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Art in Plain Sight: “St. Anthony Church Pioneers” PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 09:55

'St. Anthony Church Pioneers.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

In 1989, Donna Marihart and Ann Opgenorth completed a brazed-copper sculpture for the 150th anniversary of St. Anthony Catholic Church (417 Main Street in Davenport), the oldest standing church building in Iowa. Titled St. Anthony Church Pioneers, the sculpture depicts a group of men and women who contributed to the founding of the church and the City of Davenport. The composition as a whole creates a sense of community.

The figures are gathered behind a portrayal of a seated Antoine LeClaire (1797-1861), who is holding an open plan or map. LeClaire donated the land on which the church was built.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Two Murals by William Gustafson PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 30 November 2012 14:14

'The Mighty Fine Line,' by William Gustafson. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (at Rock Island) and the establishment of industry in Moline are commemorated in two Quad Cities murals painted by William Gustafson. One can almost feel the wheel of progress beginning to turn in the depiction of these transformative events.

The Mighty Fine Line is a 55-by-45-foot mural on the south side of Steve’s Old Time Tap in the Rock Island District, near the corner of Third Avenue and 17th Street. Painted in 2006, the mural marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first rail bridge to span the Mississippi River. Gustafson, who teaches art at Rock Island High School, worked with Curtis Roseman – a local historian and professor emeritus at the University of Southern California – to provide historic details of the mural’s subjects. As Gustafson told me in an interview, historic accuracy in these works was important to him.

 
Art in Plain Sight: “The Peaceful Warriors” and “No Future – No Past – No You – No Me” PDF Print E-mail
Art - 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
Art - 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
Art - 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.

 
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