Pie Wing at the Des Moines Art Center
An idle silence is felt in the atmosphere as one enters through the giant glass doors of the Pie Wing in the Des Moines Art Center. As one enters the spacious, empty room, a faint noise of cowbells, crunching hay and young girls’ giggles emanate from the work, Cheese. The gentle noises fill the emptiness of the room, however, it doesn’t disturb the undeniable tranquility set in the room. Though Cheese is the only piece making noise, it doesn’t overpower the voices peacefully flowing from each work.
Rhonda, a gallery attendant, feels this peace and tranquility in the room while working. “This environment for me is an oasis and an escape from the outside world,” Rhonda says. She finds serenity in the Pei Wing, even in the presence of the Cheese sculpture. “The noise is a little disturbing at times,” Rhonda says, “but, I like the natural elements and the message behind it.” Cheese is a video instillation by Mika Rottenburg depicting women and their role in the production and goods industry. It contains several instillations of “sister wife imagery” with six longhaired women in white nightgowns representing the “maternal aspects of Mother Nature,” within the rugged, wooden structure.
Just beside Cheese, is a pile of seeds placed uniformly on a white platform. Sunflower Seeds is a work by Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. Ai’s most significant piece of work was his project at London Tate’s Modern London in 2010 which consisted an impressive one hundred million hand painted porcelain seeds. The work in the Pei Wing is only a portion of the entire piece of art from London.
A young boy, Tarin Kacery, bends over beside the pile of seeds observing closely, as to see if one of the seeds would fall out of place. His mother, Ellen Kacery, observes from beside,” We’re here for the Children’s Film festival,” she says. Ellen is originally from Des Moines, “we flew up from Vermont,” she continues, “I’m an artist. I always come back each time we’re in Des Moines.” Tarin and Ellen were both allured by Cheese. Tarin feigned interest as he ran into the wooden shelter perceiving the many video instillations, “it is a very interesting piece of work,” Ellen says.
Directly across from Sunflower Seeds is an intricate and complex painting containing bright colors and hundreds of dots and lines on a white canvas. A student, Madison Segar, is absorbed in the convoluted painting titled, Montes Apenninus of the Moon by American artist, Nancy Graves. Segar states that she favors the busy piece because it’s like “looking under a microscope.” “I came to the museum for an assignment,” she says, “the assignment was actually to find our least favorite painting.” “Mine’s in the Pei Wing,” she says, “it’s called “The Great Pyramid,” and points to a simple black, white and yellow painting containing three pyramids.
An older man, Jeff Steward stands over on the balcony just behind Cheese. Steward came by The Des Moines Art Center for the for the temporary Vivian Maier photo gallery. His favorite piece is Wall Painting #601 by Sol LeWitt. “I really like the color and how the artist uses asymmetrical forms” Steward says. The painting is an enormous wall mural containing bold colors and multiple geometric shapes, with each shape contained in its own square. He draws his attention back to Cheese, distracted by the sounds emanating from it. Steward states, “I don’t know what the artist’s meaning behind the piece is, but I feel it has sexual overtones, maybe.”
Even though Cheese does seem to capture the best interests of those who pass through the Pei Wing, the other pieces of work do not go unnoticed. Each piece of work is admired in some way, even if their noise is silent.