ART ON THE PRAIRIE

Brandon L. Summers, Editor
A photography exhibit at Citizens State Bank Building, comprised of photos taken by Perry's fifth grade students, is admired by Denise LaBorde. It was one of many exhibits offered by Art on the Prairie 2016.

Hundreds came to Perry for Art on the Prairie to not only enjoy art across various media, but to appreciate the artists themselves.

Shawn Palek, a painter for 30 years with a gallery in Des Moines, appeared at Hotel Pattee.

"I paint anything on anything. I use the airbrush for the majority of my work. But I can also paint with brushes and draw," Palek said. "We've had to put up signs in the past because people think they're photographs. And I have to explain to them that they're original paintings and I did them. I watched myself paint them."

Palek offered ink paintings, with India ink and paintbrushes on watercolor paper, among other works.

Many of Palek's works feature pop culture figures and scenes, including The Princess Bride, Deadpool, the Universal monsters, and the Fourth Doctor.

"I paint stuff that I like, and eventually I find someone else likes the same thing," he said.

Palek said events such as Art on the Prairie are beneficial to him.

"I do a lot of shows like this to get my name out in front of people," he said. "It's very beneficial in that aspect. Even if I don't sell anything, I make new contacts."

Jan Wormley of Newton showed detailed wood carvings at Carnegie Library Museum. It was her third year at the event.

"The base and main part of the body of the closed wing birds are made from basswood," she said. "The open wing birds, like this Peregrine, each of these feathers is an individual piece I burned with a special kind of woodburning knife."

Wormley has been woodcarving since age 9, and in her art finds peace.

"It is my sanity," she said. "I had a pretty high-stress job at Iowa State University. And when I'd come home I could just go to my studio and the world would just leave. I could spend as long as I wanted out there."

Wormley said Art on the Prairie is "wonderful."

"I love the fact that a small town really promotes the arts like they do," she said. "It's really unusual for this small a place. And the venue is beautiful."

Rick Stewart, the Newton artist who crafts the bas reliefs for Perry's Wall of Witnesses, appeared at the TownCraft building.

Stewart has been a sculptor for 40 years and a profession for 20 years.

"Bas relief has been probably the most fun of the ones I do," he said. "I enjoy doing three dimensional sculpture, but I have an affinity for doing relief sculpture."

Bas relief is the most difficult of all sculpting, Stewart said.

"You add a piece of clay onto a flat surface, you've changed that dramatically, compressing of the figure so you can fool the eye into believing they're seeing much more than they are," he said.

Stewart crafted a relief of his granddaughter while being admired by visitors.

"Periodically, I wonder about how well my work will last. I hope it lasts a long time," he said. "I've always enjoyed looking at old sculptures and paintings over the years, and I've always hoped I would have things like that as well. It's a fun thing."

He added, "It's a way of living beyond your years."

Marilyn Jerome, a vocalist and acoustic guitar player, performed at the Citizens State Bank Building for guests.

"The venue is great," Jerome said. "The acoustics are always good. I've met so many people. I love it."

Her sixth year at Art on the Prairie, Jerome enjoys being able to interact with people most.

"I wouldn't want to just stand in an empty room," she said. "It's all about making somebody happy, hopefully conveying emotion and seeing it come back."

It is rewarding as an artist, Jerome said, to be found and appreciated by the day's attendees.

"What I enjoy about it is, it's not a paid gig, so it's a little more relaxed. I get people who come in and say, do you know this song? Do you know that song?" she said. "It's really fun."

She added, "It's all about the community, the people coming through who enjoy arts of all kinds."