BLOG - Olson Larsen Gallery - contemporary art gallery West Des Moines, Iowa
See Art, Know Art, Buy Art



Posted on 09/03/2015 at 12:04 PM

As part of our current exhibit, NEW WORK, Randy Richmond has presented a series of beautiful images. Here is what he had to say about this new body of work. 

We are guided by theories. We live by a series of theories until we, or someone else, provides a new theory to live by. The theory of a flat earth continued for many centuries before there was disagreement. Today theories are born, shared, consumed, and adopted at the speed of the internet. The more people that agree on a theory the quicker it becomes the accepted temporary truth of the day.

ADRIFT, Pigment print on Kozo paper,  17 x 24 inches

This body of work I've titled “Flat Earth Theory” began with an exploration of light on a tiny object. The tiny object was a bird nest. The light came through a large south facing window about 20 feet from a large brick house. The house blocked the path of direct sun which created a diffused light with a curious intensity. The surface that held the hummingbird nest was a square topped antique table with curved legs. The dark-stained tabletop is about 20 inches square and has a nice array of character marks gained during it's long existence. While seeming restrictive, the continued use of this same small table in the same space, I believe, will supply an organic evolution of thought as I work through this series. The combination of the curious light, the markings on the table, the proximity of a light toned wall, and the shallow depth of focus, reminded me of images I've seen of old illustrations of how the flat earth appeared in relationship to the rest of the universe. These images usually illustrated great dangers near the edges of the earth, and the safety of maintaining an existence towards the middle zones. In my mind these illustrated dangers represent the theories we create for ourselves, and those created for us by individuals and groups.

A FALSE SENSE OF DEJA VU, Pigment print on Kozo paper,  17 x 24 inches

The subtle mix of warm and slightly cool tones are meant to work with the delicate feel of the kozo paper these images are printed on. Kozo paper is made primarily from mulberry fibers. Because the paper has a relatively soft surface, ink is deeply absorbed into the paper but the dense fibers keep ink from spreading. Sharpness and black density add a tremendous feeling of depth to the prints. Kozo paper is exceptionally strong and completely archival.

Randy's work, along with the rest of the exhibit is on view until October 3.


Posted on 06/24/2015 at 11:38 AM


In talking with John Preston about his latest series of work, wonderful scenes of the Des Moines River with astounding accomplishments of color, he revealed that he will often customize and make his pastels. Born of out a somewhat dire circumstance, John told us more about this ongoing experiment.

On location...

“I do make some of my own pastels, for a variety of reasons. Years ago (1989?) I dropped and broke a critical color on location and tried to reconstitute it with the dregs of ice in a cherry coke and drying it on the hood of the car. It almost worked and I discovered commercially made pastels could be remade from their dust and plain water. In those days the selection of colors was a fraction of what's currently available so I started making the off-shades needed for landscape. In the studio, I collected the dust from my easel tray to make really useful grays (still do).

Most recently I joined a couple other Fairfield artists, Cindy Kaynor and Danielle Shier, making them from scratch. Cindy operates a small art supply store in ICON Gallery's classroom space. She used to buy sets from a prominent manufacturer and sell us individual sticks but they instituted a ridiculously large minimum order policy. We decided to buy pigments and make our own because the process is very low tech - almost as complicated as making Jell-o or cookies. We reverse engineered the formulation of that manufacturer (or something close to it) and can make custom colors, duplicate discontinued favorites or fill the "holes" in your palette. So with pastels at least, we've revived the tradition of the local artist's colorman.”

You can see more of John's work on display now through August 1 as part of our ANNUAL LANDSCAPE SHOW.


Posted on 06/02/2015 at 3:17 PM

Our current show is coming to a close, so we thought we'd better share these works from our ONE PIECE series. We asked both Gary Bowling and Christopher Chiavetta to choose one piece currently on display and dissect it for us, and you.

"Tourmaline,  is named after a colorful green and pink gem and references the process of mineralization as a metaphor for the emergence of new material within a landscape. With painting I am interested in thinking about the intersection and overlap between biological things and geological things, or between human made things and naturally occurring things. This painting explores some those ideas." - Christopher Chiavetta

"Winter Hay is a study in contrasts.  The contrasts include very proximate objects closing off space against a vision of open unencumbered distance; a division of abrasive dark cold against soft airy light; the subject of hay which I associate with the heat of summer and the dry of fall, but  clad in the less familiar cloak of winter's ice.  A close friend, upon seeing this piece in my studio, commented that, as a rancher, the painting reminded him of one of the things he disliked most about managing cattle in the winter.  I had never considered that ranchers might have to bust the ice off of hay bales in order to feed it to cattle." - Gary Bowling

Both of these, along with more work by each artist is on display in our current exhibit,

NEW WORK, which is on view through June 6th.



Posted on 05/14/2015 at 1:52 PM

We are excited to debut a new series on the blog called ONE PIECE.

We know that connecting to artwork is important, and one way of doing that is having a bit more context and background. To that end, we are asking artists from each exhibit to share a little more about one piece on view at the gallery.

First up is Mary Merkel-Hess and her piece IN CHEPHREN'S TEMPLE.

In Chephren's Temple, Paper, reed, acrylic paint, 31 x 18 x 18 inches

"In Chephren's Temple" was inspired by a visit to the Great Pyramids in Egypt a few years ago. It wasn't the pyramids that caught me so much that day or the Sphinx which is nearby but a small temple near the Sphinx.

Photo taken at the site

This small temple was a staging area for the rituals that went on at the site. I was so taken by the simplicity of the place and the columns which receded so beautifully that I asked my husband to take a photo of me with the columns. Those columns suggested a possible plan for one of my paper sculptures.

Mary's drawing for the piece

When I got home I did a drawing of large pieces receding into the background just as those columns had. Yes, that's me in the photo and the drawing. In my dreams my work is monumental! Later I made three sections of this imagined piece but the original conception was for several more.  

The work installed at Olson-Larsen 

Earth Day

Posted on 04/22/2015 at 3:10 PM

Beautiful images inspired by beautiful earth...

by Eugenie Torgerson

by Doug Shelton

by Michael Johnson

by Gary Bowling

Studio Selfie: Levi Robb

Posted on 04/02/2015 at 11:52 AM

Our FOUR PRINTMAKERS exhibit has been fantastic, and if you haven't seen it, you have about twelve hours to do so!

Our final Studio Selfie from this group is of artists with Levi Robb.

He shared this shot of himself from a recent late night studio session.

Read more about Levi and see his work here.

Studio Selfie: Joel Elgin

Posted on 03/19/2015 at 3:17 PM

With the FOUR PRINTMAKERS gallery talk just about a week away, here's another Studio Selfie to entice your attendance!

Joel Elgin, along with the three other featured artists will be here at Olson-Larsen on Saturday, March 28th at 1:00 pm. 

Here's what Joel shared with us about his studio.

My studio has walls and no walls.

The prints I physically make are etched and printed within the walls of the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse printshop.

The content originates from ancient Irish myths and legends and my actual exploration of the related Irish sites. The images come from a place free of walls.

My walled printmaking studio is typically filled with the energy and noise of students who have become obsessed with the possibilities of printmaking. Their obsession leads to madness in the form of loud music and the emotional highs and lows of printmaking success and failure - both equally important in the learning of the art of making prints.

I enjoy teaching in this "good madness" but I need to etch and print alone, so the summer, or when school is not in session I start early each morning with strong coffee and Tom Waits music pouring from the stereo. At the end of each day I lock the doors but my mind continues its journey to Ireland; back to the studio with no walls. Though they are 3,500 miles from each other, and walled and without walls, the studios are one, in constant cycle, feeding each other, calling each other.

Studio Selfie: Susan Heggestad

Posted on 03/14/2015 at 3:15 PM

Here's a Saturday edition of our Studio Selfies. Today we feature Susan Heggestad, invited artist in our current exhibit FOUR PRINTMAKERS. She will be part of our Gallery Talk on March 28th

I am lucky enough to have a studio in my home, in our finished attic space.  While I do wish it were a little bigger, it has wonderful light due to there being a skylight in the center.  Of course, it's wonderful to be up there during the height of the sunlight, but that is not always possible because of my work schedule, so I try to sneak in time up there whenever I can.  I often come up here to do some quiet reading, writing, even yoga, as well as to work on art.  

The perimeters of the studio are largely storage, because the shape of the room is odd - I can't stand up in all corners - but the center is just open enough for some flexibility in function. I tend to move things around depending on what I'm working on; pull out the ironing board and sewing table when I'm working on stitching projects, roll out the printing cart when I want to print (I have a small press that allows me to print up to 9x12"), stand at the work table when I'm working on collage, drawing, or small sculpture.  In general, I really love my studio, and wish I could spend more time up here!

It's another...wait for it...STUDIO SELFIE!

Posted on 03/05/2015 at 12:44 PM
Jeanine Coupe Ryding's works are featured in our current exhibit, FOUR PRINTMAKERS, which is on view until April 4th. Jeanine, along with the other artists featured in the exhibit, will be part of a gallery talk coming up on March 28th at 1:00 pm. 
Here's what Jeanine had to say when asked about time spent in her studio...
I am usually working, in my head. When I am teaching and surrounded by creative people, I am making mental notes on changes to things I am working on. I am thinking about projects as I walk, swim, do housework and shop for groceries.
Jeanine in her studio
The time spent in the studio is far less than the time spent thinking about, making notes on and preparing for actually working. Working in the studio is my way of being alone, of being curious, of seeking clarity. It is often confusing, uncomfortable and frustrating, but it is the way I choose to live.
Another shot of Jeanine

Stuart Klipper

Posted on 02/04/2015 at 2:54 PM

  Well hello. It’s been a little while since we’ve updated our blog. To make up for our updating inadequacies, we have wonderful things to share today. Stuart Klipper, MInneapolis based photographer has been involved in a fantastic project in Sweden, and the following is what he shared with us about it! The images seen here are some that were selected to be in the exhibit. 

“Twice during this just-over year I travelled to Sweden to work on a museum commission, once in February and again in June - for about two weeks time each go.

The commission is from a relatively newly-opened Swedish museum situated on a large island, Värmdö, about a half an hour east of Stockholm: ARTIPELAG.

Rendering of the ARTIPELAG's foyer. 

The work I was commissioned to make was done in conjunction with an exhibition (slated to open May 28) that Peter Galassi is guest-curating: LAND MÖTER VATTEN (LAND MEETING WATER). My work then was focused on the sundry regional aspects of that overall theme, to wit, the natural topography of the coastal reaches of that region of Sweden, Stockholms Archipelago (Skärgård). Alas, as much as I hankered to, I did not make it out to every one of its 25,000 + islands, rocks, and skerries.

My completed work will be presented essentially in the form of a installation mult-image piece distributed throughout many the museum's gallery spaces; the 16 selected prints will be very large in scale, just shy of 5' x 15' each.

As Peter's plan dictated, I was to work first under winter conditions, and then again in the summertime - indeed I was, happily, there for Sweden's paramount holiday, Midsommars Dag.

During the February foray the overcast and fog were unrelenting for the entire time I was there. But, I invariably do take the world as it presents itself to me, and I subsequently rose to the occasion and made a few score of pretty much color-monochromatic sfumato photos.

I fared somewhat better with weather in June; not only did I encounter many a balmy sun-filled day, the daylight hours went on and on, what with the sun rising at 3.30 AM and not setting until 10.30 PM. I in turn cranked a lot of film through my Technorama.

In addition my commissioned work being mounted throughout the museum, Peter will be including 10 of my photographs in the main body of the exhibition itself, one that he felt exemplified his overall theme; they are varied in their location ranging around the planet. These will be only a meagre 3' x 6'.”

Olson-Larsen is honored to work with such a talented photographer!


© 2018 Olson-Larsen Galleries. All Rights Reserved.