At a recent Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) lecture launching a Stephanie Brunia exhibition, an audience member asked the artist what prizes her art had won. DMAC curator Gilbert Vicario answered on behalf of the rather puzzled young artist.
“An exhibition in a major art museum is a significantly bigger prize than any blue ribbon at any state fair or street fest,” he said, as diplomatically as possible.
The incident illustrated how highbrow and lowbrow culture clash these days in Des Moines. Vicario has played a significant role in that, bringing Leslie Hall, the super diva of trailer jive and satirical rap, into the hallowed confines of the DMAC last year. Brunia, still a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, is his latest discovery. He first saw her dramatically lit C prints of young girls mimicking Biblical scenes in white under ware at painter Larassa Kabel’s home. Kabel bought them at the 2009 Des Moines Art Festival, the only street fest or fair in which Brunia ever participated. The prints at DMAC comprise a series Brunia made on her grandfather’s farm near Ames. They include takes on classics like Leonardo‘s “The Last Supper,” Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” and John Everette Millais’ “Ophelia.”
She built the compositions one model at a time and stitched her compositions together on her computer. Her “Last Supper” includes “all the earthly delights and most of the seven deadly sins.” Brunia described her role as being “as much a performer as a photographer.” For instance, she obtained dramatic lighting effects by hand holding $10 flashlights for 30 second exposures while keeping all props smothered in bug spray. While her use of light recalls both Leonardo and the Dutch masters, these works are more suggestive of the more controversial ads by Ralph Lauren and Benneton.
Brunia has become a source of pride for the Art Festival, elevating the aegis of their emerging artists section. Her DMAC show runs through August 7.
Photography also delights the eye at the Faulconer Gallery where Liz Steketee’s “Family Album” begins June 24. The Bay Area artist uses photos “to rewrite history from my vantage point.” One panoramic shot of an ice cream parlor in Michigan looks like it belongs in the Smithsonian. Steketee says she reconstructs narratives in old photos, then prints them and ages these new photos to “reconstruct memories, address old confrontations and face old demons.” If that isn’t therapeutic enough, yoga classes will be taught in the gallery each Thursday June 30 - August 18. Steketee will speak there September 1.
At Moberg Gallery, John Phillip Davis confronts his “Nightmares and Allegories” in large scale. The artist says this series of mostly 36 square foot canvasses is meant to discuss a single subject from a dualistic point of view.
“If you found someone in the rain crying, and you could not tell if the they were really laughing or crying, you would need to think in other contexts… Nightmares talk about slightly more specific focal points that energize us, or make us afraid or excited. Allegories talk more to subtlety, a self narrative that is personality bent,” he explained. That show runs through July 9.
Olson - Larsen Galleries comforts us with dreamy summer landscapes. This year’s show adds two new artists to the popular trio of Gary Bowling, David Gordinier and Betsy Margolius. Rod Massey uses the geometric distortions of old fashioned Regionalism to personify houses and landscapes. British artist Roger Towndrow draws exclusively with pencil, revealing “serial and sequential” landscapes in flux. That exhibition continues through July 16.
TJ and Jackie Moberg bought the Art Store and will move its framing operations to Ingersoll this summer. The Eighth Street store will close. The Mobergs also opened Moberg Editions, an online gallery selling inexpensive art, and Moberg Consultations, a full service firm that directs clients from design to installation of artworks.