The artwork in the upcoming Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition might be described as in-your-face. This year's juror, Timothy Norris, said, "Visually powerful artwork rises to the top because it commands me to look at it - it hits me in the face.

One of the most important things I noticed about the current exhibit at MidCoast Gallery West was what I didn't see. The exhibit features more than 30 works by nine women, but there is nothing in or about the show to draw your attention to the artists' sex.

• In a move contrary to its past practices, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre in Davenport will bring two new movies to the area in the span of just a few weeks. T-Rex: Back to Cretaceous opens March 21 (with a companion exhibit), followed by Ghosts of the Abyss (directed by James Cameron and focusing on the wreckage of the Titanic) on April 11.

Spiritual elements run through the current show at Quad City Arts in The District of Rock Island, with two artists interested in the idea of a life-force connection. The exhibit features paintings by David Murray and intaglio prints by Katie Kiley and runs through March 22.

Davenport Museum of Art Director Linda Downs envisions the Figge Arts Center as a vibrant gathering place for the general public and artistic types. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City used to be "a meeting place for young people," she said, and the "incubation place" for artists, critics, and art-lovers alike.

Nancy Senn-Kerbs, program director of the Family Museum of Arts & Sciences in Bettendorf and past president of the group Iowans for the Arts, might sound wishy-washy on the status of state support for the arts. "It is discouraging in some ways but encouraging in others," she said.

The idea of cultural identity is tricky, and finding a cohesive means to express the guiding principles of being an American in the utterly subjective realm of artistic interpretation is impossible.

Even though an "American experience" shared by all of us who live in the United States is difficult to conceive, the current exhibit at the Davenport Museum of Art (with the name The American Experience) seeks to portray a version of our nationhood through visual art.

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.

Initially, the pairing of Eric Mart and William Hannan in an exhibit at MidCoast Gallery West feels dichotomous and unnerving. There is the storied flow of Hannan's calligraphy around his illustrations in one eye, and the skittering, nearly audible rattle of Mart's sculptures in the other.

Artist Luis Jiménez wants discussion. What he often gets is controversy.

"I've always been surprised by it," Jiménez said in an interview with the River Cities' Reader. "I intend to create some dialogue.

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