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Stewart gallery features new art form

The Stewart Gallery’s exhibit, “Portraits of Nature in Iowa—Part II,” is on display until Thursday, Feb. 15. Photo by Charun Upara.
The Stewart Gallery’s exhibit, “Portraits of Nature in Iowa—Part II,” is on display until Thursday, Feb. 15. Photo by Charun Upara.

By Mayo Sueta

A new brand of art is now on display at Grinnell’s downtown Stewart Gallery. The current exhibition at the Grinnell Arts Center is “Portraits of Nature in Iowa — Part II,” a set of nature photographs by local artist and photographer Ken Saunders II. The exhibit includes vivid photographs of animals, both in motion and still. The photographs were taken “within a 40-mile radius … of Grinnell,” and capture significant wildlife in Iowa, according to Saunders.

Saunders’ photography journey started when he was around seven years old, using his Kodak 104 instamatic. He has continued to pursue his passion for taking pictures since then, buying different types of cameras and lenses to polish his craft. The photos in the exhibit were taken by a Nikon D810 digital SLR camera, a Nikon D300S SLR camera and a Nikon D200 digital SLR camera.

Saunders’ show was recommended to the Grinnell Arts Center through a close friend of the artist.

“We have a committee that does most of the booking, but this show was recommended by Tom Lacina, who is close friends with the artist Ken Saunders,” wrote Erik Jarvis, Events and Facilities Management at the Arts Center, in an email to The S&B. “Tom and Ken grew up together. We try to show local artists as much as we can.”

In a departure from usual procedure, Saunders set up the show himself.

“Part of my role as Facilities Management is to assist with gallery installation,” Jarvis said. “However, I am not an ‘artist’ by trade, so I really appreciate when the artists can be self-sufficient.”

The Stewart Gallery rarely features photography, making this show an exception to the rule. The exhibit is also unique in that each photograph is accompanied by a description of the animal and the setting, providing opportunities for visitors to not only enjoy the photographs, but also to learn about nature.

Some of the animals featured in the exhibit are the American lady (Vanessa virginiensis), a “medium-sized butterfly … of the brush-footed butterfly family,” the common loon (Gavia immer), “a large, long-bodied, low swimming bird” that changes colors depending on the season when it reaches adulthood, the hooded merganser (Lyphodytes cucullatus), “a large, stately, slender, white wading bird” and the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), “the smallest member of the North American deer family,” Saunders wrote.

Being a naturalist, Saunders hopes that his photography “will contribute to the purpose of environmental education, perhaps to stimulate those who are not familiar with the gifts of nature or further stimulating those who already are,” he wrote.

“I feel that if one becomes more intimate with nature, one is likely to realize these gifts, perhaps becoming passionate about them, and certainly becoming interested in not losing them,” he wrote in a profile about himself for distribution at the exhibit. “It would be difficult to feel loss if one is not aware of what they are losing.”

Jarvis agreed, saying that the intersection of nature and art in the exhibit can introduce nature to art-lovers and vice versa. He hopes that the exhibition will make an impression on people and inspire them.

“Our goal/mission as an organization is to support creative expression in the community. Just by showing a local artist, we have achieved that. But really, we want our audience to become inspired and say, ‘Oh, I take walks at Rock Creek all the time, maybe I’ll bring a camera next time.’”

“Portraits of Nature in Iowa — Part II” will be on display at the Stewart Gallery until Thursday, Feb. 15.

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