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Future Unfolding

At the Brunnier Art Museum
Tuesday, August 22 - Sunday, December 17, 2023

April Surgent works with an ancient technique that few contemporary glassmakers choose to attempt. Cameo engraving entails precise and painstaking work to carve through layers of various colors of glass to create unique low relief images. While cameo engraving is best known for its use by gem cutters with differed colored stones or shells, it is equally as dynamic when implemented on layers of subtly colored glass. It is a slow process that requires great skill and meticulous attention to detail. As a young artist Surgent first encountered engraving under the tutelage of the Czech master engraver Jiří Harcuba, which led to her focus on the use of cameo engraving as way to depict landscapes and environments in glass.

While nature is her source of inspiration, Surgent draws on her experiences with several science-funded research grants to inform how she chooses to represent the natural environment. Each research trip, from areas as diverse as Antarctica to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, has yielded a range of breathtaking imagery that later, in her studio, is recorded in glass. There is a great emphasis on using her engravings to document the present moment as the world is in the midst of a vastly accelerated loss of natural habitats and environmental impacts due to climate change. The depictions stand as a testament to the significant change that has already occurred, marking where the land, the sea, and animals are today; yet on this trajectory, the imaged landscape will no longer exist in just a few decades.

University Museums is honored to host an exhibition of April Surgent’s incredible cameo engraved glass along with two art installations created from human-made debris collected out of the ocean. The exhibition, along with a new commission created for University Museums’ permanent collection, all confront the environmental impact of climate change on the world. The art presents the perfect opportunity to direct further discussions on how glacial and sea changes continue to have a dramatic impact on Iowa. Through examining Surgent’s art the conversation must be had that we, and especially future generations, are and will be impacted by the devastating loss and accelerated environmental change occurring around the world.


Exhibition Programs

Find full descriptions of programs on the University Museums Calendar. All programs are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required. Click the event title for more information and/or to register. Events listed below will be at the Brunnier Art Museum (1805 Center Dr., 295 Scheman Building, Ames, Iowa) unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. Check the University Museums Calendar and Facebook page for the latest events information.


Curator's Tour of Future Unfolding
with Adrienne Gennett

Sunday, August 27, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Brunnier Art Museum curator Adrienne Gennett will tour the exhibition and introduce the newest acquisition to the permanent collection. April Surgent’s masterful ability to engrave subtle, yet powerful landscapes and seascapes within glass speak to the significant changes the world is witnessing due to climate change and human made detritus.


Artist Lecture | April Surgent: Exploring Climate Change in Glass

Thursday, October 12, 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

April Surgent will discuss the inspiration behind her new commission for University Museums permanent collection, her unique expression of environmental change through cameo engraved glass, and experiences participating in several prestigious research fellowships.


Glaciers in a Warming World: Examples from Today and Iowa's Glacial Past

Sunday, November 5, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Glaciers and ice sheets respond to climate warming in ways that are both predictable and surprising. Their shrinkage over the next century will affect hundreds of millions of people. Lecture with Dr. Neal Iverson, Professor, Geological and Atmospheric Sciences.

Visit the Brunnier Art Museum

Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Closed to the public Mondays. ISU curriculum tours may be scheduled on these days with a 2-week notice.

Closed 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.

This exhibition is curated and organized by the artist, April Surgent, and University Museums with Traver Gallery. Generous support for the exhibition was given by Marcia and Jim Borel; Carol Gee; Lucinda and Dirk Scholten; Phyllis and Larry Lepke; and University Museums Membership.

Images from top:

Outliving Glaciers, 2023
April Surgent
Cameo engraved glass
Commissioned by University Museums. Gift in memory of Lori A. Jacobson from Jason D. Kogan. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2023.199

In Our Absence, 2019
April Surgent
Cameo engraved glass
Courtesy of the artist

Photo of April Surgent, courtesy of the artist

Photo of Dr. Neal Iverson, courtesy of the lecturer

© 2023 University Museums, Iowa State University. All rights reserved.