The River Cities’ Reader’s photo contest has returned, with four new categories for your submissions: “Urban,” “Rural,” “Uniquely Quad Cities,” and “Reflection.”

The deadline for entries is June 27. We plan to publish the winners in the July 6 issue of the River Cities’ Reader.

Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra

Yogi’s words are illogical. But brilliant.

It is equally illogical to inlay a full-sized baseball diamond – made of brick and stone! – in the pavement west of Modern Woodmen Park, not far from the “real” one inside.

Quad Cities Photography Club member Joe Maciejko, who often photographs Ballet Quad Cities events, writes: “The Quad Cities are blessed with many scenic photo opportunities to delight photographers. But our community is alive with other events and venues that are unique in our great land. Among them is Ballet Quad Cities, which is a performance-art treasure in our community. The ballet company, together with Orchestra Iowa, in April staged the production Wild Wild West. This included two ballets, Rodeo and Billy the Kid, performed to the music of Aaron Copland. This picture is from Rodeo, choreographed by Margaret King. It represents a delightful glimpse into the raucous cowboy life in a saloon in the Old West brought to life in a contemporary ballet. I was privileged to be able to photograph this production, which was a crowning jewel in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Ballet Quad Cities in our community.”

Hovering high above the heads of visitors to the Figge Art Museum, a neon sign that reads “Colored Entranced” points the way into the third-floor gallery. Anchored to the wall, the sign sits at an angle so visitors who enter from either the elevator or the stairs see it almost immediately. Bright tubes of clean red-orange light form words that contrast with and illuminate the corroded tin support from which they extend. The glow of the neon affects the surrounding space by casting light in shades of pink and violet on the white walls. A ghostly reflected image with deep red and cobalt-blue hues can be seen on the polished gray floor.

Colored Entranced is visually appealing, but the symbolic history it represents is abhorrent. Seeing it for the first time, non-black visitors may feel an unexpected pang of empathy for those who were subjected to that kind of direct segregation.

If you visit the Figge Art Museum to see Jefferson Pinder’s exhibit Ghost Light (see our review here), the artist will be satisfied if you leave enlightened. Or thoughtful. Or angry. Or confused.

He’ll also be okay if you see the neon sign reading “Colored Entranced” and choose not to enter the gallery.

The statue at the Kaaba Shriners Masonic Center. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Two similar Quad Cities sculptures that could be best described as sentimental raise issues about the role of art. Although their tones are different, both pieces depict young girls with adult-male authority figures and are meant to reflect the goals of the organizations that host them.

The neon sign at Bowlmor. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Downtown Davenport was once bathed in the bright glow of neon signs. In a photo taken from the intersection of Main and Second streets in the 1940s, the Hansen’s Hardware neon sign in the foreground rises several stories over the street below. So does a nearby Kaybee sign. There are, seemingly, a dozen or more smaller neon signs in the block.

Today from the same vantage point, we see U.S. Bank, the Figge Art Museum plaza, and the Charles J. Wright Ground Transportation Center. The prominent Hansen neon sign? Long gone. So are all of the other large neon signs in the photo: Kaybee, The Hub, Three Sisters, Baker’s Shoes. Also gone are the even-more-impressive neon signs rising high above the downtown theatre marquees.

Neon signs from this past era, fortunately, can still be found elsewhere in the Quad Cities.

Photo courtesy of The Guerrilla Girls (<a href="http://GuerrillaGirls.com" target="_blank">GuerrillaGirls.com</a>)

The most-famous work by the Guerrilla Girls is simple and direct, asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

The pointed text of the 1989 poster continues: “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

That work is more than a quarter-century old, but the Guerrilla Girls have updated it over the years – with the results just as discouraging. The 2011 version states that women represent 4 percent of the artists in the modern-art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but 76 percent of the nudes.

The work gets more complex as one considers it.

Composer Cheryl Leonard

Claire Kovacs is in her third year as director of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art, and she said that from the outset she needed to answer one question.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about since the moment that I even considered coming to Augustana,” she said, “was ‘What is the purpose of an art museum when the Figge is across the river?’”

The answer can be seen this month in a pair of free public events: the Guerrilla Girls’ January 18 lecture in Centennial Hall, and the January 11 performance collaboration of visual artist Oona Stern and composer Cheryl Leonard in Wallenberg Hall.

Regular River Cities’ Reader contributor Bruce Walters has created some Halloween-related videos and images using his 360-degree camera. (Walters loves Halloween.)

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