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April 3, 2009

University Museums hosts artist-in-residence

by Paula Van Brocklin

Beej Artscape

ISU ArtScape, 2008 by Beej Nierengarten-Smith. A commission for the Art on Campus collection, University Museums.

University Museums welcomes contemporary printmaker and multimedia artist Beej (short for Barbara Jean) Nierengarten-Smith for an artist-in-residency April 13-17.

Nierengarten-Smith specializes in photolithography, Japanese woodcuts, digital imagery, etching and chin colle, a collage process in which papers are laminated using glue and pressure before or after the final inking of a print.


An exhibition of Nierengarten-Smith's artwork, "BodyScapes and CounterPoints: Prints of Beej Nierengarten-Smith," is on display through May 12 in the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Morrill Hall.

At a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. April 13, visitors can meet Nierengarten-Smith and enjoy live music, refreshments and a cash bar. University Museums director Lynette Pohlman and Susan Brown, who wrote the exhibition's accompanying publication, will speak briefly.

Nierengarten-Smith will lead an ArtWalk April 15 (noon, east entrance of Morrill Hall), which will focus on campus artworks by Stephen De Staebler, Bill Barrett and Manuel Neri.

At 7 p.m. the same day, she will present "Intimate Beauty," in which she will deliver a first-hand account of her printmaking journey, exploring both subject matter and interpretation.

Nierengarten-Smith also will work with art students while on campus, speaking to the classes of Design faculty Ingrid Lilligren and April Katz. She will discuss her unique printmaking process, which incorporates high-tech computer graphics and digital imagery.

"At Beej's core, she is still a teacher," said Allison Juull, University Museums collections manager. "She does a very good job -- no matter who her audience is -- of transporting them into her world. She adds a third dimension, scratching below the surface [of her work]."

All events are free and open to the public. Admission to the Christian Petersen Art Museum is free with a suggested $3 donation per person.

No stranger to ISU

Nierengarten-Smith is no stranger to Iowa State or its art collection. University Museums regularly consults with her to determine how to enhance the university's permanent sculpture collection.

"She comes in at the stage when we're trying to pick artists," Juull said. "She uses her network to make connections between the committee [that's choosing the artwork], Lynette Pohlman and the artist."

Juull said Nierengarten-Smith also helps University Museums staff determine which materials will work best in Iowa's extreme outdoor conditions.

A rare event

Juull said Iowa State has not had an artist-in-residence for at least 10 years, making Nierengarten-Smith's residency unique.

"I encourage people to meet the artist," she said. "This is an opportunity to have a discussion with her. She's very down-to-earth."


About the artist

A Minnesota native, Nierengarten-Smith's career initially focused on art history and education, where she had success as a teacher and museum director. Prior to pursuing her artwork full time, she was the founding director and chief curator of the Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis. A love of bookmaking prompted her to leave the museum world in 2001 to become a full-time printmaker and art consultant in Santa Fe, N.M. For more information about Nierengarten-Smith, visit