Originally Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2013, 9:33 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 25, 2013, 10:32 am

Sister act is an art at Black Hawk display

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

The Quinn sisters' art display at Black Hawk College's ArtSpace in Building 4, 6600 34th Ave., Moline.
Megan Quinn
Kristin Quinn

When you're little, siblings learn the importance of sharing. Sisters Megan and Kristin Quinn apply that concept in their joint art exhibit, "Tales from Root Boy and Blossom Dearie," on display through Dec. 13 in the ArtSpace Gallery at Black Hawk College, Building 4, 6600 34th Ave., Moline.

"It's fun to be exhibited in the same place," Megan -- who's eight years older and chair of the Augustana College art department -- said recently. The sisters, who grew up in suburban Washington, D.C. (in Maryland),also have had joint exhibits at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, and Quad City Arts, Rock Island.

"I think the work complements each other, relates to each other," said Kristin, who is chair of the St. Ambrose University art department. She's a landscape painter and Megan works in ceramics. Both sisters have an interest in plants and natural landscapes, and Kristin said of Megan's pottery: "I think they make my paintings work a lot better."

They were invited by BHC to exhibit there, and both Quinns agree it's a natural space to expose community-college kids to art, hopefully motivating them in the process.

"You want to do things that benefit your students. A lot of those students go to Ambrose or Augustana, so it's sort of an introduction of us to them," Megan said. "I just think there's lot you can do in life with art. It gives people great satisfaction."

"We do recruit a lot of students from community college. It's nice for that," Kristin said.

Of the cross-river private school rivalry, Megan said: "They both have quality programs. They're pretty different from each other. Ambrose, they really didn't have much physical space, and decided to focus more on two-dimensional art. I don't feel very competitive. We have completely different interests. Our department is a little more broad."

Megan, an Augie professor, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor's degree in crafts from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has taught at Augustana since 1980 and has chaired the department two previous times.

Kristin, who has been an art professor at SAU since 1989, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Indiana University-Bloomington, and a bachelor's degree from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia.

They have three other siblings (none of whom is an artist) and their father was a physicist with a specialty in optics. "Lasers, lenses, prisms and holographs were plentiful; as were lessons on the natural world. In our house, a solar eclipse became a graduate-level seminar," Kristin wrote in her bio at sau.edu. "On long car trips, we passed the time with questions to stump Dad."

"Science is similar to art, in really raising questions and solving them," she said in an interview. While Kristin was interested in art from a young age, she was not good at painting at first, she said. "It was a real challenge, and I like that. It was kind of like, 'I'll show you,'" she said.

Megan said she always had "a strange fascination" for ceramics, though she didn't study it in high school but really got into it in college. They both love working with students and introducing them to the wonder of what art can express.

"When you discover new things, you meet challenges, you get excited about it," Megan said. "It just sort of changes students. I think it's different than so many things they do at college. They do things physically -- working with their hands is something pretty new for a lot of them. It's really a shock to find out for themselves to find out how able they are, what they can do. That never gets old."

"You're teaching a new language to kids, to get them to do things they didn't think were possible," Kristin said. "I teach a lot of beginners, and for them to walk out of class with a sense of pride, that's exciting."

As a painter, she works to capture her surroundings. Kristin wrote: "When I stand on Devonian limestone on the levee of the Mississippi, the barges and riverboats pass, herons fly, behind, a train noisily rumbles by and streetlights flicker on, the smell of diesel fuel wafts by while rain clouds build. It's the density of this kind of experience that continues to raise questions and excite me as a painter."

Megan said she likes to reflect vessel-like or vaguely human forms in her pottery. The title of the BHC show comes from two famous musical figures; Kristin is married to jazz pianist Anthony Catalfano.

The gallery (which typically rotates exhibits monthly) is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. For more information, visit bhc.edu/academics/departments/communication-and-fine-arts/art-space.