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UI professor emeritus a student of collage

BY RACHAEL LANDER | AUGUST 21, 2009 7:07 AM

Concrete art wasn’t something Alicia Brown set out to create when she began dabbling in art classes in Des Moines during her childhood. Her parents simply wanted to expose her to different artistic genres. Dance, however, took precedence over painting, taking the artist to New York, Chicago, and finally back to Iowa, where she began crafting mixed-media collages.

The UI dance Associate Professor Emeritus’ exhibit, Abstract Confections, will be on display at the Englert Gallery, 221 E. Washington, through Oct. 5. The free viewing is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 6 p.m., as well as before, after, and during events at the theater.

After her stay in Chicago, Brown’s marriage took her to the Netherlands where she lived for eight years. Although she taught and performed dance, it wasn’t her main focus while she was overseas, and Brown said she began to grow bored.

“I was going stark raving mad,” she said. “In the one village I was living in, there was practically nothing to do, so I joined a group of other people who were commuting to take a sculpture class, so I dabbled with that. That’s what I would call it, ‘dabbling.’ So literally I dabbled in art.”

Along with taking a sculpture class, Brown painted a bit, but she said it was mostly for a creative outlet. When she moved back to Iowa to begin teaching at the UI, however, she fell back into her artistic roots.

“We had a really bad snowstorm about two years before I retired, and I could not get into school that day,” she said. “I had some magazines I was going to throw out, but then I decided, ‘Why don’t I just boil these up and put them on a piece of paper and see what I come up with?’ I started doing it, and I couldn’t stop.”

Brown brought her first pieces to artist friend Marcia Wagner, who, she said, encouraged her to keep pursuing the collage-style art. She said Wagner praised her use of shape, color, and movement and urged her to keep experimenting.

“She was encouraging, and from then on, I started doing it,” Brown said. “I just began doing art. I’ve fallen into something quite by accident, but it’s been a real joy — I love doing it.”

The artist began her work using a collage-type design — layering paper in a way that resembled a painting. Now, however, her style is more about layering different types of media, such as charcoal, pastels, and paint, with the paper to create different types of collages.

“I think I’m getting tired of the glue,” she said. “You can’t have pretty nails and do this work.”

The exhibit at the Englert is a display of a variety of pieces that aren’t centered on one theme, Brown said, which is why she titled the collection Abstract Confections.

“It’s just a variety of pieces,” she said. “I didn’t put a lot in there because I don’t like to cram a space with a lot of form and color. I think the eye needs to be able to wander and come to something.”


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