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ISU professor Olivia Valentine featured in Des Moines Art Center Iowa Artists exhibition series


On March 12, the Des Moines Art Center will open Iowa Artists 2021: Olivia Valentine, featuring two bodies of work by the artist and Iowa State University professor.

The exhibition, organized by Art Center Associate Curator Jared Ledesma, will run through May 16, 2021. Valentine is recognized for her work in textile construction, drawing and sculpture, as well as textile installations that interface with architecture. For this project—the artist’s first solo museum exhibition—Valentine presents Mediate/Equivocate and The shadow is my body.

The Richard Meier building will feature Mediate/Equivocate, a large-scale installation generated in response to Meier’s deliberate, gridded design. Embedded within the three-story wall in the building’s atrium are a series of ropes. Viewed from a distance, the ropes appear to be woven into the wall, in a pattern that is responsive to its surroundings.

Additionally, the ropes drape over the top of the third story wall, cascade into the atrium space, and collect on the ground floor. This entanglement suggests the transformation of the wall from an indiscernible architectural element to an active, three-dimensional component of the building. Joining the site-responsive installation will be four watercolor drawings on paper, installed in discreet locations.

Across the museum in the I. M. Pei building’s lower gallery, The shadow is my body consists of low, small-scale plaster sculptures whose flat surfaces support watercolor drawings that resemble spilt liquid. Together, Mediate/Equivocate and The shadow is my body emphasize overlooked elements of the Des Moines Art Center’s architecture: the verticality of the Meier building and horizontality of the
I. M. Pei wing. In addition, they initiate relationships between architecture and textile structures—two traditionally gendered modes of spatial production.

“Valentine is one of the most innovative artists working in Iowa today. I recall meeting her when I moved to Des Moines in 2017 and being immediately blown away by her intelligent approach to textiles, craft and design. This past December I was given a sneak peek at her ambitious plans for the Meier atrium. Viewers are promised a beautiful and eloquent intervention of the Des Moines Art Center’s architecture,” Ledesma said.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a unique postcard book featuring an essay by Shannon Rae Stratton, executive director of Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency.

Valentine is Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Culture in the College of Design at Iowa State University. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship for Installation Art in Turkey and the Brandford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fiber Arts. Recently, Valentine was awarded the 2020 Iowa Arts Fellowship. Past exhibitions include Museum of Arts and Design (New York), the Danish Royal Academy (Copenhagen) and The American Academy in Rome (Italy). Valentine received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Visit to explore exhibition-related programming, including virtual lectures and events. Support for Iowa Artists 2021: Olivia Valentine is provided by EMC Insurance Companies.

For further information, interviews/quotes or exhibition images, please contact Director of External Affairs Jordan Powers at 630.470.5136 or 

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