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Coming full circle

Creston: Arts Gallery featured artist was part of campaign to save Creston Depot

Rob Dietrich is the July featured artist at the Creston: Arts Gallery. Dietrich, who taught history and political science at Southwestern Community College for 30 years, came into painting later in life, and his art illustrates the contours and colors found in the mid-western countryside and how those contours and colors are replicated in the faces of the people who live there.
Rob Dietrich is the July featured artist at the Creston: Arts Gallery. Dietrich, who taught history and political science at Southwestern Community College for 30 years, came into painting later in life, and his art illustrates the contours and colors found in the mid-western countryside and how those contours and colors are replicated in the faces of the people who live there.

Having an art show in the Creston:Arts Gallery is especially fitting for July’s featured artist, Rob Dietrich, because he was among the individuals involved in saving the building from the wrecking ball in the early 1970s.

“My interest in history and historic preservation clearly was something that motivated my involvement in that,” he said. “In 1972-73, there was a kind of revolution going on in Creston on the political scene because there was a conflict in the city council election [between] the incumbents who were inclined to move away from the past and were going to tear that building down and those of us in what was called the Save the Depot Campaign. The rebels swept the city council election and the rest, as they say, is history as far as the building is concerned.”

Dietrich taught history and political science for 30 years at Southwestern Community College before retiring in 2003. Following his retirement, he decided to pursue art and describes his work as gestural.

He says his technique is almost like sculpting, and from the beginning basic shapes to the final touches, he uses spontaneous, energetic strokes to create his art. The vibrant colors and bold strokes give the viewer an almost surreal, dreamlike impression of the scene.

“The title of the show is ‘Fields and Faces Through a Midwestern Lens’,” said Dietrich, “so it’s landscapes with an emphasis on contours and colors. That seems to me is what the countryside is all about. Contours and colors, I think, can also be replicated, and are replicated on the face of a lot of people who live in Iowa.”

As a lifelong Iowan, Dietrich has had a lot of time to observe his surroundings and what goes on around the people who live here and that, he said, is what this exhibit is all about.

Dietrich came into painting late in life. After he retired from teaching and moved to Iowa City, he decided to take some art classes where he developed the style visitors will see in his work at the gallery through July.

Taking a class is what he recommends for anyone with an interest in creating art, and he also said to just jump into it.

“One other bit of advice,” he said, “don’t start with small pictures or canvas or paper. Get a big sheet of paper. It’s much easier to start out big than make some kind of a sketch of the world around us, whatever it might be, on a small piece of paper or canvas because your hand sort of tightens up and you try to be too careful to make it perfect. Use a larger sheet of paper and you’ll learn gestural movements and that, I think, will be more satisfying for what you do.”

The Creston: Arts Gallery will have a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday with refreshments. The artist will not be able to attend.

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