Category Archives: art galleries

Do not miss the “tape show” at the Des Moines Art Center

It is way cooler than it sounds, this show with giant site specific installations by artists who,use tape as their medium. Check out the photos here for proof. Our long overdue visit happened to coincide with an open house for kids and families from Findley Elementary School who worked with one of the artists on a installation of colorful bouquets taped  onto the gleaming white exterior of the Richard Meier wing. How cool is that? The kids seemed so excited to be the belles of the ball at the art center which threw a reception for the kids complete with servers with trays of delicious looking kid-friendly appetizers including grilled cheese sandwiches. And in the I.M. Pei wing long tunnels made of very strong tape were strung across the galleries, strong enough for kids and even their parents to crawl through. I love that the art center was willing to do that! Continue reading


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le coupe, Columbia heights Laotian food, wonder at the renwick gallery — DC

Columbia heights mural

Columbia heights mural

Great to be visiting Noah a newcomer in DC — plus my sister and husband who sare old hands here. first stop the charming red brick row house Noah shares with three people in Columbia heights, including my dear old pal/ college roommate Myra’s son Dan! the house reminded me so much of my grandparents red brick row house in Easton Pennsylvania, but Noah’s neighborhood has a lot more going on.

imageWe had a really good breakfast at a cheerful restaurant, Le Coupe, packed with people. Excellent lamb hash, eggs Benedict, hash browns, sautéed Brussels sprouts. Next stop: The Renwick Gallery which is part of the smithsonian and located kitty corner from the White House, for a fantastic show called Wonder (or Wonders) — site specific enormous installations by 9 different artists including Maya Lin and Tara Donovan. The show could also have been entitled “Mindblowing” — really astonishing work and great to see the place packed with all kinds of people and signs in each room that said “photography encouraged.”

imageNoah and I shared some good cheesecake at a bakery on 14th street in his neighborhood and later were joined by my sister, brother law and Noah’s roommate dan for Laotian food, also ion 14th street. Really fun day!

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Balmy February day, Van Gogh bedrooms: chicago

chicagophotoWe got lucky during a quick trip to Chicago to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday last weekend (feb. 20). The temperature was near 60 degrees.  Runners along the lakefront wore sleeveless tops and t-shirts. Bicylicists were out in force. Along Michigan Avenue, many strollers, including me, had their puffy down coats tied around their waists.  A year ago when we drove to Chicago, our car temperature gauge kept sinking lower and lower below zero.

This trip we met family at Cafecito on E. Congress for some good and fast Cuban food (Cuban sandwich, roasted pork platter) and then on to the Art Institute where we had advance tickets to the Van Gogh “Bedrooms” show, the highlight of which were the artist’s three yellow bedroom paintings, usually found in three different museums, far apart. It was really interesting to compare the three side by side. Reminded me of a few things: a painting we have at home that is two different versions of the same scene (different light and perspective); how my mother’s paintings changed as her dementia advanced; and the People mag. feature where you pick out the differences in two versions of the same photo. I spent a lot of time starring over the shoulders of fellow museum-goers starring at the three paintings before moving onto to find a very cool film that made this exercise much easier – with a screen split into three segments so you could do a close comparison of different aspects of the paintings, for example the three different versions of the bednight table. They also had a fun option where we could put ourselves inside a Van Gogh painting. (see below)…add it to our collection (which includes posing as Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple outside the Iowa house where he set the painting.chicagopix2

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RAGBRAI discovery: b. organic eXchange in Van Meter


the b. organic eXchange

One of the cool things about RAGBRAI is discovering new things in old places – so when I rode last month through Van Meter, a small town outside Des Moines, with thousands of other riders, I wandered into a little shop –  “the b. organic eXchange.” the exchange’s blog It sells some handmade crafts and food but also offers “naturally artful birthday parties” – presumably for kids – that includes studio space, an instructor and materials to complete a variety of projects. (You can pick from project themes such as “Flower Power” or “Nature Lover” or “Pop Art Portraits.”) Reminds me a bit of the paint-your-own-pottery parties I had for my kids – or worse, the make-your-own-gingerbread-house or paint-your-own-ball cap activities I used to try to organize on my own at home for my kids’ parties.

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Villages (of Van Buren County) Folk School – places to go summer of 2013

It’s been awhile since I last visited the charming Villages of Van Buren County in southeast Iowa but this month’s issue of Iowa Farm Bureau’s Family Living (which my husband edits) had some good suggestions of places new and old to visit there:

Villages Folk School – Opened in 2009, this place  (which appears to be on 1st Street in the village of Bonaparte) offers weekend classes in “traditional arts and crafts” from rug weaving and blacksmithing to artisan bread baking. There are some weekend classes in pastel painting and out-of-town students can stay at the pretty Mason House Inn in Keosauqua. Another option is the Bonaparte Inn, an 1890’s building in Bonaparte.

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Don’t miss the Des Moines Art Center’s “Transparencies” show of glass artwork

Jim Dingilian fills liquor bottles with smoke and then, using custom-made tools, scrapes away the soot to create astonishingly detailed scenes. “Missing Sentinels among Halted Construction” is from 2012. (McKenzie Fine Art/Special to the Register)

When I lived in, and later visited, upstate New York, I used to enjoy going to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. which became increasingly sophisticated in its exhibits over the years.  We got a glimpse of some cutting-edge glass artwork yesterday, near my present home, at the Des Moines Art Center.  We  thoroughly enjoyed an exhibit of work by 10 artists from around the world who do some remarkable things with glass – and I’m not even talking about Dale Chiluly here (whom some think is overexposed but I still like his work.)

Among our favorites from the show is the work (above) by Jim Dingilian (U.S.)  who somehow manages to create paintings inside of old liquor bottles – apparently filling the bottle with smoke and then somehow removing portions of the smoke stains to  create very intricate images of old cars and couches and landscapes. I still don’t quite get how he does it. Judith Schaechter, another American, does eery but gorgeous Medieval-type stained glass windows (see below) with characters that look like they walked out of a Tim Burton movie. How fun would it be to go to a church with her windows! (Don’t think that will happen anytime soon.)

There’s also (see further below) a mesmerizing  installation by Ray Hwang (from Korea) in a darkened room that almost defies easy description – but I’ll give it a go. It combines light, video and the image of a chandelier created by thousands of crystal beads upon a plexiglass panel  – to create the sensation of a chandelier that gradually lights up during   a rain storm. Okay, I didn’t do it justice. You have to see it.

Judith Schaechter creates stained glass using centuries-old techniques from medieval churches. But the stories her windows tell, as in “Mad Meg” from 2010, are the products of her own imagination. (Judith Schaechter/Special to the Register)

The DSM Register also has a good  slide show and story about the exhibit. See:

The Transparencies show was small so we spent another hour or so wandering around the rest of the museum, admiring old favorites (by Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent, Anselm Kiefer, Grant Wood) and catching some new views – including an interesting installation by Ai Weiwei, the dissident Chinese artist/activist, and a crazy video of a McDonald’s during a flood, slowly filling up with water (complete with poor Ronald bobbing in the waves), as well as work I’d never seen before  by Alex Katz, Cindy Sherman and others.

Although it’s difficult to photograph, Ran Hwang’s 2010 “Garden of Water” shimmers with light from a video, projected onto Plexiglas panels pinned with thousands of crystal beads. (Leila Heller Gallery/Special to the Register)

Contemporary Art & A History of Glass

February 22 — May 22, 2013
Anna K. Meredith Gallery

Above: Monir Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, born 1924)
Convertible Series, Group 10, 2011

Transparencies brings together a group of international contemporary artists whose work explores glass as both medium and as subject matter. Each creates contemporary art that connects with the history of glasswork, from luxury objects such as chandeliers and mirrors to household items like drinking vessels and light bulbs. Many forms of glass are represented, from delicate, hand-worked mirrors to industrial sheets of Plexiglas, as well as works that despite appearances, are not made of glass at all. The artists selected for Transparencies come from around the world, and vary widely in their art-making practices. Some have always worked with glass, both actually and conceptually, while others have only explored it occasionally. Combining sculpture, video, and installation with traditional forms of artisan techniques such as stained glass and blown glass, Transparencies explores the role of glass in today’s contemporary art world as well as our everyday lives.

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check out Ernie Ruben’s “Portraits of Sound” exhibit at NYC’s Lincoln Center

I was the only kid I knew with an “Aunt Ernie” but I never really thought twice about it – Aunt Ernie was Aunt Ernestine Ruben, one of my parents’ closest friends and our two families(one in Michigan, the other in New Jersey)  had, and still have,  a close bond. Aunt Ernie is also an accomplished photographer and I wish I could see an exhibit of her latest work entitled “Portraits of Sound” now on view at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Here are more details below from a NYTimes T magazine blog post. One of her nude photos from the mid-1980s hangs in my house here in Iowa.

Now Showing | Ernestine Ruben



March 7, 2013, 2:04 pm3 Comments

  • “ZERNA-1,” a piece from Ernestine Ruben’s “Portraits of Sound” project with the New York Philharmonic.
  • “ALLEN-1,” from “Portraits of Sound.”
  • Ernestine Ruben in her studio at Mana Contemporary art center. Vladimir Weinstein
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In 1981, the curator of photography at Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, Jean-Claude Lemagny, discovered the American photographer Ernestine Ruben. Reviewing student portfolios, Lemagny was taken by a compilation of Ruben’s early, signature nudes. At the time, the artist was 49. “It was only later in life that I had the courage to do my own thing,” recalled the now 81-year-old Ruben from her Upper West side apartment. Dozens of stories below and across the street, her latest exhibit “Portraits of Sound” has just been installed at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, where it will be on view for the next two months. “You can see it’s easy to be inspired from up here,” she remarked of the sweeping view west from her living room window.

Ruben began her career shooting nudes, but she expanded the form by bringing her lens close to the flesh, morphing small sections of the body into sensual landscapes. Similarly, in “Portraits of Sound,” Ruben plays with the limits of portraiture. Following sessions with members of the New York City Philharmonic (in which, she said, she might crawl under a chair in pursuit of the right angle), Ruben manipulated the images in Photoshop to reflect the relationship between music and maker and the experience of performance: an image of the bassoon transforms into bundles of sticks to suggest the tone of wood; a triplicate of a double bass extends across space, communicating oversized sound and physical stature. (“He seemed to be everywhere,” Ruben remembered.) “They said, ‘that’s exactly how I feel about my music or my instrument,’” she recounted of some of the musicians’ reaction to her work.

Ruben’s parents were renowned art collectors, and she describes their trove of futurist art as among the largest outside of Italy. “I was filled with passion and energy, but frightened to have to compete with things like this,” she recalled, gesturing behind her to a cobalt and cream Picasso-designed textile that belonged to her mother. She finally got her start in 1978 when, by chance, a friend invited her to a photography class. After years of devoting herself to motherhood and teaching art, she felt the time was right. “I wanted to do something that was mine. I wanted to extend photography in as many directions as possible.” Today her images can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In her ninth decade, Ruben continues to extend the reach of her camera. She is creating photographic three-dimensional environments and sculpture in a new studio space at Mana Contemporary and, she said, the ideas keep pouring out of her. “I think it’s terribly important not just to reflect the world around you but to penetrate it,” she declared. At Lincoln Center, Ruben’s photographs reverberate with that vision.

“Portraits of Sound” is currently on view at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

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