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

Correspondences

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

DCC2022

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.

Richmond

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.

Giannakouros

In ten large-format oil paintings on panel, presented in the artist’s first solo exhibition at the Museum, Giannakouros lays bare this process, wrapping and framing contemporary female subjects in colors, patterns, prints, and motifs that render this invisible development visible.

Chronicle, the title of this exhibition, is rooted in chronos, the Greek word for time, and Giannakouros weaves this concept skillfully and subtly through each painting. In her hands, time is both long and short, classical and contemporary, individual and mythological. Embedded in these paintings are objects with significance that dates back thousands of years—apples, pomegranates, snakes—and patterns that have formed Giannakouros’s personal vocabulary, such as the mass-produced oil cloth found in the homes of her relatives in Greece.

In this suite of paintings, Giannakouros has created worlds in which her figures are wrapped in cultural and personal history, elaborately framed by windows and multiply reproduced, and reaching toward the natural motifs and elements found in the patterns and prints that surround and compose them. Symbolically layered and animated by meticulously rendered textures, the works in Chronicle explore no less than the shaping of the self.

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Art credit: Andonia Giannakouros, Boy with Apple (detail), 2021, oil and wax on panel, 41 x 48 in., courtesy of the artist.

Danish Porcelain

One of the most recognizable and enduring aspects of Danish culture is its porcelain. Art Nouveau Innovation: Danish Porcelain from an American Collector presents the fascinating history of Danish porcelain, including the technical and artistic successes that revolutionized porcelain production worldwide. Over 100 original porcelain works, on loan from the collection of Dr. Todd Reiser, will be on view at the Dubuque Museum of Art from February 19 through June 5.

The objects in this exhibition showcase porcelain from Danish manufacturers Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl from the 1880s through the 1920s. Founded in 1775, Royal Copenhagen is one the oldest porcelain manufacturers still in operation today. Throughout its history, the factory has experienced numerous highs and lows, and has weathered more than 130 years of competition from the Bing & Grøndahl Porcelain Factory. After 1882, the two factories were located less than a mile apart, with their flagship stores eventually competing side-by-side for sales in the heart of Copenhagen. Both Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl explored new forms, new techniques, and new artistic influences. From 1885 to 1920, both manufacturers reached new heights of artistic achievement, winning numerous awards along the way. Their output influenced the work of companies across Europe and created a global market for Danish porcelain.

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Art credit: Teapot with lid with gilding and white flowers, 1893, Royal Copenhagen, painter Jenny Meyer.

Camera Club 2021

The Dubuque Camera Club’s annual exhibition returns for an extended run, this year featuring images that explore the healing power of trees. Over twenty images of nature’s sacred residents provide guests a mental respite during their visit to DuMA.

This select group of arboreal images by Camera Club members offers a space for contemplation in the Museum and a reminder of the beauty in our world.

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Image credit: Stephonie Schmitz, Sunburst in the Hoh Rainforest

Vietnam The Real War

The Vietnam War left a deep and lasting impression on American life, including on the men and women who fought in it, the journalists and photographers who covered it, and the millions of Americans who supported it or protested against it. Thanks to an uncensored press, the world knew and saw more of this war than any other in history, before or since. In this expanded version of the exhibition Vietnam: The Real War, we examine how photography captured the War from national, local, and military perspectives. The experience encompasses over 150 images, artifacts from a local collection that were used by soldiers in the War, oral histories, and a variety of related programming.

Multiple perspectives documenting the Vietnam War come together in this powerful and thought-provoking exhibition. As we look back from the vantage point of half a century, this exhibition serves as a photographic record of the drama and tragedy of one of the controversial and darker chapters of the American experience.

Veterans, active military personnel, and their families receive free admission during Vietnam: The Real War.

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Image Credit: A U.S. soldier wears a hand-lettered slogan on his helmet, June 1965. The soldier was serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade on defense duty at the Phuoc Vinh airfield. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)