Cafe at Prairie Lights

  • Manifest Destitution

    An exhibition of photography by Scott Christian Hage

    On view from August 3 - 30, 2015.
    Please join us for a reception on August 28th from 6-8 PM!

    Our country’s history of westward expansion and the epic tale of “how the west was won” is quite a story. It is a story filled with romantic notions all at once of honor and adventure, of conquest and valor, of sacrifice and betrayal. It is a story of an unforgiving land, with wagon trains and railroads, cowboys and native-americans, soldiers and federales, lawmen and gamblers, gunfights and gold.

    Roughly 2/3 of the 48 contiguous United States, the entirety of the land that lies west of the Mississippi River, was acquired in the first half of the 19th century one of four ways: via purchase from a foreign country (lands of the Louisiana Purchase, from France in 1803, as well as the Gadsden Purchase, from Mexico in 1853), via the conditions of treaty with a foreign country (lands of the Oregon Territory, from Great Britain in 1848), via annexation (U. S. annexation of the Republic of Texas, in 1845), or via the spoils of war (lands of the Mexican Cession stated in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, following the Mexican- American War of 1848). The acquisition of these lands collectively define the borders of the contiguous United States as they are today.

    During this era of western expansionism, John L. Sullivan, a New York journalist arguing in favor of annexation by the U. S. of the Republic of Texas in 1845, introduced the term of “manifest destiny” into the American lexicon. Within this ideology, he described a divine right the American people possessed “to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self- government entrusted to us,” to ride the waves of civilization from sea to shining sea.

    “Manifest destiny” and the subsequent progress of a new world seemed to be inevitable, and its ideology would provide a rhetorical tone for the justification of this progress. What bureaucrats soon found out, however, was that ownership of these lands was one thing, re-appropriating these lands that had been home to several tribes of native- americans for many centuries was quite another. While the westward expansion of ownership spanned the duration of the first half of the 19th century, the eviction and relocation of the previous tenants would extend the better part of the second half, as the indian wars would finally conclude in 1886 with the surrender of Geronimo at Skeleton Canyon. “Manifest destiny” would itself come to its full realization with the ratification of statehood on February 14, 1912 of Arizona, the 48th state of the union.

    Now, more than a century has passed, and the land of the west has gradually morphed into a caricature of itself and its history...destitute of the romantic notions that were once so prevalent to its disposition. The divine providence guiding the very “manifest destiny” so often spoken of in the many years past has seemingly gone missing, perhaps to offer its services to other more worthwhile pursuits, lending uncertainty to what is left in and of the modern landscape. The land itself appears to exude a repentance for the terrible price that had been paid for it...and speaks of a contented dormancy it will begrudgingly awaken from when the next epoch arrives.

    If it ever arrives.

    About the artist:

    Scott Christian Hage is a photographer from Muscatine, IA, and currently resides in Iowa City, IA. Scott is a student of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa, pursuing his B.F.A. in graphic design and photography.  He currently works as the graphic designer for the University of Iowa Museum of Art and also works as a freelance photographer and graphic designer.

    For more information, please visit the artist’s website at

    For sale inquiries or to make purchases, please contact

  • Seeing the Unseen

    An exhibition by Christopher Forsythe
    On view June 29 - August 2, 2015

    Exhibition Statement

    Sight is one of the senses humans use to perceiving the world. It helps us navigate our environment, find safety and avoid danger. Sight can be used to accurately render a drawing or to recognize nuance in a form. It can also be used in more dynamic ways to parse the complicated social systems and customs that build our societies.

    Despite all that we can see, we are inundated with what we cannot.This inability to see can be categorized into two groups: items which possess characteristics that are beyond our eye’s physical capacity of perception (e.g. microscopic objects, energy, etc.) and items whose exact presence goes unnoticed due to our mind’s conditioning from repeated exposure (e.g. glass in a window frame or halftone dots that form a printed picture).

    Through the use of special instruments or awareness raising techniques these invisible objects can be brought to light.Artists and their art have often played important roles in society by revealing things that go unnoticed and making them plain to see for all. These revelations can be as simple as capturing the beauty of a natural landscape

    or as controversial as portraying the impact of religion, gender or oppression in our communities.

    My most recent set of prints investigate “seeing the unseen” by meditating on the minutiae and microscopic organisms that permeate our surroundings yet escape our attention. By utilizing handmade paper’s tactile qualities, juxtaposing seemingly dissimilar objects and the use of bold and often times unnatural color, I have attempted to create a space where items of different scales can exist side by side so we can revel in their wonder, discover visual similarities between objects and plainly see them with our own eyes.

    The source material for this set of prints comes from science literature and printing history. I have always found science to be a fascinating subject. Photographs of natural phenomena, the cosmos, and the microscopic have always been of interest to me. The printing trades and their history are an equally rich subject. Registration marks, star targets, and methods of conveying tone all make their way into my prints. I enjoy how both sources, however disparate, are so unfamiliar when viewed up close that they read less like physical objects and more like abstract compositions.The items I have chosen to feature in my prints are largely symbolic of the greater theme of seeing. Atoms, bacteria, and fibers are all things that cannot be seen with our unaided eyes. Printers’ marks are used to reveal minute changes in the performance of printing presses. And halftones, line engravings and bitmaps are all graphic methods for creating the illusion of continuous tone. While the halftone marks are small, they usually are still clearly visible to the naked eye, yet we have been trained to look past these marks to mentally build the image they are meant to construct.The way in which the halftones dots interact and overlap one another are strikingly similar to the atomic structure of various minerals or the chaotic proliferation of microorganisms.When looking into the center of these arrangements, elements appear and disappear within the amalgamation; it is difficult not to imagine a hidden universe within these systematic patterns.

    About the Artist

    With an abiding interest in the book arts and design, Christopher (Chuck) Forsythe has immersed himself in all things printing since earning a B.A in Studio Art from Colorado College in 2003. He has served as coordinator and printer at The Press at Colorado College, a fine book publisher; as a letterpress printer at the Minneapolis- based design and print workspace, Studio on Fire; and as a bookbinder at Bookmobile, a digital print on demand bindery. In addition Chuck has been a member of the High Point Center for Printmaking cooperative; The Minnesota Center for the Book; and the Minneapolis based bibliographic society,The Ampersand Club. In 2012 Chuck earned his MFA in printmaking from the University of Iowa where he currently serves as the Instructional Service Specialist for the Printmaking Area. Chuck makes his home in south Iowa City where he lives with wife and son.

    For sale inquiries, please contact contact Sarika Sugla, Gallery Curator, via email at

    Copyright is reserved by the artist.

  • Friends Under Pressure

    An exhibition sharing the University of Iowa Printmaking exchange

    On view June 1 - June 28, 2015

    A diverse collection of work can been seen in this exchange.  The artists here have used traditional printmaking processes, such as relief and etching, and contemporary approaches, including the hot-stamped foil process developed at the University of Iowa by Professor Emeritus Virginia Myers, to explore a variety of subject matters and ideas.

    From sewing on prints to the use of both traditional and digital printmaking techniques, this exchange highlights some of the unique work being made at the University of Iowa in 2015.

    Artists participating in this exhibition include: Patrick Casey, Thomas Deaton, Robert Glasgow, Anna Haglin, Jenny Harp, Allison Heady, Charles Henry, Amanda Johnson, Anita Jung, Rachel Kauff, Terri Krallitsch, Amanda Maciuba, Ross Mazzupappa, Gonzalo Pinilla, Katherine Posten, Allison Rosh, Jim Snitzer, Corinne Teed, Breanne Trammell, Richard Wenrich, Deanne W. Wortman, Sarita Zaleha.

    For inquiries, please contact contact Sarika Sugla, Gallery Curator, via email at Please note that work in this exhibition is not for sale. Copyright is reserved by the artist.


    An exhibition by Josh Doster
    On view April 27 - May, 31st 2015

    Please join us for a reception on Friday, May 15th
    from 5:00-7:00 PM at the Prairie Lights Cafe!

    Artist’s Statement

    (Be sure to look at where the finger points and not the finger itself.)

    It is only possible to express in words what words are capable of expressing. In my visual work, I pay attention to the visual language of my materials. I am a form maker. Forms take shape, and these forms embody my thoughts, ideas and emotions. It is through these forms that I facilitate an intimate and meaningful connection to my environment. This is how I come to know the world.

    Through an emphasis on the physical language of the materials I use, I employ subtle visual interactions that allow viewers to immerse themselves. I allow paint to behave like paint and wood to be celebrated as wood. Ideas of balance, boundaries, and impermanence are some examples of reoccurring ideas that have become anchored or embedded within the play and interaction of materials.

    I have a tendency of avoiding overly rationalized approaches. Instead, I move intuitively and open myself to discovery, ill-conceived combinations, incertitude, unintentional marks, unconventionality, and flux. While working, I choose to avoid thoughts that prohibit or hinder forward movement. The space of forming and the harmony between thought and action are given ultimate priority. All that does not reinforce this fluency is seen as suspect.

    My forms are not puzzles to be solved. There is no specific, clear message that I am trying to communicate to the viewer. This is not to say my work is devoid of substance or content, as I feel my forms to be full and close as possible to a representation of everything I know. Rather, I am attempting to create meaning collectively with my audience. I seek a type of collaboration with the viewer, and aim to obscure the boundaries between form, environment, and viewer. I often do this by employing humor to cut through the heaviness of one’s thoughts, and by facilitating systems of randomness or ordering principles closely connected to the natural world. 

    The process of creation is a gamble, and I am interested in the notion that we just don’t know how things will turn out.

    About the Artist:

    Josh Doster is a visual artist that has been living and working in the Iowa City area for the last decade. He received his MFA in painting from the University of Iowa in 2014.  By day, he works as a self sustaining farmer at the Donkey Barn and by night, bartends at the Foxhead Tavern.

    To see more of the artist’s work, please visit

    For gallery or sale inquiries, please contact Sarika Sugla, Gallery Curator, via email at