‘Ever Changing Land: The Art of Ellen Wagener’

Bailey Freestone

Iowa State University has one of the largest campus public arts programs, to which it seems is always growing.

Recently, ISU University Museums has acquired paintings from well-known artist Ellen Wagener. Wagener is from DeWitt, Iowa and now lives in the Phoenix area, but still finds herself painting the colorful landscapes of Iowa.

Wagener is the artist responsible for the most current exhibit being shown at the Brunnier Art Museum in the Scheman Building. This collection of paintings shows Iowa in its most beautiful and most disastrous of times. One series of Wagener’s paintings depicts an amazing sunrise on the Iowa horizon, while another shows cyclones that destroy everything in their path.

University Museums hosted a reception for the opening of this exhibition Feb. 6, which they have titled, “Ever Changing Land: The Art of Ellen Wagener.” The exhibition is open now through July 31, 2015.

This reception was a type of homecoming for Wagener. As a teenager, she was part of her local 4-H group, where she won her first award for a painting. Her painting was a winter interpretation of a Currier and Ives card that she painted in pastels. After winning first prize at the Iowa State Fair, Wagener found herself showing her artwork for the first time at the Brunnier Art Museum.

“I saw my future in that show,” Wagener said. “It helped give me the inspiration to keep painting and helped make me the artist I am today.”

She then continued to paint landscapes, in pastels, of her home state of Iowa.

A lot of thought went into this exhibit from both Wagener herself and the staff at University Museums. This show has been in the works for a couple of years now and it was well worth the wait.

Not only did the collection portray the natural beauty of Iowa, but Wagener included pieces that related directly to Iowa State. One of the pieces that will now be part of University Museums’ permanent collection was painted in recognition of one of Iowa State’s agricultural engineering professors. Wesley F. Buchele developed several patents, including one for the modern, large round hay baler.

“I really wanted the show to be about Iowa State University,” Wagener said. “So I covered topics that had to do with people who had worked at the university. I really wanted to do work that connected not only visually to what they see in Iowa, but sort of the history here too.”

Just as Wagener had hoped, one does not have to come in to the exhibit with any background knowledge of Iowa. A native Iowan or Midwesterner can walk into the show and know exactly what each piece represents.

“The idea is that when you leave the show, your interpretation of how you see Iowa on a daily basis in now a more glorious experience,” Wagener said.