Art Farm Iowa’s first exhibit to open Friday in Northwood

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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Chicken and waffles. Peanut butter and bananas. Pringles and whipped cream.

All are odd flavor combinations that work well together. Now add art and agriculture to the list.

Just ask Steve Hanson, founder and director of Art Farm Iowa, who saw a natural blend between them, with Hanson noting the arts were not “very present” in the area, particularly in Worth County.

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“There actually really isn’t any art venues,” Hanson said, noting it was hard to see art from different artists both locally and throughout the country and world in the area.

That’s why he came up with the idea for Art Farm Iowa.

“The goal of Art Farm Iowa is to bring artists from all over, exhibit and show their work and to not only do that but also to engage with the community by visiting the community,” he said.

And on Friday Art Farm Iowa is set to open its first art exhibit after spending a year constructing a building.

“We’ve had a couple of other events at the farm, and an event also in the community,” Hanson said.

Friday’s art exhibit, “Iowa Fresh,” will combine the works of Lucretia Torva, an Arizona-based painter, and Anthony Martin, an Iowa-based chainsaw sculptor.

Torva is from Peoria, Illinois, and attended the University of Illinois.

“She and I met in Phoenix, Arizona, and … I was sharing [with] her the concept behind the Art Farm Iowa, and she said she’d really love to be involved,” Hanson said. “As our discussion happened, the idea of doing a new take on regionalism was discussed.”

Hanson also decided there should be a sculptural element to the exhibit, and Martin — who does animals and figures related to Iowa — had done sculptures for Art Farm Iowa previously.

Hanson thought this would be a great first exhibit as most people would be able to relate to the images and sculptures, especially as they pertained to living in the midwest.

“It’s new regionalist art,” he said. “… Regionalism is a concept of art that was started in the early 1900s, really 1900 through 1950.”

According to Hanson, groups of painters in specific areas of the country started painting scenes from recognizable areas. One of the most recognized painters to new regionalist art was Grant Wood, an Iowa artist who created “American Gothic.”

“The emphasis of the show is taking some of these [regionalist painting] ideas and putting a fresh perspective on them, the perspectives of the individual artists,” he said.

To that effect, both Torva and Martin used Wood-inspired scenes and refreshed them.

Torva, who plans to show 12 pieces (eight being new), enjoyed drawing and painting, but never considered herself an artist until college.

Through art she was able to investigate everything.

“I’m interested in history, I’m interested in other cultures, I’m interested in philosophy and dreams and vision, being creative,” she said.

Art, she argued, gave her an excuse to dive into whatever she felt like and that was relevant to her work. And that’s what she’ll be doing in this show, where she plans to display acrylic and oil-based works.

In fact, she’ll be taking Wood’s idea for “American Gothic” and inserting pop culture with the hopes of modernizing it.

“Most of the characters are ‘Star Wars’ characters,” she said, noting ‘Star Wars’ represented modern mythology.

In fact, over dinner with Hanson, she was asked what she liked and remembered about Peoria. The first thing she said was remembering seeing ‘Star Wars.’ So they rolled with the idea.

It’s her hope the pieces will present a new way of seeing both Wood’s work as well as “Star Wars” characters.

“It’s fun, it’s amusing, it’s kind of surreal, but I have tried to imitate Grant Wood’s style with that,” she said, noting five of her works feature ‘Star Wars’ characters, though one has Captain Kirk from ‘Star Trek’ and another with Jason Momoa, who grew up in Iowa and who Torva depicts in overalls.

“One of the things that occurs to me with the ‘Star Wars’ mythology is the feistiness of fighting for your piece of freedom,” she said. “Farmers are very much individuals in that way: That this is my property and this is how I’m going to do it.”

This will be her first show in Iowa.

According to Hanson, the gallery building — around 3,000 square feet — was just being finished. There is also an overhang and an area for performances, as well as a reception area.

He described the gallery as a place to not only have art, sculptures, paintings, musical acts and events, including educational seminars. This is the first art exhibit for Art Farm Iowa, which has been around since the spring of 2022.

Planning for the exhibit, which features around 25 pieces between Torva and Martin — started roughly one year ago.

It’s his hope visitors will be inspired by the process, whether painting or sculpting, and that they’ll begin thinking about things differently while enjoying the exhibit.

The concept behind Art Farm Iowa is to develop and promote arts through a gallery building, walking paths and a (still under construction) ceramic and glass-blowing area. It’s his hope the area will serve as an outlet for creativity, what Hanson described as an arts venue and destination.

“Art Farm Iowa has been created as a nonprofit, public charity to establish and develop the arts alongside agriculture in Northwood, Worth County, Iowa,” Hanson said, noting the ultimate goal would be becoming an international destination.

The idea for Art Farm Iowa was born in the spring of 2021 after Hanson learned his father was considering selling the farm. At the same time, he was considering what the next phase of his own life would entail.

“Having just gone through the COVID year and re-evaluated what I wanted to do, … I’d always been active, and I have two passions in my life,” he said. “Those passions are food and nutrition, or agriculture and nutrition — and that’s the career I’m in, and supporting the arts,” he said. “Basically the concept formed from those passions and trying to basically do something that’s unique on a family farm.”

The exhibit will open with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, and the exhibit will close June 30, 2024. According to Hanson, because the building is still under construction there currently aren’t any set hours. The gallery is at 4953 Olive Ave. in Northwood.