In the current two-person show at Quad City Arts, Mary Cullen Lowman's artist statement describes her philosophy quite well: "Mary's primary interest is life, not still life. She finds that most of her work focuses on living friends - four-legged and two. Her work has been described as whimsical, with perhaps a wry Alice Neel look."

Yet Lowman's work is more remarkable in its departures from Alice Neel than for its similarity. The main departure is choice of color palate. Neel used dark, somber earth tones, while Lowman uses bright primary-ish colors. Neel evoked a serious, almost brooding, self-absorption. Lowman's work evokes a joy and empathy with others.

Lowman's standout work in the show is Flurry, a painting of her cockatiel Albee. The swirling colors and use of reds and yellows are very appealing. The close-up of the bird and the large image of the painting combine to create a great abstract feel. The artist's emotions come through, and we get an unfettered look at Lowman's perception of what she loves. Other works seem constrained by conventions or what the artist seems to think are other people's expectations.

Her other superior works are her self-portrait with a bird in her hair and a painting of flowers. Once again, the emotions come through and overwhelm any sense of duty or what she should be doing. Many Midwesterners have a well-developed sense of duty that might be missing on either coast; Alice Neel was from the eastern United States, which may explain her freer style yet use of dark earth-tone colors.

Cheryl Hetherington, the other artist in the show, concentrates on surface decoration of found objects, and the best examples in this show are the animal bones decorated with beads.

Hetherington describes her approach quite well: "Since childhood I have been a scavenger, and have always created something out of what I found outside. Working with beads, bones, sea shells, turtle shells, and gourds developed from an interest in creating stained-glass windows and lamps. A fascination with the western U.S., a lifelong love of animals and plants, and inspiration by local artists have led me to covering natural objects with beads. In the last few years, I have been profoundly touched by the ocean and the animals there, so have found myself creating aqua pieces with fish and sea turtles."

The two best pieces in this show are the Framed Turtle Shell and the Big Horned Sheep Skull. I hesitate to praise the turtle-shell work, because turtle shells are restricted for import into the United States and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora. It is a good work, but the basis of the beadwork could be constructed of any material, because it is almost totally covered. The Big Horned Sheep Skull is a pleasing shape similar to the Georgia O'Keefe images. The beadwork enhances the natural contours of the skull.

The beaded conch shell in the show is nice, but it is too close to what used to be found in the old souvenir shops in Florida back in the 1960s.

The next logical step for Hetherington is to decorate with beads the surfaces of shapes she creates out of the found materials rather than just cover them with a design as is. Her surface-design sense is quite well-developed, and the colors and patterns she makes do enhance the found objects.

If you are in The District of Rock Island, it would be worth the investment in time to check out this exhibit, which runs through July 12.

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