Parting Ways, Ending with Geisert

Parting Ways, Ending with Geisert

One thing that I thoroughly enjoy, both in a professional and creative way, is writing. I’ve been lucky enough to have had several opportunities for writing here at DuMA.
I was assigned the project of writing an interpretive panel for the Arthur Geisert display cases on the second floor of the museum, relating his body of work to rural Midwest and agriculture. Not only was I excited to write, but also to learn more about an artist so prevalent and cherished at the museum. Arthur Geisert, an etcher who has illustrated countless children’s books, is incredibly influenced by rural Midwest. As a transplant to the Midwest, we’ve clearly left quite the impression on him. After reading through several of his books, and noticing the stark impressions of the Midwest within his work, I began the task of writing.
Initially, I wanted to think about who was going to be reading this panel, and I quite simply sorted readers into Midwesterners and Non-Midwesterners. I wanted to play off of Midwesterners’ nostalgia as well as be descriptive enough to have a visceral experience for the Non-Midwesterners. I like to use a lot of pathos in writing because I believe appealing to reader’s emotions can be a very powerful tool when attempting to connect readers to whatever it is you’re writing about. Once I knew how to approach the writing, I researched Geisert’s biography and body of work, which included reading several of his books. I looked for things that I personally connected with as a Midwesterner. After constructing a draft, I asked for feedback from DuMA staff, and applied their helpful input into the final write-up. I’m excited to be contributing to the interpretive content at the museum!
Now  it’s time for me to part ways with the museum, as I’ll be presenting my internship experience has my final project for my Museum Studies program, and *fingers crossed* graduating with a Master’s degree in the next couple of weeks. Writing about Geisert’s work was a wonderful end to the many incredible things I worked on here at Dubuque Museum of Art.
By Katherine Hellberg, Intern at Dubuque Museum of Art

Maybe it’s in the Water, Mississippi Musings

Maybe it’s in the Water, Mississippi Musings
Growing up just outside the Quad Cities, in a tiny rural town, I often felt the rest of the world was outside my reach, and I’d never surface from the waves and waves of corn. I think I’d learned to resent my Midwestern roots because I’d been told the most exciting culture and art were on the coasts of the States. Since immersing myself into the museum field, I’ve grown to appreciate and fervently stand by the need for art museums in Midwestern communities, and how the Midwest fosters incredible talent and creativity. The Figge Art Museum, located in Davenport, IA, has one of the largest collections of Haitian art in the country, right there in my own community. That’s just one of several fantastic museums located in my home, and the culture and art has always been there. The last thing I want is for everything to be condensed and concentrated on the coasts. We need art here, and everywhere.
Since beginning my internship here in Dubuque, I’ve sensed a feeling of home here. DuMA, like the Figge or any Midwestern art museum, is a treasure within the community. Whether it be an exhibition opening or an event, you see familiar faces celebrating art. Like the Quad Cities, Dubuque is an old river community, with a rich history and so many stories to tell. The people are kind and nobody feels like a stranger. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of growing up in the Quad Cities- you’re not just a face in the crowd, you’re a friend, and if you have but one thing in common, it’s your home by the Mississippi. Maybe it’s the people that make the Midwest so special. Or maybe it’s in the water.
By Katherine Hellberg, Intern at Dubuque Museum of Art

Interns Don’t Fetch Coffee

Interns Don’t Fetch Coffee

I have been lucky enough to have had assisted with lots of different tasks and projects here at DuMA as a curatorial intern, and no, I don’t go on coffee runs. Though, let’s be real, I would probably oblige, because the typical working and/or studying Millennial can’t always afford to say no. But I digress. That’s something I find exciting about the smaller institutions, while at times it can be demanding and stressful, often you’re helping with the many different happenings at the museum. From installations, to recording gallery audio guides, to exhibition planning… to even this blog! I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much, and that’s what has made my internship so fruitful.

Therefore, internships are entirely essential for Museum Studies students, and most students, for that matter. This real-world experience cannot be replicated in a classroom. In the classroom, I’ve learned about the theory of the museum experience and visitor motivations, but how do I consider these ideas when I’m writing about Charles Thwaites’ artistic influences, and I need to concisely include interesting points, that are not only related to the content in the exhibition, but are in a language that many walks of life will understand and want to listen to when they phone in to the audio guides? Application. Internships not only exercise the muscles students have tirelessly been developing in the classroom, they also gather the experiences they will need when venturing out into the world looking for a job.

Stacy Peterson (Associate Curator and Registrar) and Paul Opperman (Preparator and Bootmaker) at one of the many Craft meetings, intently looking at a draft of the exhibition layout.

Now that my time at DuMA is approaching the end, one of the final bigger projects I’ve been assisting with is the early stages of exhibition planning for the upcoming Craft Invitational. It has been an interesting insight into the conceptualization of an exhibition, selecting artists, editing object checklists, and brainstorming programming ideas. As a wannabe curator, I anticipate this kind of organizing in future projects, and while school has been preparing me for the field, it couldn’t have prepared me in a way quite like this project has. Artist and object checklists, I’ve come to learn, are essential, and one of my tasks during this project has been to constantly edit the exhibition checklists with new or changing information. Not only do they keep things organized for the curator’s benefit as well as the artist’s benefit, but they also allow for the curator to become familiarized with the artist’s work and the objects to be exhibited prior to them physically being present at the museum. Also, one thing I’ve always believed, and have witnessed during this project, it to utilize the expertise of others. The co-curators, artists themselves, relay their knowledge of craft and how craft is presented in gallery spaces. These are just a couple of things I’ve encountered during this project, and it has been so incredibly exciting to watch the exhibition come to fruition.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Handmade Craft Invitational that’ll be exhibited from June 2 to September 9, 2018!

By Katherine Hellberg, Intern at Dubuque Museum of Art

Why Art?

Why Art?

Why do we need art? Everyone has a different answer for this question, and some, I’m sure, don’t believe we need it at all. The past millennia have seen an incredible display of the artistic capabilities of humankind, and it’s so clear how inherently engrained it is in our biological makeup. It’s used for both practical and aesthetic purposes; communication, expression, self-reflection, and empathy. Perhaps it’s one of the many tools we use to try and understand one another. Museums are simply houses for art, but they have the potential to be true sanctuaries for the disenfranchised, for the misunderstood. Do we as humans have a responsibility to one another to provide these sources of refuge for others’ survival? In these turbulent times, art is used as socio-political commentary, giving voice to those who do not have one and motion to positive change. Is it simply a matter of funding, or is it also attitude and consciousness that denies the necessary resources for museums to become great mechanisms for important dialogues? In the past few decades, museums have become wonderful forms of secondary educational resources for school children. It’s my hope that we can do right by our children and provide them with access to fruitful leisure learning, separate from the confines of a school desk chair, where they are provided the opportunity to learn a vastness of things through art, and in doing so, understand the world they’re growing up in.

So, why do we need art? Maybe, at the end of the day, it helps us relate to one another, and form a basis of compassion. These are just a few thoughts on why we need art, and I truly think art museums can nourish this attempt at understanding.

Why do you believe we need art?

By Katherine Hellberg, Intern at Dubuque Museum of Art

Intro to the Intern

Intro to the Intern

My name is Katherine Hellberg, and I’ve been interning at Dubuque Museum of Art since January of this year. My journey to arriving at DuMA isn’t all that different from how I would expect a lot of art enthusiasts end up in the museum world. When I was little, I thought I’d grow up to be an artist for sure. Art was an important mode of relaying the thoughts I found so difficult to express out into the world. As I got older, I realistically didn’t see myself becoming a working artist, but I still wanted art in my life. So, if I wasn’t going to make art, I wanted to work with art. I went on to study Art History at Illinois State University and had my first taste in curating student shows. Currently, I’m finishing up my MA in Museum Studies at Western Illinois University – Quad Cities. My primary career aspiration is to be an art curator whose practice is always conscious of inclusivity, is transparent and truthful, and possesses the upmost integrity. I would also like to be involved with or create an LGBT youth arts program at some point in my career. Working in art museums allows me the opportunity to expose the world to individuals whose talents, stories, and messages are so incredibly extraordinary, and I find that to be a privilege.

As a Museum Studies graduate student, internships, or any mode of hands-on work, are really essential for gathering the experience I need for developing myself as a young museum professional. It’s also a great way to dip my toes into different areas of the field and discover what work I really connect with. I’m interested in working at a smaller or medium sized art museum, so being an intern at DuMA has allowed me the opportunity to wear lots of hats, which is often necessary at smaller institutions.

By Katherine Hellberg, Intern at Dubuque Museum of Art

2017 DUMA Biennial artist, Molly Wood

Molly Wood, Des Moines, Iowa
Ricinus with Book, 2016, photograph, 20×20

I am a photographer who creates digital color images of toxic and medicinal botanicals. I use only natural light and style the photographs to resemble Dutch still-life paintings. The photos are printed as large-scale images, much larger than life, so that the viewer can closely examine every detail of these complex plants.

The Fatal Flora series evolved from my interest in the history of women who made their place in society by using their knowledge of the properties of botanicals. This expertise could range from culinary, to medicinal, to deadly. Often the same plants used to nurture and feed loved ones could be used in another way to heal the sick. Different parts of these same plants could also be prepared in yet other ways to be poisonous. Women who had botanical knowledge could be perceived as a threat to medical and clerical professions and were sometimes accused of practicing witchcraft. Botanical knowledge became dangerous knowledge and was the start of a long and
complex history of power struggles and gender conflicts.

I seek out plants that were present in women’s Medieval and Renaissance medicinal gardens or were referred to in historical texts. When possible, I cultivate and grow these plants at home so that I can watch the changes they go through during their life cycles.

Plants that contain the potential to be toxic are extremely complex in their structures. Their appearance and their potency changes drastically depending upon the timing of the growth cycles – from bud to bloom to seed pod. I use these botanicals as metaphors for my own life experiences. Situations and relationships that can be beautiful, seductive, nurturing, life-sustaining, and healthy when experienced in one way can also become toxic and poisonous when circumstances are changed or out of balance.

2017 DUMA Biennial artist, Dawn Wohlford

Dawn R. Wohlford, Bettendorf, Iowa
Constructing the Hive, 2017, paper and drift wood, 34×54

Sculptural paper artist Dawn Wohlford discovered handmade paper during a National Art Educators conference in 1983, while attending Truman State University. She returned to college to read everything she could find about the medium and began experimenting with makeshift equipment. After earning a BA, she attended Arizona State University to learn the finer points of the craft. Then she moved to Colorado where she became an apprentice to Raymond Tomasso. She gave workshops in Vail and Leadville and produced 150 sheets of nearly identical denim papers for a limited edition book, Strange Papers, assembled and bound in Germany. She earned an MFA in sculpture from the University of Colorado in 1988. She moved back to her hometown in Iowa in 1998 where she became the Visual Arts Director for Quad City Arts, where she oversees two galleries and a public sculpture program. Additionally, she serves on the Acquisitions Committee for the Figge Art Museum and occasionally teaches classes. After caring for her home and family, she creates art in the late hours of the night. She consistently exhibits her work in regional exhibitions.

2017 DUMA Biennial artist, Amy Witte

27 Witte
Amy E. Witte, Ankeny, Iowa
The Seven Deadly Twins, 2015, mixed, 36×72

I use abandoned photographs to distort history. The real history of my photographs, has been discarded by there previous owner for whatever reason. What was once a document of time or a cherished memory now becomes a whole new twisted story.

Encaustic paint, collage, and assemblage suit me best. The idea of nature verses nurture and the absurdity of human nature have always peaked my interest. Using motifs inherent to biology and psychology and a heavy use of ephemera, I create a dialog about the mundane, to that of the arousing. The ensuing images end up being humorous and sardonic. Each with a title that adds context and reflects my personality and perversity.

2017 DUMA Biennial artist, Lacey Windschitl

Lacey Windschitl, Chicago, Illinois
Cecelia, 2017, acrylic, 24×36

Lacey Windschitl’s artwork paints an impressionistic picture of the figure, their surroundings, and their stories. The individuals portrayed can find themselves in bars, cafes, even at home in intimate settings. Her artworks emphasize the relationship of bold color and light and is influenced by her love of design, fashion, and architecture.

Lacey received her training from the University of Iowa and obtained a BFA in drawing and graphic design. Her paintings have been displayed and sold nationwide. A Dubuque-native, she currently works as a Design Manager for Walgreens in Chicago.