September Newsletter

How things have changed in six months!

Last February, ArtiFactory was wrapping up a study that looked at the feasibility of having a community art center in Johnson County. We were also significantly expanding our programming. Most of us had never heard of Covid, Zoom, or derecho.

New Ways to Connect Through Art

–Dan Cummins (Board President) 

How things have changed in six months! Last February, ArtiFactory was wrapping up a study that looked at the feasibility of having a community art center in Johnson County. We were also significantly expanding our programming. Most of us had never heard of Covid, Zoom, or derecho. In times like these, art can ground us, be healing and holistic. We can explore the beauty of a piece of art with our eyes, hands, and minds. As Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”.
One thing we learned from the feasibility study is that, while we do some things well, ArtiFactory needs to expand its reach and level of engagement with the Johnson County community. This monthly newsletter is a step in that direction. Our goal is to help you connect with art in a variety of ways while acknowledging the challenging times we are in. We hope you find this thought provoking, educational, and fun. If you have suggestions for future topics, we welcome them.

–Beppie Weiss

Hello Friends. The first thing I want to share with you is an article printed in the NYTimes arts section this spring. It is about Rosie Lee Tompkins, an African American quilter of amazing talent and soul. The article is a biography studded with wonderful images of her work which has roots in the traditional folk arts of her heritage. Have a look then go to see her retrospective exhibit at the Berkeley Museum of Art. If you want to quilt like Rosie toss out your patterns, books and kits and be free!

U C Berkeley Art Museum, Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective

Next I have some local news for you to enjoy. Marcia Wegman will have a show at The Gilded Pear gallery in Cedar Rapids opening on August 21 and running until October 2. The title of her show is “Vision / Inner and Outer” and will be shown on line at Gilded Pear gallery.

Local artist and teacher John Preston is offering demonstrations in pastel and watercolor on his FaceBook page every Wednesday at 1 o’clock. John Preston

And lastly for the artist in you and yours….I have spent a lot of time looking for free demos and classes on line for everything from life drawing to how to paint a fish for 6 year olds. There are many places to go and there is information out there that’s useful. Basically though one is always working from a small 2D photograph of something. So go ahead and watch the demos and pick up tips on any number of things, but draw and paint from life. All you need is some paper and a pencil…..maybe a teensy eraser. Draw every day you eat. Need help? Contact me at

–John McGlinn

Francis Bacon is a British painter of world renown, and one of my favorite artists. There are many videos and books about his life, relationships, his art and about being openly gay at a time of general unacceptance. Here a Sotheby’s “Expert Voices” professional discusses one such painting up for auction. This is a satisfying presentation of art, that for 50 years has been work perfectly sufficient for me just to look at. But with the ease of YouTube all kinds of background info is available for a few clicks. Francis Bacon on YouTube.

So much to see online at the Guggenheim Museum in NY City, and it’s changing often thank goodness given our attention spans online, so it’s worth dropping by every once in a while. All premium stuff! Guggenheim online.

Always interesting is the price of art. And most interesting would be the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction (public). Worth a quick look to remind us all of how the 1% lives. Maybe one of your favorites is on the list.

On a completely different note here is a London art dealer that is superb, and provides valuable information and a very wide range of products. I have purchased their excellent Pfeil wood/linoleum carving tools, and relief barrens for applying pressure to the back of Japanese printmaking paper for excellent ink transfer from the inked block. Their goods arrive faster than Graphic Chemical and Ink and on par with Blick’s web store… from London no less! This link is an example of their valuable info as it discusses water-mixable oil paint which I know nothing about. Find out more.

 –Phil Beck

There have been many movies made about artists—not all of them good, or accurate–but the ones that are give us insightful, entertaining glimpses into an artist’s world.  As a visual medium, film lends itself to depicting painting and sculpture, but because it’s motion pictures, it’s not always easy to make canvases or statutes look exciting onscreen.  The solution is usually to focus on the drama of artists’ personal lives.  Van Gogh immediately springs to mind—he’s been played on film several times.  But he’s not the only one.  In this and future newsletters, I’ll discuss films about the lives and work of artists, those that are household names and those that are not.  I’ll consider both narrative and documentary films, and even movies about fictional artists.

August was the birthday month for many artists (Click here for calendar). Among the best known is Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.  Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore the impact he had on modern art and American popular culture.  With his distinct look and outsize celebrity status, it’s no surprise he showed up as a character in movies recounting the feverish New York City art scene of the 1960s and 1970s.  He’s been portrayed by Jared Harris in I Shot Andy Warhol (1996) and Guy Pearce in Factory Girl (2006), films centered on women who were part of Warhol’s circle.  But most memorable is musician David Bowie’s otherworldly turn as the older Warhol in Basquiat, a 1996 biographical film about Jean-Michel Basquiat, the New York graffiti artist turned 1980s Pop Art sensation with Warhol’s help. In Summer 2019 ArtiFactory partnered with FilmScene to present a free screening of this film. 

In September we remember, among others, the formidable Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) whose dramatic, often violent paintings matched his tumultuous life and personality. One of the leading artists of his day, Caravaggio roamed Italy, seeking pardon for a murder he committed in Rome and leaving behind masterworks such as The Musicians and The Crucifixion of St. Peter. He seemed particularly fascinated by beheadings, painting several famous decapitations from The Bible: Judith Beheading Holofernes, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, David with the Head of Goliath (the latter two using his own head as model for the severed ones). Toward the end of his short life, friends questioned his sanity. He died suddenly from causes still the subject of debate: lead poisoning, syphilis, a fever. Or perhaps he was murdered? The chaos continued centuries later: in 1969 his painting Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence was stolen from a museum in Palermo. Still missing, it is rumored to be in the hands of the Sicilian mafia.

Caravaggio is the subject of at least three major films available on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming services. I haven’t seen any of them, but they all have good reputations. The first is British director Derek Jarman’s 1986 historical fantasy, Caravaggio, which focuses on the artist’s formative years and bisexuality. Its style is as freewheeling as the largely fictional plot, which is sprinkled with anachronisms such as electric lights, motorbikes, and an electronic calculator. Caravaggio, a two-part drama produced for Italian television in 2007, is a more straightforward telling of his life. And finally, 2018’s Caravaggio: The Soul and the Blood is an “immersive” documentary exploring his paintings in the places he lived and worked—Milan, Florence, Naples, Rome, and Malta. Intriguingly, it combines scholarly commentary with an actor speaking as Caravaggio in voiceover narration.

Sponsored film screenings are not possible at the present time because of COVID-19, but in the future ArtiFactory hopes to offer them to Johnson County residents once again.  In the meantime, if you have a favorite film about an artist or the arts, please feel free to share it with us.  Send the title to the newsletter, Attention: Phil Beck, along with a brief explanation of why you like the film and what makes it special for you.  You can also send in questions or comments about other artist films.  Consider this space one in which we can exchange information and opinions about art and artists in the movies!

Andy Warhol on film:

Carvaggio on film:

Recorded September 20, 2020

Now on YouTube

Art In The Afternoon. Deanne Wortman shares her interest in paper, printing and books. Her exploration over the years has ranged from wall sized prints and drawings to miniatures. She has shared her love of books, story and text with children of ALL ages through storytelling, puppetry, drawings and now, Tiny Books. Watch the video.

We have several needs for volunteers. If you are interested in helping keep the arts alive in Johnson County please click below for more details.