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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Stewart Gallery debuts exhibition

The Grinnell Arts Center is home to the Stewart Gallery and arts classes available to the community.
The Grinnell Arts Center is home to the Stewart Gallery and arts classes available to the community.

According to Don Doe, the volunteer curator of the Stewart Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Not What You Might Expect: Art in Iowa,” the show came together “with a stroke of luck.” With its opening reception taking place last Saturday evening, “Not What You Might Expect” showcases work from artists around the Midwest. The show is made possible by the Olson-Larsen Gallery, a contemporary art gallery based in West Des Moines that represents over 60 Midwest artists.

Although various affiliations with the Midwest unify the artwork on display in “Not What You Might Expect,” Doe made it clear that he was more concerned with an artist’s style than with geography. For example, Doe could have chosen from Olson-Larson’s large collection of contemporary Midwest landscape painters, but he felt that he had a duty to the Stewart Gallery to bring in something a bit more challenging, or, to refer to the title, unexpected. Doe describes the work as “austere, and not minimalist, but minimalistic.”

The artists whose work Doe chose to display are Laura Berman, Timothy Frerichs, Mary Merkel Hess, Anna Moisiadis, Gary Olson, Randy Richmond, Ken Smith and Yun Shin. None of these artists work with the same materials or even have work that is ostensibly similar, but the show is unified in its elegance and subtle simplicity of each meticulously made piece. In the show, one will find everything ranging from wire sculptures inside a glass box frame to carefully manipulated photography.

Doe thinks that the unique work he chose fits well with the Stewart Gallery’s mission. “A gallery like this one has lots of responsibilities,” Doe said. “For instance, this is the only venue for public display of public school kids’ art, it’s the only venue for local artists who in many cases are really longtime members of this community, and, in a few cases, retired art faculty from the College.”

The Stewart Gallery’s budget and purpose, then, is not like Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery, just a few blocks away. When Doe reached out to Susan Watts, director of Olson-Larsen Gallery, about borrowing work for a show at the Stewart Gallery, “She immediately said yes. It was wonderful. She’s wonderful — the gallery extends the definition of cooperative and professional.”

Another stroke of luck, according to Doe, is that he stumbled upon the austere artwork found in “Not What You Might Expect” on a visit to Olson-Larson over a year ago. Instead of doing a show displaying talented contemporary landscape painters, he chose the unique pieces that sit in the gallery now.

“The mission statement for this little art center includes a statement that, among other things, the gallery should present work that’s new to the community and perhaps challenging, and in any case offer exposure to art which isn’t familiar,” he said. “This seemed to be more challenging and interesting.”

“Not What You Might Expect” is on display now through October 4, and the Stewart Gallery will have a new exhibition roughly every month this academic year.

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