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Art in Plain Sight: Main Street Fountains PDF Print E-mail
Art - 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
Art - 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.

 
Art in Plain Sight: “Lloyd’s Trek” PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 07:46

Stuart Morris, 'Lloyd's Trek.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

A large abstract sculpture, Lloyd’s Trek, greets visitors to Schwiebert Riverfront Park in the District of Rock Island. Standing some 20 feet tall at the park’s southwest corner, the sculpture seems to watch protectively over the many areas of activities: a fountain meant to be run through; a playground that combines digital game elements with contemporary slides, swings, and climbing structures; a checkerboard concrete beach; walkways; and a performance stage.

The artwork feels fresh and intuitive. Though the artist, Stuart Morris, said it is an abstraction of a walking figure, its playful balance and irregular shapes also suggest a precarious stack of blocks or a doorway to the park.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Charles J. Wright Transit Center PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 05 April 2012 07:30

Irish memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The Charles J. Wright Transit Center at 300 West River Drive in downtown Davenport has two very different works of art related to travel. One is a sculpture of an impoverished Irish family traveling by foot. It is traditionally figurative and meant to draw you in emotionally. The other – modern and emotionally cool – evokes a sense of speed on a highway.

 
“A Real Renaissance Man”: St. Ambrose Art Professor Leslie Bell (Sort of) Retires After 38 Years PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 15 March 2012 06:34

Leslie Bell in his office. Photo Corey Wieckhorst.

One minute, St. Ambrose art professor Leslie Bell is talking about his paintings – mostly allegorical scenes featuring women and girls. The next minute he’s talking about his students – especially the female ones – without having shifted gears.

“On a really basic level, I’m trying to kindle a spark of quirky individuality in each person I paint,” he said in an interview last week. “I don’t want them to come across as generic. And ... through body language, environment, to a lesser extent facial expression – because my characters tend to be a little bit on the deadpan side – even fashion or dress ... I want to communicate a kind of self-made-ness.”

He then says he doesn’t want to be cheesy – the simplistic idea that girls can be carpenters or play chess: “I want it to be more what we deal with everyday in the studio, which is following what you’re interested in, sort out the ‘should’ voice in you ... , acknowledge that there is peer pressure and that there are societal pressures and that there are laws, but then make as much use of the freedoms that you have to cultivate your interests, develop your interests, don’t be ashamed to be an intellectual, fight me as a professor ... .”

One can see that shift happening even more quickly here, in a single sentence: “I want my work to be really affirmative of women’s and girls’ abilities to create themselves, to stick to their own ideals, to find ways of proving to whoever might be skeptical of what it is to be a woman artist or just a woman that there are as many paths to maturity as there are people attempting to mature.”

This conflation is illuminating, as Bell’s artistic interest in female experience and identity seems inseparable from his teaching responsibility to help young artists develop their own voices. He notes that well over half of the students in the St. Ambrose art department are women, and it’s easy to infer that his painting is akin to homework, a way to develop empathy and connections with his female students. They’re also a way of leading by example, of showing through art a path to authenticity.

 
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