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Art in Plain Sight: “Exhaling Dissolution” PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 08:08

'Exhaling Dissolution' in Faye's Field. Photo by Bruce Walters. Click on the image for a larger version.

Just north of the corner of 18th Street and Middle Road in Bettendorf is – strangely – a large head made of bark in an open field. More than 13 feet tall, it’s hard to miss. What makes the sculpture feel truly immense, however, is how the artist has fulfilled her goal of “giving the Earth a voice” through this work.

'Exhaling Dissolution.' Photo by Bruce Walters. Click on the image for a larger version.The sculpture, created by Sarah Deppe – a 24-year-old artist from Maquoketa, Iowa – is meant to represent the natural world. Its surface is made of cottonwood bark found on the ground. As Deppe has written: “I incorporate bark and wood because I believe it is less detrimental for the environment than other mediums. I feel as though I am simply borrowing from nature, and it will be returned to the Earth as it decomposes off my sculptures.”

The artwork’s title, Exhaling Dissolution, refers to the pollution constantly being spewed into the environment.

Inspired by Deppe’s research into deforestation, the artwork took four months to plan and construct. Since its completion in 2010, it has been displayed on the Northern Iowa University campus and along the Riverwalk in the Port of Dubuque before being installed in Bettendorf on June 29, 2012. The artwork will be displayed in Faye’s Field for only one year – through June 2013.

 
Lost Quad Cities: Removed, Relocated, and Recovered Public Art PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 08:28

Pre-1892 downtown Davenport

I recently came across a photograph of downtown Davenport taken from the corner of Second and Harrison streets and facing north. The photo has a 1907 copyright date but appears to have been taken before 1892, when the Redstone Building was built. As I looked at the image carefully, I was struck by the realization that nothing in this photo – not one building or object – still exists.

I also saw a set of century-old photos of a roller coaster, merry-go-round, music pavilion, bowling alley, tunnel of love, and steep water ride – proclaimed as the largest amusement park west of Chicago – at the present-day location of the Black Hawk State Historic Site. It is so strange to see old photos that are identified as places we know well, yet little in them is familiar.

From one year to the next, the Quad Cities seem to change little. Over the course of decades, however, the differences are dramatic.

The same is true of public artworks. Many dozens of artworks have been painted over, removed, or relocated. Not surprisingly, aging materials account for the disappearance of many of these artworks; the cumulative effects of sunlight and temperature extremes take their toll on paint and materials such as wood.

The decision to move an artwork to another site, on the other hand, usually stems from remodeling or changes in ownership of the property where the artwork was originally situated.

The following are some of the best-known artworks in the Quad Cities that have been removed or relocated. Some were painted on walls; some stood prominently in front of buildings; and some lived in parks and cemeteries. Some were created by renowned artists, others by area students. What they have in common is that they are no longer at their original sites.

'Davenport Blues.' Courtesy Loren Shaw Hellige.

 
Connecting the Dots: “Waxing Poetic: Exploring Expression in Art,” through October 7 at the Figge Art Museum PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Michelle Garrison   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 10:13

Marlene Miller, 'Girl 1'A museum patron expects to find informative signage near an artwork., including biographical information about the artist, a description of the piece’s historical context, or critical acclaim. Instead, the placard near the Marlene Miller sculpture Girl 1 – currently on display in the Figge Art Museum’s Waxing Poetic show – reads: “what gestates in the roots unseen / reveals herself as tall on the inside / grown whole-sprung from a trunk / full of well manners & bluest eyes / puzzled by where she comes from.”

This pairing of a visual work with a poem highlights how we assign meaning to art. In his words, Ryan Collins captures the literal appearance of the work– referencing the tree trunk, the girl’s intensely blue eyes, and her polite but befuddled posture and expression.

But it also reads the sculpture. “Grown whole-sprung” and “tall on the inside” refer to the aged and androgynous face, contrasted with the child’s body: The texture of the head is chunky and scratchy, as opposed to the smoothness of the body. Collins imagines the sudden appearance of this creature, enhancing our view of it without dictating a specific interpretation.

The exhibit – running through October 7 – is less about the artworks as stand-alone objects than about the process of inferring meaning. In addition to artworks matched with poetry in specific response to them, viewers are invited to create their own written reactions. At the center of the exhibit is a writing table with pens and paper, and under each work is a hanging packet of collected visitor responses. The technologically inclined are prompted to Tweet their responses to designated hashtags.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Main Street Fountains PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 29 June 2012 06:00

Dillon Memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Davenport’s Main Street begins at a fountain in LeClaire Park and leads directly to another in Vander Veer Botanical Park to the north. Both are significant city landmarks, yet each has a distinct history and appearance.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Campbell’s Island State Memorial and Peace Garden PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 07:44

Campbell's Island war-memorial bronze relief. Photo by Bruce Walters.

On Campbell’s Island is a war memorial side-by-side with an artwork dedicated to peace. One rises imposingly; the other is unassumingly low to the ground. Together, they give us a greater perspective on the area’s history than if we were to consider them separately.

Campbell's Island war memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.Campbell’s Island is just north of East Moline, accessible from Illinois Route 84. The island is named for U.S. Lieutenant John Campbell, who was leading three gunboats past it on July 19, 1814, when his boat was grounded during a storm. While vulnerable, they were attacked by an estimated 500 Sauk warriors allied with the British Army. The attack led by Black Hawk and the ensuing fight became known as the Battle of Rock Island Rapids – one of the most western battles of the War of 1812. In all, there were between 35 and 37 casualities (depending on the source) among Campbell’s men and their families – including the deaths of 14 men, a woman, and a child.

In 1908, the Campbell’s Island State Memorial was dedicated on the site where the lieutenant’s boat lay derelict for years. The monument is maintained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a state historic site.

 
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