Two similar Quad Cities sculptures that could be best described as sentimental raise issues about the role of art. Although their tones are different, both pieces depict young girls with adult-male authority figures and are meant to reflect the goals of the organizations that host them.

Downtown Davenport was once bathed in the bright glow of neon signs. In a photo taken from the intersection of Main and Second streets in the 1940s, the Hansen’s Hardware neon sign in the foreground rises several stories over the street below. So does a nearby Kaybee sign. There are, seemingly, a dozen or more smaller neon signs in the block.

Today from the same vantage point, we see U.S. Bank, the Figge Art Museum plaza, and the Charles J. Wright Ground Transportation Center. The prominent Hansen neon sign? Long gone. So are all of the other large neon signs in the photo: Kaybee, The Hub, Three Sisters, Baker’s Shoes. Also gone are the even-more-impressive neon signs rising high above the downtown theatre marquees.

Neon signs from this past era, fortunately, can still be found elsewhere in the Quad Cities.

Photographers often look for new angles from which to photograph, giving a different perspective to familiar things and places, as shown by Quad Cities Photography Club member Bill Hudson.

The most-famous work by the Guerrilla Girls is simple and direct, asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

The pointed text of the 1989 poster continues: “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”

That work is more than a quarter-century old, but the Guerrilla Girls have updated it over the years – with the results just as discouraging. The 2011 version states that women represent 4 percent of the artists in the modern-art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but 76 percent of the nudes.

The work gets more complex as one considers it.


Composer Cheryl Leonard

Claire Kovacs is in her third year as director of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art, and she said that from the outset she needed to answer one question.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about since the moment that I even considered coming to Augustana,” she said, “was ‘What is the purpose of an art museum when the Figge is across the river?’”

The answer can be seen this month in a pair of free public events: the Guerrilla Girls’ January 18 lecture in Centennial Hall, and the January 11 performance collaboration of visual artist Oona Stern and composer Cheryl Leonard in Wallenberg Hall.

Regular River Cities’ Reader contributor Bruce Walters has created some Halloween-related videos and images using his 360-degree camera. (Walters loves Halloween.)

'Metamorphosis,' by Jacob McGinn. Photo by Bruce Walters.

'Metamorphosis,' by Jacob McGinn. Photo by Bruce Walters.

A human-like insect – larger than you – is frozen in a 10-foot-long stride. Its flailing arms are extended. All four of them.

Blue, Third Place: Dale Fehr, Hampton.

Our 2016 photo contest drew more than 50 entries, and here are the winners and other favorites selected by the River Cities’ Reader staff from our three categories: “Red,” “White,” and “Blue.” Many thanks to all who entered!

Abraham Lincoln is listening to a young man seated on a railroad track. Lincoln’s deep-set eyes look outward, not returning the gaze of the young man. His left hand rises to his face in a speaking gesture, but his smile seems to have frozen – cut off as if by a sudden realization.

Stylistically, the Porter Building – in the Annie Wittenmyer complex at 2800 Eastern Avenue in Davenport – is an English Period Cottage. Its half-timbered frame and steep pitched gables are drawn from European medieval building techniques.

Its architectural style is fairly unusual for the Quad Cities. What really sets it apart visually, however, is its playful, creative brickwork. Regular rows of bricks give way to unorthodox coursing patterns in the middle section of the walls. Like a stream of consciousness, like the drip paintings by Jackson Pollock, the rows of bricks wrap around large stones, rise up and down in waves, then – suddenly – are stacked at odd angles.

The building was designed by Bradley Rust (1908 -2000), an Iowa City architect. It is his earliest work that still stands, and perhaps his most creative. Nearly 500 construction and remodeling projects created by Rust are maintained by the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City.

There isn’t another building in the Quad Cities quite like it. Its connections to history, however, are equally unexpected. And genuinely significant.

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