Women of Iowa City with a synergistic ambition

Three women from Iowa City, Sue Hettmansperger, Cheryl Jacobsen, and Kathy Edwards-Hayslett, recently opened their Synergy exhibit at ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa. It presents the collage and assemblage work of each artist.

Ayrton Breckenridge

Artists Cheryl Jacobsen, Kathy Edwards Hayslett and Sue Hettmansperger (LR) pose for a portrait in Iowa City on Friday, October 1, 2021. Their exhibition Synergy will be on display at the ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa, from October 1 to November 1. 27.


The Synergy exhibition, which opened at the ICON gallery in Fairfield, Iowa, waited a year before finally being presented.

The exhibit, created by three women affiliated with the University of Iowa, features works that incorporate nature, feminism, and sentimental objects using collage and assemblage practices. It opened to the public on October 1.

Sue Hettmansperger, professor emeritus at UI, Cheryl Jacobsen, assistant assistant professor in calligraphy and literary arts, and Kathy Edwards-Hayslett, former curator of the UI Museum of Art, are the three women responsible for the exhibition. Synergy, which is a collection of “collages and assemblages”.

“Collage and assemblage are perfect metaphors for the disjunctive and complex time in which we live; pandemics, wars, migration and global climate change, ”Hettmansperger wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily.

The pieces by Hettmansperger in the exhibition are mainly collages. It usually focuses on environmental issues, such as nature and culture in a space of conflict. She said her art advocates that humans don’t see nature as a commodity.

In order to create his collages, Hettmansperger uses scans of things in nature such as leaves, and then manipulates them with other artistic materials like paint, drawing, and paper.

Jacobsen’s process is similar to Hettmansperger’s, but it differs from it. While Hettmansperger has a specific goal in mind as to how her art affects her audience, Jacobsen is hopeful that people will find what they want in her art, and that there is no specific statement that she try to do.

Jacobsen uses small items she collects to create assemblages, sometimes even finding them on bike rides. She said that once she starts conceiving, she doesn’t have much control over what happens next in her creative process.

“So I have all of these amazing things that just want to go together, and bringing them together is so satisfying and exciting for me,” Jacobsen said.

Edwards-Hayslett also uses objects to create assemblies and collages, much like Jacobsen. However, she finds her artifacts in flea markets and antique stores and incorporates images she finds on Ebay to collect her work.

Images in Edwards-Hayslett’s work primarily depict women and allude to challenges unique to women’s history. She gave the example of a woman holding a book – in real time, that doesn’t mean much, but in the 19th century, a woman holding a book was a big statement.

“I often start with a photograph, a 19th century photograph, and imagine the stories those photographs could tell,” Edwards-Hayslett said. “I create a kind of abstract narrative with objects, the paint and the pencil that I use. You know, sort of creating a potential mood or scene.

The title of the exhibition is also significant. Hettmansperger said that since all of their works are created in the same way, but differently, they are connected by synergistic energy and accretion, hence the exhibition name Synergy.

“Iterative processes use accretion – the slow juxtaposition of ‘like’ or ‘different’ shapes – to come up with striking new creative solutions,” Hettmansperger wrote. “This enactment of the creative process is at the heart of all new perspectives. Humanity, the world, currently needs artists to sound the alarm bells and be leaders who heal an unbalanced world, through synergistic creativity.

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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