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Compelling Ground: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of Iowa

At the Brunnier Art Museum
Monday, January 25 through Friday, July 23, 2021

About the Exhibition

Twenty-five years ago the exhibition Land of the Fragile Giants: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of the Loess Hills opened at the Brunnier Art Museum. The exhibition invited artists to visit the Loess Hills in western Iowa and create art inspired by the unique geological region. Twenty-five years later, in honor of the original exhibition, but also as a moment to observe and examine the drastic changes that have taken place in the state of Iowa, University Museums presents the new exhibition – Compelling Ground: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of Iowa.

Like the original, artists were asked to create art inspired by Iowa, but instead of focusing on a singular region, the entire state was open for interpretation along with an added emphasis on the changes that have occurred. Not only is the Iowa landscape the most altered in the country, the changes that have occurred in the past twenty-five years have significantly affected the environments, landscapes, and people of this state.
Each artist has represented their own sense of place within Iowa while reflecting those changes that have and continue to occur using various media and materials. In addition, a selection of art that was created for the exhibition Land of the Fragile Giants provides a review of the original exhibition from twenty-five years ago provides insight into the original exhibition.

Nineteen artists contributed to the exhibition, creating a diverse range of art and installations with various media. Participating artists include: Mel Andringa, Jeff Baldus, Gary Bowling, Christine Carr, Rebecca Ekstrand, Fred Easker, Barbara Fedeler, Rose Frantzen, Pete Goché, Ingrid Lilligren, Mary Merkel-Hess, Joseph Muench, John Preston, Randy Richmond, Brian Roberts, Grant William Thye, Ellen Wagener, Joan Webster-Vore and Tilly Woodward.


About the Publication

A coordinating publication accompanies the exhibition and ties together the art with academic essays on the agriculture, science, and history of Iowa. The essays also include personal reflections from the authors about the land, people, and environment of Iowa with an emphasis on the significant changes that have occurred in the past twenty-five years and needs for the future. Topics include the history and current state of indigenous Iowans, climate change, water quality, sustainability, and the changing face of farming in Iowa.

Publication essayists include: Amber Anderson and Dr. C. Lee Burras; Dr. Angie Carter; Dr. Richard Cruse and Hanna Bates; Lance Foster; Adrienne Gennett; Dr. William Gutowski and Dr. Gene Takle; Cornelia Mutel; Patti Naylor; Lynette Pohlman; Dr. Thomas Rosburg; and Mary Swander. The 112-page full color publication will be available for purchase from the University Museums’ office during business hours and while visiting the exhibition. Cost is $30.00 each; cash, check or credit card accepted.

Click here for order details.

Exhibition Programs

Virtual programs can be viewed on the University Museums YouTube Channel.

Compelling Ground Curator’s Exploration
WATCH NOW: Take a virtual tour of the new Brunnier Art Museum exhibition Compelling Ground: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of Iowa with Adrienne Gennett, Associate Curator of Collections and Education.

Artist Talk with Tilly Woodward
WATCH NOW: Tilly Woodward, Artist and Curator of Academic and Community Outreach, Grinnell College Museum of Art and a featured artist in the exhibition, Woodward will discuss her artistic practice, her interest in the landscape of Iowa and her paintings that are on exhibition. Pre-registration is required to receive the WebEx program link.

A Performance with Mary Swander: Poetry, Farming, and More!
Watch Now: Mary Swander, former Poet Laureate of Iowa and emerita Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University is a leader in conversations about farming and the wider rural environment in Iowa through creative arts. Swander will read her poetry in this virtual program, which will be livecast in the Brunnier Art Museum or can be viewed on WebEx. Pre-registration is required for either option. In-person livecast at the Brunnier Art Museum.

Panel Discussion: The Changing Face of Iowa Farming
Watch Now: Join a panel of experts including Hannah Breckbill, Shelley Buffalo, Dr. Angie Carter and Patti Naylor as they discuss the changing face of farming in Iowa. Panelists include academics and practicing Iowa farmers who will examine the history and future of Indigenous, queer, and women farmers working the land while developing more sustainable farming practices in Iowa. Pre-registration is required.


TOP IMAGE: Iowa Road Creek, 2017 by Fred Easker. Oil on canvas. On loan from the artist.

BELOW: Effigy Mounds Winter Overlook, 2020 by Barbara Fedeler. Willow charcoal on paper. On loan from the artist.

Visit the Brunnier Art Museum

Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Saturdays and University holidays.

Address: Scheman Building (2nd Floor), 1805 Center Drive, Ames, Iowa
Admission: The cost is free, however there is a suggested donation of $8.

Compelling Ground is curated and organized by University Museums. The exhibition is supported, in part, by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Generous support was also given by: Dwight and Marilyn Conover; Debbie Gitchell in honor of Jon Fleming; Kate Gregory; Carole Horowitz; Betty and Dennis Keeney; Cal and Frankie Parrott; Dorothy and Robert Rust; Clifford Smith; and David and Marianne Spalding.


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