I stole a couple hours with my “Aunt” (close family friend) Mary Pappajohn to tour the Des Moines Art Center while I was home last week. As we ate lunch, I looked out over the building I took art lessons in as a child from artist Peggy Patrick, the beautiful rose garden I once dreamt of being married in – barefoot with flowers in my hair, giving way to the emerald green woods of Greenwood Park, my old teenage haunt.

Marble sculpture by Jaume Plensa of Alexandra

Marble sculpture by Jaume Plensa of Alexandra

Afterward, I looked for old familiar favorites like Frances Bacons’ Screaming Pope, Andy Warhols’ Flowers, and a Giacometti I adored as a wee girl amongst many new and exciting acquisitions in recent years including a stunning Jaume Plensa Aunt Mary and Uncle John commissioned of their granddaughter, Alexandra. My disappointment over the Roy Lichtenstein Pyramid (my personal favorite piece in the Art Centers’ collection), was soon forgotten when we turned the corner to see the massive  8′ 1 1/4′ x 19′ 10″ Jackson Pollock on loan from Iowa City. My breath was quite literally taken away.

Mural by Jackson Pollock

Mural by Jackson Pollock

This very important 1943 piece marks the beginning of Pollock’s abstract expressionist work and predates his famous paint flinging days by a few years. The magnificent Mural was originally commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for the entry hall of her New York apartment. “Howard Putzel, Guggenheim’s secretary-assistant, urged her to give Pollock a project that would unleash the force he perceived in Pollock’s smaller-scaled easel paintings.” Thankfully for us, Marcel Duchamp talked her into having the work done on canvas rather than directly on the wall for portability. In 1947, Ms. Guggenheim closed the doors to her New York gallery and moved to Venice. Without the wall space to house Mural, she gifted it to the University of Iowa in 1948. Mural is currently valued at $140,000,000.00.

“It was a stampede… [of] every animal in the American West, cows, and horses and antelopes and buffalo. Everything is charging across that goddamn canvas.” – Jackson Pollock describing his vision for Mural after months of staring at a blank canvas during a creative block.

This post was first published May 20, 2012

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  • May 20, 2012
    10:57 am

    Now I see what you mean about Iowa having great art!

    I envy Pollock’s innate ability to trust his gut and just go with his vision; the freedom in his stokes is very inspiring.

    This is definitely a nudge in the right direction to get me out of my creative block.

  • May 20, 2012
    12:29 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful visit to the gallery! Love Jackson Pollock’s work and the piece in your blog is amazing. To see it close up would be a dream. All of the art is interesting and I am sure you could spend a whole day taking time to view all the exhibit pieces.

    • May 20, 2012
      12:42 pm

      I never fully appreciated what amazing art I was exposed to from such an early age thanks to the Des Moines Art Center, until many years later. When you think of the size of the community vs. the museum it is truly incredible.

  • May 20, 2012
    12:35 pm

    Taking a break from the cooking and I see this. I am trying to type this through happy tears so bear with me but when I need a boost, I read one or two of your blogs so to have a new one appear seemed like a good omen then to see it was about art took it to the next level. To see the ultimate – Jackson Pollock featured… I am at a loss for words. When you say it took your breath away I know precisely what you mean because I felt the same when I went into a room at MOMA and saw his massive work on the wall. My Brooklynite friend I was with must have thought ‘the Canuck has gone nuts’ but smiled proudly as this was the highlight of that day’s tour she had planned. It’s been a tough few days here but this has all calmed things down. Please… a blog a week or every two weeks discussing art? Once again… you’ve made my day.

    • May 20, 2012
      12:40 pm

      Oops – see my reply down a couple posts Rachel – we live in parallel universes.

  • May 20, 2012
    11:03 am

    Ya ain’t seen nothing yet – the sculpture park downtown is spectacular. Blog post to come soon.

  • May 20, 2012
    11:18 am

    There is a sense of frentic, kinetic energy in the piece. Makes one want to get up and move- to change something, do something cathartic.

    There is also a sense of urgency; something big and important is about to happen, and one must be ready.

    Jackson Pollock always reminds me that life requires participation; life is fluid like a river- one can float, but one must swim also.

    Ah….I’m reminded of the film, “Mona Lisa Smile”…which still inspires me to live, and not remain static.

    Lovely post, Jewels! 🙂

    Last week, I was fortunate to visit the Phillip’s Collection in D.C. We spend so much time with the mundane tasks of day-to-day living that we must also remind ourselves to feed our spirits! There’s nothing like taking a few moments and sitting in front of one’s favorite artist to replenish our spirits and souls! Renoir and Degas do it for me, but I do find myself drawn to Pollack and Chihuly.

    -Pammers (who loves the art blogs!)

    • May 20, 2012
      11:22 am

      Also…for some reason, I find that I always seem to mess up Jackson Pollock’s name. I get so distracted by the feelings his works emit in me, that I tend to combine portions of his name together.

      Does anyone else do that? Get so lost up in something- be it art, music, poetry, novels, gourmet meals…that they are so entranced that the names (mere labels) get meshed together?


  • May 20, 2012
    12:36 pm

    Hey Jewels,

    All I can say is…I love your posts about art!! I just finished a class on art history in college. Two of the artists we studied were Jackson Pollack and Marcel Duchamp. While I don’t get out to museums very often, I always know that I can live vicariously through your blog posts.


    P.S. I can’t wait for the post about the sculpture garden!

    • May 20, 2012
      12:39 pm

      Oh Dawn – keep reminding me to write my Marcel Duchamp experience one day. It is hysterical.

  • May 20, 2012
    12:38 pm

    OMG, I saw that show at MOMA, and I was blown away too! His work is unbelievably powerful, and off the charts when surrounded 360° with it! One of my all time favorite art exhibitions.

  • May 22, 2012
    8:21 am

    I just went to the Tate Modern to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. Polka dots everywhere!Very fascinating lady.

    • May 23, 2012
      7:17 pm

      Is the massive Louise Bourgeois spider still in the entryway? I love that sculpture, and saw a smaller version in the Mary and John Pappajohn scuplture park this past weekend. Mary told me she did spiders because her mother was a weaver.