Reynolds Welcomes New Artwork from Cumming and Dubuque Artists

    DES MOINES – Most of the artwork in the State Capitol of Iowa was created by men to celebrate the accomplishments of men. But new artwork by and about women now occupies a prominent corner in the office of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

    The artists Hilde DeBruyne of Cumming and Louise Kames of Dubuque discussed their artwork with the governor and a handful of guests during a reception Wednesday to open the next installment of the Iowa Women’s Art Exhibition, a series Gov. Reynolds initiated in 2014 during her tenure as the lieutenant governor.

    “I’ve enjoyed this so much,” she told the artists during the reception. “It’s such a great opportunity to highlight the talent of women artists across the state.”

    The Iowa Women’s Art Exhibition is organized by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and changes twice each year. Admission is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The current exhibit will be on display through December 2018.

    Hilde DeBruyne of Cumming was born in Belgium, immigrated to the United States in 1989 and became a citizen in March.

    She sculpts in clay, metal and bronze and has created many public artworks throughout central Iowa, including “The Birthplace of Des Moines” porcelain tile mural by the log cabin near Principal Park, “Circle of Life” by the pond near the West Des Moines City Hall, “Infinity” at Brookside Park in Ames, and the “Tree of Life” at Sesquicentennial Park in Indianola. She is a regular contributor to public art exhibits and this year alone has 16 sculptures out on loan to a dozen sites in Iowa and four more in Chicago.

    Her two bronze sculptures in the governor’s office are each about the size of a grapefruit and are stylized representations of the female body. One of the works was inspired by a friend’s battle with breast cancer and the powerful transformation that occurred in the face of that challenge.

    “Although small in size, each sculpture’s appearance is monumental, depicting the resilience of women in both scale and form,” according to the artist’s statement about the two works she calls “Mindfulness” and “Hope.”

    DeBruyne explained that of all the steps in her process, she spends the most time in research. For one project, she studied the anatomy of birds. For another, she learned about the life cycles of a butterfly.She was intrigued, she said, “not necessarily by the butterfly’s beauty but its metamorphosis and the struggle it goes through.”

    Louise Kames of Dubuque recently finished her 35th year of teaching at Clarke University, where she leads the department of visual and performing arts. She is a current member of Dubuque’s Art on the River Committee and is a past commissioner for the city’s Art and Cultural Affairs Committee.

    She specializes in drawing and printmaking, exhibits her work widely, and has participated in artist residencies both nationally and abroad.

    Her three prints in the governor’s office are portraits of contemporary “Wonder Women,” she said, who have fought and suffered for the greater good: Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in 2011; Malala Yousafza, the young Pakistani woman and Nobel laureate who was shot by the Taliban in 2012; and Jo Cox, the British member of Parliament who was murdered in 2016, shortly before the Brexit vote.

    The artist printed all three portraits on both sides of translucent wax-suffused paper with white ink screen printed on top. She also pierced each portrait in some way to represent the subject’s wounds. She embroidered the Giffords and Yousafza portraits with thread, like a surgeon’s stitches, and cut one star out of the European Union stars that encircle Cox’s head.

    “I have more ideas,” Kames said, mentioning Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed amid last year’s racially charged riots in Charlottesville, Va. “But I hope, somehow, the source of them stops.”

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    The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations. 

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