Founded in 2003 and presented every two years, the DuMA Biennial is a competitive, juried exhibition intended to recognize and honor the artistic talent that exists throughout our region.
Preparations for the 2021 Biennial began in December 2020 when the call for entries opened to emerging and established artists currently residing within a 200 mile-radius of Dubuque. Following the jurying process, the selected artists were announced on May 6th. The exhibition opened June 26th, and features new work created during a momentous year. It presents a compelling survey of the period and provides a sense of where artists have found the inspiration to continue to create.
“This is the ninth DuMA Biennial and we are particularly thankful this year to be able to continue this tradition. Every artist who submitted their work is to be commended. Their resilience and perseverance are deeply inspiring and appreciated,” commented Stacy Gage Peterson, DuMA Curator and Registrar. “It’s an honor to congratulate the artists who were selected. All of the things that these artists experienced during a very challenging period have shaped this exhibition.”
Views From the Exhibition
About the Juror
As a juried exhibition, the selection of a qualified juror is important. Special attention is given to finding talented individuals with a compelling record of studying and presenting contemporary American art.
For the 2021 DuMA Biennial, we are honored to welcome Ms. Laura Burkhalter.
A native of Des Moines and graduate of the University of Iowa in English and Art History, Laura Burkhalter joined the Des Moines Art Center staff as Curatorial Assistant in 1999 and became Curatorial Manager in 2020. Burkhalter has organized several large group exhibitions of international contemporary art, including Transparencies: Contemporary Art and a History of Glass, Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations, Monument Valley, and Alchemy: Transformations in Gold, which traveled to the Akron Museum of Art.
She has been involved in the annual Iowa Artists exhibition nearly every year of her tenure, working to introduce the best of the state’s artists to the museum’s audience, and organizing solo exhibitions with Rachel Cox, Yun Shin, Mitchell Squire, and Jordan Weber. Working within the Des Moines Art Center collections, she has presented exhibitions on Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and many others. Currently, she is planning a large solo exhibition with Las Vegas-based artist Justin Favela for 2021, as well as collection exhibitions on Francisco Goya and Claes Oldenburg.
Laura lives in Des Moines with her partner, Marc, and their two cats Earl and Maple.
"Even as I write this, I acknowledge we are all likely tired of being reminded how different 2020 was from any other year in recent memory. The desire to move on is strong. It would be irresponsible, however, to turn our backs on the way most lives changed in the last months, from the tragedy of personal loss to the trauma of social unrest, and the surreal nature of staying home for days and even weeks on end. Not all the art submitted for this exhibition dealt directly with recent events, and indeed not all the works selected do either, but very much of it did, in ways both blatant and subtle. My eyes as a curator were affected by my own experiences of 2020 and early 2021, and with that presence impossible to ignore in both art and exhibition planning, I decided to see and listen to how these works reflect our unique moment. That is, I think, the goal of any exhibition of contemporary art – to show a version of where we are right now.
As I went through each submission, I noticed artists seeking understanding of our times (and sometimes seeking refuge from them) in nature, gardens, and pets – as many of us non-artists have also done. I saw a real focus on materials, particularly things found around the house and then recycled or repurposed – just as many of us have taken up new crafts and baking or cleaned every room in the house to pass the time. I saw art examining vulnerability, mortality, and anxiety, and thought of our fears for the health of loved ones and the safety of those without the luxury of “staying home,” and the renewed focus on political injustice and social unrest that have shaken already tense times. It seemed simplistic at first, but the phrase “Looking out the windows and cleaning out the closet” became a sort of loose theme as I was constructing this exhibition, and the more I thought about it in the terms of the wonderful work submitted here, the more it seemed apt. This is not to suggest that the works here are not innovative in material, composition, and concept only if seen through the lens of 2020 to shine. But I do believe they are excellent representations of the here and now, and invention in a time of strife. Deliberate focus outside ourselves and deliberate looking in are the origins of inspiration and creativity. The art in this exhibition shows us the new in the familiar, and the familiar in places outside our particular corner of the world."