2014 was a big year in the art world of Lincoln and the region with the appointment of a new director at the Sheldon Museum of Art, the opening of a new museum and a new contemporary art gallery and plenty of memorable shows.
Here are some highlights of the year and the list of my favorite shows of 2014 in Lincoln and Omaha.
* Wally Mason named Sheldon director. In August, Wally Mason was named the fifth director of the Sheldon Museum of Art, succeeding Jorge Daniel Veneciano, who left in February to become director of New York’s El Museo del Barrio.
Mason, who began work at Sheldon in October, came to Lincoln from the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
“It’s a place I’ve always revered,” Mason said at the time of his appointment. “I love the collection. Everybody in the art world talks about the Sheldon. I never thought I’d be able to be in a place like Sheldon. I guess I pulled the wool over their eyes. Seriously, it’s an honor, it truly is."
* Flatwater Folk Art Museum opens. In October, the Flatwater Folk Art Museum in Brownville opened the doors of the revamped 1884 Methodist church to the public.
Created by former Sheldon director George Neubert, the museum houses traditional folk art -- 18th- and 19th-century silhouettes, samplers, carved objects, such as is found at Williamsburg -- along with “outsider art,” such as that shown in Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, along with other objects, like signs. That makes it the broadest folk art museum in the country
* Darger HQ opens. In June, Darger HQ, a new Lincoln gallery and the only local space devoted to contemporary art from around the world, opened in the Parrish Project at 14th and O streets.
Originally an online gallery, with a roster of more than 20 artists from seven countries, Darger HQ came to Lincoln via director Launa Bacon, who returned to her home state and opened the space.
Darger HQ has mounted a consistently strong series of exhibitions, each featuring an international artist, an American artist and a Nebraska artist.
2nd floor Kiechel Fine Art. Kiechel Fine Art opened in December 2013 in the old Dietze Music building at 1208 O St. Lincoln’s long-running commercial gallery exhibits its contemporary artists on the first floor.
The second floor, where works by “historical” artists are on view, has become a hidden gem where, for example, extensive works by Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry can be regularly seen.
Other work that wouldn’t otherwise be seen in Lincoln also turns up on the second floor, e.g., a pair of exquisite Mary Cassatt etchings that were on view in December. That makes it a regular must-visit, just to check out what might be there.
Mark di Suvero, “Big Mo.” In mid-December, 80-year-old Mark di Suvero installed “Big Mo,” in a park on the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, directing giant cranes that moved around pieces of his monumental steel I-beam sculptures.
A masterpiece from one of the most important sculptors of the last 60 years, “Big Mo” is the third di Suvero piece to be installed in the region, joining “Old Glory” on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and “Hope Soup,” at the Flatwater Folk Art Museum.
Watching di Suvero at work was enlightening, talking with him fulfilled a longtime wish on my part, and “Big Mo” is brilliant.
Norman Geske. Lincoln lost one of the most important figures ever in its art world with Geske’s Sept. 6 passing at the age of 98.
The founding director of Sheldon, Geske worked with architect Philip Johnson, influencing the design of what is now, save for the state Capitol, the most distinguished public building in Nebraska.
He was responsible for building much of Sheldon’s acclaimed collection of 20th century American art and began the film program that is now the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.
Geske, who also served as the curator of the American Pavilion at the 1968 Venice Biennale, also played a key role in the development of the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney, and those sculptures at the Interstate 80 rest areas, they’re Geske’s idea, too.
My favorite shows of 2014:
1. Francisco Souto, “Poetics of recognition’
2. Camille Hawbaker, “Unraveled,” Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery
3. Ying Zhu, “Return as Departure,” Lux Center for the Arts
4. “Rocket Run: Abstraction from Chicago,” Elder Gallery
5. Chysanne Stathacos, “Flower Power,’ Fiendish Plots
6. Basil Alkazzi, “An Odyssey of Dreams, Sheldon Museum of Art
7. Jean-Francois Leboeuf, “The Sovereigns,” Darger HQ
8. T.J. Templeton, “Recent Works,” Bin 105
9. “Narrow All Horizons,” Great Plains Art Museum
10. “Poseidon and the Sea,” Joslyn Art Museum
A final personal highlight. In May, artist Craig Roper and I curated “Greater Nebraska,” a multi-artist show of Nebraska artists, at the Lux Center for the Arts. The show was well received and, in the view of Roper and myself, a success. We’ll be doing it again next September. We’ll start accepting proposals and submissions in January at email@example.com
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.