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Sculptor to share his story

Dean Schwarz will hold gallery talk at Blanden

April 15, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Good art tells a story, or makes a statement, and forms some connection between the artist and the viewer. That's especially true with the paintings and pottery created by Dean Schwarz.

"He has stories about each and every one of them," said Margaret Skove, director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.

Schwarz will be at the Blanden at 3 p.m. Saturday to give a talk for the opening of a new exhibit of his works. As always, the event is free. The talk will be followed by a reception.

"He's a great storyteller, so he'll be a great speaker," Skove said. "If you don't come soon, you won't get a seat."

Schwarz, a native of Decorah, is most famous for his pottery. Eighty ceramics and 30 paintings will be on display in the show titled "Pottery, Painting and Persistence, 1958-2011."

Some of his pots are very large, up to 34 inches high; others are only 1 1/2 inches high, yet have intricate designs. Bullheads, dogs and porcupines are carved into the ceramics, as well as more abstract shapes.

"When you look at his work you can see why he's called a master," Skove said.

She said she wanted to bring Schwarz here because he's such a well-known, accomplished artist.

"Schwarz's work has been shown all across the United States, in Europe, Asia, South America and in Africa," Skove said. "If you know pottery, if you know ceramics, you know him."

Schwarz, for his part, seemed eager to come to Fort Dodge.

"I'm looking forward to being there, and having a kind of temple of art there in the Blanden Art Museum," Schwarz said. "In 1973, Steve Rhodes the (then) director, bought a two-handled footed bowl from me; it's in the collection there. That was the beginning of a really nice relationship."

Schwarz said he was coming to Fort Dodge to tell stories.

"Sometimes it's not as good to hear about the technical things," he said. "I'll save that for if there are questions. I'll be telling some funny and serious things that helped me become who I am."

For example, Schwarz found out about his heritage after doing some research in Germany.

"I have direct pottery people who went before me, and there's a complete list of those people back to 1688 who have been master potters," he said. "It's my 'pottery family.' They didn't have the same name, but we were all potters. So one master would have an apprentice, or a journeyman and then there would be another master potter. It's a pretty old tradition."

He didn't start out knowing he would be an artist, though. He first went to college on an athletic scholarship.

"I found that (in art) there was more competition and longer competition - like old people, like Picasso. They were competitive up to their last breath, and athletes don't have that luxury. I finished school with a double major in art and physical education."

One story he found funny had to do with the Blanden.

"When I came down, I asked one of the staff members if I could see the pot I had there. He brought it out of the archives and set it on a table, and set out white gloves. I had to put on white gloves before I could handle this pot of mine. So you know they take good care of their pieces.

"It's unbelievable the degree of professionalism," he continued. "For instance, for this show they have painted the walls a color that will go along well with my pottery and paintings. They've also bought some wooden stands and other display items they made especially for the show. It's just the highest quality; this is like going to the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum."

The exhibit will be open from Saturday until Sept. 15 in the East Gallery.

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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