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Work by women artists to be featured at CCAC in August

  • This piece by Russa Graeme, entitled “Big Cloud,” will be a part of August exhibit at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

  • This piece called “Boat at Provincetown,” by Atlanta Sampson, will be a part of August exhibit at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

  • Kurtis Meyer.

  • This piece, entitled “Vase and Flowers” by Ruth Grotenrath, will be a part of August exhibit at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

By James Grob,

Patrons of the Charles City Arts Center will get a look at art from a feminine point of view in August.

“I think they will see a great diversity of work,” said Kurt Meyer. “I think that the exhibit is meant to exemplify the fact that many women artists were capturing something that they encountered daily — in the house, the garden — as they looked out into the world.”

The exhibit will be entitled, “Close at Hand, Works by Women Artists,” and it will feature Meyer’s private collection of famous female artists of the 20th century.

“There will be works that remind people of scenes from their home,” Meyer said.

A reception for Meyer will be held on Monday, Aug. 5, at the CCAC from 5-7 p.m., where he will tell many tales about the artwork, and/or how he acquired the artwork.

Meyer is president of Humanities Iowa, which is Iowa’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization’s board held its annual meeting last November in Charles City.

An “amateur historian,” Meyer grew up in Mitchell County and has served as president of the Mitchell County Historical Society. He has been a consultant to various non-profit organizations, assisting them with strategic planning, community relations and fundraising. This is the eighth exhibit he’s assembled in the last 10 years.

“I began collecting, relatively in earnest, about 25 years ago. I have amassed a rather sizable collection.” he said. He added that he hasn’t been going to expensive galleries, but rather to a number of different places including antique malls, in people’s homes and estate sales. He said he thinks he has a “reasonably good eye,” so over time, he’s gathered an ample collection.

CCAC Director Jacqueline Davidson said Meyer has thousands of pieces in his vast collection, and she suggested honing it down to “women artists of the 20th century” for the August show.

“People should see that there are families in northern Iowa that do have a love and foundation in art,” Davidson said.

On display will be three works by Atlanta Constance Sampson, three works by Bernice Thorson and Russa Graeme, two works by Marian Alstad and works by Linda Le Kniff and Madeline Pyk, among dozens of other artists.

Sampson was a painter from Toeterville, who had her first one-woman show in New York at the age of 91.

“Atlanta was an abstract expressionist, who was a remarkable artist who had major shows in New York and Washington, D.C. ,” Meyer said. “She was discovered in her 90s, and for a brief while, she was sort of the Belle of the ball.”

Le Kniff, born in Paris, France in 1949, trained in Italy for 12 years and was a world traveler. In 2010, she was honored as the official artist of the Kentucky Derby.

Pyk is a Swedish artist, born in 1934. She wrote a book entitled “I Play at Being Alive” in 1990.

“While some of this artwork was done by women who were serious, professional artists, a lot of this work was done by women who were applying their artistic talents to capture something that was easily accessible and part of daily life,” Meyer said. “A lot of this art is reflective of something that was right there. That’s where we came up with the title of the exhibit, ‘Close at Hand.’”

Meyer said some of the work falls more into the craft category, rather than fine art.

“This exhibit will span from craft on one side, to more abstract, oil and watercolor works on the other,” Meyer said. “I do think there’s going to be a fair connection back to the ‘close at hand.’ Many of these women would not have regarded themselves as artists.”

Meyer has done exhibits of the work of photographer Jon Morris throughout the country, and also is likely the world’s foremost expert on the work of Hamlin Garland, an American novelist, poet, essayist and short story writer who lived in both Saint Ansgar and Osage for much of his life. Garland died in 1940, and Meyer has his entire known collection of work.

Meyer had some expert help as he put together the August exhibit at the CCAC.

Erica Palmiter, a teaching artist from the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., was initially scheduled to visit the reception, but has had to cancel. Palmiter is an expert on female artists and was going to give a speech on the Meyer collection.

“Erica thought it was a wonderful idea, and agreed to spearhead the exhibit,” Davidson said. “She’s not able to leave the Kennedy Center right now, with her responsibilities there. She did say she is interested in doing something like this here in the future.”

Meyer will talk about the art and the history of his family’s art collection at the reception. He and Palmiter worked together remotely, and he walked her through his art collection. He said that he could have mounted an exhibit on any number of topics, but Palmiter helped him focus.

“Her advice and counsel will be reflected in this exhibit.” said Meyer. “It was always very useful to hear the advice of a collaborator. Even though she won’t be there physically, Erica has been a guiding force in my thinking and pulling this together.”