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Sarah Grant’s Independence Day party

7/3/2024

“Frontier” is Grant’s reflection on the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Sarah Grant has returned to her camp stake roots. The grand dame of Des Moines’ art scene has opened a celebrative new solo show at Moberg Gallery. Grant has always worn her art on her sleeve, and these new works reveal a happy landing for the retired Sticks founder who recruited and gave some 200 artists a reason to live in Des Moines. 

“I turn 70 in October. That realization made me think, ‘I’m still a child. How to reflect that?’ ” Grant decided to mix it up and let her mind’s eye revisit old places she still remembers. When her inner child mused upon those places, she remembered them most fondly.

“My family believed in seeing the USA in a Chevrolet. If there is any sort of theme in this show, it’s a celebration of America. The show runs through the Fourth of July. I love America and want to say that. I think that needs to be said within the current state of affairs.”

Her painting “Frontier” replays the massacre that took place on the “Greasy Grass” by the Little Big Horn River just 10 days before America’s centennial celebration. George Armstrong Custer had been striving for a quick victory so he could make it back to Washington for the Fourth of July parties. 

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There have been many paintings of that battle. They were well-known 50 years ago, thanks to Budweiser which gave them to tens of thousands of taverns that sold Bud on tap. Most of those depicted huddles of men and hordes of horsemen enveloped in clouds of smoke, blood and dust. Grant turns the slaughter into swirling bloodless colors, chaotic but revealing that, in Yeat’s words, “a terrible beauty has been born.”

Trying out a quite different style, “Vine, Fig and Cherry Blossom” absorbs a subtle Japanese aesthetic, saying so much with just brushstrokes and simplicity. 

“With paper in mind, I wanted lines to show over the washes. I am afraid this painting asks, ‘Is she schizophrenic?’ ” 

Other paintings recall a life full of other happy journeys — to Morocco, Cape shores, Italy, Belize and its neighboring cays, high plateaus “during the pink moon,” and pollinators as adventurous as swashbuckler bees. 

“I tried not to get heavy, but I really lost myself in the Pink Moon. I watched it alone. My husband went fishing, and the power was out.” 

Food announces itself in brief figurative escapes from her impressionist paper and canvases. 

“I consider myself as much a culinary artist as a painter. That’s where I am, so that’s what I sometimes paint now.”  

Bon appetite.

 

RIP

Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who rose to fame for “Super Size Me,” died last month. For his best known movie, Spurlock ate only at McDonalds for an entire month, registering his rising blood pressure. He was 53.   

 

Road trips

The year was 1783. Great Britain officially lost America in the Treaty of Paris. Believing his work was done, George Washington retired to his Mount Vernon spread. The British court consoled itself with naughtiness.  

Years before he was George IV, the Prince of Wales felt compelled to send the widow Maria Fitzherbert a token of his most inappropriate love. That gesture, like its accompanying ardor, was frowned upon by George III and his court. So, the prince commissioned a miniaturist to paint only Maria’s eye, supposedly preserving anonymity and decorum. Maria’s eye miniature was worn under George IV’s lapel.  

The couple went through a form of invalid marriage in 1785 and gossip went 18th century viral. “Lovers’ eyes” became vogue in the courts and rich homes of England, Russia, France and even America. 

“Eternal Love and Loss: Hairwork and Eye Miniatures” are featured in a new show at Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins through next April. 

“Talking to Mother Clay: Pueblo Pottery from the GCMoA Collection” plays Grinnell College Museum of Art, formerly known as the Faulconer, through Sept. 8.   

 

Now playing

b. Robert Moore, Des Moines’ most celebrated painter, is featured in a solo version of Des Moines Art Center’s Iowa Artist Exhibition – “b. Robert Moore in Loving Memory,” through Oct. 20.

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Summer Stir - July 2024