Current Exhibitions

Charles Thwaites, The Binder

Charles Thwaites: An American Journey

January 20, 2018 - April 22, 2018

Charles Thwaites

This major retrospective seeks to reintroduce Charles Thwaites (1904-2002), a Wisconsin artist who responded to changing artistic trends in the mid-twentieth century, to a new audience. Most of the 43 paintings, drawings, and prints in this exhibition are drawn from the collection of the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA). The Dubuque Museum of Art proudly includes a portrait from Thwaites’ Taos period, donated to the museum from the artist and recently restored thanks to donations to the museum’s Conservation Corner.

In 1926 Thwaites abandoned engineering studies for art and in the following two decades he became one of the leading realist painters in America with ninety exhibitions at prestigious venues. In Wisconsin, he was the go-to artist for official portraits, and completed four post office murals under the auspices of the WPA. Six of the mural studies are included in this exhibition. He lived in Dubuque briefly in 1928, serving as director of the Dubuque Little Institute and teaching at the Dubuque Art Association while finishing his art degree.

In 1954, Thwaites moved to New Mexico. The move marked a fresh chapter and a significant artistic shift, but meant his reputation in Wisconsin faded, particularly as the realist style he had mastered was falling out of favor. Stylistically, his realism slowly transitioned to abstraction and he became a member of the “Taos Moderns” group.

The 1960s and 1970s saw Thwaites produce mostly abstract work but by the early 1980s he ceased painting. When he died in 2002, his name had faded from both the Southwestern and Wisconsin art scenes rendering him a forgotten man in both New Mexico and his home state. The journey Charles Thwaites undertook over the course of his life was not just one of physically relocating from one state to another, but really from one culture to another and one artistic style to another. Graeme Reid, MOWA’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions (and curator of this exhibition) has long championed Thwaites’ painting. “It’s exceptionally rare for any artist to be so successful in one style and make a smooth, almost effortless, transition to another. Whether it was realism or abstraction, Charles Thwaites could do both with confidence and originality.”


Photographs by Noah Doely

November 18, 2017 - February 4, 2018

Out of Darkness

From his series Above & Below, Cedar Falls, Iowa artist Noah Doely presents 18 photographs made using a pinhole camera. These constructed, underwater cave scenes explore themes of evolution and origin and raise questions about authenticity in art.

Doely was inspired to make this series after reading about both the evolution of the eye and the chambered nautilus. The nautilus is a creature that has retained its same form for millions of years. Its primitive vision is strikingly similar to an early form of photography, the pinhole camera. This connection between the evolution of the eye and early photography resonated with Doely as a photographer and a sculptor and he responded with perceptively crafted cave images.

I produced these images by casting and arranging rocks into cave-like formations, submerging them in a large water-filled glass tank, lighting these aqueous dioramas from a single light-source and then photographing them with exposures ranging from twenty-four hours to several days using a pinhole camera in an otherwise darkened room. With this type of camera, I created primordial images that produce illusions of scale in a dialectic between the subject and means of apprehending or recording it. The nautilus’ eye and the cave are among the references I use to consider the notion of ancient vision.

Caves possess a web of connotations that relate to origins, vision, and illusion. My work aims to destabilize the notion of an authentic encounter by blurring the distinction between reality and illusion. I’m interested in the precarious nature of subjective experience and the range of interpretations that surround natural realities. Origins are a reoccurring and central theme in my work, which includes the role origin stories play in science, myth, and art. Although my work isn’t exclusively photographic, that medium remains central to my practice, because of its complicated relationship to truth and verifiability and its paradoxical ability to evoke both trust and skepticism.

Noah Doely was born in Golden Valley, Minnesota in 1982. He earned a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls in 2005 and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego in 2013. He has had solo exhibitions at Steve Turner Contemporary in Los Angeles, California; San Diego Museum of Art; Locust Projects, Miami, Florida; Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida; Viafarini, Milan, Italy; Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, Washington; and the Des Moines Art Center. He has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and The MacDowell Colony. Doely’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Juxtapoz Magazine, and Burnaway Magazine. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Northern Iowa.

Razzle-Dazzle: World War I Camouflage Ephemera from the Collection of Roy R. Behrens

November 3, 2017 - February 4, 2018

Razzle Dazzle

In conjunction with the World War I centennial, the Dubuque Museum of Art presents this exhibition of WWI-era prints, posters, diagrams, and photographs of naval camouflage from the collection of scholar Roy R. Behrens, professor of art and distinguished scholar at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

A noted scholar on the aesthetics and history of camouflage, see his blog CAMOUPEDIA, Roy R. Behrens has published seven books, hundreds of journal and magazine articles, and has been featured in interviews on NOVA, National Public Radio, Australian Public Radio, BBC, Iowa Public Radio, and Iowa Public Television, as well as in documentary films. He has been a nominee for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Design Awards, has received the Iowa Board of Regents Faculty Excellence Award, and has been described by Communication Arts magazine as “one of the most original thinkers in design.” His most recent book is Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (in press 2016).