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Fiberart exhibition headlines fall series at ISU Design on Main Gallery

August 03, 2015


AMES, Iowa — A two-person exhibition of work inspired in part by Mexican folk art and Iowa's rural landscapes will kick off the Iowa State University Design on Main Gallery's 2015 fall program.


"Fiberart: Two Views" by Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath and Nancy Polster—Iowa State associate professors emeriti of art and design and professional artists for more than 50 years—will be on display Aug. 28 through Sept. 30 at Design on Main, 203 Main St., Ames.

A public reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, with an artists' talk at 7 p.m. Gallery hours will be 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; any extended hours will be posted on the gallery's Facebook page. Admission is free.

Arand-McIlrath and Polster have shown their work—together and individually—regionally, nationally and internationally in juried and invitational exhibitions. Each has been an invited juror and curator of a number of significant exhibitions. Friends for 46 years and faculty colleagues for 31 years, they taught many of the same courses during their tenure at Iowa State. Their last two-person exhibition was in 1971.

"Breezy" (24"x36", printed and knitted fabric) by Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath.

Excitement and freedom
Folk art, particularly of Mexico's Oaxaca state, has long been of interest to Arand-McIlrath.

"Color, texture and freedom of expression have fascinated me for many years. There is an incredible excitement in the work of folk artists," he said. "Color, texture, repetition and pattern are strong elements in my work. The compositions are based on my observations of the world around us."

Arand-McIlrath's two-dimensional pieces consist of backgrounds painted with acrylic paint and sometimes embellished with found objects. Crocheted webs are introduced as foregrounds. His three-dimensional pieces typically are constructed of flexible willow branches, often painted or varnished, and "inhabited" by the found objects and crocheted yarn.

For his most recent work, Arand-McIlrath has sought to marry the foreground and background surfaces, using his own printed fabrics as well as fabric recycled from garments and adding a crocheted "environment."

"Having fun is one of the prime motivators of my work. I love having viewers smile. I smile a lot while I'm working on my art," he said.

"Gumball Plantation" (20"x10", applique/stitchery, 2014) by Nancy Polster.

Unique compositions
Polster has been interested since childhood in fiber as an artistic medium and has been involved professionally with contemporary approaches to stitchery, applique, piecework, quilting and beadwork since the 1960s. She uses beads, buttons, jewelry, electronic components and other sewable items in combination with yarns and fabrics of various weights and densities, integrating the textures, colors and shapes.

"My personal rule is that components must be sewn, not glued to the surface," Polster said. "The landscape is a dominant inspiration, challenging me to create unique compositions beyond the 'look' of traditional needlework."

As a resident of Tucson, Arizona, for the past 12 years, Polster found her work reflecting the colors and terrain of the Southwest. For this exhibition her focus returned to Midwestern landscapes.

"I have always found pleasure in viewing plowed fields, rows and rows of corn prior to and following harvest season and the linear repeat of trees seen in the distance when driving on Iowa’s county roads. I interpret 'Iowa' using my favorite design elements: color and texture," she said.

Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath

About the artist:
Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath

Arand-McIlrath received a Bachelor of Arts in art and art education from Dominican College, Racine, Wisconsin, in 1966, and a Master of Arts in related art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969.

During his 33-year academic career at Iowa State, Arand-McIlrath taught primarily studio classes in all aspects of design and fiberart, specializing in printed and dyed surface design on fabric. He served as associate chair (1993-97) of the ISU Department of Art and Design.

When he retired in 2002, Arand-McIlrath moved to Okoboji, where he has been active with the Pearson Lakes Art Center, chairing the acquisitions committee since 2000 as well as serving on the visual arts exhibition committee and fundraising committee. He is the current chair of the Northwest Iowa Artisans Road Trip. He has served as chair of the Iowa Designer Crafts Association and as a regional representative of the Surface Design Association.

In 2014 and 2015 Arand-McIlrath's exhibitions have included "A Fiberartist's Journey: 50+ Years of Making Fiberart" solo exhibition at Witter Gallery, Storm Lake, and Nobles County Art Center, Worthington, Minnesota; "Paint the Iowa Great Lakes: Plein Air Art Exhibition" at Pearson Lakes Art Center, Okoboji (second-place award); "Artisans Road Trip Group Exhibition" at art centers in Clear Lake, Le Mars, Okoboji, Spencer and Storm Lake; "New Work" at Apiece of Work, Inc., Spirit Lake; "Wanda J. Skogerboe Juried Exhibition" at Pearson Lakes Art Center; "Studio 360" at Washington Pavilion Arts Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and "Nobles County Art Center Annual Regional Exhibition" (Best in Show award). He was one of four artists chosen to create works for the 50th anniversary of Pearson Lakes Art Center in July.

Nancy Polster

About the artist: Nancy Polster
Polster received a Bachelor of Science in applied art with a textile design focus from Iowa State in 1960 and a Master of Science in art education from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, in 1964.

She was an elementary school art teacher in the North Syracuse Central School District for two years before returning to ISU to teach in 1965, beginning a 35-year career as an educator and administrator that included service as assistant chair (1980-1990) and chair (1990-97) of the art and design department and interim associate dean of the College of Design (1999). She taught undergraduate courses in visual foundations, two- and three-dimensional design, color, art for elementary education, stitchery/fabric assemblage and printed fabric design, and a graduate-level teaching practicum.

For several years she was an art reviewer for the Ames Tribune and for five years (1999-2003) she chaired the Ames Public Art Commission. She also served as president (1983-85), ex officio board member (1985-86) and membership secretary-treasurer (1978-81) of the Iowa Designer Crafts Association. She is a charter member of the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames and served on its board of directors from 1981-85. Polster retired from Iowa State in 2000 and moved to Tucson in 2003. Among many other honors, she received the 2006 Christian Petersen Design Award from the ISU College of Design.

Polster's recent exhibitions include "Betsy Farmer and Nancy Polster" two-person invitational exhibition at the Artist of the Month Gallery, Unitarian Universalist Church, Tucson, in 2011; "Sonoran Inspired! Fiberart by Nancy Polster" solo invitational exhibition at Tucson Botanical Gardens in 2012; and "Dream Fields: Fiberart by Nancy Polster" solo invitational exhibition at Goodenow Gallery, Pearson Lakes Art Center, Okoboji, in 2014. Her work also appears in public, corporate and private collections.

Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath,
Nancy Polster,
Jennifer Drinkwater, Design on Main, (515), 708-2825,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,