Art the hard way | WORLD


Jake Van Wyk is in his studio in Sioux Center, Iowa, at 5:30 a.m. It’s light, airy, organized. He lets public radio or rock music blast through speakers in every corner, then gets his hands dirty.

After 30 years as a full-time university professor, Van Wyk appreciates that retirement allows him to devote so much work to his occupations. He can spend the morning on the potter’s wheel, working with a clay mixture he wrote the recipe for himself, or he can be in the workshop next door, recreating a 19th-century printing process. called stone lithography.

“It’s physical and it’s difficult,” he says of the lithograph. “If you want to do something the hard way, I’m here.”

Van Wyk grew up as a first generation American farm kid on the West Coast, and it shows how much he enjoys challenging projects and a hands-on approach to life. He turned 70 in June, but he says he would feel another 25 if the mirror didn’t remind him, “I like to think I still have this energy, this mindfulness.

Rachel mcclamroch

The front part of Van Wyk’s studio, decorated like a gallery, is lined with functional pottery for sale: cups, vases, trays, baking dishes. His wife Trena, a frequent baker, advises on convenient sizes and shapes. He also sometimes draws the occasional landscape.

Van Wyk’s passion, however, is the abstract. His prints and sculptural pottery are often dark and brooding, with broad abstract lines suggesting apocalyptic themes. His favorite inspirations are angels, demons and spiritual warfare. No cute cupids – these beings are sloping shapes and staring eyes.

In 2019, Van Wyk’s oven, one of his restoration projects, failed and burned down his workshop. Van Wyk had unusually left the oven for a cup of tea at home. Once he became aware of the fire, he tried to rush with a fire extinguisher, but the intense heat pushed him back.

Rachel mcclamroch

Van Wyk believes that if he had been inside the studio when the fire started, he would have tried to stay and save as many rooms as he could, and the smoke and heat would have overwhelmed him. But because he was out of the studio, he couldn’t even enter. “I lost hundreds of coins. … It was a nightmare. “

It took him about five months to find peace with 47 years of lost work. Now he can find things he’s grateful for: some beloved works have escaped destruction, and a small handful have even been enhanced by the smoke patterns. Insurance and a GoFundMe campaign allowed him to build a better studio than ever before, built on the slab of the old one.

He can again spend as much time as he wants creating art.

—Rachel McClamroch graduated from the World Journalism Institute in 2021

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