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  • Art in Plain Sight: “The Peaceful Warriors” and “No Future – No Past – No You – No Me” PDF Print E-mail
    Feature Stories
    Written by Bruce Walters   
    Monday, 29 October 2012 05:39

    The Peaceful Warriors by Skip Willits and No Future – No Past – No You – No Me by Terry Rathje are located in an alley, not displayed prominently at a building’s entrance or in an open location as one might expect for such thoughtful and professionally produced artworks. Both artists, however, created their pieces knowing that they would be displayed alongside graffiti, dumpsters, and loading docks.

    'The Peaceful Warriors,' by Skip Willits. Photo by Bruce Walters.

    Entering the alley between Second and Third avenues from 17th Street in the Rock Island District – near Theo’s Java Club – one is initially met by Willits’ three metal sculptures mounted high on a brick wall. The welded masks, made from hot rolled-metal sheets, are approximately five feet in height. In the daytime, they feel benign; their gaze is diffident. At night, they feel like armored sentries posted at an entry into darkness.

     
    A Resurrected Reputation: “Tranquil Power: The Art of Perle Fine,” through October 23 at the Augustana College Art Museum PDF Print E-mail
    Feature Stories
    Written by Jeff Ignatius   
    Tuesday, 09 October 2012 16:07

    'Sketch for a Cubist Still Life' (1938), from the collection of the Augustana College Art Museum

    The Abstract Expressionist artist Perle Fine once said, “If I feel something will not stand up 40 years from now, I am not interested in doing that kind of thing.”

    Susan Knowles, who curated the career retrospective Tranquil Power: The Art of Perle Fine that closes October 23 at the Augustana College Art Museum, believes that the artist’s output met that high standard.

    The irony is that Fine, late in her life and until the past decade, was largely “forgotten,” Knowles said in a recent phone interview.

    Part of that is a function of Abstract Expressionism being distilled in the cultural memory to a few key figures. “Now it seems like all we know is Pollock and de Kooning,” Knowles said.

    But even though Fine was an active, exemplary, and important participant in the mid-20th Century movement, her notoriety diminished over time while many of her peers’ didn’t. She was interviewed, covered by the media, collected, and invited by Willem de Kooning to join the exclusive Artists’ Club. Yet when the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1978 organized a show about the “formative years” of Abstract Expressionism, for example, it omitted Fine.

     
    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.

     
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