By Jim Duncan
by Rachel’s Buse, now showing at Thee
Where can a person find affordable art in
Des Moines that is also worth collecting? That’s
probably the toughest question I’ve been asked
on this beat. In popular lore, art festivals
are such places. In reality, prices at much-hyped
festivals have crept up faster than algae in
a heat wave. I prefer the odds at young blooded
galleries and in organizational shows.
Ian Miller’s Thee Eye Gallery has a knack for
finding affordable quality. Currently it’s hosting
a show by Rachel Buse, a Nebraskan who moved
to Des Moines four years ago after meeting a
musician on the Internet. (They are still together.)
She’s a farsighted sculptor, broadening her
horizons at all compass points. She’s joined
Des Moines Social Club, Art Noir and Des Moines
Art Center’s (DMAC) docent program. She teaches
for ASAP, an inner city arts workshop for elementary
school kids. She founded Art Beacon, a comprehensive
website for local art criticism.
Buse builds large paper and fabric structures
that exaggerate “fantasy environments.” Her
subjects range from rotary phones to lovable
freaks. Thee Eye’s opening was a grand affair.
The artist completed “Inverted Mountain,” a
two-story installation she’d been laboring on
all week. The place was packed with enthusiasts
and buyers. Buse’s sculptures are all priced
at $200 or $500 and have been selling quickly.
“Some think I undervalue my work, but I believe
$200 and $500 is an investment. It’s enough
for me to make more art, too. These are my babies,
and they take up a lot of space. I like knowing
they’re going to loving homes. I view it as
a partnership,” she explained.
“Inverted Mountain” plays through Aug. 25. In
September, Buse will ride a mobile sculpture
through Art Stop and Project Spaces’ three different
weekends, and art districts. She’ll also parade
sculptures through Evelyn Davis Park with ASAP,
and work on DMAC’s “Living Pollock’s Life” project.
Iowa Watercolor Society’s 35th Annual Exhibition
fills every gallery, hallway, nook and cranny
at the Ankeny Art Center. Watercolors even hang
in the bathrooms. I counted 65 paintings by
47 artists at prices ranging from $100 to $3,000.
Artists included revered masters such as Richard
Leet, successful full-time artists like Mary
Beth Heikes, art fair veterans like Jan Vander
Linden, and hobbyists. No beginners, though;
every artist has been accepted to at least three
Some stood out. Jac Tilton showed pieces that
stylized a superb photographer’s chronicles
of crumbling rural landscapes. Linda Fries demonstrated
an Asian aesthetic regarding nature and transience.
Susan Baer showed that watercolor could be controlled
to create intricate patterns, a task usually
left to software these days. Marvella Blome
expressed intricate detail. Leet, as always,
dazzled with his minimalist expression. This
plays through Sept. 27.
“Global Views: The Art of New Iowans” opens
Aug. 27 at Heritage Gallery and runs through
Oct. 4. Curator Mary Brubaker says the show
is a 21st century equivalence of older traditions.
“Ever since Gov. Robert Ray welcomed ‘the boat
people’ fleeing war during the 1970s, immigrants
and other foreign-born people have brought their
artistic talents to Iowa as our ancestors did
with Norwegian rosemailing, Czech painted wooden
eggs, Amish quilts and Mexican pottery,” she
Language barriers created serious challenges.
“They come from all walks of life. Amer al Obadai
from Iraq was a well-known professional. Peter
Coyle was a school administrator in England.
Others worked in menial and exhausting jobs.
Some married into western families. Some were
adopted. It was hard to convince some that their
art is worthy of an exhibition,” Brubaker said,
adding that the show demonstrates mutual benefits
for the artists and Iowa.
“Art is an international language and Iowa has
become more multilingual because of these families,”
A public reception will be held on Sept. 14.