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Art in Plain Sight: Christmas Lights PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 15 December 2011 08:36

The John Deere Commons. Photo by Bruce Walters.

It’s easy to start taking outdoor Christmas lights for granted about now. They have been draped over trees and strung along porch railings and under the eaves for weeks – even longer in the shopping centers.

Though often used with little real thought, they have symbolic connotations. It is intriguing to think of them as a modern equivalent of the Yule log that warmed our distant ancestors during the winter solstice. Or the guiding star over Bethlehem on the first Christmas.

Pause for a moment and consider how remarkable it is that these tiny electric lights can transform a bleak winter night into a delicately laced wonderland. How leafless trees can become magical, and simple homes can become places of wonderment. How they brighten more than the longest nights of the year. How fond memories grow from these fragile strings of lights.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Fort Armstrong Theatre Building PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 05:28

Photo by Bruce Walters.

At the corner of Third Avenue and 19th Street in the Rock Island District is a glazed terra-cotta bust of an American Indian wearing a war bonnet that encircles his head, almost like the traditional painting of a halo. Arrows, peace pipes, and entwined snakes are also included in the symmetrical composition. This 10-foot-wide relief is placed above the second-story window on the rounded corner of the Fort Armstrong Theatre building.

Though the artwork is ornate, the dominant central face gives it a strong point of emphasis. The angular structure of the face and surrounding triangular patterns are counterbalanced by the overarching half-circle and circular shapes radiating from the composition’s center.

The decorative patterns around the other second-floor windows and the building’s outline are also composed of these geometric shapes and Native American symbols. The ivory-, blue-, yellow-, red-, and green-colored glaze stands out against the theatre’s dark-red brick exterior.

 
Illuminating Comics: “Graphic Language,” through December 11 at the University of Iowa PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Michelle Garrison   
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 05:04

Enrique Chagoya (American, born in Mexico 1953); 'The Headache,' after 'The Headache' by George Cruikshank, circa 1830, 2010; etching and chine collé; museum purchase.

Graphic Language: The Art & Literature of Comics (on display at the University of Iowa) traces the origins of comics, from the evolution of graphic style alongside printing technologies to their conceptual roots in satire and serialized short fiction. This path is well-defined through the chronological presentation of the works around the perimeter of the exhibit, and the inclusion of early images that are not yet “comics” yet were clear stepping stones for the medium.

Additionally, Graphic Language highlights the craft and technique of the individual comic artists. When converting hand-crafted images to reproduced prints, the subtle gestures of the hand of the artist are often lost. The original works, up to twice as large as their printed counterparts, show these subtleties. The explanatory labels and signage emphasize this point, and note the individual craft behind a usually mass-produced and commoditized medium.

 
Solitary Journeys: Emma Farber and Zachary Cleve, through October at the Phoenix Gallery PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Michelle Garrison   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 09:05

Emma Farber, 'Zoning'

A school bus sits in an overgrown field, along with an abandoned car. A pipe bursts bright liquid in the upper right corner, and a bird’s nest with blue eggs rests in the lower left. Keys dangle from the pipe, and a flashlight shines on the eggs. In the distance, we see an ancient-looking door emerging from a smudgy hillside in a vague landscape.

In her artist statement, Emma Farber articulates her works’ theme of overcoming life’s challenges, which she communicates through the use of significant symbols. This painting, Take Shelter, presents metaphors for shelter (the nest and door) as well as the means to access it (the keys and vehicles). The school bus has been lushly rendered, with attention to detail, and the eggs have a candy-like shine that entices the viewer. The choice of symbols reads easily to the viewer.

Take Shelter is typical of Farber’s six paintings on display through October at the Phoenix Gallery, located at 1530 Fifth Avenue in Moline. Along with Farber’s work are five paintings by Zachary Cleve, a fellow recent graduate from St. Ambrose University. Both artists present thoughtful content and areas of strong technique but could benefit from greater unity and a sense of completion.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Nature Spiral PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 06 October 2011 08:17

Nature Spiral. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Nature Spiral is a circular arrangement of limestone boulders situated near the Mississippi River in the Illiniwek Forest Preserve, near Hampton, Illinois (just north of East Moline). Ideally suited for a park named after the regional Native American tribes, the artwork blends in with its natural environment and is reminiscent of Native American and Neolithic earthworks. The spiral can be reached by Illinois Route 84, or the Great River Trail for hikers and bicyclists.

The site was chosen in 1995 by a community-wide partnership led by Quad City Arts and River Action. Public meetings were arranged for the community to express ideas for an artwork that improved awareness of, appreciation of, and access to the Mississippi River. In all, nearly 50 historic preservationists, river activists, and members of the community contributed to the project led by area artist Kunhild Blacklock, who designed the work and supervised its installation.

Completed in 1997, Nature Spiral is primarily made of 65 boulders, with outlined images of native birds, fish, insects, animals, and plants cut into the surface of many of the stones. Among the flora and fauna is a bald eagle, channel catfish, mayfly, deer, silver maple, cattail, and waterlily. Approximately 800 feet in circumference, the spiral also includes planted trees and wildflowers. A nearby informational sign provides a map of the spiral and a key to the iconic images on the rocks.

 
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