High school 2023

Featuring student work from Dubuque Senior High school, Hempstead High school, Wahlert Catholic High school, and alternative learning center program.

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K-8 2023

A harbinger of spring, the annual K-8 exhibition features artwork by city elementary and middle school students, chosen by their teachers.

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Tibi Chelcea

Iowa-based artist Tibi Chelcea combines his background in computer engineering with his artistic practice and Romanian heritage to create technologically-inspired, historically-grounded drawings, paintings, and digital and textiles works.

Chelcea’s drawings and paintings are inspired by electronic circuit board designs and explore the graphic potential of electronic symbols. His printed circuit boards pioneer new techniques for using electronic design software to create art. These works are manufactured using the same process as actual circuit boards but are not functional.

Chelcea’s textile works are part of an ongoing exploration of the connections between textile manufacturing and the electronics industry. His large textiles are inspired by Jacquard fabric. Historically, Jacquard looms influenced the development of computing. The punched cards that controlled the looms were used for decades in early electronic computers. His smaller weavings combine textile with circuit boards and introduce hand embroidery. The cross-stitching patterns he uses are based on electronic symbols and recall the traditional Romanian patterns that he saw in his grandparents’ home during his childhood in Romania.

Tibi Chelcea moved to the United States in 1997 and received his Ph.D. in computer science at Columbia University. He worked at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before settling to Iowa. He is currently a software engineer in the agricultural industry and lives with his wife and two children in Ames.

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Image credit: Tibi Chelcea, PCB Drawing #32, 2017, circuit board, 4 x 4 inches, Courtesy of the artist

Bill Farrell

This survey exhibition organized by the Dubuque Museum of Art and co-curated by Delores Fortuna and Tim Farrell highlights pioneering ceramic artist Bill Farrell’s significant contributions to the field of ceramics and his dedication to life-long creating and teaching.

Farrell received many honors and awards during his lifetime. In 1962, as an emerging artist, he was juried into the 22nd Syracuse Ceramic National at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York. He was a member of the National Council on Education in Ceramic Arts (NCECA) since its inception in 1966. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists’ Fellowship award in 1981 for his Popeye series of sculptures.

After moving from Chicago to Galena, Illinois later in his career, Farrell maintained an active studio practice and could also be found at almost every car show in the region either as spectator or exhibitor. He was an influential presence in the area arts community. He helped found the popular Twenty Dirty Hands pottery tour. He was included in the first Voices from the Warehouse District exhibition in 2005 and co-curated the exhibition Innovations in Clay in 2015 at the Dubuque Museum of Art. Bill Farrell passed away on July 3, 2021. He lives on in the significant body of work he created and in his enduring legacy of non-traditional approaches to clay.

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Jill Wells

As 4,000+ black butterflies glide from floor to ceiling, along every wall of the DuMA lobby, cascading from above and wheeling in reverence, the narrative begins in the installation BLACK THREAD by Des Moines artist Jill Wells. BLACK THREAD presents the pathways and journey of The Great Migration, one of the largest movements of people in United States history. In honoring African American History, BLACK THREAD acknowledges the sewing of the fabric of America done by countless African Americans throughout U.S. history. Additionally, BLACK THREAD raises questions about freedom, transformation, labor, and economy, while celebrating the virtue of fortitude.

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Photo credit: Jill Wells


For many reasons, 2020 was the perfect time for Mary Bergs of Wisconsin and Lisa Hochstein of California to initiate a long-distance, mail-based collaborative project. Having previously worked together on a site-specific installation while in residency in Minnesota at The Grand Marais Artist Colony, they viewed this challenging year as an opportunity to collaborate again, using a shared interest in mixed media collage as a starting point. Due to their geographic distance, reliance on the U.S. Postal Service was essential to exchanging work, exploring ideas, posing questions, and sharing humor and insights. Aside from occasional phone conversations, this dialogue took place almost exclusively through visual means.

Each month, Bergs and Hochstein sent one another an incomplete work or a selection of materials from their studios. The recipient responded by making modifications or creating a new piece, then sending the work back to the originator. While agreeing to these very basic parameters, both artists felt it important to maintain an open-ended quality to the exchange. This process allowed a visual conversation to emerge, revealing differing as well as common perspectives and points of reference.

The exhibition mixes a large collaborative work with smaller individual works from each artist. Central to their creative process is the gathering and arranging of distinct elements, and the discovery of relationships between seemingly disparate materials and objects. Their large work, Correspondences, was created using materials like note and scrap papers, different types of tape, and pieces of cardboard and string. As the final step in the process, the artists determined the arrangement of the works and installed the exhibition together in the Museum’s gallery – mirroring the collaboration at the heart of the project.

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Image credit: Mary Bergs and Lisa Hochstein, Correspondences (detail), 2022, mixed media, courtesy of the artists


The Dubuque Camera Club explores the power of the human figure through 21 images in the ninth annual exhibition of member photography at DuMA.

Inspired by themes of personal relationships and collaboration, this collection of recent images is a scrapbook of impactful moments and quiet connections captured by club members. The ways that the human figure is portrayed in the exhibition are as varied as the subjects themselves— from images of people looking directly at the camera to those with their faces hidden. There are solitary figures in shadow and brightly lit groups. There are people posing and others completely distracted by their surroundings. Whether we recognize the people in these images or not, each photograph captures our attention and sparks our curiosity to know their story.

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Image credit: Ronald W. Tigges, New Urban Cowboy

Intimate Exchange

Wendy S. Rolfe and Thérèse Mulgrew share an intimate bond as mother and daughter and a professional relationship as artists committed to their studio practice. They are part of an extended artistic family whose influence spans generations and is part of the fabric of Dubuque’s history. For the first time, Wendy and Therese’s multidimensional relationship and unique styles are explored together in this exhibition of 26 new oil paintings.

Intimate Exchange explores each artists’ profound observation of human relationships particularly their own mother/daughter connection as well as the other significant female influences in their lives. Their paintings tell stories through the people closest to them, personal objects, and historical references. In examining their works together, unique parallels emerge from their strong, independent styles.

Those distinct styles immediately greet visitors to the gallery in two portraits that the artists made of each other. Thérèse features her mother in bold reds and teals. Her figure fills the canvas and is draped in flowing curves of hair and an oversized shirt. Wendy is holding a small photograph of her mother close to her heart. In Wendy’s portrait of Thérèse, her daughter is shown simultaneously as an adult and a child. Her adult form melds into a red velvet chair with her younger self at her knee. The two forms are joined by symbolic imagery, particularly the flamingo, which appears frequently in Wendy’s works. These two portraits set the stage for the intimacy, complexity, and independence that characterize the artists and their work throughout the exhibition.

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Image credit: Wendy S. Rolfe, Safe Keeping, 2022, oil on panel, courtesy of the artist.


In Subtext and Overstory, Quad Cities artist Randy Richmond presents ten still-life photographs from his most recent work. Half of the images—the “subtext” of the title—were composed and shot with window light in his small 7’x10’ studio. The other half—the “overstory”—were created and shot outside, with the tree canopy as background, in a much more involved process of staging and lighting. Both bodies of work offer viewers exquisite compositions of colors and shapes in which the lines between inside and outside, the lifeless and the vital, are blurred.

The “subtext” works are sparsely populated a ball of twine or a vase standing sentinel in a velvety interior while the “overstory” works feature an immobile abundance: a bouquet of flowers in a jar of water is set against a rolling landscape, or a dingy, taxidermized swan sits silently in front of a pond. All of the images are quiet, rich, and mysterious. The result of a painstaking and time-consuming process, they evoke feelings but resist explicit narrative. In an era where sophisticated cameras are in every pocket and millions of photos are posted daily on Instagram, Richmond’s works are revolutionary and fearless.

Like DuMA’s concurrent Craft Invitational exhibition, Subtext and Overstory shows the transformation—via skill, artistry, and imagination—of everyday items and materials into objects and images with extraordinary power.

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Craft 2022

The works in this exhibition demonstrate the transformative power of craft where disparate, ordinary materials in skilled hands go from inconsequential to useful, from unremarkable to revelatory. As you walk through the exhibition, you will find a mix of materials transformed into an array of objects—from dishware and orbs in ceramic to a cloak and bound forms in fabric. Bringing these distinct objects together where they are equally considered for their artistic merit underscores the Museum’s commitment to making connections and expanding understanding through art.

The Craft Invitational highlights a select group of regional artists who are pushing boundaries in ceramic, glass, metal, paper, textile, and wood. Each artist combines high levels of skill and craftsmanship with conceptual rigor. Playful and expressive details emerge throughout. Small-scale metal objects and jewelry demonstrate masterful skill. Large-scale ceramic, fiber, and weaving-inspired installations push the conceptual line and reveal aspects of the human condition, from spirituality and grief to renewal. Wood and ceramic assume classic and novel forms. Glass expresses protest and meditation and internal conflict. Paper plays with transparency and light. The Craft Invitational artists carry forward ancient skills in innovative ways, maintaining a tangible connection to our handcrafted past.

A five-member curatorial team spent the past year selecting the artists and artwork for this exhibition. This exhibition is a direct reflection of their areas of expertise: Darlys Ewoldt, metal artist from Chicago, Illinois; Don Friedlich, metal and glass jeweler from Madison, Wisconsin; Carole Spelić, mixed media artist from Mineral Point, Wisconsin; Delores Fortuna, ceramic artist formerly from Galena, Illinois; and Paul Opperman, textile and wearables artist from Dubuque, Iowa.


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Image credit: Jill King, Cosmic Rose, 2020, Wall sculpture, welded steel, patina, sewn stained muslin, mixed fabrics coated with acrylic medium 51x52x11.5in., Courtesy of the artist.