Things that go bump in the night, lurk in the shadows or shimmer in the moonlight will be on view at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art beginning Saturday (10/5) and continuing through Jan. 5 — day and night.
It’s a topic that’s intrigued Kate Kunau, the museum’s associate curator, who used to teach Western art and culture, from cave painting through contemporary works.
“It was interesting to see that night scenes are much more rare in art than day scenes, presumably just because it’s a little bit trickier to paint either moonlight or artificial, man-made illumination,” she said.
Nighttime began showing up in Nativity depictions in the Italian Renaissance, dating back to the 14th century.
“Religious scenes used to have a gold background because that signified heaven,” she said. “But when artists were getting a little bit more interested in natural scenes, they started adding these really beautiful blue night sky backgrounds, which was very expensive because the blue would have been made of lapis lazuli that had to come from Afghanistan. So night scenes were also very special in art, because if you were going to use that much blue, it was very expensive. ...”
The effects can be very dramatic and stage-like, she said, since artists are highlighting certain aspects and hiding others.
Curious about what night scenes the museum’s collection might hold, she started making a running list as she combed through the works. She pulled about 60 pieces — enough to fill the three first-floor galleries.
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“It’s really cool to see how the artists in our collection handle this idea of painting the night. Depending on when the artist is working, the light is either very symbolic ... like unnatural illumination or divine illumination, or it’s something man-made. It’s really interesting to see how artists deal with fire and neon lights and things like that.”
Viewers will recognize names like local artists Grant Wood, Marvin Cone, Charles Barth, Conger Metcalf and Mary Zeran, as well as a Christmas card by illustrator Hank Ketcham of “Dennis the Menace” fame.
The pieces are grouped according to themes, including urban and rural landscapes; things that go bump in the night; abstractions; children’s book illustrations; and a section on nighttime activities.
“So it’s a really big mix, which is really fun,” Kunau said.
And naturally, with Halloween right around the corner, lots of activities for all ages are being planned around this exhibition and its companion, “Haunted: Marvin Cone’s Ghosts.”
Upcoming events include torchlight tours on Oct. 11 and a Night at the Museum family fun night on Oct. 18.
“Our education director has been living for something a little creepy like this,” Kunau said of colleague Erin Thomas. “She’s very excited.”
WHAT: “Up All Night: The Art of the Dark” exhibition
WHERE: First floor galleries, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE
WHEN: Saturday (10/5) to Jan. 5; noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
ADMISSION: $7 adults, $6 ages 62 and older and college students, $3 ages 6 to 18, free ages 5 and under and museum members
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OPENING RECEPTION: “Haunted: Marvin Cone’s Ghosts” and “Up All Night: The Art of the Dark,” 5 to 7 p.m. today (10/3) at the museum; free, with remarks at 5:30 p.m., gallery tour at 6 p.m. and refreshments
GUIDED MEDITATION: All Souls Day, 6 p.m. Oct. 10, 5 Turner Alley, $10, ages 13 and up; hybrid meditative twist on Halloween and older traditions of honoring that which has passed, touching on the memories of people, places, moments that have shaped us through goodness.
TORCHLIGHT TOURS: 8 to 9 p.m. Oct. 11, museum, $15, for ages 10 and up. Docent-led gallery tour in the dark by the light of (electric) torchlight. Highlighting “Up All Night: Art of the Dark” and “Haunted: Marvin Cone’s Ghosts,” with unique view of the artwork and a deeper look into the artists’ perspectives. Preregistration is required, call Education Director Erin Thomas at (319) 366-7503, Ext. 203, or email email@example.com
PAJAMA STORY TIME: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, free, in the galleries. Theme: Not-So-Spooky Monsters, with stories and crafts; wear pajamas
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Family Fun Night, 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 18, free, museum. Costumes welcome; includes make-and-take masterpieces that glow under black light, scavenger hunts and night-owl projects to take home.
DETAILS: For more activities and information, go to crma.org