By Jim Duncan
Thomas C. Jackson "Child's Play #42"
at Moberg Gallery.
September is a virtual second Lent for Des
Moines' art scene, a sobering season that follows
a Mardi Gras summer filled with big festivals
and light entertainments. At the Des Moines
Art Center, "Survival Does Not Lie In The
Heavens" takes the Lenten theme to existential
lengths. That major show of Texas conceptual
artist Dario Robleto opens on Sept. 23 to explore
longevity and extinction.
Metro Arts Alliance and Des Moines Social Club
take the post-Mardi Gras theme more literally
with "Sweeping Up the Mess" opening
this Friday at White Carpet Gallery at Hillyard
(4267 109th St., Urbandale). That juried exhibition
of painting, sculpture, poetry and other art
forms requires the use of custodial supplies
and highlights Iowa's refugee community. Rex
Haussmann, Deb Seeger, Jennifer Rivera, Jason
Barr, Katherine O'hara and Yarn Dawgz will exhibit.
At Moberg Gallery, Thomas Jackson's "Child's
Play" continues a 40-day run providing
an ironic look at the ambiguity of American
character. For a decade now, Jackson has been
composing stacked images that consider a subject
from seemingly incongruous points of view. His
choice of subjects has been influenced by Robert
Frank's mid 1950s series, "The Americans,"
which reduced 28,000 images into a seminal look
at the national character in mid century. Jackson
has been trying to do the same thing for the
new millennium. While most of his imagery began
as a photographic safari, he now translates
much of it into paintings and ink brush drawings.
His most dramatic painting, "Photo Op,"
stands on its own and translates a famous film
image of George W. Bush hearing the news of
the 9-11 disaster into giant pixels.
The dominant ambiguity of Jackson's new show
stacks images of child's play with deadly serious
stuff like handguns, violence, sex and advertising.
"American Cypher 40" places a dollhouse
under the image of an actual row house that
barely looks real. In another, a messed up hotel
bed is stacked over another dollhouse. Clenched
teeth of an anxious lady stand above symbolic
ruby slippers. Several works use handguns and
rifles juxtaposed with the toys of little boys.
Toy trucks collide in one ominous childhood
scene while another toy truck graces a dashboard
in an eerie dessert. Wedding cake figures of
a bride and groom lurk over dancing senior citizens
in another. One collage of photographic images
compiles roadside attractions that fight for
tourists' attention. This show plays through
Other area artists have been busy with large
public commissions. Frank Hansen's three-story
mural on the side of a Des Moines Street building
has been turning heads for much of the summer.
People love it, and people hate it, with equal
fervor. Des Moines artists Thomas Rosborough
and William Barnes won commissions by the Army
National Guard and the United States Army Reserve
to paint a giant mural in the new Armed Forces
Reserve Center in Middletown as part of Iowa's
Art in State Buildings program. Also in that
program, Sarah Grant is currently in residence
at Iowa State University creating an installation
within the atrium of Horticulture Hall, as part
of the Horticulture Teaching and Research Greenhouse
Locally works by William Barnes, Scott Charles
Ross and John Preston will be shown at Olson-Larsen
Gallery through Oct. 8. New, more whimsical
works by Jamie Navarro are on display at Pegasus
Gallery, along with large paintings by the late
Don Dunagan. Hilde DeBruyne-Verhofste and John
Schwatzkopf are showing through at the Polk
County Heritage Gallery. An opening reception
will be held on Sunday, Sept. 18.
Two Iowa artists are showing in America's first
and second cities. Anthony Pontius opened last
week in "Shirts & Destroy," a
major group show at Tara Mcphearson's "The
Cotton Candy Machine" Gallery in New York
City. Brent Houzenga's show "Remixed Media,"
continues at Pawn Works in Chicago. CV