FMAAA to feature Bueker collection tonight, 5 to 7 p.m.


Submitted by Brian Riggs, director of the Fort Madison Area Artists Association.

Charlene Bueker touched many with her artistic prowess completed in virtually any medium. Ft. Madison Area Artists Association has borrowed many pieces from regional owners to give you a glimpse of who she was as an individual and her import as a working artist in Ft. Madison and Niota. She was an internationally recognized design artist, featured in the golden age of retail by Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Marshall Field.

A reception for her work occurs tonight February 10th from 5-7pm—always open to the public at 825 Ave G. Hy-Vee of Ft. Madison is the sponsor for this month’s show.

Charlene was a fireball of non-stop top of energy rotating in a creative whirlwind. Her son John relates,”Mom could do it all writing, music, painting porcelain, toll-painting, watercolors, ceramic sculpture. She was always working on something.”

Utilizing raw materials to create whimsical works of beauty. She certainly had a sense of capturing her unique style in portraiture. From earlier toll painting works, she went into a Victorian style painting period, depicting children and babies, and always utilizing live models to capture her unique vision of the child on canvas.

Kelly Peters tells the story of when her daughter Stephanie was in Sandy’s (presently Hardees). “Stephanie was crying as I had just nipped her finger with the tray from the kid’s highchair. Charlene came over and proclaimed what a beautiful child Stephanie was and as she calmed her, Charlene asked Kelly if she could paint her.” Charlene liked helping people, a theme that resonated throughout her life. The facial expressions on the children’s faces captures a glimpse into the personality of the subject.
A spinning top of creativity, Charlene had several arts and crafts shops. The Wild Goose Chase was in the Anthes Hotel where she collaborated with Nancy Wagner. She had a shop on the west end of Ft. Madison where the Veterinarian currently resides. She had a shop in Niota, Illinois as well. She was always creating something new, oftentimes, with many projects of differing mediums being in varying stages of construction. When married to Bill Smith in Niota, the two combined on a Old World Santa product that Charlene was able to parlay into her most lucrative payout for her artistic labors. Bill had strong carpentry skills and he would cut out the wood silhouette on which Charlene would paint the Santa scene in her style depicting old world santas, sporting a three dimensional beard on top of the painting. These pieces are quite appealing and vary in size. Christmas has indeed come to FMAAA gallery in February.
Charlene would use a family member as the portrait for the heads explained her son John as he showed me examples of Santa’s that had the face of is brother Bruce and father Bill. Another has the face of Carl Langenbach. Charlene spent her last years with Carl living in Algoma, Wisconsin just at the beginning of artist rich Door County. She had an eye for seizing the day on new currents in the art flow. Charlene’s ever-changing style shifted from the Victorian children to the Christmas and Easter works that eventually parlayed into a contract with Silvestri for their rights to mass produce art prototypes of Charlene’s Christmas/Easter style. Silvestri of Chicago was one of the world’s largest wholesale gift manufacturers.

Her son John recalls, “She didn’t do art for the money. Many times I would ride with her in the car as she left art work on folk’s doorsteps for nothing. She was hesitate to enter into an agreement with the design manufacturers. She sat on that Sivestrini contract for a year before she sent it back to them, and than was able to renegotiate a higher percentage on her payout!” She may have not cared for the business end but certainly knew how to rangle a deal with the suits. This is the same lady that cowered Senators in Washington in 1964 when she debated in favor of the union railroad labor dispute regarding the railroads determination to dispose of fireman position on the train runs (have picture of Bill and Charlene Bueker in Washington). During her last years in Algoma, she continued to give and aid. She sponsored budding artists and gave large sums of money to children’s hospitals.

FMAAA has been overwhelmed with the outpouring of community support by individuals lending works to this exhibition. Thanks to Madeline Leake of the Colony Shop for suggesting this tribute and offering the use of her collection for the public. In the beginning of this process had determined that with Madeline and Bruce Bueker’s assimilation of Charlene’s work that would be able to deliver a decent sampling. Since than an explosion of pieces have arrived and each one has their own story! Only a few stories were shared here, come to the reception and share your tale with each other for a memory and tribute in fellowship to Charlene Bueker. FMAAA gallery at 825 Avenue G is open Tues-Sat from 10am-5pm.

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