Artist creates painting book to spread awareness about organization


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“It all started with a cow,” reads the mission statement of Heifer International.

Heifer is a nonprofit organization that began in the mid-1940s, donating cows to European countries to aid in post-World War II struggles. Now, Heifer has expanded its aid to countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, and it provides more than 30 types of animals, including goats, geese, guinea pigs, bees, silkworms, and water buffalo.

After a two-week study tour with Heifer in July 2007, local artist Marcia Wegman created a book of paintings to spread awareness about the organization.

“[Heifer] is also about equality,” she said. “It teaches the women how to take care of the animals and teaches the men how to work with the women and respect them.”

The 1961 UI School of Art and Art History graduate and 25-year Iowa Artisans Gallery participant will present her newly published book, A Look at Latvia and Lithuania, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St.

“My proposal to the organization was to do these paintings and come back and teach people about what kind of work Heifer does,” she said.

The book consists of 19 paintings, each inspired by photographs Wegman shot during her visit to the two Baltic countries.

The paintings include two portraits, including one of a girl holding her dog, as well as heifers in grassland, swans in an ethnographical park, barns, lilies, storks, and children’s sheep. Each painting is accompanied by a short descriptive essay.

Wegman said her experience in the Baltic countries and the process of creating her paintings enabled her to spread the word about the organization.

“I hope people will be willing to support Heifer, because it does so much to help people around the world,” she said.

The publisher of the book, Joan Burre of Penfield Books, said the subject matter attracted her to it.

“I thought paintings of photographs from Latvia and Lithuania would make a great book, because there are hardly any books about those two Baltic countries,” she said.

Wegmen’s unique style of painting was also a key factor in publishing the book, Burre said.

“The showings of these two countries are realistic abstractions,” she said. “She is wonderful in pastel painting, and I have admired her work for many years.”

UI medicine Professor Peter Densen said he has been a fan of Wegman’s work after choosing her to create a painting for an empty and unwelcoming wall in a former dean’s office in 2006.

The painting Wegmen created is a scene of Amana, Iowa, in the summer.

“No matter where you are in the room, it gives you a great depth of field with its road and the cornfield,” he said. “It allows the person who’s looking at it to ignore the wall and just look through it.”

With his admiration of this painting, Densen grew more attracted to Wegman’s work, especially those of rural settings in Iowa.

“I own three paintings of hers, two of which are rural and one is of the downtown Ped Mall,” he said. “But I will always be deeply associated with the one that hangs in the College of Medicine.”

What: Marcia Wegman and David Wright’s book of paintings

Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
When: 4 p.m. Saturday

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