Alumni art featured at opening Coe College exhibit

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or

2009-09-03 08:11:00 - General

The opening art show of the 2009-2010 season at Coe College features an exhibition series highlighting the creative achievements of the college's art department alumni. The featured artists include Matt Lowe '97 (sculpture), Rachel Dorn '02 (ceramics), Peter Xiao '84 (painting), and Melissa Furness '98 (painting).

The exhibits open in conjunction with a reception in the Sinclair Auditorium lobby on Friday, Sept. 11, from 5 - 7 p.m. The artwork will continue to be on display from Sept. 12 through Oct. 4 from 3-5 p.m. daily in the Marvin Cone and Eaton-Buchan Galleries of Sinclair on the Coe campus. In addition, a special Homecoming Weekend reception will be held on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Both the receptions and the exhibitions are free and open to the public.

According to gallery director and instructor of art Mariah Dekkenga, the alumni exhibits allow Coe to showcase the talent of its own graduates. This marks the third year the college has hosted a special alumni exhibit, with more planned for the future.

"Each year, we plan to show the work of small groups of our alumni who are working as practicing artists," said Dekkenga. "We hope that the series will serve to inspire current students while highlighting the successes of our alumni."

Details of the exhibits are as follows:

A sculpture by Matt Lowe

Matt Lowe sculpture exhibit
A recipient of both the University of Iowa Arts Fellowship and the Wilhelm and Jane Bodine Fellowship, Matt Lowe received his MFA from the University of Iowa following his graduation from Coe. In 2005, Lowe was chosen from a national search as one of five sculptors for the Bemis Center's award-winning Art 4 Omaha Project 1, the Artist-in-Industry Steel Collaboration Project. For this project, he created the large-scale steel sculpture "Learning to Fly," on view near the entrance of the Qwest Center in Omaha.

In 2007, was commissioned by Bluestone Development to do an outdoor large-scale steel sculpture, "The Color of Light." This sculpture stands more than 20 feet tall and is located in the front courtyard of The Rows at SoMa in the heart of Omaha's historic Old Market District. In addition to exhibiting his sculptures nationally, Lowe has exhibited both two-dimensional and three-dimensional work in several shows in the Omaha metro area. He currently serves as the technical services manager at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and teaches art at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha.

A ceramic piece by Rachel Dorn

Rachel Dorn ceramics exhibit
Following her graduation from Coe in 2002, Rachel Dorn spent a year teaching kids' art classes at the Ambroz Arts Center in Cedar Rapids and showing her work at art fairs in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. She earned an MFA in art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006, and currently teaches clay, design and art appreciation classes at Yakima Valley Community College in Yakima, Wash.

"Exotic plants and undersea creatures have long influenced the forms of my ceramic sculpture," noted Dorn in her artist's statement. "I am interested in the soft forms and semi-recognizable shapes that appear over and over again in nature. My forms often repeat and re-investigate bulbous forms as well as seedpods and hidden interiors of fruits and vegetables."

A painting by Peter Xiao

Peter Xiao painting exhibit
Peter Xiao is an American born in Beijing who graduated from Coe in 1984 with a degree in art and English. He also attended Beijing Normal University and earned an MFA in painting from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He serves as a professor of art at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and is an instructor at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.

Xiao has exhibited his paintings at dozens of galleries and shows throughout the Midwest and around the country, garnering numerous awards for his work. His figurative work is dominated by his personal interpretation of figures and images.

Regarding his painting exhibit, Xiao noted, "If the desire for a ‘new start' explains the motivation for my pictures, mining of personal memories is what this show of works may be about. Memories of some of the earliest incidents and faces that I recall as "telling" of me and of the circumstances I found myself in at the time, memories of some individuals who were close to or had an impact on me, and memories/records of the constantly present and yet fleeting realities around me. It is my intention to be guided more by the color instinct and references of picture-making available to me than by realistic demand or literal interpretation."

In preparing for the exhibit, Xiao is mindful of his time at Coe and how it changed his life forever.

"Making and showing these works at Coe is meaningful to me because Coe and Cedar Rapids were where I began the second half of my life in America, where I came to realize my childhood dream to be an artist, and where I first met so many wonderful people who have guided me as my mentors, colleagues dear friends and elders," said Xiao.

A painting by Melissa Furness

Melissa Furness painting exhibit
After graduating from Coe with degrees in art and English in 1998, Melissa Furness went on to earn a master's degree and an MFA in painting at the University of Iowa. She currently serves as an assistant professor of painting and drawing at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Furness studied in Florence and London while at Coe, which served to heighten her interest in travel and the unknown.

"Through travel, we become a hybrid of ourselves and part of an artificial or imagined reality that we feel connected to," commented Furness in her artist's statement. "This concept of a hybrid reality can be seen throughout my work in painting through a complex layering of space."

In my work, I look to depict spaces that present the viewer with something old and familiar, and yet new and different," continued Dorn. "There is a flow from reality into fantasy, expressing a contemporary understanding of life today lived amongst the ruins of the past. The two come together into a physical otherness of altered identity, place and time."

For more information on the exhibit, call 399-8581.