Elizabeth Shriver strives for beauty, while Steve Banks tries to achieve ugly. She works in ceramics and is into natural shapes, while he works in two-dimensional painting and collages and is into unnatural shapes. It is an interesting pairing, showing through January at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center, in LeClaire just off the Interstate 80 bridge.

Shriver seems to be taken with the beauty to be found under the sea. Many of her works appear to get their inspiration from underwater fauna and flora. Her works transcend the ceramic media. The first thing you notice is the shape and form of her ceramic sculpture, not what the object is made of. Her works are very pleasing to view.

Her artist`s statement is a very clear exposition of her work, using words of manageable size and meaning: "My work in ceramics is an unusual blend of organic and traditional forms. I enjoy experimenting with new ideas, and as a result, my pieces are one-of-a-kind. I achieve an interesting range of forms by combining a variety of hand-building methods such as slab-building, coiling, pinching, and forming with molds. Textures, stains, colored clay, and occasionally glaze add visual and tactile interest to my work."

Her composition Untitled (Bowl Sculpture with Fins) is an exquisite piece that evokes either a sea anemone or the underside of a mushroom. I found the subtle colors and flowing shapes quite impressive.

Even more impressive are the reasonable prices for her works, ranging from $125 to $500. These prices are a bargain for this quality of work.

I recommend that anyone working in ceramics view her work just to get some ideas and compositional techniques. The rest of us can benefit from the beauty that each work creates.

Banks has a very high-minded artist`s statement. The words he uses are quite impressive, even if the meaning is obscure: "Societal identity masks and mask-portraits is an ongoing body of mixed-media works that explore our roles, desires, and identities in our politically schizophrenic, cynical, and mass-produced culture. These pieces evolved from an embryonic idea of metaphorical/metamorphic masks and identity transformation to a more fully realized statement about our ideas, personas, possessions, attitudes, and affectations."


Banks` two-dimensional works are very primitive and crude. This is not a complaint, because it is clear that this primitiveness is his chosen style. There are strictly two-dimensional paintings and bas-relief-ish collage works. His collage works are quite interesting. The two-dimensional works are very surface-oriented without much depth of composition. The collage works use imbedded objects to give them actual depth, because the compositions still do not achieve any three-dimensional effect.

My favorite Banks works in the show are Untitled (part 1 and 2) , which are two replications of money. They resemble Monopoly play money, but he has inserted himself (or at least I assume that Sir Stevie of Weavie refers to himself) in the place of George Washington.

God Still Reigns Pumpkin Donuts and Jubilee are examples of the bas-relief compositions Banks has in this show. They both have found objects plus vacuum-formed masks attached to the canvas in random compositions.

There is quite a contrast in styles in this show, and your trip to the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire would once again be rewarded by a very good show, particularly some impressive ceramic sculptures.

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