BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON - You may have seen someone quietly, but feverishly, working behind the glass and a locked door at 731 Avenue G in the past couple years.
On Saturday, you can go in and get a glimpse of what's been going on.
Cecile Houel will be hosting an event from 5 to 8 p.m on Saturday at Cecile Houel's Studio, entitled "Twelve Portraits to Celebrate Peace".
The event, which will feature a viewing of Houel's work over the past two years, will also feature wine and Fort Madison's food wizard Martha Wolf will be providing appetizers for guests. Houel had originally thought of making the showing an invitation-only event, but changed it to a public showing to create a chance to speak with more individuals about her work and its inspirations.
Houel, who's been in the United States for just close to nine years, is of French-Tunisian decent and still carries the European accent which just adds a little more umph to her work.
The God's Feet series is a group of 14 paintings and sculptures incorporating shoes and its representation of individual paths.
But the hallmark of the showing will be 12 portraits featuring Nobel Peace Prize winners. The canvas oil paintings are 4' x 4' and jump off the board with oils that hold emotion and power and capture the personality of the bestowed winners.
Other portraits in the project series include Mikhail Gorbachev with the Berlin Wall in the background with the blood hammer breaking through the wall and sickle and star, A Mandela with a triumphant hand in front of dirt streets; a deep-in-thought profile of President Barack Obama with a face heavy of concern; and a troubled Elie Wiesel, a world leading spokesman on the Holocaust, depicted on a pile of books with a weary hand to the head fronted by a skull.
"Her passion and desire gather with her subjects' and it translates beautifully onto the canvas, leaving the viewer with a sense of what these personalities envisioned for us all," wrote Tammy McCoy in a brochure outlining the Nobel Peace Prize Project. McCoy is the executive director of Burlington's Art Center.
Houel has incorporated emotion into the Nobel prize winners, who fell victim to assassination, by allowing the paint to run down in areas of the art to depict the sadness and tragedy associated with the loss of each winner.
"It's a work of twenty years," Houel said. "But it's been in production since I got this space two years ago in December. There are, like, 140 winners so it's like 10 years of work. 1st is Martin Luther King, Jr. and it was too small at 3' x 3', so I went to 4x4. I have actually completed 13, I had Mahatma Ghandi and I thought for sure he had won a Peace Prize, but he did not. But I have Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa and others. It's in me and my mission is to speak about love and peace."
Houel said the studio is a working studio but Saturday will serve as a working studio gallery.
"This is still a studio, it's looking like a gallery right now but it's a working space," she said. "I'm up to number 14 of The God's feet. It takes me a month to a month-and-a-half to do one. Everything is homemade on Belgium linen canvas. It's really the first time I've opened publicly this space. Everything is for sale. It's not like discount affordable, it's another scale. It's original art and I'm very proud of it."
A percentage of all arts sales of the project will be donated to charities related to each laureate. For more information on Houel's work visit www.cecile-houel.com.
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