Just in time for Halloween, Quad City Arts has a special new exhibit – “The Mysterious Disappearance of Miss Haley,” a collaborative art exhibition created by artists Heidi Hernandez and Bruce Walters with author Michael McCarty.
It is at the main downtown gallery, 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island, through Dec. 1, 2023, and the public is invited to attend a free opening reception on Oct. 28, from 6-8 p.m., where the artists will be present, and refreshments will be served.
The story behind the exhibit is: In 1923, a stage magician beckons a young woman to step into a large wooden box at a Halloween party. She is never seen again. And thus begins an ever-deepening mystery woven from a century of events, hallucinations, ghosts, rivalries, and deaths.
Paintings, drawings, photos, artifacts, sound, newspaper articles, documents, a tarot card reading, and doll house collectively tell the story and reveal its secrets.
The story continues up to the present. The reception on Oct. 28th is on the very 100th anniversary of Miss Haley’s disappearance, Davenport artist Bruce Walters said.
“We began working on the exhibition about a year ago. It has been a true joy working collaboratively with them,” he said of Hernandez of Davenport and McCarty of Rock Island (all three tremendously accomplished creative artists).
“The story and direction of the artwork constantly evolved — often running in directions that I wouldn’t have developed on my own,” Walters said. “The three of us have discussed the possibility of continuing to develop the story. Possibly working on a graphic novel. We have sketched out other characters, other stories, new directions that could and should be fleshed out more fully. “
Hernandez and Walters both used symbolic attributes as recurring motifs in their work to identify characters and also to give context to their relationships with places and circumstances. Birds are paired with the Haley twins, Lucien Crawford, the magician, and death.
“A mockingbird is Alice Haley’s attribute,” Walters said. “It is a traditional symbol of innocence. The words spoken by Atticus Finch (a bird!) in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – ‘It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’ — underscores the tiny bird as a symbol of innocence.”
“Interestingly, Atticus’ last name is Finch (a bird). Because of its extraordinary ability to imitate, a mockingbird sometimes symbolizes a mirror,” the artist said.
“The symbolism, as Bruce explains, describes the story and connects the characters to one another,” Hernandez said. “The mystery can be investigated through thoughtful observations. The symbolism and layering of images give clues to the viewer; an invitation to understand the experiences and truth that each character holds within on a deeper level.”
“It is said that on the day after Alice disappeared, the enchanting song of the birds fell silent,” she added.
Heidi Hernandez, a national board-certified teacher, teaches Visual Arts and Design courses at The Creative Arts Academy of the Quad Cities. Hernandez is a professional teaching artist and has exhibited her large-scale paintings in major cities throughout the Midwest including Chicago, Milwaukee, Iowa City, and the Quad Cities.
She has been included in many group exhibitions and has exhibited her work in solo exhibitions at the Figge Art Museum and St. Ambrose University. Hernandez received her B.A. in Arts Education, K-12, and B.A. in Fine Arts from St. Ambrose University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Minor in Art History. Hernandez was awarded the John W. Schmidt’s Excellence Award in Art and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Bruce Walters retired from Western Illinois University in 2021 and was conferred with the title Professor Emeritus. His artwork has been included in more than 100 solo, invitational, and competitive exhibitions in the Midwest at the Des Moines Art Center, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and numerous university museums; internationally as a contributing artist at Ulster University, Belfast; University of Dundee, Scotland; and Tate Modern, London. Two recent short films have been broadcast on Midwest PBS stations.
Michael McCarty has been a professional writer since 1983 and is the author of over 50 books of fiction and nonfiction including “Ghosts of the Quad Cities,” “Eerie Quad Cities,” “Quad Cities Beer: A History,” “Modern Mythmakers,” “More Modern Mythmakers,” “A Little Help from My Fiends,” and “Lost Girl of the Lake.”
He is a five-time Bram Stoker Finalist, and in 2008 he won the David R. Collins’ Literary Achievement Award from the Midwest Writing Center.
Individual artworks from the new exhibit are for sale on the Quad City Arts website HERE.