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Paintings, pottery and people: Three friends make one strong gallery

  • Dennis Peterka Press photos by Kate Hayden

  • Lynn Montague

  • Doug Reynolds

  • Dennis Peterka, Lynn Montague and Doug Reynolds Contributed photo


By Kate Hayden

Dennis Peterka, Lynn Montague and Doug Reynolds had been friends for a while before they thought about putting on a gallery show together.

“I’d say 30 years, maybe 25,” Reynolds recalled this past week.

Well, good ideas take time, and this was a good time for the three Waverly artists join forces at the Charles City Arts Center. The show, aptly named “Two Painters and a Potter” juxtapose the pieces by the painters, Peterka and Montague, and Reynolds, the potter. While their work certainly ties elements in together, each artist certainly stands distinct from the others, said Peterka.

“The glazes that Doug has on his pieces maybe resemble the colors (in mine),” said Peterka, who will be showcasing oil landscapes with minimal, gritty colors. “Montague’s work is very, very different. You’ll definitely see a difference between his paintings and my paintings. His are a little more planned out.”

A retired art teacher, Peterka’s style has evolved since he last showed at the Arts Center, over 20 years ago. He first started experimenting with media manipulation over illustration, as he puts it, when he took a break seven years into teaching to pursue his master’s degree. Those first few pieces were heavily abstract, Peterka said, and developed more into the landscapes on display tonight.

“I consider myself to be a process oil painter, I start with something but it ends up as something else most of the time,” he said. “It’s sort of minimal, I don’t have obvious trees or roads. Sort of an abstract landscape look to them. The colors are very earthy, they’re not bright and bold. There’s color in them, but they have more of a dirty quality.”

Peterka’s paintings also feature an open sky or horizon –– “I’m originally from South Dakota, there’s a lot of wide-open skies there,” he said. “Thinking of home, maybe.”

A sense of endlessness also informs Montague’s paintings, but with very different results. The concept stems from a trip he took almost four years ago to Kansas, where, he said, the expanse of the prairie struck him.

“I was very taken by the verticality of the grasses…When I got home I thought, ‘well I should make a little picture about this,’” Montague, also a retired art teacher, said.

The first one was too small to really convey the message. So Montague kept working, and slowly started building on the concept.

“Everything that’s on the display is still inspired by the tall grass,” he said. “I don’t think I’m done with it yet… I’m still exploring the idea of just vertical strokes and seeing where that goes.”

Peterka and Montague are former colleagues, having taught together in the Waverly-Shell Rock school district, and became acquainted with Reynolds when a few high school students were looking for bigger challenges at the pottery wheel. Reynolds, who is now teaching pottery classes at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, stepped in to help over the years. He also pitched the idea of the show to the other artists, as just a way to share their work together.

“For me, this is just fun, showing with some fellow artists. It’s just a chance to get together and talk and chat,” Reynolds said. “I really like (how) the community really comes out and support the Arts Center. It’s always fun to take part there.”

Reynolds’ pottery is “really utilitarian”, he said, and gravitates towards earthier colors in his glazes.

“I’m mostly a functional potter, but I have a few abstract wall pieces,” he said. “I really like vase forms, you can introduce flowers or anything like that… I just like that symmetry between the organic materials and the pottery.”

“I really like bowls just because they’re so functional, and people can use them in their everyday life. I like that idea,” he added.

Keeping his art at accessible prices is also important to Reynolds, who often donates pieces to charity causes.

“I try to keep it very simple that people can use, I work fairly fast. Just make nice pottery that is not really expensive, they’re not going to have to mortgage their house for a piece of pottery,” Reynolds said.

Tonight’s reception at the Arts Center will be the first time the three friends have shown exclusively with each other.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of reaction we get,” Peterka said.

It’s also a good chance to get his work in the public eye –– “They get a little tired sitting in the house looking at each other.”