Storytelling, creativity and community on display at Stewart Gallery


Evan Hein

The sign announcing “Artist Salon” at Stewart Gallery alongside two pieces by Henry Loomis `26.

Claire Giannosa, Staff Writer

An exhibit of diverse, original work from six Grinnell College studio art majors is on display at the Grinnell Area Arts Center’s Stewart Gallery. The exhibit, titled “Artist Salon,” is open through March 11.

The showcase opened last Friday, Feb. 10, 5-7 p.m., with a reception open to all members of the Grinnell community. Attendees had the opportunity to converse with the artists before the artist talk at 6 p.m., where the artists described their process and inspiration.

“I think art is something that is innately human that people should do and that should be valued. And so, I do it and I try to value it,” said Henry Loomis `26, one of the featured artists. “I always enjoy getting people to see my work. It doesn’t happen that often, so it’s sort of nice to have this outlet.”

Monica St. Angelo, the operations manager for the Grinnell Area Arts Council, said she hoped the event would bring the College and broader Grinnell community together. “Part of the challenge of [the Grinnell Arts Center] is getting people involved … sometimes it’s hard to attract college students to come,” she said.

By having the artists at the reception and the artist talk, St. Angelo hopes it was a “chance to connect and have fun.” St. Angelo brainstormed the idea for the “Artist Salon” with her 2022 summer intern, Georgia Carbone `24, and together the two created an application open to studio art majors.

The “Artist Salon” showcases 28 pieces from 6 students. Although the show is not unified under a specific theme, the artists have thematic consistencies in their work.

I have this feeling when I don’t create that I’m about to be consumed by a large cavernous void within me.

— Henry Loomis `26

Loomis’ two pieces, “Visions of Jonah” and “Firefly Alchemist,” are both pieces of digital art drawn in the app Procreate for iPad. “Visions of Jonah” was inspired by Loomis’ reading of “Moby Dick,” while “Firefly Alchemist” was inspired by Ancient Greece and Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

Describing “Visions of Jonah,” Loomis said, “I read ‘Moby Dick’ last semester. I loved it. I was really taken by the homosexuality of the novel. I think it’s really interesting. So, it depicts two men within Moby Dick surrounded by spermaceti, which is a sort of amber liquid, and they’re sort of in an amorous embrace.”

In contrast, “Firefly Alchemist” is “based off of this idea that Ovid wrote about in the ‘Metamorphoses’: bees are born from dead cows, flies are born from dead horses and crabs are born from dead horses who die on the beach,” Loomis said. “So, it’s sort of playing with this idea of an alchemist who figures out how to turn the viscera of animals into fireflies.”

While Loomis described the pieces as “stylistically different,” he said, “I think there’s sort of a thematic through-line of this connection to literature that I’m interested in and art.”

Emma Hastie `23 created two pieces for the show using Prismacolor markers on paper.

“I pull a lot of inspiration from dreams … Like a stream of consciousness flow … So, if I’m listening to music and I see images come to my mind, that’s what I would say is my creative process. It’s very fluid in that sense,” Hastie said.

Her pieces, “Meat Factory” and “Juice Box,” are very intense in color and line work. “[‘Meat Factory’] is literally this entire narrative that’s very systematic. I mean, you can kind of tell by the name of it,” Hastie said.

Hastie described the colors of her pieces as vibrant warm and cool tones, creating an “interesting juxtaposition between that systematic nature and the fluid nature when it comes to the technical creation process and the content.” She likes to describe her process as “organized chaos.”

Both artists emphasized the important role art has played in their lives.

“I have this feeling when I don’t create that I’m about to be consumed by a large cavernous void within me. So, it’s sort of this outlet for me to spread the void,” Loomis said. “I just enjoy the act of observation. I like the world, and looking at it and being in it. I wanted it to always be an integral part of my life. Even if I don’t make a career out of it, it’s always going to be there,” Hastie said.

Students and organizers alike were hopeful that the exhibit would create stronger ties between the campus and town communities.

Hastie hopes “townspeople will come and see [the artwork] and then start dialogues. It’s weird because I’m in the Grinnell College bubble but then there is the Grinnell bubble … I think this is a great way to intermingle those two bubbles.”

The “Artist Salon” is open at the Stewart Gallery in the Grinnell Area Arts Center through March 11, and it can be visited during the gallery’s open hours Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.

Check out more events from the Grinnell Arts Center by visiting their website: