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May 24, 2012
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Reliquaries, paraphilia and coincidence

By Jim Duncan

Tony Feher (American, born 1956), “It Seemed a Beautiful Day,” 2002, 48 x 23 x 23 inches, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Purchased through In/Site Fund and the James Wilson Trust in memory of Michael Moran

Des Moines Art Center’s “Tony Feher” retrospective stretches the museum in more ways than one.

“Tony’s done 160 exhibitions since the early 1990s, mostly in site-specific venues. I don’t think anyone has ever attempted a retrospective of that sort of thing. And of all the places this show is traveling, Des Moines is special because we were able to invade the permanent collections. So look for the show in the Pei and Meire wings as well as in its own gallery,” explained curator Claudia Schmuckli, from Houston’s Blaffer Gallery.

Feher, like his art, defies expectations.

“I was a struggling painter until one day I saw some marbles in the window of a toy store, with the light hitting them in just the right way. I bought them and put them in jars,” he explained of his style’s origin. One thing led to another.

Because AIDS was taking so many lives unexpectedly, he began putting things in jars that served as memorials. Soon his jars were being exhibited and described as modern reliquaries of collective memory. Jars led to plastic bottles, which he hung in trees high enough so that his art could not by slam-dunked by locals.

“I was drawing with rows of bottles,” he explained.

He’s now “drawn” on some famous museums, discovered all kinds of unorthodox art materials, and installed living art (apple trees) in the courtyard of the city of Rockford, Ill. Tony Feher plays through Sept. 2.

Des Moines poet Mia L. Farrell published “Perverse Moments,” an adult coloring book that graphically and hilariously defines 40 or so fetishes and paraphilia, a.k.a. sexual perversions. Her inspiration was the Garbage Pail Kids of the 1980s.

“I loved their irreverent combination of two of my favorite qualities: huggable, wholesome cuteness and blatant, uncensored hard core, vomit-inducing grossness. It made for such a beautiful thing,” she explained.

Farrell thought it was time to inject sex into a similar Hegelian dialectic.

“So with the extreme wealth of sexual knowledge available on the Internet, I set out to draw page after page of the cutest, kinkiest cartoons.”

She succeeded. Her first printing sold out quickly and at least one big time distributor is interested. She says it’s about education.

“If something makes us too uncomfortable to find humor in it, then we’re choosing to remain too afraid to ever understand it.”

Some sad news

Former University of Iowa art school icons Mauricio Lasansky and Elizabeth Catlett died in April, just days apart from each other, and each just weeks one side or the other from their 97th birthdays.


“Exposition Henry Moore,” currently at Steven Vail Fine Arts, includes lithographs, etchings and mixed media works relating to the artist’s iconic “Mother and Child” and “Reclining Figures” series. A collaboration with Osborne Samuel of London, it’s the first exhibition of its kind in the United States. The works span 1963-1983, demonstrating a range of Moore’s working styles. The exhibition plays through July 20. … Frank Hansen’s first local exhibition in two years debuts May 18 at Moberg Gallery. Hansen’s often-autobiographical explorations of Iowa’s past and present always bring out one of the year’s wilder gallery gatherings… Chris Vance has been Des Moines’ most collected painter for a while but his latest show at Moberg set new sales records. Paintings sold so briskly that the entire show had to be re-hung with new works before it was over… “All Fired Up - Works in Clay” at Polk County Heritage Gallery presents a veritable student all-star show from RDG Dahlquist Art Studio, through June 7. CV

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