From Cornfields to Cliffs and In Between: Daily Palette Artists Reimagine Iowa’s Landscape

Old Capitol Museum Exhibition
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 to Sunday, June 12, 2016

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Director’s Notes

“It takes a Village.”

On August 23, 2014, following busy months of conceptual design, research and development, The Daily Palette launched online with a work by Grinnell-based artist Dan Ferro, as part of the University of Iowa 2004-2005 Year of Public Engagement spearheaded and championed by President David Skorton. Little did we know that close to twelve years later, the project would continue with over 4,000 daily editions featuring the work of over 3,200 artists and writers.

It has been a joy and an adventure to work on this public digital arts and humanities project, and to learn about thousands of Iowa-identified artists and writers. I am deeply grateful to the Office of the Provost for their support, to all of the participating artists and writers, and to the undergraduate and graduate researchers who have made and have kept this a vital project. It’s always a risky proposition to single out individual contributors, but I do want to thank Katherine Parker (UI Intermedia MFA 2006), the project’s terrific initial coordinator; Christina McClelland (UI Printmaking BFA 2008) who sharpened our operations with laser beam focus; Craig Dietrich (UI Intermedia 2008), who developed our astoundingly robust and database-driven searchable website; Lynne Nugent, our Iowa Review colleague who coordinated the researchers of Iowa Writes, the ‘Palette’s’ literary feature; and Art History doctoral candidate and project curator Emily Kerrigan, organizer of this exhibition. Emily’s dedication to The Daily Palette has been an inspiration.

And of course, our collective thanks to the hundreds of thousands of state and world-wide who have visited.

It’s also been a pleasure and honor to work with Pentacrest Museums Director Trina Roberts and her staff on From Cornfields to Cliffs and In Between: Daily Palette Artists Reimagine Iowa’s Landscape.  We hope you enjoy the exhibition and become frequent visitors to The Daily Palette.

Jon Winet
Project Director
April 2016

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Curator’s Introduction

From Cornfields to Cliffs and In Between: Daily Palette Artists Reimagine Iowa’s Landscape

From Cornfields to Cliffs and In Between: Daily Palette Artists Reimagine Iowa’s Landscape was inspired by all of the artists who have appeared on The Daily Palette since the project began in 2004.  When the time came to decide on a theme for our exhibition, I was particularly interested in looking back to the work of all of the artists I have featured since my tenure at The Daily Palette began in 2012.  I searched for common subjects and methods, and I hoped to find something that would make an interesting show and reflect what made Iowa unique and an inspirational place for artists to live.  Inspired by a painting by Grant William Thye, an artist who was first featured in our project in 2013, I knew that the show had to incorporate landscapes, but like Thye’s work, it could not be ordinary and passive.  Our show needed to present Iowa, not as most people outside of the state see it, but as the people who truly know this place see it.

This exhibition presents images alongside didactic labels that invite the viewer to learn about each artist’s work, their artistic method, their life, and their connection to Iowa.  While the artists selected to participate in this show did not have to be current residents of Iowa, they did need to have a strong connection to the state that was reflected both in their experience as an artist and in their work.  Every artist chosen by the jury brings something new and different to the show; they present their own interpretation of Iowa.  Above all else, this exhibition is intended to be an expression of The Daily Palette; I imagined taking our daily artist pages out of the virtual world and bringing them into the gallery space.

While From Cornfields to Cliffs and In Between can be enjoyed any way it is viewed, it is organized according to subject and style.  From works of art that present typical Iowa subjects presented in a new way, it then flows through works that become increasingly abstract, or that challenge us to think differently about Iowa’s landscape.  Alexis Dwyer and Regan Golden both take the prairie as their subject, but Dwyer simplifies and flattens it, and inserts us directly into an all-encompassing and cheerful version of it, while Golden reminds us of what little is left of the prairie by cutting up and rearranging her photographs.   In Diane Kunzler’s Spencer Flood, a carefully cropped view of the water draws our attention to ripples and reeds, and it is not until we read the title that we remember water’s power to not only offer enjoyment, but to also cause complete destruction.  The exhibition then continues with the show’s largest work, a painting by Grant William Thye.  Inspired by his time growing up on his family’s farm, Thye creates dream-like images of the Iowa landscape.  Early Morning Autumn is peaceful and calming, yet it charges us with thinking about our own roots, experiences, and memories.  Next, the exhibition offers images of Iowa that are not often included in traditional landscape shows.  Thomas Jackson finds “the extraordinary in ordinary American life” by presenting disparate images — prairies, rivers, cityscapes, and more — together in one work of art.  Similarly, Sandra Dyas asks us to reconsider the landscape genre by reminding us that billboards and other aspects of mass culture along the highway are not only features of the modern landscape to tolerate, but features to appreciate, whether for their message, design, or humor.  The exhibition ends with Halle Siepman’s highly abstract interpretation of Iowa’s landscape and its connection to her family.  All nine works included in the show offer a personal and “reimagined” view of Iowa, but they are familiar nonetheless, and remind us of the variety and beauty the Iowa landscape offers.

As the curator of this show, I am grateful to have had the chance to work with such a talented team, including our web designer Sharon Wang and our graphic designer Ari Craven.  I have worked with Rachel Arndt, the Iowa Writes Coordinator, for the past year; her work for this exhibition and The Daily Palette more generally is consistently professional, and she somehow always makes the difficult tasks with which she is presented seem easy.  While undeniably a group effort, this exhibit would not exist without the hard work and dedication of The Daily Palette’s director, Jon Winet.  As an educational project run by students, Professor Winet recognizes the “Palette” as a learning experience first and foremost, but for all of us it is much more than that.  For us, it is a way to support the arts, give back to the university community, and the community of Iowa artists more broadly.

As the Project Coordinator of The Daily Palette, I have enjoyed working with hundreds of talented Iowa-identified artists.  This is a small show, but I trust that it will give viewer’s a better understanding of this talent, and encourage us to learn more about our local artists and Iowa’s artistic traditions.  Supporting the arts is an absolute necessity, and the perfect place to start is at home.

Emily Alexander Kerrigan
Curator & Project Coordinator
April 2016

rev. 4.30.2016 |  14:04 CDT