RACCOON VALLEY CENTRE FOR THE ARTS
A Biography of William D. Sturdevant
It might easily be stated that, William Sturdevant is Iowa's great lost artist. A contemporary to Grant Wood, Sturdevant excelled in skill, and mastered a variety of media – from painting to lithographs; wood carving to, his personal preference of, hard stones. The beauty and vitality of his wood carvings, and his love for direct carving demonstrate the profundity of his involvement in the WPA and the subsequent regional-art venues that expanded during the pre- and post- World War II era.
Sturdevant was boldly expressionistic, utilizing a wide-range of variation from figures that were fantastic to the monstrous, as well as elements of surrealism and the profoundly realistic human condition. His artistic vision and genre of works directly contrasts other artists of his period, in that, rather than base his works on a thematic vein, such as the idyllic Americana, Sturdevant expressed the full range of human-experience, whether utilizing content of historical significance, or futuristic vision. His works demonstrate the great value of an artist who understood his own time and place, in relationship to the world, and he echoed not only the popular sentiments of comic books and sci-fi, yet reflects on the masters, and bridges his contemporaries with vivid social commentary.
Sturdevant was a proud Iowan native, with artistic roots deeply founded in the MidWest regional art tradition. However, his work was veritably dismissed in his home state – Murals painted by Sturdevant, during WWII, at the Fort Dodge US Army 7th Service Command have disappeared with no recognition or concern for their artistic, historical, or cultural value, and perhaps only three photos are known to exist of the display. Even so, Sturdevant's intellectual curiosity and creative passion allowed him to develop a comprehensive perspective, exhibiting works in California, Boston, and even Japan; as well as engaging in research on topics ranging from a study in color-perception and IQ touching on the field of parapsychology, to an in-depth scholarly study of pre-Columbian art and design involving the Indigenous American Aztec/Mayan culture of Mexico.
Sturdevant's artistic career was underpinned by his ability to educate, and he was known as a versatile and dynamic instructor at both the college and high school level, alternately. He also served as a director of art programing for the Public School Systems in Joliet, Illinois, and Des Moines, where he utilized television to conduct art lessons for children with the aid of his ventriloquized puppet, Melvin Shenanigans. In fact, many artists who became art educators in the Des Moines area directly trace their influence to being taught by Sturdevant.
William D. Sturdevant's prolific body of work is an American art treasure that deserves to be recognized for its scope and depth, as well as its significance as a reflection upon the historical counter-culture statement in contrast to his friends and colleagues of traditional Americana influence of his period.
RVCA © 2015-2016 / W.D.S. Memorial Art Lyceum
The William D. Sturdevant Memorial Art Lyceum
A Subsidiary Arts Organization of
Raccoon Valley Centre for the Arts
a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Arts & Humanities Educational Service Organization
Providing public access to the Collected Artistic Works of William D. Sturdevant; and ensuring the legacy and historical significance of his artistry and work through public and private exhibition, and the select collecting of his works.
The William D. Sturdevant Memorial Art Lyceum is a subsidiary of Raccoon Valley Centre for the Arts. Its' primary mission is to preserve and promote the artistry and work of William D. Sturdevant; by providing venues for public exhibition, viewing, and the collecting of the Art that he produced during his life; and to promote the educational and historical significance of his life, and works as an Artistic Contribution to the public - for Iowa, American Regional Art, and the World, in general. The W.D.S. Memorial Art Lyceum will also promote and provide venues for artists of accomplishment and/or emerging talent to show their artistic contributions to the public at various times and in various ways dependent upon RVCA guidelines for exhibition.