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ISU integrated visual arts graduate student wins Best of Emerging Iowa Artists

July 01, 2014

Sodam Lee wins Best of Emerging Iowa Artists for the second year in a row.
Paige Stanton.
Mark Kirschenman.
Dillon Baker.
Peter Kasper.
Emily Baxter.
Cody Sherman.
Carrie Hoffnagle.
Chris Vance.


AMES, Iowa — Sodam Lee, an Iowa State University graduate student in the integrated visual arts program, won the $1,000 Leysens Family Award for Best of Emerging Iowa Artists at the 2014 Des Moines Arts Festival.

Lee, of Seoul, South Korea, was one of nine Iowa State College of Design students and recent graduates among the 22 emerging artists selected to exhibit their work at the festival, June 27-29 in downtown Des Moines. She also won the best of show award in 2013.

Much of Lee's work is a commentary on social issues like poverty and inequality. This year, she exhibited mainly prints based on her experiences in Italy during a two-week residency with the Venice Printmaking Studio Art Editions Program last summer.

"I met an elderly street artist who was selling beautiful drawings of local landmarks for just 20 euros apiece," Lee said. "He told me he was very proud to be able to document his country's culture and history. I realized then that wealth is not only dependent on finances; you can have a rich life through appreciation of art and cultural heritage."

Lee created a series of relief prints called "Cultural Richness" to highlight her experience. In addition to these prints, she also displayed some of her past work depicting orphans, refugees and laborers against a backdrop of Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World. Her intent was to show the very different lifestyles of people with leisure time and disposable income versus those in less fortunate circumstances, she said.

Paige Stanton, a sophomore in integrated studio arts from Windsor Heights, also returned as an Emerging Iowa Artist this year. The nature photographer prefers to capture images in one shot with her camera, she said, manipulating what the viewer sees by adjusting depth of field, for instance, rather than altering it afterward in Photoshop.

Not everyone is convinced, however.

"A professional artist stopped by and insisted that I had combined the sky from one photo with the landscape from another," she said. "I assured him it was a single image!"

Interacting with visitors and gauging their reaction to her work was Stanton's favorite part of both festivals, she said. "I enjoy finding out where they're planning to hang it in their home or the memories it evokes."

First-time participant Mark Kirschenmann of Huxley, who graduated in May with a bachelor of fine arts in integrated studio arts and English and is now completing an internship with Elements Ltd. in Des Moines, also enjoyed visiting with festival-goers and discovering what they liked most about his work.

Kirschenmann exhibited rings and pendants in sterling silver, brass, palladium and stainless steel, as well as some student pieces he brought along to showcase a wider range of materials and abilities.

"Learning how to produce a lot of work quickly, understanding how to market and sell it, and finding out what appeals to people have been very valuable aspects of this program," he said. "This will help me gain experience and build my portfolio."

Other recent Iowa State graduates in the Emerging Iowa Artists program included Dillon Baker and Peter Kasper, both of whom exhibited furniture and received BFA degrees in integrated studio arts in 2012; Emily Baxter (jewelry) and Sarah Lokenvitz (photography), both of Ames, and Cody Sherman (printmaking), Urbandale, all of whom received BFAs in integrated studio arts in 2013.

College of Design alumni Carrie Hoffnagle, Minneapolis, who received a BFA in integrated studio arts and a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication in 2006, and Chris Vance, Bondurant, who received a BFA in visual studies in 2000, were among the 195 professional artists chosen to participate in the 2014 Des Moines Arts Festival.

An accomplished painter, Vance has been a part of the festival for 10 years. He won Best of 2-D Mixed Media in 2007, Best of Painting in 2008 and a Juror Award in 2011. Hoffnagle, a native of Harlan who lived in Ames and Des Moines for several years after graduating from Iowa State, debuted in 2013 and was delighted to be selected again this year.

"The Des Moines Arts Festival is one of those shows where if you get accepted, you go," she said. "After traveling all over the country it's really nice to come back where people know you and you feel loved."

Hoffnagle exhibited sterling silver jewelry with natural gemstones and Formica countertop samples that she salvaged from "a bag by the dumpster outside the College of Design around 4 a.m." and saved until she felt she had the skills and experience to incorporate them into her work.

"It's a very unconventional material, which I think is part of what has helped me succeed; this is something people haven’t seen in jewelry," she said.

Sodam Lee, Integrated Visual Arts,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,