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weekly art forecasts from Central Iowa

Who’s exhibiting and opportunities for artists

Posts tagged john huffman
Week of June 24


The Interrobang Film Festival runs from June 26 through June 28 at the downtown library.  Read Alissa Sheldon’s preview of the festival on the Art Beacon website.

E V E N T S :

WEDS JUNE 24, 5 PM  Frank Hansen Art Benefit Show:  The Patient Rider, Nest Gallery

WEDS JUNE 24, 6 PM Town Square Art Show, Crane Artist Lofts

WEDS JUNE 24, 6 PM Fitch Artist Studios Open House

WEDS JUNE 24, 6 PM Big Top Bacchus Life Drawing, Darker Marker Productions

WEDS JUNE 24, 7 PM Urban Visionaries Show, Viaduct Gallery

WEDS June 24, 7 PM Aerial Expo, Courtyard, Des Moines Social Club

THURS JUNE 25, 6:30 PM Gallery Talk:  Fiber, Des Moines Art Center

FRI JUNE 26, 11 AM Interrobang Film Festival Begins, Downtown Library

FRI JUNE 26, 11 AM Des Moines Arts Festival Begins, Western Gateway

FRI JUNE 26, 4 PM  Happy Hour Artist Reception with Thomas C. Jackson, Proof

FRI June 26, 5 PM Van Holmgren S.O.S. Q&A, The Lift

SAT June 27, 10 AM ArtFest Midwest, Iowa State Fairgrounds

SAT June 27, 2 PM Too Broke for the Arts Festival Fest, Vaudeville Mews

SAT June 27, 7 PM John Huffman Pizza Party!, Transient Gallery, Nestcraft

D E A D L I N E S :

NewBo Art Fest - Call for Artist DEADLINE August 15th


Still photo from feature film “Wildlike” by Frank Green

Leering at the Gyre

John Huffman, The Lift



Detail of The Gyre (Source: Katie Ericson)

Response from Katie Ericson

December 3, 2013

At 8 p.m. on a Friday, the Lift is only half-full, people clustering together near the FREE PIZZA boxes and bar. With the lighting turned down to a dim glow, it is almost easy to miss the array of art hanging on the dark wooden walls. If it weren’t for the few random people staring intently at these paintings, the bar might have seemed like a typical drinking hole. But they do stand and stare, squinting in the light to see every detail. A few works shine in the dark though, their obscene colors and grotesque faces appearing like psychedelic gargoyles.

The exhibit is by John Huffman and his works cover the walls of the bar. Most feature distorted faces like sickened cartoons that leer and glare threateningly from their painted canvases. Plain colors and backgrounds focus all attention on the contorted creature(s) in the frame. In the low light, the surprisingly dark lines that outline the things’ twisted expressions seem even more dramatic. Overall it’s a rather chilling display.


Huffman’s “The Gyre" (Source: Katie Ericson)

But some pieces stand out more than the rest – “The Gyre” is a particularly disturbing piece. Placed in the center of a wall with a solitary light shining on it, the bright red of the portrait blares out through the groups and gatherings of people like a mounted stop light. Two vaguely Texas-like shapes leer out at the viewer with pointed teeth and three eyes. A streak of messy spray paint cuts through all three of the eyes, drips blurring the firm black lines.


Detail of The Gyre (Source: Katie Ericson)

Yet the thing that makes this painting stand out are the six small figures dotting the border of the piece. A goose with wounds on its chest, a scarred swordfish, a tilted and tainted bird, a whale with a long gash, an unlabeled red can, and a trash bag with “FUCK” written on a red label all sit on the edge of the painting, their forlorn eyes empty. All are small compared to the two large figures and require investigation, making the viewer lean in close to the laughing red eyes of the states.

Its overall effect is one of extreme discomfort. It seems to be making a statement about pollution – how humans can be more dangerous than nature itself. A gyre is a swirling vortex that often refers to oceanic current patterns, hurricanes, or tornadoes. The piece suggests that humans are a more dangerous gyre than those, hurting innocent animals with trash and pretending the damage comes from nature.

Perhaps I read too much into the piece. There is certainly a temptation to do so when surrounded by the sneering faces and staring eyes of Huffman’s exhibit. Either way, the piece was disturbing in a surprisingly intriguing way. The exhibit as a whole was this same way, each face with a new expression, a new form of disdain and disgust. Though thoroughly unsettling, it managed to still be pleasant.

I’m Katie Ericson, a Junior Writing and Music double major at Drake University. When not lost somewhere in our Fine Arts Building, I enjoy watching far too much Doctor Who and Top Gear.

Moonlight of the Night

John Huffman, The Lift



Huffman’s “Moonlight of the Night” (Source: Michael Glavan)

Response from Michael Glavan

December 3, 2013

My visit to The Lift was my first time seeing John Huffman’s work, and I think I experienced the initial response he aimed for.  I was taken aback and confused and I think Mr. Huffman was looking for this kind of a shock factor.  It was difficult to see anything beyond the graphic or grotesque nature of the different artworks.  The first piece I noticed while I waited for my drink was titled “Moonlight of the Night.”  This piece, in particular, set the mood for the rest of my viewing and is the piece I have come back to each time I have visited since.  As my eyes first began translating the contents of the artwork, I noticed the distinctions between colors.  Within each section, outlined by deep, dark lines, was a single color or single blend of colors.  This style makes clear each subject in the piece, but the subjects evoked a much different set of feelings.  The simple lines and colors provided a sense of placidity and are reminiscent of the simplicity of a child’s drawings.  However, the simplicity of the lines and colors understates the complex themes and emotions in the content of the artworks.  Mr. Huffman further complicates the emotional response by titling this particular piece, “Moonlight of the Night.” This title adds a sense of serenity and beauty that can easily imply romance or tranquility, but contrasts the more uncomfortable feelings provided by the imagery.

 “Moonlight of the Night” depicts two unicorns having sex while a devil has anal sex with the rear unicorn and the front unicorn ejaculates on a person lying on the ground.  Sex can often be a taboo or uncomfortable topic and this particular image pushes that discord with group sex, bestiality, and the devil.  Although the unicorn has been a symbol associated with homosexuality, the meaning of its presence in Mr. Huffman’s work is not uncomplicated.  It may, in some instances, convey playfulness or awe at the mystical, but in other contexts, the imagery may be used to call negative stereotypes about homosexuality.  Mr. Huffman’s inclusion of the devil with the unicorn imagery perhaps indicates that the artist is playing on this range of negative to positive associations.  Mr. Huffman could have depicted two men having sex if he had wanted to, but instead his use of unicorns allows him to distinguish between the unicorns and the person.  Although this distinction is calling attention to the human’s role, his role is just as complicated as the unicorn’s.  Perhaps the human is meant to represent all those people not represented by the unicorn.  If this is true, then it could be said that person is receiving the outcomes of the unicorn’s actions.

John Huffman’s work is by no means easy to comprehend.  He challenges his viewers with complex imagery that contrasts the graphical techniques he uses.  I would recommend checking out this gallery before it leaves especially to see how “Moonlight of the Night” compares to the rest of John Huffman’s work.  I would also advise making several returning trips in order to work through the initial responses.

My name is Michael Glavan and I grew up in Rockton, IL - a small town near Rockford.  Now I live in Des Moines and attend Drake University.  I am nearing completion of my undergraduate degree in Actuarial Science with a minor in Philosophy.  If I’m not in the midst of studying for an actuarial exam, I will be outdoors having fun (no matter the season) or playing music with friends.