Glories of the prairie and fall10/16/2013
September was packed with the pop art of capitalism, an Anderson Gallery exhibition of vinyl record album covers and a Faulconer show featuring the art of supermarket aisles. October seems to be reverting to more elemental subjects. The Ankeny Art Center’s “Wonders of the Tallgrass Prairie,” featuring works of Gary Tonhouse, pays tribute to a vanishing natural phenomenon that overwhelmed early settlers in Iowa. More than 150 years ago, 20 million acres of tall grass prairie in the state were reduced to 200,000 acres. The photographer has been working 28 years to capture, in dramatic perspective, the majesty of the great grasses that both terrified and awed the first Europeans in Iowa. “Building a bridge between nature and people is my goal; creating images to help make that connection is my passion,” he explained.
Also showing at the Ankeny gallery is “Voices of Our Past” in which stone collector and metal artist Elyse Demaray explores pre-historic and ancient art through pared-down, minimalist shapes that have been used to represent the human form. “Both the similarities and the differences that appear in the art of other cultures provide clues to a central question we still ask ourselves today: What does it mean to be human? Through metal and stone, materials that make up the foundation of our physical world, I strive to capture the voices of our collective past, thereby creating a palimpsest, or complex layering, of perspectives over the ages,” she explained. Both Ankeny exhibitions play through Nov. 29.
Olson-Larsen Gallery opened its fall show on last week’s Gallery Night, with three artists appropriate to the rhythms of the month. Colorist Sharon Booma shows abstractions made of many media. Surface texture adds dimension to painted collage elements, bits of handmade paper and pencil markings. Colorist Karen Chesterman layers both vaporous and dense colors to suggest movement and directions. She sands and scrapes at the paint to add texture and to suggest imagery and iconography. Digital print-maker Peter Feldstein’s “From This Circle” focuses completely on the most elemental of all images. Each drawing is derived from a single circle in the upper left-hand corner of the first drawing, creating a grid of 289 circles in 10 suites of prints into which the original circle has been copied, added, subtracted and transformed. These shows run through Nov. 29.
Steven Vail Fine Arts opened its second gallery last month in downtown Iowa City. A month before opening, the gallery was negatively reviewed in an alternative paper, but reviews following the debut were quite favorable. The discrepancy between those anticipatory and actual reviews represented two larger issues. Generally speaking, a lot of grass roots art criticism views success as a sell-out. As in Des Moines, Vail represents successful, established artists who are popular with investors and hedg-fund managers as much as with novice collectors. Large crowds, starved for art with the University of Iowa’s art museum closed, seemed most appreciative of Steven Vail Fine Arts – The Project Room.
In Iowa City, the building that houses Vail’s gallery is itself the focus of intense debate. The Historic Packing and Provision Building is part of the $53 million, 20-story Chauncery development. It has been dubbed “The Shadow” by protestors who would like to keep downtown Iowa City short. Acknowledging the debate, Vail’s first show was titled “Art et Architecture.” The Bijou Cinema closed in the Iowa Memorial Union and moved into same building as Vail, bringing film back to downtown Iowa City for the first time since 2007. Future exhibitions at the gallery plan to synchronize with films being shown next door.
Touts Ian Miller’s annual Halloween art installation is up (8 p.m.–midnight, Fri. and Sat. through Nov. 2, and Thurs., Oct. 31) at The Batter’s Box, 1300 East Metro Drive, Pleasant Hill. A $12 admission includes entry into The Cellar, The Chop House and the Bone Hall of The Slaughterhouse. This is probably PG-13 material. (http://theslaughterhousedm.com)… Des Moines Catholic Worker Julie Brown will have a showing of her collection of acrylic paintings inspired by a recent peace mission to Palestine at Ritual Café on Nov. 1 from 7-9 p.m. Each painting is a personal depiction of the people and places she encountered there. CV