"Down to the River: Portraits of Iowa Musicians"

by Sandra Louis Dyas
Center for Faith and Life
October 25 - December 7, 2007

Sandra Louis Dyas

Sandra Louis Dyas is a visual artist who works primarily in photography and mixed-media. She is both a traditional artist and an experimental artist, often making mixed media pieces from discarded photographs. Other areas of interest include installation, performance, artist book-making and video.

As a working artist, Sandra's images have been published on CDs, book jackets and magazines, including the photograph for Dave Moore's CD release Breaking It Down To Three. She has also done work for Bo Ramsey, Greg Brown, David Zollo and Eric Straumanis, all on Trailer Records. Author and poet photographs include Chris Offutt, Jorie Graham, Thisbe Nissen and Larry Levis. She also produces video art. Several of her works have been accepted in the Athens Film & Video Festival and Thaw. Photo District News, PDN Magazine featured her portrait work in their 50 States Issue in 2005. She was chosen as the photographer to represent Iowa. Her work has been aired both nationally and internationally.

Sandra received her MFA in Intermedia Art and Video from The University of Iowa in 1998.

Artist's Statement

"What strikes me about compelling artwork is the passion that lies within it. Like great music, it must hold some brand of magical mystery . . soulful honesty.

My work reflects my life. Small town carnivals, abandoned houses, gravel roads, broken down little towns. I find it everywhere I go, not just here in Iowa. Robert Frank said that he wanted to describe what it felt like to drive into "the sad American night". It is the antithesis of the shiny new America we see on T.V. and in our media. It is a side of life that not everyone knows about, nor cares to. Tom Waits music reminds me of the sort of photograph that I am fascinated with finding. I love the oddness of life, its beauty and its honesty. I take photographs because I am drawn to the spirit, hope and hopelessness of life.

Music and pictures are part of nearly everyone's experience. I feel closest to what I know, what I have been connected to. The songs that I listened to, danced to, on our record player and radio became a part of me. I fell in love with live music when I began going to "Teen Hops" when I was about 14 years old. Music has always inspired me, kept me sane and rocked me until I knew that life could be good again. A photograph can hold a magical power akin to the spell that music creates. Both contain stories of life, slices of reality that go beyond what is physically there. Poetry. I believe that this spirit is derived from their rich connection to what we know . . . everyday life. Art that comes from this place has an edge to it; it has a spirit. It combines the heart with the mind, the body with the soul. Tom Waits' music reminds me of the sort of photograph that I am fascinated with finding.

I began taking pictures of musicians seriously in the early '90s. Bo Ramsey was planning to put out a CD of his live music and wanted me to photograph his shows. Before this I had taken my camera along to some shows, but this project actually got the ball rolling in a more serious way. At that time, Bo was playing with one of his ever-changing bands, and he was working small clubs and bars all over the Midwest.

In the late '90s I decided to video tape Bo and his band at various bars he played in Iowa. It took me endless hours of editing and nearly two years to finish "In the Weeds" — my video with the same name as one of his CDs. The video is not a documentary. It is more of a photographic collage of his music and my video. I chose two of his songs — "In the Weeds" and "Living in a Cornfield". The video was inspired by the music. Little did I know that by the time I had finally completed this video, that Bo would be "retired" from those small town gigs that he had been doing for nearly thirty years.

I take photographs of the musicians that make the music that inspires me. It is really about the music. It is what happens between the musicians and their audience. It can be electrifying. You become apart of the music. We all become one. It is the music that carries us away to another place. It is a religious experience in the truest sense."

-Sandra Louis Dyas

2007-2008 Sandra Louis Dyas

by Sandra Louis Dyas October 25 - December 7, 2007 Center for Faith and Life