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The Botanical Garden’s North Gallery will feature local artist Bill Nellans’ exhibit, Into the Light, this summer.

From the Artist

“Into The Light” by Bill Nellans portrays the tender, translucent nature of things. Always changing, beautiful and unique. Soft, impressionistic, fields of color, not about content, but about the feeling it evokes. There is the idea that being surrounded by natural, changing, objects helps us to connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful situations. Nurturing all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.

While we are often asked to reflect on what effect we have on the environment, we need to ponder the effect the environment has on us. How does it affect our thinking and our sense of place?

Like a friend once said when asked how she was doing since her father had passed. “I’ve realized that life is like a leaf, fresh and new in the spring, bright, healthy and growing and then colorful before it withers and dies in the fall.” There is that sense of peace that comes from observing the effect of the passage of time on nature and on us. It reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet. There is a beautiful reality that comes from realizing that everything is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

About Bill Nellans

My love of photography started when my dad had a heart attack in 1963. During his recovery he built a darkroom in our basement and I was fascinated to be in there with him watching pictures come up in the developer. Two years later when he passed away my Mom made a big deal of giving me his Ansco twin lens reflex and turning the darkroom over to me. I was ten years old and took the old Federal enlarger to my seventh grade science class to show the magic. I have a certificate of appreciation from the Urbandale Echo in 1969 for photographing for the school yearbook. I received an Associate of Arts Degree from DMACC and then joined the Army as a photographer in 1977. I was the Honor Graduate from the United States Air Force Training Command at Lowry Technical Training Center’s six-month still photographic specialist course. I then served at the headquarters of the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia for two and a half years. While there, in addition to my official duties, I ran the photo hobby craft shop and taught basic black and white darkroom classes. I was also allowed to take nine hours a semester of art and photography classes at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

In 1980 I returned to Des Moines where I was lucky to be hired at The Graphic Corporation as photographer and studio manager. I immersed myself in learning the skills of advertising and commercial photography. I shot with everything from 8×10 and 4×5 view cameras to Hasselblad 120 and Nikon 35mm. I processed my own E-6 color transparency and black & white film. The range of projects was from Ardan’s catalogs to Pioneer Seeds annual report, from MidAmerican Energy, Meredith, Younkers, National Pork Producers, Iowa Tourism, Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, Boyt Luggage, Maytag, Pella Windows, and on and on.

In 1985 I took out an SBA loan and opened my own studio. I hit the ground running and continued to do all kinds of photography for a wide range of Midwestern clients, advertising agencies and graphic designers. My love of photography continued to grow and I searched out meaningful, artistic projects. I worked with the Des Moines Ballet, The Civic Center any client that would allow me to explore the boundaries and create a body of work that was more expressive than literal.

In 1993 I formed a partnership with Mark Doolittle that we called GYZNIWA. Our mission was to cross over to digital imaging. To sync with the designers who were working on the computer and expand the creative possibilities. It felt like the dam had broken and anything was possible. We were doing all kinds of fun things, winning awards. We won the Nikon/Photo District News self-promotion national award, lots of Art Director’s and Addy Awards. Percival Gallery offered us a show and we did a series of people at the Iowa State Fair printed on full sheets of Arches watercolor paper. That series and the one that won the Nikon/PDN Award were both accepted into the Iowa Artist Show at the Des Moines Art Center in 1996 and 1998. We were traveling all over the country shooting for national accounts and having a great time.

By the turn of the century we had gone our separate ways and I started to focus on refining my commercial work to a more satisfying aesthetic. I had always felt that the commissioned work could be every bit as artistic as any self-assigned project. In 2003 I was part of a show at the Arthouse Gallery and then in 2007-2009 took part in the Artstop tour of artist’s studios. One of the best projects of my life came in 2010 when Wellmark built their new headquarters building in downtown Des Moines. They implemented a “wayfinding” system of having all of the signage and artwork on each floor be of it’s own consistent nature theme. They ranged from prairie grass to wildflowers, water, leaves and trees. I used this as motivation to immerse myself in almost a whole year of nature photography. I would get up in the middle of the night to travel to places like Stephens State Forest, Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge and The Loess Hills. The whole time I was conscious of thinking “ What can I do to makes these special?” I was obsessed with it. I loved it! I ended up with several pieces in their collection including seventeen murals that were installed at approximately ten feet high by twenty feet wide. I ended up with hundreds of images that are in my own personal collection. One of which was accepted into the Iowa Artists 2012: Print Show at The Des Moines Art Center.