Tom Newport's sculptures are a great counterpoint to Steven Anderson's paintings; the sculptures are completely abstract, while the paintings range from photo-realistic renderings of automobiles to Grant Wood-ish landscapes. They are so different, they work well together, with the artists at opposite ends of the artistic stylistic spectrum.

The two are featured in the current exhibit - running through June 1 - at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire.

There are three distinctively different working styles in the paintings and drawings by Steven Anderson. The exhibit features a series of 10 sketchbook studies; three oil-on-canvas landscapes; and 11 oils, gouaches, and watercolors of automobiles. The cars are rendered in a style that depicts every gleam of light reflecting off the chrome and high-gloss paint; it is more real than real. Anderson also includes some line, value, and color studies that give us a glimpse into the process of creating the painting.

Anderson's technique is impeccable; the finish on all of his work is extremely professional and very well done. You really have to stand in awe of the amount of work and attention to detail that goes into these very realistic paintings.

But I am even more attracted to his landscapes. They have a feeling and flow that really works for me. One of his paintings, Hill Road, shows the undulation of the township roads in the byways of Iowa. It captures the feeling you get as you travel down the back roads on a blistering summer day. I like the play of light and shadow, and the softer feel that Anderson's landscapes have over the hard edge of the automotive collections.

Given the amount of time Anderson pours into his work, I believe it when he writes in his artist's statement, "My art work is not about money or the pursuit of it. It is about being the best I can be with what I have at any given moment. It is about challenges, working harder to accomplish more."

The attention to detail and super-polished finish that Anderson lavishes on his work is another contrast between him and Newport.
Newport suggests his feelings through shapes that soar and are accented with neon light. His finish is very good, yet some welds look like a tack weld waiting for a finished bead or to be ground down. But his compositions use twisting shapes and forms that more than make up for that minor point. The works are beautiful, creative sculptures.

My favorite is Flame, a curving lick of polished stainless steel that arches upward with a red neon backbone as an accent stripe. The welds are ground and polished as well as the surfaces, so workmanship does not mar the experience of viewing the pure shape. I like the bending of the stainless steel to form shapes not usually associated with the unyielding medium.

In his piece Caliente, Newport twists and spirals long slender strips of stainless steel around an inverted U-shaped red neon tube. The combination of glass and stainless steel works to form the image of heat radiating from a core.

Newport's sculptures are very reasonably priced, starting at $250, with most pieces between $450 and $595. These are bargains given the quality of workmanship, artistic expression, and medium. It is well worth your time to visit this exhibit to consider purchasing some quality artwork that is bound to appreciate in value.

Once again, the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery has put together a fine show pairing artists with contrasting styles. And if you view the show, be sure to read the comments from tourists (and their children) in the guest book; they are priceless.

More information about MidCoast can be found at

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