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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I live in Illinois, about two hours northwest of Chicago. My first exposure to photography began with a film camera. I was always disappointed when my photos came back from the lab and were not what I had envisioned. The transition to digital was a game changer. With editing software I felt I finally had control over how my photos turned out. I now have the ability to make my photos look better than I had shot in camera.
Digital artistry takes it a step further. The possibilities are infinite. I love this new medium. I enjoy creating traditional art using the latest technology. I feel that we are in the beginning stages of a new art movement. I am choosing to call this movement Pixelism. There are so many choices and options that it is sometimes difficult to stay with just one theme.
I am mostly drawn to things that are sensual. Botanicals are one of my favorite subjects. I want my images to tell a story that is full of passion and honesty, and sometimes raises questions. I strive to make art that leaves a profound impression on the viewer.
Lisa Towers is a classical realist painter and teacher of art in Dubuque. She earned her BFA from the University of Miami (and Vanderbilt University) and worked from many years in the film industry before turning to fine art. She studied with painting greats David Leffel, Gregg Kreutz, and Michael Shane Neill and was influenced by the work of Thomas Hart Benton through three of Benton’s students. Towers has participated in many group exhibitions including Oil Painters of America and Audubon Artists and has had four solo exhibitions of her work. She has been teaching painting and drawing since 1997, and currently teaches at Studio Works in Dubuque. In the fall she will begin teaching art classes as adjunct faculty at the Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa.
Towers is also a certificated paralegal, an avid tennis player, and a semi-accomplished pianist.
Grant William Thye splits time between his two studios, one in downtown Chicago and the other in rural Iowa. Growing up on a small family farm and being raised by an analytical cubist were both major factors in shaping his artistic temperament. He likes to manipulate thoughts, ideas, and objects to work in ways not originally intended and also turn nothing into something. A large part of his vernacular comes from the natural world which has been influenced by work of the Regionalists, the Chicago Imagists, graffiti, and cartoons. His work is in the permanent collection of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, where it is currently on display. He has been exhibited nationally in museums, galleries, colleges, and other public as well as private spaces. He has been featured in various books, publications, and national advertising campaigns, as well as giving artist talks and workshops to students ranging from elementary to graduate school.