Sunday, July 3, 2022

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The prodigal artist and friends


Artist James Ellwanger, Moberg Gallery.

Moberg Gallery’s Winter Group Show offers artwork in many styles, shapes and colors. It features James Ellwanger, an artist known mostly for sculptures and public art. He also is a  multi-media guy, using acrylic, steel, limestone and digital platforms. He is currently focusing on textiles and their stitching together. 

Having lived in the American desert most of the last five years, Ellwanger has scoured the second-hand stores of Las Vegas and Palm Springs for new materials that reflect the places he now hangs his hat. Among the dominant found material in his new works is felt salvaged from casino gaming tables. These works are both large and small scale and have an interesting ability to tell stories in basically abstract style.  

The former Des Moines artist has contributed many well-known pieces to the local landscape. Most visible of those is “Shattering Silence,” the 30-foot-tall sculpture near the Judicial Building downtown that comments on an 1839 ruling by the Iowa Territorial Court that gave permanent freedom to former slaves who had come to Iowa from Missouri. Also popular with locals is “The Seam” at the baseball park. It is a marvelous abstract rendering of a baseball. His “Glow” project installed LED lights in the storefronts of Walnut Street to light the night. These new wall works at Moberg have a similar ability to invite the visitor inside, to touch and feel the fabric and other things usually forbidden for things that hang on walls.  Larassa Kabel is also in the show with her latest horse paintings. This long-time series has become so popular that Kabel will continue to remind us about the horror that happens when 18-wheeled vehicles fly down the asphalt seas of American highways where mustangs roam.

New artists Linda Colletta, Leon Hodes, Charoula Nikolaidou and Jeanette Pasin Sloan join the gallery for this show along with familiar artists Andrew Clarridge, Sarah Grant, Annick Ibsen, Adele Renault, Pref, Travis Rice, Karen Strohbeen & Bill Luchsinger, and Chris Vance.


New York-based, Zimbabwe-born Hodes works in various media, creating paintings which often include elements of collage and text. He cites African mythology, nature, medicine, science, street culture and more as his influences. Hodes works large, using oil, acrylic and collaged media on canvas to make works that read as stories about fastening together. Hodes paints with Crayola-colored glee, using familiar shades of red, grey, green and sky blue to comfort unfamiliar references in familiarity.

Colletta got her start in New York City as a scenic artist painting backdrops for MTV and VH1. She paints layered stories, created through the lenses of feminism, pop culture and childhood nostalgia. Nikolaidou also paints large, with figurative and abstract paintings that comment upon bodies, living and not, in various states of movement and repose.  

Chicago-born Pasin Sloan paints and draws everyday objects, such as kitchen appliances, dishes and silverware. Her still lifes are photorealistic and full of reflective surfaces, but they are also investigations of how we live, reflecting the way appliances and containers shape our personal environments. As a young mother, Pasin Sloan would paint in her kitchen when her children were asleep. Her artwork took a significant turn when she noticed a reflection in a toaster she was painting. Since then, according to Michaela Mullin, “her photorealistic paintings have become filled with patterned drapery beneath silver, melamine, and other reflective surfaces. ‘Constellation II’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’ are playful studies on the change of, on, and in shape and form, and how a field of dots and lines can become additional stories and dimensions in an otherwise simple cup and spoon.”

This show runs through the end of January. ♦

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