Kathleen Van Hyfte's "Interference" When Joe Kelley was organizing the current Church | State exhibit for the Bucktown Center for the Arts, artist Les Bell asked him: "Is this going to be a blue show or a red show?" Kelley recalled.

In an interview this week, Kelley said he was hoping to find something in between: "I was hoping it would be a purple show."

It's curious that two arenas that are often best kept separated - art and politics - share the language of color. Blue signifies the Democrats on the electoral map, and red the Republicans. And red used to represent the threat of communism, whose adherents were of course called pinkos.

Yet those color labels reduce complex subjects and issues - even the populations of entire regions - and rob them of nuance.

"Genre Chaos" Les Bell is well-known in the Quad Cities area for his teaching at St. Ambrose University, his wide intelligence, and his colorful and sensitive use of the nude in his art. There are few artists who can so easily paint the human figure as the primary subject of their work. The new Leger Gallery, in downtown Davenport, is presently hosting a 10-year retrospective of his paintings.

In Bell's world, the nude form is an artistic style, a psychological mystery, and a symbol. He is painting women in their many relationships and roles - from strong to vulnerable, from innocent to wise, and from beautiful to detached. She appears as a nervous young girl looking out from behind a curtain, a busy young woman at the beach on her cell phone, a calm, dark-haired female eyeing her companion, a distressed woman turning away, an intense, worldly lady erotically drying herself on a beach, a shy young girl, a young maiden holding snakes, a waif, a French courtesan, a Spanish dancer, and many more.

Mending the Earth The images of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison - at the Figge Art Museum through October 29 - transport us through narrative image to a world that is parallel to our own, but oddly vacant and visually strange, owing largely to things being out of scale, a lack of color, and metaphorical structures such as gears turning beneath the surface of the earth.

Where exactly these worlds exist is unclear, but the place suggests a 19th Century country where an impoverished inventor is trying to build new machines out of scrap parts. Or it may be a future place after an environmental disaster that is populated by a sole survivor who is trying to save what he can while being over-equipped with archaic tools and under-equipped with appropriate technology. The message seems to be that the task before him is enormous, and the odds of success are in question, at best.

Reader issue #598 When Bill Hannan first met Jeanne Tamisiea in the 1980s, she was one of three finalists for a teaching position on the fine-arts faculty at Black Hawk College. "You could tell right off the bat that she was a teacher," Hannan said. "If you are a teacher, you can spot one."

Tamisiea "tried to connect immediately," Hannan explained. She made eye contact and asked questions, and the vibe was less of a job interview than a classroom in which Tamisiea was the teacher and her interrogators were her students. "Jeanne sat down to talk to us," Hannan said. "The other two [candidates] sat down to be interviewed."

After the interviews, Hannan said, the decision to hire Tamisiea was a foregone conclusion. "We only talked about her," he said. "We didn't talk about the other two guys."

The Riverssance Festival of Fine Art will be losing one of its founders after this year's event, with Larry DeVilbiss stepping down from his second stint as director.

"Persistence of Mother" by Larry DeVilbiss DeVilbiss has run the festival for the vast majority of its 19 years - he returned three years ago when MidCoast Fine Arts took over the event - but he'll be leaving after this weekend's edition, being held Saturday and Sunday in the Village of East Davenport's Lindsay Park. (The River Cities' Reader is a sponsor of the event. A Riverssance map is located on the back cover of this week's issue.)

Children PlayingViewing the work of an artist who has been making art for decades is like looking at an iceberg. You see the little part that is showing but not the hidden part, which is years of study, making art, learning about oneself, and inventing.

The work of John Dilg, on exhibit at St. Ambrose University's Catich Gallery through September 29, may seem simple at first glance, but that is only the tip, the obvious part. Part of the reason is that as one paints for a long time, one begins to consciously and unconsciously shed the unnecessary. What remains is the essential. Dilg's work is simple, spare, and verges on being a visual language, like hieroglyphs or ideograms. There is a subtle humor about them, and the dozen small paintings spread around the room feel like the characters or phrases of this visual language.

Cedar Rapids Harvester Show You open the door and are engulfed by the plump and relentless beats from the DJ. The cave-like basement has pockets of illumination that attract buzzing swarms of twenty- and thirty-somethings to clusters of art, like chicly clad insects to an irresistible bug zapper. The art ranges from jarring paintings, whimsical sketches, and disconcerting collages to kinetic sculptures with whirling wheels of spurs and cast turds on a stick gathered in some kind of dookie Stonehenge.

This was the energetic scene at the Harvester show this spring in Cedar Rapids. The two-day show was a culmination of more than five months of grassroots work by three friends who shared a vision of helping showcase the artistic endeavors of non- or under-represented artists in Iowa. Their journey and lessons can be used by local artists who want to develop their own venue or event.

The Creator and The Critic "In my nightmare, black ominous towers vibrating with negative energy, producing a very low and constant humming sound, surround a picturesque little cottage with a flower garden and a white picket fence. A little girl steps out of the cottage and into the garden, where she bends over to pick a daisy. I yell, 'Don't pick the flowers,' and then I awaken. I knew that the flower was the trigger that would detonate the black towers (nuclear missiles) surrounding her."


- excerpt from Harry Brown's artist statement


Shirley Stacey is just kickin' back. She has her hair pulled up with a red and white bandanna, and her feet are resting on a pale-blue footstool. The calmness in her face and smooth tonal transitions in her skin initially stand in contrast with the house party of color in the afghan draped behind her wooden chair.

Evacuate This Friday marks the opening of Adaptation to Evacuation: From NOLA to Iowa, a show of recent work by Karen Blomme at the Peanut Gallery in Rock Island. The exhibit showcases the transformation of Blomme's art over the course of two tumultuous years of study, reflection, migration, production, and adaptation.