Earl Iversen: 2012 Friends of the Beach Museum of Art Gift Print Artist
February 14, 2012 – May 20, 2012
Earl Iversen, associate professor of photography emeritus, University of Kansas, is the 2012 Friends of the Beach Museum of Art gift print artist. Iversen, a Chicago native, majored in communication design at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle (BA, 1970). In 1974, after graduate study at the Rhode Island School of Design (MFA, 1973), Iversen and his spouse Susan moved from Boston to Kansas in a Volkswagen Microbus. Since then, the Kansas landscape, natural and built, has provided an unending source of subjects for his lens.
Iversen is particularly interested in grassroots art sites, the profoundly expressive environments created out of common materials by eccentric individuals with no formal art training. He traces his attraction to grassroots art to an incident he witnessed in Munich, Germany in the 1960s. A man had built a scaled-down version of a Russian Orthodox church using trash he collected from the city’s streets. When city officials attempted to remove the work with a bulldozer, supporters organized in an effort to prevent its destruction. For Iversen, the episode was “a fascinating study in the interplay of an eccentric artist and the maintenance of the status quo.” It was also the catalyst for his abiding preoccupation with photographing grassroots art sites in Kansas, around the country, and abroad.
Kansas is particularly fertile ground for grassroots art. The state ranks third in the country, behind Wisconsin and California, in the number of grassroots art sites. Its most notable site is S. P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Over the past several years, Iversen has been working with large view cameras to create black and white views of the concrete sculptural environment that entwines the area around Dinsmoor’s limestone Cabin Home. Iversen’s decision to use what he describes as “very large, practically primitive wood film cameras…requiring big tripods firmly planted on the ground” was prompted by his desire to slow down and make more deliberate images in “the most simple and elemental way possible.”
Concurrent with his Garden of Eden work, Iversen has been using the same cameras to photograph views of the woods surrounding Mary’s Lake, a small public fishing area in Lawrence, Kansas. The Lucas and Lawrence sites hold similar appeal for the photographer. As he notes: “They are spacious environments to roam around and observe: full of fascinating curvilinear sculptural forms reaching up and having cathedral-like qualities flavored by an atmosphere of mystery, contortion, and dread.”
This exhibition of Iversen’s photography will feature selections of recent work from his Garden of Eden and Mary’s Lake projects. The 2012 gift print will be one of Iversen’s Garden of Eden images.