Friday, May 27, 2022

Artist Dean Schwarz and Family and Friends

In the fall of 1963, I began my senior year at a high school in a small town in northeast Iowa. A new teacher had been hired to teach art, and I soon began to work with him. As an artist, he was a painter at the time, but he would soon become an important American potter. That teacher’s name was Dean Schwarz. He was a primary mentor for me—we launched an art gallery, hitchhiked to New Orleans in the middle of winter, and, in 1964, spent the summer in Northern California, studying at Pond Farm Pottery with Bauhaus artist and author Marguerite Wildenhain.

Dean is 84 this year, and I am 76, and our friendship (along with my great fondness for his wife, author Gerry Schwarz) has continued, uninterrupted, all these many years. Most recently, it was a pleasure to be asked to design the card invitation and a photographic film tribute for a new exhibition of pots and his other creations at the Hearst Center for the Arts, in Cedar Falls IA. Titled DEAN SCHWARZ AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS, the exhibition begins on June 4 and continues through July 17, 2022.

There is a public reception on June 18, from 10:30 am to Noon. It is described as follows: Visit The Hearst to experience the world of Dean Schwarz through his work and the work of some of his family and friends. Collaborative ceramics by sons Gunnar and Lane Schwarz and grandchildren Marguerite, William and Sophie are featured alongside Jeff Bromley’s boxelder and soft maple furniture.

Dean Schwarz (© Emily Drennan)

Ceramic Art by Dean and Gunnar Schwarz


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Coming Soon / Evolving Graphic Design Exhibit

Reproduced above is the poster for a major gallery exhibition that begins on May 24, 2022 (in the coming week) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and continues through June 24. Titled EVOLVING GRAPHIC DESIGN, it showcases the work of twenty-three graphic design professionals and design educators from throughout the nation. Represented is the widest variety of graphic media, including themes, research and techniques that extend beyond traditional prints on paper.

The exhibit’s originator, organizer and curator is Yeohyun Ahn, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Interactive Media, in the Graphic Design Program, UW-Madison Department of Art. Detailed information about the exhibition is online here. And you learn more about Professor Ahn at this link.

I am pleased that my work is included in two components of the exhibition. In one will be exhibited a series of ten large-scale digital montages, called the Iowa Insect Series, that I made in 2012-2013 in collaboration with design colleague and friend David M. Versluis. Having retired from teaching recently, he now resides in Michigan. But at the time, he was a Professor of Art and Design at Dordt College in Iowa, while I was then on the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa.

These works began with David’s high definition digital scans of various insect specimens from his collection. We worked together by what might be referred to as “blind collaboration.” To begin, he would email me one of the insect image scans. I then did something to alter or augment that image (somewhat like a move in chess), and returned the result by email to him. He then made additional alterations, and sent that second result to me. We continued blindly, back and forth, exchanging subsequent alterations, until we both began to sense that the work was nearing completion. We did this on ten occasions. All ten will be exhibited in the UW-Madison exhibition. No doubt the effect will be stunning.

In another area of the exhibition, I will also be exhibiting thirteen design-related images that are part of my long-term, continuing research (as a design historian) of World War I Allied naval camouflage. The theme uniting these artifacts is high difference or disruptive ship camouflage, which was referred to at the time as dazzle painting or dazzle camouflage. Among the items exhibited are restored government photographs from the time period, full-color reproductions of diagrams of the camouflage patterns, and my own recent hypothetical camouflage schemes, derived from historical works of art.

A highlight of the exhibition will be a symposium, titled Evolving Graphic Design, to be held on June 23 and 24, in the Art Loft Conference Room, Art Lofts Building, in the Department of Art,
University of Wisconsin-Madison at 111 North Frances Street, in Madison. I will participate in that symposium, by online presentation.

Sunday, May 8, 2022


cover of issue 02 of BALLAST (1985)

actual frame from a silent film
So how did BALLAST begin?  

Answer: In the late 1960s, when I (of all people) was drafted into the US Marine Corps, I found that some of the officers, while cruel and unusual, could also be terribly funny. One of my favorites was a height-impaired captain, a George Gobel look-alike, who was the company adjutant when I was in Hawaii. He was hilarious—always. One day a top-ranking officer came to our company (a Marine general), and this adjutant sent word that I should report to his office immediately. As I stood frozen at attention (awed by the mere presence of such a distinguished warrior), the captain turned to him and said, “General, the sergeant here is a very curious specimen. He is college-educated, and, as a result, is completely unable to answer any question with a simple yes-or-no answer.” And then, turning to me, he asked, “Isn’t that true, Sergeant?” After a measured pause, I slowly and thoughtfully answered, “Well, not entirely, Sir. You see, there’s this and that and that and that…” and of course, to his delight, I droned on for a couple of minutes. more>>>

cover of issue 01 of BALLAST (1985)

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

National Parks at Jester Park Nature Center

National Park Poster © Roy R. Behrens 2019
Above I am absolutely pleased (ecstatic even) by the opportunity to exhibit at Jester Park Nature Center (in Polk County, near Granger IA) a series of 23 digital montage posters, the theme of which is US National Parks and Monuments. I actually designed these in 2019, with the thought that I would frame them and make the exhibit available to nature centers to exhibit without charge. It was a great pleasure to design them, and an even greater pleasure results when other people can enjoy them also.

The poster exhibit at Jester Park was installed earlier this week, and will remain on view at the Nature Center Galleries there through August 28. It will officially open with an in-person reception (free and open to the public), including wine and refreshments, on Thursday, May 12, from 6 to 8 pm. Sounds wonderful. 

Exhibition at Jester Nature Center

And of course it’s also an opportunity to see other on-going exhibits in the same building, including the work of glass artist Tilda Brown Swanson, as well as permanent features as well. There is additional information at this online link.

For those who live too far away, or who can’t attend in person for other reasons, the posters can easily be accessed online. For example, all the posters are the internet (click on each to enlarge it to view) at this link. But they can also be experienced in video form online at YouTube here.  

There also another online component that quite a few people have found of interest in understanding the significance of how color, shapes, and other pattern attributes contribute to animal camouflage. It’s a succinct 30-minute video talk on Nature, Art and Camouflage, also free on YouTube. A screen grab from the video is reproduced below, as is one of the National Park posters.

For the opportunity to share the posters at the Jester Park Nature Center, I am especially grateful to Missy Smith, Nature Center Coordinator, and Lewis Major, Naturalist.

video on Nature, Art and Camouflage