Gallery Tours: Moberg Gallery

Today I took a trip over to Ingersoll Avenue to check out Moberg Gallery. This particular gallery is definitely a formal commercial gallery for high end fine art. Banners outside announce that the gallery oversees commissions for corporations as well as private residences.

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The building looked unassuming at first, but I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the doors and encountered an airy, open space with soft lighting. My first impression of the art when I entered the gallery was “bright colors.” The pieces I saw were big, bold and eye-catching.

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Moberg Gallery showcases a variety of artists. The works on display included pieces by Karen Strohbeen, Bill Luchsinger, Laura Luchsinger, Therese Murdza, Bev Gegen, Toby Penney, David Hytone and Tom Moberg himself. For a full listing of artists who exhibit or have exhibited at Moberg and to see more examples of their work, click here. The mediums used at Moberg range from more traditional oil and acrylic on canvas pieces to digital images printed on tiles and aluminum. Overall, the artwork tended toward a contemporary, modern style. The price point for many of these pieces was high from a college student’s perspective (with some being thousands of dollars) but the gallery is worth visiting for the simple purpose of admiring the art.

Some of my personal favorites from my visit included the following:

This representation of flowers by Karen Strohbeen was fun and just generally made me happy.


One of the most unique pieces was this sculpture by Tom Moberg. He uses gypsum plaster to make trees and other nature-themed structures literally grow off the wall.


And last but not least, Laura Luchsinger created these unique digital collages and printed them on sheets of metal, which gives them their luster.


Hours for the gallery are as follows:

Tuesday-Friday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Closed Sunday and Monday.

Peace out,



Gallery Tours: From Our Hands

This week, I visited From Our Hands, located at 400 East Locust St. downtown Des Moines. (It’s on the corner of East 4th and Locust in the East Village.)


This gallery was definitely a commercial one, and had more of a boutique-y feel. Many items featured were functional, such as ornaments, pottery, paperweights and jewelry. There was a strong emphasis on artisan crafts rather than the traditional painting-on-a-wall fine art gallery we might think of, although there were some two-dimensional pieces. A lot of the pieces had nature themes or an organic feel, and bright colors were prominent throughout the store. There are many, many items in the gallery and if you walk in thinking you’ll just have a quick glance, you’re doomed. You simply can’t appreciate everything in From Our Hands in five minutes, so set aside some time to look around if you’re planning on visiting. All of the art is available for purchase, and this would be an excellent place to pick up a unique item for your home or apartment.

A small sampling of the variety of artwork you can find at From Our Hands:


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Gallery Tours: Polk County Heritage Gallery

Before I dive into the topic of galleries, allow me to first make a distinction between types of galleries. In my experience, they fall into one of two categories: awareness-orientated or commercial. Awareness-oriented galleries function primarily to publicly display an artist’s work and gain exposure for the artist. Commercial galleries operate as a business and offer a marketplace for the artist to sell his or her work. Of course, these two types are not mutually exclusive, but I’ve definitely found that galleries have different atmospheres in this regard.

The Polk County Heritage Gallery falls more into the awareness-oriented category. This gallery is located in the Polk County Administrative Building at 111 Court Avenue downtown Des Moines. The doors are on the northwest side of the building on the corner of 2nd and Walnut St. Admission is free to the public (Donations are welcome!) and the gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 am-4:30 pm. The gallery has a formal, museum-like feel with its elegant high vaulted ceilings and Victorian-style lighting.

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When I visited, an exhibit by Kimberlee Rocca entitled Pioneer in Foil Imaging was on display. Foil imaging is a unique new technique that uses heat and pressure to apply colorful foils to various surfaces. Her pieces are reminiscent of light glittering off waves, sunshine, fireworks, bright flowers and fish scales. Unfortunately, the exhibition ended last week, but you can check out more of her work here. The Polk County Heritage Gallery’s current exhibit is a juried show featuring Greater Des Moines artists that will run through February 12.

Some examples of Rocca’s work:

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Stay shiny,


Spotlight on Murals Part II: Drake University

Wait, Drake has murals? What? This was news to me, and I’ve gone to this school for a year and part of a semester now. (See, art DOES exist right under our noses!) The two murals featured below have unique stories behind them.

The first is titled Allée and was completed by Stuart Davis in 1955. It was originally commissioned for the dining hall at Drake but is now displayed on the second floor of the Olmsted Center. (See 55.) The title of the piece is a French word meaning “long vista” in reference to the length of the painting. A similar French word means “go,” and Davis felt this title accurately captured the spirit of college life. For a fast and fabulous video where you can see Allée in its original installation as well as hear more about Davis’ inspirations for the work, visit here.

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The second mural is an outdoor one simply called Untitled Mural. At first glance, this might just seem like a bunch of graffiti but it is actually a piece by Jordan J. Weber. (I could write a whole collection of posts about whether graffiti is art and what constitutes art, but there’s no right answer to that debate.) Weber created Untitled Mural in 2011 with Molly Free on the wall of what used to be the video store Best Place Ever on 24th Street in the Drake Dogtown area. When I turned the corner and saw it for the first time, the piece screamed the concept of “two-faced” to me. It takes characters we are familiar with (ie. The Simpsons) and twists them in a way that demands a second look.
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Source for background info: Des Moines Public Art Foundation
Starting next week, I will be embarking on a series looking at various art galleries in Des Moines.
Stay tuned,

Spotlight on Murals Part I: East Village

Merriam-Webster defines a mural as “a usually large painting that is done directly on the surface of a wall.” Des Moines has a  surprising number of murals. There are 20 publicly documented ones, according to the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. Among the 20 are several in the East Village, a historical district known for its avant garde restaurants, boutiques and specialty stores. Murals are an interesting art form. Typically, they are meant to brighten or decorate public spaces, but at the same time, they are background art. For the most part, people don’t go to the East Village for the murals. They go for Zombie Burger and Raygun, so I decided to show these wall paintings a little love. These three in particular have an urban street art feel reminiscent of graffiti or 1950s pop art. All of the murals below are within walking distance of one another.

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photo 4-1     (Eying the eyes with my eyes.)

Title: No Action Too Small

Artist: Chris Vance

Year Completed: 2013

Where: Metro Waste Authority building

300 East Locust Street

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Title: Untitled

Artist: Frank Hansen

Year Completed: 2011

Where: 808 Des Moines Street

In my wanderings, I also stumbled across a neat unofficial mural close to the two mentioned above on the side of Vanity & Glamour Cosmetics.

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Where: 412 East 5th Street

All who wander are not lost,


FarmHer at the Des Moines Social Club


At the Viaduct Gallery of the newly relocated Des Moines Social Club, a series of photographs by Marji Guyler-Alaniz display a unique look at women in agriculture. These photos are part of the FarmHer project, which aims to change common perceptions of what a farmer looks like. Art Under Your Nose spoke with Marji Guyler-Alaniz about her project.


Photo: Marji Guyler-Alaniz.

Marji Guyler-Alaniz is from Webster City, Iowa. Although she is not a farmer herself, her grandparents were and she grew up in the country. She attended Grand View University and graduated with a degree in graphic journalism and a photography minor. She later attended Drake University, where she received her M.B.A. After working in the corporate world for 11 years, she decided to try something new. Guyler-Alaniz currently resides in Urbandale.

Where did you get the inspiration for the FarmHer project?

Right after I quit my job, the 2013 Super Bowl was on. There was a truck commercial on and it was all these images-beautiful, absolutely gorgeous images of farmers set to a speech by Paul Harvey called God Made a Farmer. At the time, when I saw it live, I didn’t think a thing of it because it was just the way agriculture was always depicted. It was all men. I think there was one woman’s face you could actually see and a few others in the background or to the side. A few weeks later I read an article in the Des Moines Register that pointed out that there was a serious lack of women shown in that commercial. At that time, the article pointed out that 30% of farm operators in the US are women. I read that number and I was a little shocked that my image in my mind, that perception of what a farmer looks like and probably everyone else’s is so out of whack. There’s this huge group of women that I felt like needed to be shown. It was as simple as I read that article, then the very next night I woke my husband up in the middle of the night and said, “I figured out what it is I’m going to do here with the next part of my life and that’s photographing women in agriculture to hopefully update the image of agriculture a little bit and change a mind or two about what a farmer looks like.”

How did you become interested in photography?

I’ve always loved photography. When I was a little kid I had a 110 film camera. I would shoot on that as much as I could. I took some classes in high school and fell in love with it even more, so it was my minor at Grand View. I really wanted to do it as a career but I couldn’t figure out a way to make a living out of it. I was 21 when I got out of college, I had student loans and I was like, “Well, I need a job with steady insurance and steady income.” I didn’t pursue a career in photography at that time but I’ve always done it on the side even during those 11 years that I worked in the corporate world. I’ve always taken pictures of friends, family and life, so it’s always been there, it just hasn’t always been front and center like it is now.

What is the most unique experience you’ve had while shooting these photos?

I have to say, there’s always something interesting and different when you’re going onto a farm. There’s animals involved, there’s livestock, there’s various people. It’s always an experience. One of the women I took photos of was riding a horse and I photographed her while I was on horseback also so that was a pretty interesting experience for me. I always tell people that I think about 95% of [those] pictures were blurry because I shoot my pictures from a documentary perspective so I want to show [people] while they’re working. I got there and she was like, “Well if you’re going to show us driving these cattle, we’re going to ride a horse for 100 acres so you’re going to have to get on a horse and come with us.” and so I was like, “Okay, I got this!”

What is your favorite part about being a photographer?

My favorite thing is that you can tell a story through images. You have the power to show somebody something totally unique and different just through an image and images change the way that we all think. Without knowing anything about the women that I photograph you would look at them and go, “These women are part of agriculture.” It has the ability to set your mind in a certain way and that’s so powerful.

The most challenging?

For me personally, one of the most challenging things is (with FarmHer at least) the way that I shoot is I oftentimes am in and out of various different lighting. When you’re doing it from a documentary perspective you just have to roll with it. On the technical side of things…Making sure that the images are there, that you are able to capture what you see and it still turns out to be a good image. There’s a lot of pictures I have where it shows something amazing but the lighting or some sort of condition was such that I couldn’t capture it accurately. I’ve gotten better at it but it’s always a challenge to make sure that you do it justice in a way that it comes through as a high quality image in the end.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing photography/art?

As a career? It’s tough. This is going to sound very cliché but it’s true: If you come up with something that matters to you, if you have a project or a cause that you want to follow and you love it, then it will become what you need it to be. I can’t say it’ll always make you money. FarmHer does not make big money, but I love it and it’s been the most rewarding experience that I’ve had in my life to this point, professionally. If you have a passion for something, follow it. You won’t ever go wrong by following it and it may not always be the way that you planned it but it’ll lead you down a path that will be good for you.


Exhibit photos: Sydney Price

The exhibition at the Social Club will run through November 2 and can be visited at 900 Mulberry St. downtown. Hours are as follows:

Mon-Fri: 10 am-6 pm

Sat: 10 am-5 pm

Sun: 12 pm-6 pm
Check it out,


Art Sleuthing: Finding art in your community

Over the last few weeks, I’ve explored several places to find art near me. I will continue to do this, but this week I wanted to give you some tips so that you can go out and discover some art on your own. Again, I use Des Moines/Iowa as an example here, but these ideas can be applied to virtually anywhere in the world.

1-Colleges and universities: As I mentioned in several posts, colleges often boast sculptures or memorials decorating their campuses. Many universities also have their own small art galleries that are open to the public.

2-Coffeeshops, cafes and restaurants: If appreciating art as you dine sounds appealing, this may be an excellent option for you. As a bonus, exhibitions often change regularly, offering new things to see each time you visit.

3-Local art studios/galleries: Local galleries are a great way to support local artists and view newly created work. For a list of art galleries in Iowa, visit here.

4-Public parks/paths/trails: Some public parks also contain public art. If not, they are always a great way to experience the beauty of nature. For a list of city parks in Des Moines, see To find a state park in Iowa, go to

5-Company offices/buildings: Businesses (particularly in large cities) sometimes commission art to display outside or inside their offices. Of course, not all of this artwork may be available for public viewing.  Asking for permission is a wise idea.

6-Murals/street art/public sculptures: Des Moines has a variety of public art that is open to visitors if you know where to look. If wandering around until you stumble across something isn’t your thing, The Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation has compiled a searchable list of murals, public sculptures, and the like.

7-Architecture as art: Does your community have a historic neighborhood or a charming street of shops? Take a stroll through these areas and note the period architecture used. You may see some unique features you’ve never noticed before.

8-Historical societies: Although art may not be the main focus of some historical societies, pieces may be on display at historical sites and buildings. Visit the website of the State Historical Society of Iowa for information about the historical museum and a list of historical sites.

9-Art shows/festivals: Des Moines’ biggest art show, the Des Moines Art Festival, takes place every summer. ArtFest Midwest, a show with a focus on local/regional artists, takes place at the same time. However, you don’t have to wait until summer to experience an art show. Events are ongoing year-round. For a listing of events, check out Catch Des Moines.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.

Happy hunting,


Jon Pearson and Holly Wist at Mars Cafe

Coffee? Cool. Art? Awesome. Coffee AND art together? Hold the phone, I’m there. Mars Cafe of Des Moines is one part coffeeshop, one part art gallery and one part performance venue. In other words, it’s a hipster’s paradise. Besides having great coffee, Mars offers a changing display of contemporary work by local artists. Currently, the coffee shop is host to a joint exhibition by Jon Pearson and Holly Wist. A small sign announces the title of the exhibit as “piecemeal” and gives a description of the word, dictionary style:


The works of art are hung above the tables and contrast sharply against Mars’ red walls to create a funky fusion of color. These works are available for purchase and range from $30-$255, depending on the size of the piece. All of the pieces were created in the last several years, from 2011-2014. Both Pearson and Wist utilize a style in the vein of Picasso, with bold strokes and the juxtaposition of bright colors. Wist in particular uses the red walls of Mars as a backdrop for several pieces that are part of a collection called Travelers’ Charms, as you can see below.


Some other works by Wist on display now include:



Some of Pearson’s pieces include:



Mars Cafe can be visited at 2318 University Ave. and is open Monday to Friday from 6:30 am-8 pm, Sat and Sun from 7:30 am-8 pm. To see more artwork by Pearson visit here. For Wist, visit here.

Drank too much coffee,


Anderson Gallery: Charles Matson Lume

So you’ve been to the Des Moines Art Center. Multiple times, perhaps. Don’t get me wrong: I love the art center. It’s wonderful and there’s plenty to see. However, you may be wondering what else is out there. In fact, many colleges and universities have their own small art galleries with ever-changing exhibitions. Iowa State has the Christian Peterson Art Museum. Grand View University has a Prairie Meadows Gallery. And Drake University has its Anderson Gallery. These spaces are not just for student art, either. (Although they often do host fabulous student work.) Colleges bring in various professional artists to exhibit in their galleries for a limited time. These are excellent opportunities to expose yourself to something new that you may not have a chance to see otherwise. Right now at Drake, an exhibit by Charles Matson Lume titled whatever returns from oblivion (for Louise Glück) is on display. Matson Lume’s installations are inspired in part by poetry. Louise Gluck was US Poet Laureate in 2003, and her poem “The Wild Iris” served as inspiration for this particular exhibit, according to the Anderson Gallery Facebook page. (Read the poem here.)  The main medium for the exhibit is light, which Matson Lume deftly manipulates using reflective surfaces to create an ethereal setting for his pieces. When you walk into the gallery, the normally brightly lit room is pitch black. As your eyes adjust to the faint light glow from within, you see before you a curious arrangement of materials that splash light in glittering patterns across the walls and ceiling. The exhibit is both unusual and breathtaking. Photos don’t do it justice, but I tried my best:

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Tip: Don’t just stand in one place. Walk around each arrangement to fully appreciate it from all angles.

The exhibit will be on display until October 24. The Anderson Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday-Sunday from 12:00-4:00 pm and Thursdays from 12:00-8:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

Lights out,


Wifvat Plaza Sundial

Many college campuses are a host to memorials to or by people who once walked the grounds. As classes resume at Drake University, a steady flow of students parades by the giant sundial located on the east side of campus. The sundial, sandwiched between the Harmon Fine Arts Center and Opperman Hall, actually marks the start of Wifvat Plaza, which connects Old Main to the Knapp Center and unifies the space between these buildings.


This is not your grandma’s garden sundial. The sheer size of the structure can only truly be appreciated when standing next to it. A flowerbed decorates the base of the sundial, while a circular stone bench provides seating. Both Roman numerals and modern numbers are inset into the stone, with engravings confirming that the sundial’s location operates in Central Daylight Savings Time.


The plaza was given as a gift by the late Dwight D. Opperman in honor of his first wife and her family. Opperman, a graduate of the Drake class of 1951, generously donated over $20 million to the university. (For more information about Opperman, visit here.)


Both the landscaping and architecture of this sundial and its corresponding plaza make this monument an unusual piece of art that students stroll past daily without a second glance. Although the concept of the sundial itself was an archaic device when this memorial was built, there is a certain charm to the fact that it will never stop telling time. Watches, clocks and cell phones run out of battery eventually, but Opperman’s tribute to his wife will continue to serve both form and function. All it needs is a little sunshine.

The sundial and plaza are open to the public and may be visited at any time.

Until next time, (Heh, all the puns.)