116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Ever notice how many times someone posts a landscape or sunrise/sunset photo on social media with the caveat, “This doesn’t do it justice.”
A new exhibition at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art shows how a camera in the hands of an artist does every scene justice.
“Through the Lens: Photography after 1950 from the Collection” is on view through April 30 in the museum’s second floor back gallery.
It’s a collection of 23 photographs capturing images of people and places, with an artistic flair in subject matter and printing method, with at least two collage-type treatment from Thomas C. Jackson and David Van Allen, both of Cedar Rapids.
The museum’s vast collection is dominated by drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture, so this exhibition is a chance to show off more contemporary examples of art photography, Kate Kunau, the museum’s curator, said.
What: “Through the Lens: Photography after 1950 from the Collection”
Where: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: Through April 30, 2023
Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $10 adults, $9 ages 62 and up, $8 college students, $5 ages 6 to 18, free ages 5 and under
"We didn't have a lot of photography in our collection, but we've been working to correct that” over the past 10 to 15 years, she noted.
“I have certainly used our photographs before, but they tended to be our bigger names from the early 20th century” — including Ansel Adams (1902-84) and a recent acquisition by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) — “bigger names from earlier in photography’s development as a genre,” Kunau said.
“We want to focus on the more contemporary (works) we have for this exhibition, so this is photography from 1950 to the present day — kind of modern and contemporary photographs.”
She added that she’s seen “some wonderful examples of those” come to the museum’s collection during the eight years she’s been on staff.
“So we wanted to show them off.”
The collection features sections of portraiture, nature and landscape in general, she said. Visitors will see works by such local artists as the late Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret, Robert and Linda Scarth, Shane McAllister and Denis Hagen, as well as nationally and internationally known photographers Richard Avedon, Robert Fitcher and Luke Erikson.
“I wanted to make a mix,” Kunau said.
A few works seem more traditional, like centenarian George Henry’s sepia toned portrait of Regionalist artist Marvin Cone, circa 1960, or Keily Anderson-Staley’s “Helen,” a 2009 portrait in which the artist, born in 1977, used the 19th century tintype technique, creating a melancholy, almost haunted aura.
But visitors also will see Van Allen’s 2002 portrait of Francisco Toledo, who died in 2019. Departing from tradition, the work is an assemblage combining many smaller photos of the Mexican artist into a life-size torso portrait. Van Allen, who lives and works in the Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo District, photographed Toledo in Mexico.
“That’s one of the most interesting, as far as process goes,” Kunau said of Van Allen’s piece.
Most of the photographers in the exhibition develop and print their own works, she noted, to create artistic end results.
“They're definitely all art photographers,” she said. ”They're doing different processes and working the photographs in different ways. We definitely wanted to concentrate on photography as art.”
But at least two of the photographers, who are now deceased, specialized in documenting seminal moments in time.
Liffring-Zug Bourret, an Iowa City native, captured national attention photographing the birth of her first child at a Cedar Rapids hospital in 1951. “Birth of My Baby #2” is part of that groundbreaking series.
Daniel Robert Eldon’s “Mogadishu 6 March 1993” was taken four months before the Reuters photojournalist, age 22, and three colleagues were stoned and beaten to death covering a raid in Somalia’s capital city on July 12, 1993. Even though he spent much of his life in Kenya, his Eastern Iowa ties ran deep.
His mother, Kathy Eldon of California, is a Cedar Rapids native, the daughter of the late Russell Knapp, founder of SCI Financial Services, and his wife, Louise. Daniel and his sister, Amy, spent summers in Cedar Rapids with their grandparents, and attended Camp Wapsi in Central City. And among his various college experiences, Daniel briefly attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon in early 1992, before moving to Kenya in April that year. His photography has been featured several times at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
Nature themes also figure prominently in the exhibition.
“There’s some really beautiful landscape photography, which I think can sometimes fall flat just because we’ve all taken photos of like, ‘Oh, this is such a beautiful sunset,’ and then you see the photo and it doesn't really capture what you’re seeing,” Kunau said.
“So there’s some really beautiful instances of landscape photography that I think will impress people.”
The works will go back into storage at the end of the exhibition.
“Like all works on paper, photographs thrive when they’re kept out of the light, so we treat them the same as we would treat prints on paper or watercolor paintings or things like that,” Kunau said. “The general rule is, something can be on view for six months, and then it needs to rest for 60, just because works on paper tend to be a little bit more delicate.”
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