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Finds Light in the Dark

Kindra Noel’s “Shades of Gray”, Genus Landscape Architects

February 2013


Noel’s “Beautiful View" Photo: Nicci Simon Cooper

Review by Alissa

February 27, 2013

A brief disclaimer:  You know you are in trouble as an art critic when you walk into a show and, before you have so much as snapped a photo or jotted a note, you have whipped out your wallet and purchased a piece. 

This was exactly my knee-jerk reaction to Kindra Noel’s show, “Shades of Gray”, currently on display at Genus Landscape Architects.  I walked through the door, my eyes locked on a gem, and I absolutely had to know it was mine before I could process another thought or take another step.  Whether this completely discredits me as a “serious” reviewer or totally exults Noel as an artist is beside the point.  This type of raw response to art does not come along every day – at least not for me – and I think it is worth noting.


Photo: Nicci Simon Cooper

“Shades of Gray is an exploration of hope, an illustration of joyous journeys through troubled times,” Noel writes in her artist’s statement. I have never met the artist, and so do not know what sort of “troubled times” her statement refers to.  Even the symbolism she uses has universality to it – in one series, dark skeletons take on a vulnerability that could be interpreted as a health scare, a heart break, or a terrible loss. That Noel does not specify her struggle serves the collection well, making it that much more relatable and easily accessible to anyone who has survived a trial while still “embracing the magnificence of life”.  

Viewing the show through this lens of Noel’s allows viewers to take in a seemingly everyday subject – say a simple landscape of the East Village or a camera - and infuse it with a sense of gratitude. The artist’s play between the ideas of light and dark – be it the colors chosen, the imagery used, or just simply the weight of a brushstroke – is evident throughout.  These contradictions are subtle enough to work aesthetically, but pronounced enough to be conceptually arresting.  The fact that Noel can convey such depth of emotion through her art without further verbiage is a testament to the promise of this young artist.

“Shades of Gray” is currently on display at Genus Landscape Architects at 325 East 5th Street in Des Moines and may be viewed during business hours.  For more information on the artist, visit