Inside the Tree

Roger Nass

East Gallery

Aug 21 - Nov 13, 2021

Artist’s Statement:  

Upon retiring in 2003, I was looking for a hobby to occupy my spare time. For years I was jealous of my two sisters, Rosemary Millette and Theresa Marschel, who are nationally known wildlife artists. I knew that I would never achieve their level of talent, but I envied the fact that they were leaving behind beautiful wildlife paintings.

Moving to Ames, Iowa, we selected a property with a house and an outbuilding, which could serve as a shop. I acquired woodworking equipment and started to build Craftsman style  furniture. I hosted an Ames Woodworkers meeting on pen turning and got hooked on the world of wood turning.


After developing technical skills which allowed me to turn about any form I desired (bowls, platters, vases, hollow forms, etc.), I began to seek out more interesting parts of the tree.

While everyone has observed the beauty of trees, very few  know what the tree wood looks like. Hardwood furniture and decorative trim moldings are most always stained and don’t show the tree wood coloring. I also discovered the most interesting wood is located in the tree crown, which is never harvested for lumber.


In recent years, I have sought out tree species and locations where the most interesting and beautiful wood grains are found. This also occasionally includes burls, which are rare in Iowa.  Iowa is blessed with an environment that supports the growth of a large variety of trees, many of which are not indigenous to the area. Trees are always coming down for many reasons, so I am never tempted to cut them down just for turning wood.


My goal in all my turning is to produce a pleasing form which shows the grain to the best  advantage. My finish is all below the surface (varnish, lacquers, acrylics, etc. are above the surface). My goal is to get the wood to look like it was when fresh cut. After the piece is saturated with oil and dried, I buff it out and get the final finished look.

During the past three years, I have had the good fortune of finding a massive Red Elm burl and a large Red Oak burl, both of which are featured in the Blanden’s display. In addition, the Derecho that hit Iowa last summer provided a massive amount of turning stock. I have had the opportunity of turning several species not native to Iowa which came from the Iowa Arboretum due to the storm.  A few of these pieces will be available for the Blanden exhibit.

The exhibit features only trees that grew in Central Iowa. While not all the trees are native to the area, many species have been imported and thrived in our Iowa climate. My ultimate goal is to make useful, wooden items, but, more importantly, to feature the beauty of these trees that even the most expensive hardwood furniture does not show.


Outsider's Perspective 

Clark Grinde 

Second Floor Gallery

Aug 7 - Oct 2, 2021

“The real function of art is to change mental patterns… making new thought possible”

                                                                             - Jean Dubuffet


Art is transformative and meant to be an element of change, discovery, and renewal. There have always been artists at the fringes of the "Art World" seeking creative honesty and truth. Most seeking out primitive and or art created by children for inspiration.  This attraction to naïve is at the root of modern art.  Throughout history, artists searched for ways to break out of the academic mold they felt trapped by, artists such as Picasso, Duchamp, and Dubuffet.  These artists and many more sought to find originality through untampered minds.

When looking at the work by local artist, Clark Grinde, it is crucial to view it through the   context of its uniqueness and rawness.  He has a naïve approach to creativity, producing works using the materials found locally. Clark's works may be considered as outsider art.  Both art forms share a common interest in the use of everyday materials and have a raw aesthetic.

What is outsider art? This term defines art created by self-taught individuals that have a unique   aesthetic. This form of art has a rawness to it; art created outside the academic  tradition.

As a self-taught artist, Clark produces art that is simple and direct, employing materials such as cardboard, game boards, and craft paint—producing genuine and direct paintings.  Over the last couple of years, his work has progressed, and he is constantly evolving as he discovers new materials and explores different subject matter.

Artist Statement:

I loved painting in high school, and after a long hiatus, I started making artwork again in 2015. Painting and collage give me great joy! I like to use heavy acrylic paints and bright colors. I want people to say to themselves..."what is going on here--Oh, I get it--or I don't--but I still like it!" I have always been a collector of 'things', like vintage games, picture cards, flash cards, and books. Some of these materials are used in my  collage to represent a facet of life or make a   social statement. I use recycled materials and I am constantly experimenting with different   techniques.

When I make faces using acrylic paint, I never know how they will come out. It is only after    adding more facial features and  colors that I can decide on a name for the face. Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it is very fast. There are no set rules.


Creating Unity: A Centennial Celebration

Works by Women Artists from 1890-Present from the Blanden Permanent Collection

West Gallery

January - December 30, 2021

About the Exhibit

Art inspires us to visit the concept of “Unity” and see ourselves as part of a bigger Universe.

- Leni Kae   

Significant strength centers on unity. The universe is a perfect example of this strength. As we look out into the cosmos, everything seems to be in its place, doing what everything should be doing, harmony in the sky. As humans, there has always been a fascination with the stars and their steadfast qualities. On earth, we try to find and establish unity and order inspired by the universe. As human culture developed the concept of order/unity, this focus has changed history, art, and much more.


In this exhibit, the Blanden invites visitors to explore the concept of unity in multiple ways: Unity as a principle of art and design, Unity in the context of honoring the combined effort by American women that fought for a voice in Democracy, and unity as the collective creative vision of women artists.


Unity, as a principle of art, refers to how parts of artwork work together, the "Gestalt" – or the whole. Artists accomplish this whole through working and understanding the mechanisms of art. These mechanisms are the elements and principles, how they interact with each other, and the viewer's perception of the interaction. Unity, as it relates to history and creative output, has its roots in this basic understanding of the whole working together for a creative outcome.


This year America unites with celebrating American women that fought for a change and struggled to have a voice and input on US governance. Starting with the Progressive movement in 1890, American women rallied together to reform society and politics. The main objectives of this group were to eliminate problems caused by industry, urban living, immigration, and political corruption. The group's triumph came on August 18, 1920, with the signing of the 19th Constitutional Amendment. Unifying under a single voice is a powerful device used to accomplish great things and provides clear perceptions.


This exhibit showcases women artists whose works have been collected over the years and preserved in the Blanden Permanent Collection. By exclusively featuring women artists spanning centuries, subjects, and mediums, their works display a unified change in perceptions of an art world dominated by male artists. Museums all over the world are focusing on highlighting great women artists to rewrite the narrative, pulling back the years of darkness, and submitting to the world stage great artists.

Unity is accomplished in many ways. Within the setting of history and visual art, The Blanden's presentation offers engaging narratives and discourse which frame an environment of learning and understanding. At the heart of this simple understanding and perception is a connection to a powerful universe and one another. 

Dance Of The Animal Brides copy.jpg


Additional information forthcoming for the following:


  • Sandra Williams - Subterranean Fires - Second Floor Gallery                    Oct 16 -  Dec 18, 2021

  • Letha Kelsey -Everyday Meditations - East Gallery                                     Nov 27 - Feb 12, 2022

  • Greg Edmondson -Before Language - East Gallery                                     Feb 26 - May 21, 2022

  • Roy Burges - Hidden Faces - Second Floor Gallery                                     Jan 8 - March 5, 2022

  • Perspective of Architecture: Blanden Collection - West Gallery        January 2022