Not Quite “Rearranging Reality” Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 18 November 2003 18:00
Last year, mixed-media artist Terry Rathje won second-place honors at the Rock Island Fine Arts competition with his sculpture Cubus. He now has 11 sculptures in an exhibit (running through November) at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery at the Iowa Welcome Center near LeClaire, but I’m not as excited about the works chosen for this show as I was by Cubus.

For some reason the colors, shapes, and irony didn’t appeal to me very much on the day I visited the show. The works in this exhibit seem to lack the emotional impact of other Rathje works I’ve seen.

Just Reborn Yesterday is a title with a lot of promise. And when I describe the work as a brain with ass cheeks sitting in a bird’s nest, it sounds ripe with potential. The actual effect is more like a blue oval set within the nest. The oval suggests a bird’s egg, while the brain texture suggests human cognition. The nest itself might represent the nearness of the birth.

But the total visual impact doesn’t stop you in your tracks. The cold colors don’t compel us to take notice. Perhaps some outrageous colors, or an exaggerated appendage, to assault our senses, might add to the work. As it is, the piece is stagnant with muted colors and not a lot of suggested life or movement.

Maybe the Gods Were Aliens has another catchy title, but the work is again an oval without a lot of motion, color, or contrast.

In his artist’s statement, Rathje says, “I am out to rearrange reality. I spend half my time taking it apart and learning about it and the other half putting it back together and learning about myself.” But I haven’t had to rearrange my reality like the Cubus work caused me to.

Rathje continues: “By observing and internalizing how the world is put together, the world inside and the world outside meet in some sort of strange juxtaposition that I don’t really understand while I’m rearranging things – but that is what keeps it interesting. It’s always one step beyond what I know.”

In this show, Rathje’s work is paired with 24 photographs by Dave Sorensen. Sorensen’s work shows a definite polish. The photographs are very much like those you’d expect to see on very high-quality greeting cards, introspective and pretty. They are well-composed and presented professionally. Sorensen shows a very practiced eye for traditional photographs.

In his artist’s statement he says: “Although I have been a photographer for over 35 years, my passion for the medium has intensified over the last 12 years. While I occasionally work in oil, oil pastel, and ceramic, my preferred medium remains photography if [for] nothing else than its instant gratification. There is no waiting for the canvas to dry or the kiln to cool. As evidenced in the body of work on display, I enjoy photographing items found in nature, whether it is an evening skyline or the intricate folds of a rose. As a photographer I am able to capture a moment in time and share a detail in nature that may have been missed at first glance. Many of the works on exhibit have been digitally enhanced to bring out a color’s intensity or a subtle contrast. A few photographs in the cloud series are examples of this type of enhancement. However, you would be surprised to discover which photographs are as they were found in nature.”

Although this is not the strongest show I’ve seen at the Iowa Welcome Center’s MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery, it is rewarding to view. If you are in the neighborhood, and looking for something to do, it is worth visiting.
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