Down from the silos, to talk art

Artist Guido van Helten says FD grain silos are a tall order

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Guido van Helten, an Australian born visual artist and photographer, left, shows some of his work to Drew Lundgren, 11, of Lehigh, during a meet and greet Wednesday night at the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association Gallery. Lundgren is an aspiring artist.

The 110-foot-tall grain silos perched along Hawkeye Avenue have provided Guido van Helten with one of his biggest challenges yet.

But that’s exactly what the Australian-born visual artist and photographer is looking for. Van Helten is painting images of five local people on the Fort Dodge silos.

“For me, it’s about challenges,” van Helten said during a meet and greet Wednesday night at the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association Gallery. “This one is challenging. The obvious one is the weather. I like that I am trying to use all different sides of it, so it sort of becomes this 360 mural and to use all the different curvature to place things right so it won’t distort the image.”

He added, “The hands are placed in certain spots because they fit the curve. Things like that. What I get out of it is a challenge. It’s very much a personal journey, but also people seem to like it, so that’s good.”

Van Helten has painted murals on large buildings all over the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Judy Payne, of Fort Dodge, left, handed her cell phone to Guido van Helten, Australian born visual artist and photographer, to take a selfie Wednesday night during a meet and greet at the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association Gallery, 921 Central Ave.

The cost of this project is $131,993. It was funded by grants, donations, and tourism dollars, not local property taxes.

“I based the mural on a symbolic idea,” he said. “I worked with the Fort Museum. They learned some pottery. I thought that was an interesting idea to use that as a symbol of sharing these between each other. It’s kind of like shared history.”

He added, “The different people. Some people might know them, some people may not. But they are all local people I chose to take photos of to represent the different areas.”

Van Helten said he began painting murals as a teenager, but it wasn’t until his 20s when took his skills to the next level. “I used to do more traditional, graffiti-style murals,” he said. “So I was always painting on walls basically. Then I switched it to be more figurative, just as a challenge and just regular sized walls and it grew from there. It grew based on challenges. I kept pushing it further and further and that’s where it’s ended up now.”

His days have been spent suspended high above the ground in a lift bucket with a paint brush.

He’s taken the the cold temperatures in stride.

“I’ve never painted this cold before,” Van Helten said. “But I painted in Europe a lot and it has been cold, but not this cold. Like today (Wednesday) it was nice and sunny, but it was below freezing. It’s a weird thing. When you look outside and you think it should be a nice day, but it’s very cold. So I am not used to that sort of cold, but I think it’s kind of cool. I think it’s beautiful with the snow around.”

The result of his efforts could provide a must-see attraction for Fort Dodge. It will be the only Guido van Helten mural in Iowa and the largest mural in Iowa.

Van Helten said the mural symbolizes sharing.

“It’s kind of like the movement of passing things around,” van Helten said. “You will be able to walk around it and it’s a feeling of sharing. It’s not so literal, but it gives that idea.”

He thinks it may be his best work yet.

“This one is exciting for me because I have really planned it out so it will be my best work,” van Helten said. “I really tried to include all the right positioning.”

The mural should be complete by next week, but he’s not making any promises.

“Not too far to go,” he said. “It’s finished when it’s finished. I am such a perfectionist, that I’ll keep going until it’s perfect.”

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