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Season of contemplation for Iowa art


Des Moines’ art scene is becoming as seasonal as Iowa’s weather. Summer is now dominated by festivals of renown, magnetically attracting itinerant artists from all over the globe. The post-harvest season has become a time of introspection and contemplation, when suddenly naked trees reveal broader perspectives. Artists withdraw into closer-knit circles of community. Three November shows represent this season with: a deep show of respect for nature’s creative cycle, a testimony to a communal Middle American folk art, and a reflection on our place in the universe.

Bill Luchsinger and Karen Strohbeen personify Iowa creativity. Like no other Iowans of their generation, the couple lived for their art, sacrificing creature comforts like furniture and furnaces for years. They were digital pioneers years before David Hockney discovered that medium and made it hip. Strohbeen’s single line drawings became as distinctive as the works of any turn-of-the-century Iowa artist. No artists anywhere work more closely with nature’s creative process. The couple has for decades lived in rural Madison County where they can create art that begins with seeds and stewardship. They documented that stage of their art for several years on the PBS television series “The Perennial Gardener with Karen Strohbeen.” That show became so popular that Strohbeen can barely walk around a farmer’s market or garden center without being recognized by fans.

Much of the art in their new show at Moberg Gallery fuses garden produce, at various stages of maturity and decomposition, with Karen’s drawings and Bill’s photographs, compressed like a time lapse memory of beauty’s life cycle. Leeks, dahlias and wild coneflowers star in a heartbreaking evocation of the ephemeral quality of life. Luchsinger added “cancer survivor” to his résumé last year, and the couple is debuting a collection of cemetery angels they have been working on for decades. Street scenes, beach scenes and 8 foot tall slices of prairie life also feature in this year’s show. In some instances, 360-degree vertical shots are compressed into singular flat prints. “New Works by Bill Luchsinger & Karen Strohbeen” opens Friday, Nov. 20 and runs through the rest of 2009.

For the second straight year, Des Moines hosted a major national quilt event in late October, and Olson-Larsen Galleries assembled a complementary state-of-the-art exhibit. A full circle of quilting variety is provided by four Midwest artists. Linda Andeberg contributes still life fiber collages. Priscilla Sage’s shows hand stitched quilts of silver mylar fabrics, rods and Japanese paper. Astrid Bennett’s presents hand painted fabrics, and Debra Smith presents minimalist fabric collages, many stitched from raw and antique Japanese kimono silks. “Quilt Walk” runs through Nov. 28.

At Drake’s Anderson Gallery, Angela Battle’s painting students collaborated with Physics and Astronomy professor Charles Nelson to create art inspired by active galactic nuclei, where powerful energy sources fall into black holes of over a million solar masses. Nelson explained: “This project emphasizes how scientists use their visual senses to aid in interpreting data. Astronomy is inherently visual.” Their exhibit opens Friday, Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 18.


Art Dish
Steven Vail Gallery recently added exciting new work by Richard Tuttle, Lee Krasner, A.R. Penck, Anthony Gormley and Joe Andoe… Bill Barnes won an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant, one of twelve chosen from more than 500 applicants… Tom Moberg (Mercy Medical Center East) sculptures were featured for a second time in the most recent issue of “Health Care” magazine… Sculptor Jesse Small opened a studio in Hong Kong… Painter Mary Kline-Misol revealed the first phase of her new portrait series giving a face to homelessness in Des Moines. CV


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