. Many of Hansen’s paintings are trompe d’oeil’s. He paints a subject, photographs it, and then paints a second related narrative on top of it, but at a different angle. Sometimes, the originals get off the train in Baltimore.

The Fiddle King


The 20th century’s most famous child prodigy is 60 now. And only the gods of music know what’s next for Itzhak Perlman. Lately, he’s been conducting more often, having, perhaps, lost the feel for challenge after five decades as the world first violin. Other new career moves include film scores for Steven Spielberg and serving as master of ceremonies for big concerts in baseball stadiums. As much as any baby boomer in the world, Perlman has been there and done that. He was a featured guest at the Ed Sullivan Theater - for both Ed and Dave (Letterman, for those of you who don‘t watch TV). The Iron Curtain he famously broke through is gone now. But there’s always Gaza.
First, he opens the season for the Des Moines Symphony, in a rare event that is fully entitled to use the word “gala.” The performance of his signature piece, the Beethoven Violin Concerto, will mark thirty three years since he last played in Des Moines. The program will also include Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture and Bizet’s Symphony in C.
Tickets to the concert are now available to non-season ticket holders, at $85 and $55. Tickets to the pre-concert dinner cost $115. We value musical legends in Des Moines, almost half as much as frou frou suppers.

Art and Archeology


In 1996, a run-away husband turned uranium prospector discovered a dilapidated motel near Little Lost Creek, Wyoming. Proprietor A.C. Crump, dead six years at the time, was sitting upright at the check-in desk, a pencil still clutched in his fingers. Crump had built the motel during the uranium heydays of the Cold War, but it declined after Interstate 80 was built, some 60 miles away. Afterwards, the recluse survived on social security checks and desperately lost tourists.
With a nod to Orson Welles‘ ‘War of the World,’ Los Angeles artist Michael C. McMillen gave that brief history to “Red Trailer Motel,” the resurrection of Crump’s derelict structure at the Des Moines Art Center Downtown. McMillen has transformed the museum into a cross between a carnival side show and a film noir set. Gravel driveways, squeaky doors and peepholes await barkers. Tumbleweeds and rusty hubcaps dance to radio blues as the museum broadens the range of its mission, with yet another totally original exhibition.
Curator Patty Hickson said that McMillen has been a favorite artist of her’s since the early 1980’s.
“His ‘Garage Door’ is a California icon, it’s been one of the two most popular pieces in the collection of the L.A. County Museum of Art for over 20 years now,” she said.
“‘Red Trailer Motel’ has been in university galleries at Wyoming and Reed College, and in the artist‘s gallery in Los Angeles, but this is its first museum showing,” Hickson explained, adding to the legend. Through December 30.

Big Night X 2


Will Mentor’s ‘Bionic Farm’ opens September 8 at Karolyn Sherwood Gallery, with an artist reception. The Cedar Rapids artist gone international has been calling his shows by that same name since the decade began, in Los Angeles, New York and beyond. His idea is to merge the biological with the mechanical. The latest version promises an analog discussion of agri-business in Iowa.
On the same evening, the Hotel Pattee presents an evening with U.S. Poet Laureate, “Writing Poetry with Ted Kooser.” The Pulitzer Prize winner will conduct a workshop, a lecture and a poetry reading.

Let Light Define

Bobbie McKibbin is the yardstick other Iowa landscapists use to measure up. More than anyone, she has looked at this state, and those west of here, from both sides now. With Ellen Wagener gone to Arizona, McKibbin is Iowa’s unchallenged keeper of pastel visions too. “New Work by Bobbie McKibbin” completes a year of just recognition, including major shows at the Faulconer Gallery and the Missoula Art Museum, where the following was written about her work.
“Her journeys capture the story between departure and arrival points, presenting the viewer with observations…of where the light becomes an element not passively rendering objects visible, but actively filling and defining space.”
Don’t attempt that without protective goggles. At Olson-Larsen Gallery, through October 8.

New Gallery

“From Our Hands” Gallery opened last month in East Village. Owner Ann Harmon told us she means to keep things affordable, with lots of 3-D art. The main exception will be the paintings of the inimitable Mary Kline-Misol.
“I am taking a playful approach to the work I show. Some pieces are very fine art, or craft objects. Some are just pretty, or clever, or funny. I am trying to have a good selection of work under $150, to make it accessible to a broader audience. I've also brought in work by emerging artists and an organization helping the handicapped,” Harmon said.
She has an equal mix of Iowa and out of state artists and craftspeople. Local art includes: Peggy Johnston’s hand-made books: Jan Gipple’s hand-painted scarves and wall hangings; Melissa Miller’s pique assiette mosaics; Robin Paul’ s stained glass sculpture; Sharon Nelson-Vaux’s xylostones; Ruth McNamara’s ceramic pottery and faces; and Laurie Briden’s stained glass objects. From Eastern Iowa: John Schwartzkopf’s furniture and sculpture; Nathan Riley’s metal and stone sculpture; Gail Chavenelle’s 3-D metal sculpture; Connie Schumm’s pottery and mosaics. From Central Iowa: Sheryl Ellinwood’s glass tiles and blown glass vessels; Nick Seivert’s ceramics; and Alyssa Harmon’s ceramics.

August 2005

Stones of Summer


Susan Noland is gold’s grand mistress of Iowa, having taught her alchemy to a generation of metal artists. This summer in her studio gallery in the Shops at Roosevelt, she’s investigating the psychologies of stones, dividing gems into four groups based on some applications for healing, expanding consciousness, protecting and teaching.
“It sounds a little too New Age, but there are aesthetic reasons for our interest,” she said, explaining that she has a new Brazilian gem supplier who shares her interest in stones that show off their flaws and idiosyncrasies, like quartz with rutile and tourmaline veins exposed.
“There is so much visible energy stored, it reminds us that this is the gem of phonograph needles, it’s capable of channeling energy and re-broadcasting it.”
At 2AU, Ann Au also has also been playing with some dazzling freak stones, “I love the color and flash of opals, their mystic petrified pools of color, so I am playing with those now,” she admitted, but added that some dazzling Brazilian stones would be taking up most of her time. Emerald slices with obvious matrix veins, green garnet ice, German cut golden beryl, faceted pink tourmaline wings and deep green emeralds were mixing it up in her studio with black, gray and white Tahitian pearls, as large as 17.8 millimeters. She showed us a collection pearl freaks, including some chartreuse pearls and some podded pearls. A bag of African tanzanite also tried to fit in with her Ipanema beach boys and South Sea mermaids.
“I don’t know that the summer will have any theme at all. It’s so hard to plan, I love them all and sometimes they sell out before the show even starts,” she explained, gems reflecting like puddles under lightening.

Big Event

Civic Music announced its 81st season, sticking to the eclectic/educational format that has been working well this decade. Each performance will be accompanied by at least one educational event featuring the series artists.
Brazilian guitar brothers Sérgio and Odair Assad, featured on Yo-Yo Ma’s bally hooed new Brazilian recording, have a repertoire ranging from Baroque keyboard transcriptions to Ginastera and Milhaud. Pianist and composer Fred Hersch will pay tribute to Thelonius Monk. Ramsey Lewis keeps hanging on with the in crowd. A capella Chanticleer blends 12 male voices, including two formerly from Des Moines - Justin Montigne and Matthew Oltman, who sang Albert in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Albert Herring and Camille in The Merry Widow.
Highlights of the season look to be: the Brentano String Quartet celebrating Mozart’s 250th birthday with violists Maria Lambros and Hsin-Yun Huang. They will present the complete Viola Quintets on successive evenings in Des Moines; and Angela Brown, whose debut with the Metropolitan Opera, inspired the New York Times to write “At last an Aida.“ That esteemed paper’s Anne Midgette called the night "a major event." A “major event” in New York equals what in Des Moines?
Mitchell Squire
“I am a minimalist. In my approach to manipulating things. Just show what is there, which I think is powerful enough.
“I believe, and I teach, that it is important to think of organization as a creative act. “

Dr. Larsen answers the question; “What are your top five all time favorite death arias?”

“Since most characters are not alone singing an aria at the death moment, I am choosing my favorite opera death 'moments' in no particular order.

1. Mimi's death of consumption in the arms of Rodolfo at the end of LA BOHEME
2. Aida and Radames live entombment at the end of Verdi's AIDA
3. Lucretia's suicide at the end of Britten's THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA.
4. Rodrigo's shooting at the end of Verdi's DON CARLO.
5. Tosca's leap to her death from the top of a parapet of the Castel Sant'Angelo. “

July 2005

Christian Serendipity Pins Art Center on New Map

Christian Jankowski sweats enthusiasm. Gesticulating with a bottle of Dos Equis, he made sure we appreciated the miracle of serendipity.
“’This I Played Tomorrow’ just fell together. The chef was only there because his daughter wanted to look for movie stars, because ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘Passion of Christ’ were being shot at the same time. The school girls were skipping class for the same reason. I was shooting on the set of ‘Francesco di Assisi’ and the woman worshipping was in real Franciscan church. I was using costumes from Fellini’s costume designer. That’s the sort of thing that happens when you get the right people and energy together,” he said, avoiding the obvious phrase.
“Everything Fell Together” is the title of what this young German artist called his biggest show ever. The Des Moines Art Center is the first American museum ever to assemble his films and videos. That too is a story of serendipity, beginning with acting director Jeff Fleming meeting Jankowski while guiding a tour group through Berlin studios, co-producing a new film for this show, and transforming the museum into something it has never been before, and something that will raise the museum’s profile with the avant-garde.
Opening night had glitches that might have bothered a less spirited artist. The audio of some films drowned out others.
“With television, life in America is like that. You have to tune things out and tune others in. You find a way to do it,” Jankowski explained before letting another story fall together.
“When I was in Korea with (karaoke giant) Taijin, I found this old German song ‘Jeannie’ that had been my favorite when I was a teenager. It was moment like that. It made me aware karaoke is an amazing translator of culture. Taijin keeps 20 musicians working all the time just programming music. Now I can be seen in my video of my little teenage anthem in all these little villages in China. How amazing is that?” he asked, smiling even more than usual.
After strolling through the show, which can add up to nearly 4 hours of film and video, we passed Jankowski’s karaoke booth. A charismatically punk German voice shook the walls. Christian was singing his old anthem with devious vigor. The small audience in the room asked him to translate the German verses.
“You want a translation, ok. This young girl goes to an island with her friends. Just before they are supposed to go home, she goes off with three boys she just met there. They go to the beach and bad things happen. The world media comes with their cameras,” he laughs before wailing the chorus.
“Jeannie, quit living on dreams. Jeannie, life is more than it seems.”
Through August 28

Show Goes On

Opening weekend at the Opera was a rescue mission. For the first time in DMMO history, a principle voice had to be replaced and the last minutes. Not just one, but two, covering three roles. Jane Redding (title role of Lucia and Olympia in Hoffmann) and Omar Salam (title role of Hoffmann) both needed to withdraw. Serendipitously, Anna Vikre, who already had a rep for Lucia, was available and Larsen persuaded Drew Slatton, a tenor he had conducted in New York, to join the Company as Hoffmann. Apprentice Artist Nili Reimer was promoted from cover to principle as Olympia.

The Emperor’s New Exhibition


Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen’s birth, Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery opened the Danish installment of its Scandinavian Photography series with Crown Prince Frederik, the
future king of Denmark, is serving as patron of the exhibition. "Scandinavian
Photography 2: Denmark" features artists of all ages and styles, with an effort made by the curator to include work bridging three centuries. The oldest artist in the exhibition, Keld Helmer-Petersen,
84, studied photography in Chicago in the 1940s, and was one of the
first to introduce Denmark to the qualities of abstract art and
design. Tove Kurtzweil’s series on the Tranquebar, a former Danish
colony in India, stars. Special programs for the exhibition, including visits by a number of artists, are planned for early September. Through September 11.

Iowa 20

IAXX at the Heritage Gallery drew 200 applicants this year. Best in show honors went to Lois Wiederrecht-Finke of New London, for the print “Looking East at Night” which had a gilded quality rare in the medium. Minimalist storyteller Jean Hagert Dow of Ames was our favorite artist, building a vocabulary out of scratches and scribbles.
Larry Holden has a sense of both humor and narrative. His “Dear in Headlights” shows Tom Benton scope - love, lust, jealousy and liquid refreshment on a smoldering day at the farm. Elinor Noteboom showed a personal style with two paintings, from two totally different points of view, of half harvested Iowa fields. Also impressing us Anna Wood’s Ana Mendieta like play with fire and film, Shari Booth’s eye for watercolor landscape, Kaye Condon’s pop sculpture of Frida Kahlo and Peggy Johnston’s paper art that subtly teases out meaning. Through August 6.


Mile Stones



Melva Bucksbaum has given two major sculptures to the Des Moines Art Center, for placement on the Principal Riverwalk. Joel Shapiro’s untitled cast bronze minimalist monument alludes to the human body in motion. The artist’s work is best known for stunning installations at the Holocaust Museum and The Met. Sally Pettus’ “Quantum Leaf” is a recently finished bronze leaf that appears to be floating on a pool of water.


Mac Hornecker’s 16 foot tall “Hills, Fields, Wind, and Rain,” has been unveiled at The Mid-America Group’s North Park Business Center in Urbandale. 16 feet. The sculpture is fabricated of Cor-ten steel and ferroconcrete .


Road Trip


If you have not seen it yet, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids) long running “Art in Roman Life: Villa to Grave” is a rare opportunity, with over 150 Roman objects--sculpture, frescoes, jewelry, furniture, coins and other decorative art objects--borrowed from major museum collections, presented in a recreated Roman architectural setting and domestic context, including an exterior courtyard and interior rooms of a Roman villa. Through Sept. 18.


June 2005

Hot Time Summer in the City

In Des Moines, June is the month that struts booty hot enough to wax an art pimp’s ride. First the Des Moines Art Festival turns our downtown bridges and streets out, feting the nubile muses and filling hotels and restaurants with art johns who venture this way but once a year. Then Des Moines Metro Opera debuts its 33rd season, with tricks that defy geography, weather and economics. DMMO is the only opera company in America to run without any red ink for 32 consecutive years. And it did this while subsidizing an annual seven-week residency for apprentices, graduating over 1,100 young sirens from chorus and understudy roles that seduce cosmopolitan opera-goers who come each year from 40 states and foreign countries.
This year the Opera’s challenging repertoire includes Benjamin Britten’s “Gloriana,” a DMMO premiere and only the third staging ever by an American company. It’s the season’s kept mistress, a sophisticated lady for aficionados with Elizabethan court costumes, historical choreography, a Madrigal troupe and massive choruses. All support audience favorites Gwendolyn Jones and homegrown rising tenor Theodore Green.
For less discriminate ears, the opera puts out the carnal flesh of grand opera - tales of seduction and betrayal. Lustrous soprano Jane Redding will sing two fated seductresses, the title role in “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Olympia in the “Tales of Hoffmann.” We asked her how the first role ranks among the great doomed ladies of operatic lore.
“As far as a soprano singing herself literally to death from madness, Lucia is the only one I can name. Sopranos can die in many creative ways. Generally they sing motives of an earlier aria as they expire, taking a few minutes to do this after receiving the poison, stab wound, dying by their own hand, feeling there is no other solution to their hopeless existence as in Butterfly, Suor Angelica, or Tosca. They can make themselves the sacrifice as in Gilda (Rigoletto), all these sing until their last breath,” she mused.
Opera Tips: Tuesdays and Wednesdays have the best seat availability; Ignore “sell outs,” returned tickets go on sale the day of the show; The “Stars of Tomorrow” concert on July 7 is one of Iowa’s greatest art secrets.

Young Guns

The 55th annual Des Moines Art Center’s “Iowa Artists 2005” opened last month with a focus on a emerging talent -- Jamie Burmeister, Nathan Carder, Tova Carlin, Amze Emmons, Jessie Fisher, Andrew McCormick, Michael Perrone, Brian Roberts, Lee Running, Jean-Marie Salem, and Pete Schulte. The majority are academics, somewhat protected from the harsh judgments of the market. Running’s site-specific installations are as ephemeral as poppies. “I like that at the end of an experience my art all gets washed out and goes away,” she explained.
Of this group, Carlin’s art holds eyeballs the longest, with mixed media that deconstruct colors while giving expression to her driving force - illusory space. “Space is what involves me. None of my work is just two dimensional anymore. Even my drawings are sewn into, to allude to space outside. Two dimensional space is a point of departure. I will never do sculpture because it does not involve illusory space,” she word-knitted.
Salem, Burmeister, Roberts, Shulte, Perrone and McCormick all brought metaphors or archetypes to the party, mostly amusing and often referencing earnest commentaries for serious explorers. Perrone loaded so many symbolic references into his paintings that picking them out became a game for visitors. Sculptures by McCormick, Roberts and Burmeister also entertained crowds.
Carder was most original, building very personal sculptures that both reflected upon and included the tools of modern medicine - synthetic body parts with a sense of humor. You don’t need a doctorate to “get” painters Emmons and Fisher either. Emmons’ minimalist visions of environmental structures have visual appeal that most political statements lack. Fisher just lays it out there viscerally, with freaks and horrors redefining the genius of beauty - high Renaissance style with a Gothic twist that sticks like leeches to veins. Through August 12.
“On the Mortality of Memory” is 25 year old Ryan Clark’s first solo show at Karolyn Sherwood Gallery. For our purposes, he fits in the DMAC crowd, working the same intellectual streets. Nietzsche and Bergson dripped off his artist’s statement, while his art framed insider jokes on Raphael and Michelangelo. Among the “IA 2005,” only Fisher translates powerful ideas into media so deftly. Clark brings home the ambiguity of time, and consciousness of time, by juxtaposing snow-covered tombstones with photos that suggest objects gone, but not forgotten. Similarly he forces body scars to share little motel rooms with man made earth scars. He uses several media to rearrange a tattoo experience, which he has dated like a death camp memory, into non sequential time. He studies library archives that are far too delicate to continue their roles as preservatives of cultural memory. Clark is the only artist Sherwood has ever signed off a walk up interview. He is also her youngest. See why through June 25.

Landscape All Stars

“Land & Water,” Olson-Larsen’s annual landscape show opened last week with the genre’s Midwest all star team. Appreciation of landscape art is as subjective as sexual deviancy. To our eyes, the most original vision belongs to Dan McNamara, whose monoprints scratch and torture Zen visions with green juices and white space. The best eye for irony and contrast belongs to Michael Johnson, a black and white photographer who would be a Venerable Presence in Japan.
Painters John Preston and Steven Lauterwasser, who sometimes paint together on car-forsaken roads, have the Big Sky thing down, as does Carlos Ferguson, who shows some wide angle miniatures considerably different from his last brilliant one man show. Willow charcoal artist Barbara Fedeler and painters Genie Patrick and Pat Edwards focus on the opposite side of the horizon, with more detailed observations on gravity‘s end of vision. Carol Pelletier, an ocean painter from “The Mountain State,” plants her vision in the middle, blurring wide-angle horizons of sunrise, sunset. Workhorse Gary Bowling covers all altitudes, continuing his pure Impressionist exploration of Midwest backwoods, layering primary colors that troll for light.
Other artists forget about horizons, with close-up impressions of botanicals. Priscilla Steele’s are an interesting break in her usual figurative routine, as are Don Dudenbostel’s X-ray images of plants. Tilly Woodward’s are more dramatic, invaded by humans. Through July 16.

Double Davis Maneuver

Most galleries relax during the summer, Moberg Studio Gallery is spending the hot months more exuberantly. Their first show with John Phillip Davis will be two separate shows, a rare demonstration of youngblood in this business sector. “Crossovers 1 ” opened last Friday and runs through July 2, then will be completely torn down so “C2” can be hung through the rest of July.
The artist explained, sort of, “The idea ultimately of the show is to show the hybridization of emotion, composition, and design as it creates and sustains an entity - those entities being the artist and the work which ultimately for me have become quite inseparable."

Jobs in Newton

It’s not Newton’s dream, but this weekend’s Iowa Sculpture Festival at Maytag Park should be a kick for the local economy. Big steel and bronze, mostly wildlife sculptors return for the third annual event. The famous art community of Loveland, Colorado is well represented, while Steve Maxson of Kalona, Paul Algueseva III of Washington, Christopher Bennett of Bentonsport, Ben Britton of Marion and Christopher Ruggle of Perry represent Iowa. June 11 - 12 ($1-$2). Artists reception ($17.50) on June 10.

Poultry in Motion

"Poultry In Motion" at Absolute Art shows painter Julie Oakes examining the cyclical predicament of chicken hood, from the egg to the plucked skull, with predators predominating the points of view. Through June 26


May 2005

Death Descends on Ames

Sometimes it’s hard to change a single word of a press release. This is from Iowa State University museums - “This Spring death descends upon the Farm House Museum with a new exhibition presenting common rituals and traditions observed following the death of a loved one…a child’s casket, women’s mourning apparel, hairwork and jewelry, as well as death notices and cards. This exhibition coincides with the 125th Annual Iowa Funeral Directors Association Convention.” Talk about product placement.
No need to hurry, you can commune with death through October, though the funeral directors will be leaving before then, Death permitting.


Thank Heaven, For Little Girls

The Daughters of Durand-Ruel (1882), a Pierre-Auguste Renoir masterpiece, is the superstar of the Des Moines Art Center’s exhibition In the Open Air: Renoir & Impressionism. DMAC landed it from the Chrysler Museum of Art in exchange for the Art Center’s loan of John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Edouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron (1881) and it complements permanent collection works by French Impressionists Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, and segues into American artists such as Mary Cassatt and Childe Hassam.
In Impressionism’s most charming cliché, Daughters depicts two girlsm languishing on a garden bench in the open air. The girls are the daughters of Renoir’s friend and art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who gave the artist his first solo show and built his reputation. The pay back is sweet as frozen innocence. Through June 5.


Riverwalk Largess


Melva Bucksbaum recently gave two major sculptures to the Des Moines Art Center, for placement on the Principal Riverwalk. Joel Shapiro’s untitled cast bronze minimalist monument alludes to the human body in motion. The artist’s work is best known for stunning installations at the Holocaust Museum and The Met. Sally Pettus’ “Quantum Leaf” is a recently finished bronze leaf that appears to be floating on a pool of water.

Susan Noland is gold’s grand mistress of Iowa, having taught her alchemy to a new generation of metal artists. We asked her recently what’s new in the hard currency of precious metal art. She and her partner Leslie … told us they are investigating the psychologies of stones. Noland divides these stones into four groups, based on some New Age applications for healing, expanding consciousness, protecting and teaching.
“It sounds a little too New Age, but there are aesthetic reasons for our interest,” she said, explaining that she has a new Brazilian supplier of gems who shares her interest in stones that show - off their flaws, rather than hiding them.
She showed us some rare quartz that had rutile and tourmaline veins exposed.
“There is so much visible energy stored, it reminds us that this is the gem of phonograph needles, it’s capable of channeling energy and re-broadcasting it.” See for yourself. Susan Noland Studio Gallery, 902 42ND

Ann Au of 2AU also has been playing with some dazzlingly freakish stones, “I love the color of flash of opals, their mystic petrified pools of color, so I am playing with those now,” she admitted, but added that some dazzling Brazilian stones would be taking up most of her time between now and the Valley Junction Gallery Walk on April 22.
Emerald slices, revealing their matrix veins, green garnet ice, German cut golden beryl, faceted pink tourmaline wings and deep green emeralds from Amazonia were mixing it up in her studios last week with black, gray and white Tahitian pearls as large as 17.8 millimeters and a collection pearl freaks, including some chartreuse pearls and some podded pearls. A bag of African tanzanite also tried to fit in with beach boys of Ipanema and the mermaids of the South Seas.
“I don’t know that the next show will have any theme at all. It’s so hard to plan, I love them all and sometimes they sell out before the show even starts,” she explained, gems reflecting like puddles under lightening.

Road Trip

If you have not seen it yet, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids) long running “Art in Roman Life: Villa to Grave” is a rare opportunity, with over 150 Roman objects--sculpture, frescoes, jewelry, furniture, coins and other decorative art objects--borrowed from major museum collections, presented in a recreated Roman architectural setting and domestic context, including an exterior courtyard and interior rooms of a Roman villa.

April 2005

Opening Day: The Art World Imitates Baseball

April springs forth in the art world, as the fruits of long winter hours in the studio are unveiled in galleries. Valley Junction’s Gallery Walk on April 22 becomes the local art community‘s version of baseball‘s opening day - the time when slates are wiped clean, old faces try on new masks and we see things in a brighter more hopeful light.
Ann Au, of 2AU, told us she has no idea what theme her Gallery Night show will take. She’s fallen under the spell of myriad gems, including an array of circus freaks from the kingdom of pearls, plus emeralds sliced against their matrix. Goldmistress Susan Nolan also took the spell plea, explaining how quartz with visible tourmaline veins reminds her that this was the gem of phonograph needles - “a stone that receives, stores and transmits energy.”
Olson-Larsen Galleries’ Gallery Night show will be less mystical, with new works by gallery heavyweights Ken Smith, Jeannie Coupe Ryding, Wendy Rolfe, Gary Olson, Bill Innes, Jane Gilmore, Stephen Gerberich, Peter Feldstein, Tim Frerichs, Michael Brangoccio and Bill Barnes, plus new artist Jane Gilmore.
Gilmore promises to be interesting, to say the least. She is a self described “hunting blind” artist, some are “penis-shaped” in her own size, and others are sized for her cats. The latter have TV’s and move. She took one large hunting blind to Portugal where it interacted with a 5000 year stone circle and a 500 year old convent. We kid you not.
We got a look at some of Frerichs’ and Feldstein’s works recently and admired new styles, with Feldstein’s “cliche-verre” painting on film looking more architectural, and Frerichs embracing “less is more,” using encaustic, pencil, and acrylic to scratch white meanings out of the deep blues and blacks of handmade paper.
The most dramatically different works though were by Barnes, who is showing acrylic and paper collages that includes human beings, something rarely seen in his casein paintings, and Brangoccio, who suspends the laws of physics without his pet symbols - floating elephants, earthbound birds and the checkered schemes of Moorish Granada. These two artists, both of whom came to Iowa from the American West, continually explore man’s relationship with the wide open spaces, with manifest destiny if you will.
Both were frantically busy last week preparing for new shows in bigger markets, but they explained these new lighter works.
“These are what I do to unwind,” Barnes said of his collages. “I have not shown them for 15 or 20 years, but Marlene (Olson) persuaded me to. I think of them as having a faded grainy look of a movie still from the silent film era, they would be the antique version of what Cindy Sherman does,” he added.
Brangoccio came at his collages from a similar perspective.
“Those collage works are almost like a vacation to me. The process is much quicker and immediate than the paintings, which keeps me from too much “naval gazing” and over intellectualizing the work,” he explained, going to add that.
“I relate to them on a more emotional basis, much like I do to music. Colors, shapes, lines and all the other plastic elements of art combine to present a strong yet nonjudgmental, non-dogmatic symphony of visual stimulation. It's kind of like enjoying something just for the fun of it.”
Through May 28.

Musical Thunder

Next year’s DMAC Music Series is almost unbelievable. Jon Nakamatsu, who oversold Sheslow’s much larger auditorium a year ago and Jacques Thibaud, a German String Trio specializing in Mozart, are signed up. Also coming to Grand Avenue are Kuss, a Berlin-based string quartet that has a reputation for stirring classical fervor in the young, and the crack Aspen Ensemble.
That‘s an incredible lineup, however, the biggest coup of the season combines the Brentano String Quartet, generally regarded as the best of their generation, with violist Maria Lambros, also spoken of in reverent terms. These concerts will oversell Levitt Auditorium and stimulate Art Center memberships, which, along with musical angels, subsidize the incredible bargains ($5 - $25).
This year’s series has two more concerts. Misha Rosenker & Nicholas Roth play April 30. The Des Moines Symphony featured Roth on Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto earlier this month and he turned out a subtle interpretation far more thoughtful than what one gets from the piano divas in white tuxedos who pound out the piece. On June 4 Charles McPherson, who played the Charlie Parker solos in Clint Eastwood’s “Bird,” and a trumpet star Tom Farrell bring their quintet here to recreate the holy jazz days of “Bird and Diz Live.” A few tickets remained at press time, plus some seats will be released for resale ten minutes before the concerts.

Perpetual Energy Man

Founding papa of Paintpushers Chris Vance’s energy reproduces without normal human regard for the constraints of time. In his most recent show at Arthouse he revealed that: 1.) He has moved into figurative, expressionistic modes, “in order to get more of me out there.” His new show took on everything from cave paintings to parenthood and social elitism in Des Moines; 2.) He has been promoted to lead painter at Sticks, his day job; 3.) He paints while interacting with his four children; 5.) He is working on a new style of abstraction, which allows paint to gravitate into less preconceived forms.

April Lightening

Karolyn Sherwood Gallery’s current show returns to the gallery‘s bread and butter, a major print show from Gemini G.E.L., of Los Angeles, with blue chip works by blue blooded post modernists: John Baldessari, Phillip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Elizabeth Murray, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Susan Rothenberg, Ed Ruscha, and Frank Stella.

Larassa Kabel, who is also a book illustrator, puts a flourish of narrative to both large figurative oils and small figurative paintings. The latter reveal the artist’s irreverent fantasies concerning: Elvis‘ sainthood; dog’s with Queen Elizabeth I and Pagliacci complexes; Emily Dickenson‘s alter ego, Annie Oakley’s thing for horses; Alice’s doorway to Wonderland. At Arthouse through May 13.

Des Moines University cuts the ribbons for their new Student Center April 19. Among the impressive collection of all-Iowa art, T.J. Moberg’s massive DNA Molecule stands out. When we asked the artist about it, he did his best Jim Morrison impression. “Love hides in molecular structures.” If so, there’s a whole lot of love hanging over the fireplace of the new atrium.
Moberg also just completed an amusing installation at Toad Valley Golf Course. The two golfers chipping onto the green of his “Hole #17” sculpture are the original owners and designers of the course.

Moberg Studio Gallery’s “Alan Weinstein” opens Tuesday. The long established Iowa City artist brings his eclectic styles and bright colors, often with human profiles and primitivist inspirations, to Central Iowa. Through June 4, with an artist reception May 13.

Thomas Jewell Vitale, whose show at Olson-Larsen concludes this week, will also have a one man show at the Dubuque Museum of Art through June 5. The artist’s works are so contemplative that we stupidly asked him if he was a monk. A mid-career retrospective of the dark fantastical realist Mary Kline-Misol is also at DMA, through May 20. Kline-Misol told us recently that she is absorbed in a series of portraits of the wives of Henry the 8th, possibly for a summer show at Arthouse.

The Faulconer‘s new show, on the Grinnell College campus, is
“Bobbie McKibbin: Drawn West.” The metamorphic landscape artist’s new pastels depict from Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, and places in between.

February 2005

California Dreamin

Preacher likes the cold
He knows I’m gonna stay. John Phillips

Last month California art debuted on such a winter’s day that big crowds accumulated at the Des Moines Art Center Downtown, where “California Dreamin” warms the winter, as well as at Arthouse, where Bill Hamilton‘s show of paintings lovingly embraces San Francisco signage and at the Brunnier, where an iconic California sculptor’s love-in opened.
The Art Center show reviews sunlight and humor in California-based art movements with Robert Arneson starring. The self proclaimed high clown of Funk makes you smile with a giant paper cast of Jackson Pollack and a couple self portraits. Art history lessons are condensed here: Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes and John Baldessari‘s blotted faces; Mel Ramos’ pop, Richard Diebenkorn‘s beachy sunshine, Ed Ruscha‘s ironic wordplay, H. C. Westermann‘s signature stick figure men, and William T. Wiley‘s funk.
But, where is David Hockney? We know he’s English born, but would you leave Charlie Chaplin out of a retrospective of American silent film? Hockney defined California art, in the context of this show, plus he touched a lot of local art lives teaching at the University of Iowa. Through April 22.
Hamilton’s appeal transformed Arthouse into mosh pit of youthful enthusiasm, while the Brunnier decorated for Valentine’s Day with Bay Area painter-sculptor Manuel Neri, plus works of his muse/model Mary Julia Klimenko. Their post Pygmalion mutual admiration society mixes life sized sculpted figures with painted nudes, illustrations and her poetry. Imagine George Segal working in Italian marble, with more than a little help from Yoko Ono. Through May 15.

New New 2

Karolyn Sherwood Gallery’s New New 2 opens Thursday with the edgiest stuff ever shown there. Former Des Moiner Joe Biel returns (he’s had some big time shows on the West Coast and in Europe) with sweetly demented drawings of odd people in surreal situations. His former teacher, Vivian Torrance, sends some painting collages that Sherwood describes as “Joseph Cornell without all the horror.” Two abstractionists, Andrea Belag and James Bockelman, come with architectural points of view. Bockelman’s nature work has sold so well that Sherwood isn’t even sure what will be left for her show. Mitchell Squire, an architect like Belag, assembles minimalist installations by layering and painting bullet-shredded police target paper. New comer Jay Vigon, who moved from LA after making a film for the Des Moines Art Center last Fall, conjures a “Little Monster” series of devilishly cute masked people, finger crafted in layered swabs of acrylic. Through April 2.

More Than Nothing x 4


The Fitch, formerly the BMS Building, opened under it’s new name last month with a four episode exhibition entitled “Idle Hands.” Nora Wendl debuted impressively. The ISU architectural student’s research on Mies Van de Rohr discovered some personal items of Mies’ first client, Chicago doctor Edith Farnsworth. Van de Rohr built the doctor a new house, but refused to allow her personal things in the house. They went into storage for the greater glory of Bauhaus. Wendl’s exhibit reassembled them, as “Clean Living (an invent_ory laid bare)” in a Miesian wunderkammer of glass, steel and travertine. Wendl brought Farnsworth’s rejected artifacts into a house-like organization of what might have been, a meditation on what Wendl called “connections between elements becoming ‘beinahe nichts‘” (almost nothing).
The final segment of the Fitch show, Catherine Hille’s “1908 Spare Minutes” begins this Friday, at 304 15th Street.

Moberg Studio Gallery just opened a new show of Scott Alan Wright, from his “Wonderment” series. Wright’s work reminds us of Moody Blues album covers expanded by cyber surrealism. Just groove out on the colors and forms, man. The Gallery also built some dramatic new spaces to show off Jean-Marie Salem’s glass bone series and added new works by Edward Blaze Brafford and Shawn Wolter, the Paintpushing nova who is new to Moberg. Through March 2.

Olson-Larsen Galleries’ February show opens Friday featuring five artists playing off one another: Mac Hornecker’s real men’s bronze sculptures contrast with brightly colored fiber vessels by Mary Merkel-Hess; Tipton artist Mary Koenen Clausen explores secular and sacred text and images through a combination of magazine/Bible collage, dolls and painting, with themes focusing on sets of twins. (Honest); Printmaker-painter Bonney Goldstein and oil & wax composer Thomas Jewell-Vitale, a Loras professor, demonstrate parallel interests in surface with obviously different media.
Merkel-Hess is an Iowa original. She glues, molds and paints paper cords, reeds and fiber in the body of the vessels. Her unique work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Craft Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Through March 25.

Suburban Theater & Photo


Suburban theater is no longer an oxymoron in Iowa, thanks to the launch of Culture Café, a collaboration of former Los Angeles theater people. This Friday, “New Found Land,” explores Lewis and Clark’s excellent adventure using the art work of Elizabeth Miller, at Arthouse in Valley West Mall. $5. On Feb. 19, “Across the Known World” includes selected works by poet Keith Ratzlaff.

Arthouse on Ingersoll will open a new photography and video show on Monday, Feb. 14. The exhibition references south and southwest China and was shot by Robert Bergazyn, his daughter Eve Bergazyn and his step-son Garrick Stoner. Through March 6.

The Des Moines Playhouse is exhibiting Casey Gradischnig’s “Body Parts," digitally enhanced original photographs studying the human from altered perspectives. Through Feb, 13.

Czech It Out


It’s a Bohemian winter in Iowa. The Prague Symphony Orchestra will play Hancher and CY Stephens with crack young pianist Navah Perlman on Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. Czech group Jitro, the Euro-feminine form of the Harlem Boys Choir, will sing a free concert at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, Feb. 17. (319-362-8061). Bohemian garnets, one of the world’s most distinctive gems, dazzle at the National Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids. On loan from the Archbishop of Prague is a 300 year old Baroque monstrance encrusted with 386 garnets, 19 diamonds, and 135 rock crystals. This will be its first public display anywhere since 1895. March 4 - Sept. 25.

Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery keeps the Euro theme alive with the first show in its survey of contemporary Scandinavian photography - “Sweden,” through March 18. Niclas Ostlind, curator of the Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm, will speak on contemporary Swedish photography on February 15, at 4:15.

January 2005

Eddy Scissors Hand


Chris Eddy is one of the most interesting Iowa artists to surface this year. He constructs portraits and narratives out of magazine ads, taking a hands-on approach to the “close-up/back-off” perspective distortion that computer artists embrace these days. We asked him about the process.
“The computer should be a tool only, not the process. My main medium is women’s magazines. Having a wife justifies my subscriptions to Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle and GQ. Those are the best magazines for what I do, the ads are so vibrantly colored, they’re like painting without a brush,” he said.
Eddy’s vision is sometimes twisted, into the images reminiscent of Japanese erotic woodblocks. Currently he’s working on portraits inspired by 1950’s and 1960’s high school yearbooks, one of his mother is showing at Moberg Studio Gallery.
“They’re like turning black and white into color.,” he observed, adding that irony is an artist’s bedfellow.
“I hated math in school, yet my work is so mathematical.”
Eddy keeps a color wheel of magazine scraps. Bookbinding glue and wood sealer, scissors and imagination complete the process.
“This is the flip side of life, at least for a corporate graphics designer,” he laughed.

Eddy Scissors Hand


Chris Eddy is one of the most interesting Iowa artists to surface this year. He constructs portraits and narratives out of magazine ads, taking a hands-on approach to the “close-up/back-off” perspective distortion that computer artists embrace these days. We asked him about the process.
“The computer should be a tool only, not the process. My main medium is women’s magazines. Having a wife justifies my subscriptions to Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle and GQ. Those are the best magazines for what I do, the ads are so vibrantly colored, they’re like painting without a brush,” he said.
Eddy’s vision is sometimes twisted, into the images reminiscent of Japanese erotic woodblocks. Currently he’s working on portraits inspired by 1950’s and 1960’s high school yearbooks, one of his mother is showing at Moberg Studio Gallery.
“They’re like turning black and white into color.,” he observed, adding that irony is an artist’s bedfellow.
“I hated math in school, yet my work is so mathematical.”
Eddy keeps a color wheel of magazine scraps. Bookbinding glue and wood sealer, scissors and imagination complete the process.
“This is the flip side of life, at least for a corporate graphics designer,” he laughed.


~The surprise hit show in Paris last summer was Jean Paul Gaultier’s “Pain Couture” at the Cartier. The exhibition consisted entirely of historical high fashion designs sculpted in loaves of bread.

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