Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

We asked and you delivered: Reviewing a work of art

Describe, interpret, evaluate.

Those are the three steps Nancy Gebhart suggested in a  guest commentary article last month to help understand works of art. And on the eve of our first Clay & Milk event that’s aimed to connect the artistic and technological communities, we wanted to share the submissions we’ve received from artist Christopher Chiavetta’s painting Mineralization.

A professor, gallery director, startup guru and machinist all weighed in with reviews of various lengths but one thing was made clear: the ability to think critically and voice a point of view, lies within us all.

The invitation still stands to submit your review. We hope to see you Friday after work at Cocktails & Critiques

Mineralization by Christopher Chiavetta


Dale Sonney: Code Machinist and Shift Union Steward at GE Transportation.

“I am not much on abstract art, but this I love. It’s almost Seussical in appearance, a blend of unique shapes that I can see many possibilities in. The colors flow in a way that adds to the possibilities. The bold reds against the gentle yellows and pinks gives me a calm relaxed view, it lends to my wanting to seek out the mysteries hidden in every area of the canvas. Every time I view it I seek to see more — honestly one of the only abstract paintings I would own. The shading, the blend of colors, all lends to my perception of the wonders of this art and leaves me wanting more.”

Tej Dhawan: Startup advocate and member of the DSM startup community.

“Abstractions have a way of transporting you. 

The transporter took me at first glance to the island of St. Lucia where I had the luck of dining once on a hillside looking at the twin peaks of the Pitons. Though the experience is more than 20 years old, I vividly remember thinking of the beauty caused by the lava that must have once flowed on the emerald isle.

Mineralization is the memory realized. Memory of a lava flow forming the brown peaks in the background, the red and yellow fire of constructive destruction, the blackness of death hanging in the wake of the flow. The ocean peaking from behind is the forgiving reminder that the destruction will lead to stunning beauty for millennia hence.

Thanks for the trip.”


Benjamin Gardner: Artist, Associate Professor of Art and Design at Drake University.

“I heard a news story about the Great Barrier Reef and the reporter was surprised to find out from marine biologists studying the reef that the brightly colored reefs are actually in distress because of rising water temperatures and their bright colors are a sign that the coral is starving¹.

This story makes me consider Christopher Chiavetta’s painting Mineralization in its complexity of color and form as well its meaning. Chiavetta’s painting acts as a landscape and the size and scale of the painting make it spatially immersive. His color palette is subversive, containing bright pinks, yellows, and even gold in unison with heavy blacks and reds that appear like glaciers or geological formations. I find myself drawn towards the dark and neutral colors, as they serve as a shelter from the morphology of bright shapes. The subversiveness of bright pinks and yellows comes from the prominent feeling that Chiavetta is working to communicate a dystopian future – colors typically reserved for Spring make me contemplate current events like President Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement and other dire news concerning the future of the environment.

Perhaps, too, I am informed by the art historical references that I bring to Chiavetta’s piece: I see a strong reference to Heironomous Bosch’s triptych Garden of Earthly Delights. Like the Bosch painting, Chiavetta is not representing the good, the bad, and the in-between but rather painting how these components form an existential wholeness. Even if we are experiencing “good” we are aware (if we choose to acknowledge it) that others are not as fortunate, and each moment holds the possibility of multiple states of feeling and being.

In this way Chiavetta’s painting is a testament to existential issues as well as his intentional use of the material of paint and brushes. It is clear that the process of making this painting involves development, questioning, editing, repainting, and active addition and negation of form and material.

Mineralization is a painting that relates the amalgamation of distinct parts of human experience, including environmental calamity, rest and shelter, sociopolitical foreboding, and fantastical space to the viewer.  Its constant push and pull provides a number of readings and changes, which is an amazing thing for a two-dimensional image to do.”

¹ Rob Schmitz, story for National Public Radio


Lesley Wright: Director, Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College.

“There is a moment between sleep and awake when a dream almost make sense. The mind grasps at the images as they crumble, and the retelling of what happened is initially coherent. Christopher Chiavetta’s painting Mineralization lives in that space.

Chiavetta structures his canvas like a landscape. He provides an initial cinematic pull into the painting along a black road that dives into the lower middle of a jumbled pile of black, pink and red. Far above, as if on the top of a canyon wall, he offers hints of a white city, outlined in green sparkles, glinting in the sunlight. A different framing element anchors the right side of the canvas: a craggy mass, punctuated with glittering black. Like a landscape, the painting feels grounded at the bottom and lighter, more vaporous at the top.

But the center erupts into post-modern complexity. Fragments of images pull at our memory: is that a rabbit with a golden chest? A set of giant pink lips? A cartoonish eyeball? Is Chiavetta reveling in the act of pushing paint for its own sake? Or is he playing with an almost believable space, hiding what he started and leaving us guessing?

The colors, the allusions to cartoons, even the obscuring vapors all recall Chiavetta’s time spent in Japan: he calls up Manga or mannered clouds dividing an antique Japanese screen painting. But the push and pull of foreground and background, rendered with hot colors tempered by cooling blues or attacked with black slashes also harken back to the drama of Abstract Expressionism. Time, space and cultural references collapse upon themselves here.

Chiavetta’s tempting colors and dissolving forms tumble over one another in an unhealthy sort of manmade geology.  In his artist statement, he writes of end-of-the-world scenarios. Should our image-packed, plastic-coated culture collapse, we hope that nature will re-assert herself and hide our mess. Alas, Chiavetta suggests that instead, we will leave behind chaos coated in candy-colored goo. In Mineralization, he offers us a crazy beauty, the nightmare of our undoing.”

1 Comment

  • Annick Ibsen
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I think Chiavetta’s painting is quite operatic. May be because he used the anti-art color, pink, may be because he neutralized all the colors with grey, may be because of the movement of the colors into flames, I see the final act of an opera.
    There is a story, there is motion and organic invention in this painting. It propulses the viewer into a new experience ruled by the progression of the palette.

Comments are closed.

We asked and you delivered: Reviewing a work of art | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now