7 Artists To Know In Des Moines, Iowa

 In Culture, Feature

A wave of talented artists have been steadily working in Iowa’s urban center of Des Moines, where creatives can live and work unfettered by the expenses, stress and lack of space of coastal city life. Painters, printmakers, photographers and conceptual artists abound, with materials and subject matter as diverse as the artists themselves. Keep reading for our roundup of seven artists whose work is inspired and informed by the rolling hills and grassy plains of Iowa.

Jordan Weber
A piece by Des Moines-based artist Jordan Weber is an experience—which could come in the form of a crack house painted with the logo of high-fashion designer Louis Vuitton, a taxidermied wolf, a repurposed police car and more. “I like the idea of Earth being energized or charged by human events,” says the artist. “For instance, I think humans identify Ferguson earth with Mike Brown, with him lying on the ground. That event charged that earth. I like the way that earth connects the environment to the human—that’s the main thing that drives my work.”

Hidden Spring Designs
A husband-wife team composed of a stained-glass artist and furniture maker, Rob Matthews and Leslie Guinan craft wall art, sculpture pieces and more, largely from lightweight concrete. One of their signature pieces are miniature sculpture houses, crafted from concrete and painted with a combination of bright or pastel colors. The artists also often parlay the houses into larger sculptural pieces, which range from several inches to several feet in height.

Amee Ellis
Photographer Amee Ellis’ silver gelatin prints somehow manage to capture minute detail and the larger feel of an environment with equal accuracy, whether sweeping light, fog or the distinct feel of each season. The artist is intensely inspired by nature and changing seasons, as shown by her stunning landscape images and close-up details of both foliage and blades of grass.  

Larassa Kabel
Kabel’s large-scale photorealistic prints of falling horses and figurative works are a moving sight, inciting a viewer reaction that wants nothing more than to spare the animal of clear suffering, to quell its fear. Kabel’s objective to wake up audiences and elucidate a compassionate response is an example of the emotional power of art, how it can cut through most all forms of surrounding noise and reason.

Alex Brown
Alex Brown’s ethereal, mind-bending paintings and drawings stretch the limits of these prototypical painting tools. Geometric shapes and sharp lines prevail, whether an abstract color exploration with oil on canvas or a figurative watercolor portrait on paper, somehow crafted with straight lines as the subject’s facial features elucidate in the negative space.

Justin Rogers
Rogers’ photography depicts the arresting, colorful landscapes of Iowa, the solitude of winter, orangey-pink sunrises and the simplicity of rural life as it should optimally be depicted: operatically. The subject could be a tractor, a train, dilapidated barn or grassy field, and it’s captured as sumptuously as a high-fashion model in designer clothes.

Amy Worthen
This printmaking master is well known in the Des Moines art scene and nationally, with pieces that lean towards depictions of architectural majesty. With a mix of engravings and watercolor with ink, Worthen often plays with manipulating visual perspective and illustrations of national landmarks.

Cover image photo courtesy of Nik MacMillan.

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