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Art for the Quick and the Dead: Exploring the Sculptures of Quad Cities Cemeteries PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 05:39

Photo by Bruce Walters

To enter Oakdale Memorial Gardens, at 2501 Eastern Avenue in Davenport, one passes through twin stone pillars that stand 12 feet tall. The Art Nouveau side gates, made of patterned iron bars and a metal plate with an oak-leaf design at its center, are both beautiful and imposing, solemnly announcing the dignified purpose of the site within. Passing between the center pillars, we feel we’re leaving the commonplace behind.

Through this passage – constructed circa 1897 – is a refuge from the fast-paced world. Arranged on the park-like expanse of lawn that stretches over acres of gently rolling hills, with massive oak trees and flowering gardens, are thousands of graves – and also many sculptures .

Oakdale, Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Riverside Cemetery in Moline, and the Mount Calvary and Pine Hill cemeteries in Davenport were the first garden cemeteries in the Quad Cities. Established in the 1850s, they also served as the first public parks in the area, providing a place for the general public to enjoy magnificent sculptures and garden settings previously available only to the wealthy.

(Our botanical parks weren’t developed until some three decades later, such as Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport in 1885; it was among the first botanical gardens west of the Mississippi.)

The cemetery sculptures in this article were selected, in part, because of the artists’ skill but – more importantly – for the artworks’ capacity to communicate concepts and emotions. These works are examples of what funerary art can accomplish within a clearly circumscribed purpose – to help the living celebrate, remember, and mourn the dead.

For the most part, these sculptures are not creative, personal expressions of the artist. Yet they are not uniform in the feelings they convey. Some are comforting; others are stark reminders that life is brief. Some are massive and exotic, others humble and typical but no less evocative.

 
Art in Plain Sight: LeClaire Park Bandshell and Bix Sculpture PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 23 August 2013 05:29

Photo by Bruce Walters

Fifty years ago – on August 23, 1963 – approximately 2,000 people gathered at the LeClaire Park bandshell for a civil-rights rally that served as a warm-up for the national March on Washington. Twenty-eight local delegates who would participate in the historic march were introduced. They would hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nation’s capital five days later.

This was by no means the only rally at the bandshell. George W. Bush, for example, gave a campaign speech on its stage in 2004. Barack Obama spoke there three years later.

The bandshell has also served as center stage for numerous annual events –including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, River Roots Live, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s Riverfront Pops concert. Past performers on the stage include Greg Brown, Albert Collins, Blue Öyster Cult, Buddy Guy, Little Feat, Los Lobos, The Marshall Tucker Band, and – this past weekend – the Wallflowers.

The bandshell’s official name is the W.D. Petersen Memorial Music Pavilion. It was built in 1924 as a memorial to his daughter Wilma, who had died the previous year at the age of 38. Petersen paid for the pavilion’s construction himself.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Two Entrances by Eric Mart PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 26 July 2013 05:25

Freight House Farmers Market Entrance by Eric Mart. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The entrance to the Freight House Farmers Market – at 421 West River Drive in downtown Davenport – is framed by a 15-foot-tall arched entry. The artist, Eric Mart, also created the gateway to his studio and the Sol-Iron Gallery at 620 West Third Street, just a few blocks away. Although both entires are made entirely of metal and are similar in size, one is welcoming while the other is intimidating. Their impact is shaped, in large part, by their settings and our associations with the objects used.

The brightly painted, freestanding entrance to the Freight House Farmers Market is flanked by a variety of flowering plants. It feels friendly and open. The handmade, cutout letters are playful. In this good-natured context, the tines of the pitchfork at the top of the arch seem to reach upward, almost like the rays of a rising sun. The vintage rotary hoes seem like pinwheels and flowers. Although the archway serves as a business sign, it is also a striking sculptural form.

 
Elegant Amusement: Terry Rathje’s “Questionable Architecture,” at the Figge through August 25 PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Sherry C. Maurer   
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 08:32

'Ophidian,' by Terry Rathje

Tree house, snow fort, doll house, sand castle – most of us enjoyed playing with some kind of architecture as a child. The exhibition Questionable Architecture, by Terry Rathje in collaboration with Steve Banks and Monica Correia, unleashes a whiff of that joy for viewers with fanciful structures that appeal as sophisticated art forms.

The exhibition – running through August 25 – is located in the fourth-floor gallery of the Figge Art Museum, and a transitional experience is suggested by the lattice-passageway entrance, constructed with loosely assembled wood slats arcing above that recall youthful explorations in building. Nearly a dozen structures are in place that you walk around in the conventional way, but you also walk into and through some of the works. Materials range from a pagoda constructed of found objects to a tunnel of foam planks trussed together with bamboo skewers.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Two Sculptures in Downtown Moline PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 20 June 2013 07:23

'Spirit of Place.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

Downtown Moline’s industrial past is memorialized by two metal sculptures. One is abstract, the other representational. Both are reminders that the downtown riverfront was once crowded with factories and was at the heart of the “Farm Implement Capital of the World.”

Spirit of Place, an imposing 19-foot-tall sculpture, stands between the i wireless Center and the Radisson hotel on a lawn that stretches from River Drive to the riverfront. The iron sculpture consists of a massive wedge seemingly piercing a geometric form atop a conical base. Unless one reads the nearby plaque that states that John Deere’s first plow factory was built on the site in 1848, the artwork seem out-of-place in its pleasant surrounding.

 
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