artwork by Sara Fletcher
Three
excellent young painters - Sara Fletcher, Sarah Goffstein, and
Greta Songe - shine in their current exhibition at the Leger
Gallery in downtown Davenport. Former students of Ron Cohen at the
University of Iowa, they are all at the beginnings of their teaching
careers. These artists are well on their way in establishing their
personal styles in art, and all have something individual to say
about experience and memory. One artist is influenced by the light
and stillness of Vermeer, another by the colors and patterns of the
artist Vuillard, and the third by the flowing music of nature.

Reader issue #603In the 1985 HBO mockumentary The History of White People in America, co-writer and host Martin Mull offered the world mayonnaise-loving WASPs - suburbanites who had lost any sense of their roots, to the point that one child's understanding of his own heritage was limited to the streets on which he and his parents had lived.

White people, the show seemed to be saying, are beyond ethnicity and culture.

Mull doesn't see a meaningful connection between that work and his paintings, which will be shown at the Figge Art Museum in a retrospective that opens October 28. The only link, he said in an interview last month, is that they reflect his upbringing in Ohio. "It comes from the same vein," he said, "the same mother lode."

artwork by Elizabeth Shriver
It
has always been a nomadic monster, roaming the Quad Cities (usually
Rock Island) in search of arts patrons. In recent years, it has
squatted at The Villa, the McKesson building, and (most recently) the
Rocket Theatre.

Now,
in its 13th year, it has taken up temporary residence across the
river in Bucktown, and it has also mutated. What was once a
single-minded creature - all about selling art - has now evolved
into something of an entertainer. To its already formidable arsenal
it has added magic and improvisational comedy and a haunted dungeon.

It
is, of course, MidCoast Fine Arts' Great Mask Halloween Bash &
Fine Art Auction, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October
21, at the Bucktown Center for the Arts (225 East Second Street in
downtown Davenport).

 

Kathleen Van Hyfte's "Interference"
When
Joe Kelley was organizing the current Church
| State
exhibit for the
Bucktown Center for the Arts, artist Les Bell asked him: "Is this
going to be a blue show or a red show?" Kelley recalled.

In
an interview this week, Kelley said he was hoping to find something
in between: "I was hoping it would be a purple show."

It's
curious that two arenas that are often best kept separated - art
and politics - share the language of color. Blue signifies the
Democrats on the electoral map, and red the Republicans. And red used
to represent the threat of communism, whose adherents were of course
called pinkos.

Yet
those color labels reduce complex subjects and issues - even the
populations of entire regions - and rob them of nuance.

"Genre Chaos"
Les
Bell is well-known in the Quad Cities area for his teaching at St.
Ambrose University, his wide intelligence, and his colorful and
sensitive use of the nude in his art. There are few artists who can
so easily paint the human figure as the primary subject of their
work. The new Leger Gallery, in downtown Davenport, is presently
hosting a 10-year retrospective of his paintings.

In
Bell's world, the nude form is an artistic style, a psychological
mystery, and a symbol. He is painting women in their many
relationships and roles - from strong to vulnerable, from innocent
to wise, and from beautiful to detached. She appears as a nervous
young girl looking out from behind a curtain, a busy young woman at
the beach on her cell phone, a calm, dark-haired female eyeing her
companion, a distressed woman turning away, an intense, worldly lady
erotically drying herself on a beach, a shy young girl, a young
maiden holding snakes, a waif, a French courtesan, a Spanish dancer,
and many more.

Mending the Earth
The
images of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison - at the Figge Art Museum
through October 29 - transport us through narrative image to a
world that is parallel to our own, but oddly vacant and visually
strange, owing largely to things being out of scale, a lack of color,
and metaphorical structures such as gears turning beneath the surface
of the earth.

Where
exactly these worlds exist is unclear, but the place suggests a 19th
Century country where an impoverished inventor is trying to build new
machines out of scrap parts. Or it may be a future place after an
environmental disaster that is populated by a sole survivor who is
trying to save what he can while being over-equipped with archaic
tools and under-equipped with appropriate technology. The message
seems to be that the task before him is enormous, and the odds of
success are in question, at best.

Reader issue #598
When
Bill Hannan first met Jeanne Tamisiea in the 1980s, she was one of
three finalists for a teaching position on the fine-arts faculty at
Black Hawk College. "You could tell right off the bat that she was
a teacher," Hannan said. "If you are a teacher, you can spot
one."

Tamisiea
"tried to connect immediately," Hannan explained. She made eye
contact and asked questions, and the vibe was less of a job interview
than a classroom in which Tamisiea was the teacher and her
interrogators were her students. "Jeanne sat down to talk to us,"
Hannan said. "The other two [candidates] sat down to be
interviewed."

After
the interviews, Hannan said, the decision to hire Tamisiea was a
foregone conclusion. "We only talked about her," he said. "We
didn't talk about the other two guys."

"Sunbeam, Airstream, Toaster Camper" by Dick Cooley Glancing at the Dick Cooley metal sculpture that he calls "my Sunbeam, Airstream, Toaster Camper," your first thought is likely to be: Look at that - a toaster on roller skates.

But stare at it a bit longer. Hey - there's a bottle opener for the grill. That's a cheese-grater awning. The lights are actually nuts. And wait a minute ... is that what I think it is?

Yup. "I have a martini shaker on the front for a hitch," Cooley said during a recent phone interview. "I always try to put many different things in a piece."

"Suited Saguaro Sights Migrating Money" by John M. Booth Painter John M. Booth, referencing one of his artworks, says, "Hopefully, it'll put a smile on somebody's wall." The odds are pretty good that it will - in his airbrushed acrylic paintings, there's a lot of smiling going on.

In Booth's Fishin, an enormous red fish grins dementedly as he prepared to devour a small black cat. In Tada, a similar fish - emerald green this time - is balanced on top of a cat, who, in turn, stands upon a dog; their smiles indicate great pride at the feat. (Ta da!) In Good Coffee, a balding, middle-aged man looks frighteningly giddy about taking his first sip.

And throughout Booth's works, many of which can be seen at (http://www.masongraphics.net) and at Riverssance this weekend, his figures - human and animal, smiling and unsmiling alike - are painted in bold, vivid colors, a vibrant array of reds, blues, greens, and purples.

The
Riverssance Festival of Fine Art will be losing one of its founders
after this year's event, with Larry DeVilbiss stepping down from
his second stint as director.

"Persistence of Mother" by Larry DeVilbiss
DeVilbiss
has run the festival for the vast majority of its 19 years - he
returned three years ago when MidCoast Fine Arts took over the event
- but he'll be leaving after this weekend's edition, being held
Saturday and Sunday in the Village of East Davenport's Lindsay
Park. (The River Cities' Reader
is a sponsor of the event. A Riverssance map is located on the back
cover of this week's issue.)

Pages