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Haglund’s work to be on display at Arts Center in March

Haglund’s work to be on display at Arts Center in March
Charles City artist Karl Haglund will have his artwork on display at the CCAC for the month of March. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

An array of vibrant colors and patterns, composed by Charles City’s Karl Haglund, will adorn the walls of the Charles City Arts Center through the month of March.

Haglund’s exhibit at the CCAC, entitled “Root: We All Took Vitamins And Played In The Street,” will be a first showing of work he’s done in recent weeks, work that Haglund calls “contemporary abstract.”

Haglund said his goal for this work was to remove any ideas of identifiable objects or subject and focus entirely on color and pattern and composition.

“I always try to make art where you have to get your nose up to it to see everything,” Haglund said. “There should be a payoff for seeing it in person.”

The CCAC will hold an artist’s reception for Haglund on Friday, starting at 5 p.m.

“Instead of using brushes, most of this new work was painted using ink rollers, scraps of cardboard, squirt bottles and spray paint,” Haglund said. “It lends itself to a different relation or conversation with the canvas from an artist’s point of view. It was challenging and fun, and I made a massive mess in the studio.”

Haglund is a painter, photographer, freelance writer and guitar player who has lived in Charles City for about 14 years. He and his wife, Jenna — currently a social worker in the Charles City School District — have two children.

“Charles City is a great community. We feel like we lucked out here,” Haglund said. “We love the people and the friends we have here. Iowa is flat and can be boring, but I like that I’m in the middle of nowhere, and it’s quiet. It’s definitely a great place to raise a family.”

Haglund grew up not too far away from Charles City, in Vinton. He said he was initially influenced as an artist by his mother, who was an established artist in Sweden when she met Haglund’s father, who was in Sweden playing baseball.

“Growing up, my mom was always doing art,” Haglund said. “My dad wanted me to be more of a baseball kid, and I was, for a while. I tried, and I was pretty good at it, but it just wasn’t as interesting to me.”

He completed high school in 1990 and attended college at NIACC, then transferred to Northern Iowa, where he studied anthropology. While in grad school there, his hobby as a guitar player merged with his interest in art and led to an opportunity.

Haglund started doing paintings of famous guitars, and the endeavor got an enormous response.

“It just took off,” said Haglund, who added that while a lot of people had been painting famous guitars, he was the first person to combine the story of the guitar with a painting of the guitar.

Over time, he painted more than 150 creations of famous guitars, held by the likes of musicians such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen and Mike McReady.

Although Haglund hasn’t done guitar paintings in more than two years, he has recently been contacted by Jason Isbell’s management. Isbell is a Grammy-award-winning country guitarist and singer-songwriter, and his management would like Haglund to do a painting of one of his guitars.

“We’re still in the process of ironing out how that’s going to look like, but as of today it looks pretty good,” said Haglund, who said the idea is to give away prints of the painting.

“He wants to give it away with his new album,” Haglund said. “It’s a pretty big deal, and a cool way to end the series.”

Haglund said he’ll be done with the guitar paintings after this — unless another such deal presents itself.

“Well, if Jimmy Page calls me, I might maybe do one more,” he laughed.

There won’t likely be any of Haglund’s guitar paintings on display at the CCAC in March, as all the work in Haglund’s “Root” display has been done since the first of the year.

“I feel like these are paintings that come to life in person much more than a photo can relate,” Haglund said. “In person you can see the way the paint was applied and get a feeling of that energy.”

Referring to the title of the exhibit — “Root: We All Took Vitamins And Played In The Street,” Hagland said, “I’ve been reflecting a lot when I’m painting. Sometimes the title of a painting isn’t reflected in the painting itself, but it’s reflected in what I was thinking about and feeling as I was painting it.”

Haglund has been doing a lot of thinking about growing up in the 1980s in Iowa.

“We all took those Flintstone vitamins and played in the street,” he said. “It was a different time — you could ride in a car without a seat belt on. There were just a lot of things I did as a kid that there’s no way in hell I’d let my children do today. Sometimes I’m thinking about that as I’m painting.”

Haglund said that personal reflection is part of what he calls a “conversation” an artist often has with his work as it’s being created.

“There is a relationship, as an artist, with the work. I’m having a conversation with what I’m creating,” Haglund said. “Since I didn’t study art, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to inform my work in other ways. Things like self-educating, reading, looking at other art.”

Haglund currently has work in the Gilded Pear gallery in Cedar Rapids, and is always looking for new venues to display his art.

“It’s great to have my paintings up in the same gallery that has work by artists like Grant Wood,” Haglund said. “There’s so much great art in there. Even if I don’t sell anything, it’s good for my self-confidence as an artist to be in there.”