BY BRIAN RIGGS
Fort Madison Area Arts Association
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Area Arts Association welcomes Curt Swarm as feature artist in November. Pilot Grove Savings Bank is the sponsor for the exhibition. Curt will showcase a trifecta of photography, metal sculpture, and the written word. Curt has offered 50% of his sales proceeds to benefit the “Raise the Roof” campaign for the FMAAA. Coincidently, Curt did a similar good deed a few years ago when Keokuk was garnering funds for the roof of their depot restoration.
FMAAA has had the pleasure of working with Curt for several years. He reminds me of a liberal arts student, able to work effectively in a variety of arts and sciences. He was a writer prior to finding FMAAA as a budding photographer, during the first onslaught of digital photography. He started adding skill layers in this medium when he asked my thoughts on a metal piece that he had created. I took the opportunity to encourage Curt to develop skills in the sculpture format. I remember telling him that even though he had a great eye for photography, that the post darkroom format has everyone aspiring to be the next Ansel Adams. Very few are doing any metal work in sculpture in the region. Since that time Curt has continued to develop a whimsical, story-telling style to his durable outdoor sculptures. Curt describes that acquiring the metal resource is an ongoing activity. “I go to flea markets to find stuff, and people give me junk. Often times I’ll have something for a couple of years before I can see a use for it. It begins to talk to me: “Yoo hoo, here I am, use me!” Then it takes on a life of its own.”
FMAAA is open for viewing Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday from 12-7pm. FMAAA is moving ever closer to their goal for the “Raise the Roof” campaign that will provide a new roof overhead and allow repairs to the internal damage created by the leaking over the last year. It is the organizations belief that this month will finalize the needed funds to insure the stability of the cultural arts at 825 Avenue G for the next 25 years.
Curt details his trifecta skills of writing, photography, and sculpture with his artist statement:
“Art is all around us. It’s in our blood, in our soul. Whether it’s writing, photography, the paint brush, welding torch, music, dance, acting, etc., it’s up to the artist, or anyone, even the farmer plowing a field, to show God’s beauty. God created and man creates. Creativity is next to Godliness.
I began writing in high school when I wrote a short story for English Lit class and the teacher threw it back at me with an F, telling me that I had plagiarized, that I didn’t have the talent to write something that good. I need to thank that teacher for the knowledge she gave me (I could write) and the determination she instilled in me. Failure turned to success, I earned a degree in English.
As a young adult I was borrowing my ex-wife’s film camera and adding photos to my writing. A picture tells a thousand words. It’s much easier now with digital. My free newspaper column, Empty Nest, expanded to over 40 newspapers in three states: Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Taking Ginnie, my editor, with me to visit newspaper offices, publishers find it hard to say no to my human interest column. Here locally, Empty Nest is in the Ft. Madison Daily Democrat, Pen City Current, Keokuk Gate City, Van Buren County Register, Hancock and Hendersen County Quill (IL), Burlington Hawkeye, Ottumwa Courier, and Southeast Iowa Union, which includes Mt. Pleasant, Fairfield and Washington.
Welding took root when I had a couple pieces of junk metal laying around that I thought would look better attached to each other. Having never welded, I bought the cheapest 110v welder I could find and made every mistake in the book, and then some. I just about burned down the garage, was hauled to the emergency room at 2:00 a.m. with scorched eyeballs, and here lately burned a hole through my bib overalls, twice. I now have a 220v MIG welder and can really get myself in trouble! BTW: I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Brian Riggs for encouraging me to expand repurposed art.
It is the artist’s responsibility to reflect the mood of the time, whether it be negative, positive or apathetic, and be a mirror to the soul of the observer. Art has the power to bring about change. The pen is mightier than the sword, as is the canvas or digital representation.
My art is guided by one principle and one principle only: Let thy light so shine amongst men that they see thy good works and glorify Father who art in heaven. Matthew 5:16”