“Animals in Art” at the Muscatine Art Center

Ceramic frogs from Animals in Art

Colorful frogs, snowy owls, and swimming fish are among the creatures that populate the Muscatine Art Center’s new exhibition, Animals in Art. Combining paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures from the permanent collection with selections of art pottery on loan from Mark and Marie Latta, the exhibition features works never seen before. An extraordinary collection of American art pottery is displayed among works by John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Virginia Myers, Nathanial Currier, and Muscatine artist William Bunn.

On Thursday, February 29, join Mark and Marie Latta as they take visitors on a free guided tour of their pieces. The Lattas are know for making art pottery fun for enthusiasts as well as novices. The tour begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Stanley Gallery.

Pottery from the Mark and Marie Latta collection

“This exhibition brings together treasures from the permanent collection with over 150 pieces of American Art Pottery,” explains Melanie Alexander, Director of the Muscatine Art Center. “Planning this exhibition has been a real joy. It is not often that we have the opportunity to display a charcoal and pastel by Edgar Degas next to lithographs by Grant Wood.”

View of Animals in Art

Artworks have been added as recently as November 2023, including works on paper that were framed especially for this exhibition and had not previously been on view, and paintings that were cleaned or restored in 2023. “Even our frequent visitors will encounter works of art never before displayed at the Muscatine Art Center,” says Alexander.

American Art Pottery refers to handmade ceramics made from 1870–1950 that emphasize original designs and simplified shapes. Animals in Art is the second major exhibition in Muscatine’s Stanley Gallery to feature the Latta collection. In 2006, the exhibition Weller Pottery: The Rare, The Unusual, The Seldom Seen featured approximately 100 pieces from a single pottery company. Animals in Art celebrates the creation of three main pottery studios—Rookwood, Roseville, and Weller—along with examples of works by more contemporary potters.

“Muscatine Art Center staff selected examples of larger garden ware, vases, other vessels, and smaller objects,” explains Alexander. “Each person on staff has a few favorites, like the gardenware swans that measure about 18 inches, or the highly decorative vases that feature fish or owls. There is something for everyone among the examples of art pottery.”

Collectors Mark and Marie Latta have collected American Art Pottery for decades, and the couple have served on the board of the American Art Pottery Association. Mark is the past president of the organization and is the current president of the Board of Trustees for the Muscatine Art Center. The couple has lent their collection to museums in the Midwest such as the Brunnier Art Museum on the Iowa State University campus and the Zanesville Museum of Art.

The couple will give a guided tour of their collection on view in “Animals in Art” on Thursday, February 29th at 5:30 p.m. in the Stanley Gallery. Admission is by donation, and reservations are not required.

The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. Visit MuscatineArtCenter.org for more information about programs, events, and exhibitions.