Random Acts of Art

Two years ago, I went to a meeting of the Global Design Alliance in Des Moines, Iowa. Des Moines turned out to be a surprise. I’m not sure what I pictured. (Maybe corn fields and silos?)

As it turns out, Des Moines is an amazing town for art. The galleries are incredible. David Dahlquist Studios produces pottery for large city art installations. The Sticks Gallery distributes whimsical furniture art across the country. The Des Moines Art Center has a security guard who keeps a sketch pad by the stool where he sits and does the most amazing portraits of people whose faces interest him. (I know because I picked up the pad and peeked when he wasn't looking.)

The week I was there, the Des Moines Art Festival set up right outside my hotel. I could hear music and smell roasted corn from my balcony. I was in!

The variety of art and artists was overwhelming. Oils, watercolors, mixed media, sculpture. The thing that struck me the most wasn’t the variety, but what I was drawn to. Some of the most powerful uses of color were by African-American artists, and I found they had the power to pull me through crowds of people carrying cotton candy and turkey legs to see their work up close. I spent an evening browsing through tents, then-- inspired to create--sat at a café table and began to sketch with the watercolor crayons I stole from my friend, Robin-the-Artist.

I went home to our house which had an “old English library” feel, stripped our dining room table and began painting. Poor John, I think he thought I was crazy. Luckily, he also encourages me when I get like this. Little did he know that the table would eventually influence our whole household. In going through the tents of the Des Moines Art Festival, I discovered the power of color and light. I stained the glass on the highest windows in our living room…hung mobiles in our bedroom. John and I spent a day looking for Talavera geckos for the bar. We went on a week-long odyssey to find the multi-colored lamps for the dining room. (Just for the record, John’s office remains a bastion of old-English-librariness. As it should. It has a brown leather love seat, bookshelves, and swords and parchment hang on the walls. It suits him.)

The best part of the transformation in our living space came from something Bethany told me. She was at a youth group meeting and the question was posed, “Have you ever been to a place that just makes you feel good?”

Her friend answered, “Yeah. Bethany’s house."

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall