Walters’ Art in Plain Sight

Bruce Waters published another Art in Plain Sight article in the River City Reader.

He also received a very nice note from Karoly Veress, the artist he featured in March.

Dear Bruce,
Thank you very much for your article about “Freedom.” You presented my thoughts and feelings in a magnificent way and at the same time encouraged the freedom for others to interpret it in a different way.
I congratulate and thank you for the article.

In April, Walters featured the Charles J. Wright Transit Center.

Irish Memorial.  Photo by Bruce Walters.

Irish Memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The Charles J. Wright Transit Center at 300 West River Drive in downtown Davenport has two very different works of art related to travel. One is a sculpture of an impoverished Irish family traveling by foot. It is traditionally figurative and meant to draw you in emotionally. The other – modern and emotionally cool – evokes a sense of speed on a highway.

The Irish memorial is located on the center’s north lawn, near the corner of Second and Harrison streets. It’s a life-sized bronze statue of a family forced by famine and political oppression to leave Ireland. This story played out many times, as a quarter of Ireland’s population either died of starvation or emigrated between 1845 and 1852. Before the end of 1850s, more than 2,000 Irish immigrants lived in Davenport.

Created in 2011 by Moline native Lou Quaintance, the sculpture depicts a young man with his possessions in a sack on his shoulder, followed by a young woman and a small child. Each conveys a different emotion. The man’s face and body language are resolutely directed forward. The woman holds a hand to her face as if overcome with grief. The child looks back with a tear running down its face. A deep sense of past – and future – hardship is conveyed. Behind them are two large stone blocks from Donegal, Ireland. The four-ton stones, reminiscent of the standing stones from ancient Ireland, symbolize the homeland, family, and friends left behind.

The other work is Neons for the Transit Center.

Neons for the Transit Center.  Photo by Bruce Walters.

Neons for the Transit Center. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The curved and angular forms of the neon tubes mirror the lobby’s modern design and semicircular shape. Perhaps because of its setting, the geometric lines feel like routes drawn with vivid color on an expansive highway map stretching across the ceiling. The luminous reddish-orange light is also reminiscent of the passing streaks of taillights on a highway at night.

The transit center’s location on River Drive isn’t especially relevant – unless we are inspired by the artworks’ connection with travel over both time and distance. River Drive is also U.S. Route 61, one of most culturally significant roads in America. Stretching from northern Minnesota to downtown New Orleans, Route 61 is designated as the Great River Road for much of its 1,400-mile length; it is also known as the Blues Highway. The legendary Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads, and one of the roads was Route 61. Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” is just one of the many songs about the highway. The route was also one of the main roads taken by African Americans to escape Jim Crow laws and seek employment opportunities in the northern industrial cities.

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