Ellen Wagener has resided in Arizona for over 15 years but has always retained a fascination with her native Iowa landscape. As Wagener explains, “everyone thinks of Iowa and most of the Midwest as ‘fly-over states’ that change very little and look relatively the same, constantly. I see it quite differently.” To capture the landscape that she knows, Wagener draws inspiration from a variety of artists including Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keefe, Grant Wood, and John Bloom; authors Hermann Hesse and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and statesman and “Father of the Green Revolution” Henry A. Wallace. Returning repeatedly to the same locations over long periods, she records daily and seasonal changes of light, color, and texture. From her repeated visits and observations Wagener has created monumental groupings of pastel paintings in multiple series depicting rivers, sunsets, cultivated fields, and spectacular weather events as well as her newest series of prairie fires.
Wagener attended Marycrest University in Davenport, Iowa and the University of Iowa before receiving her B.F.A. in 1989 from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. Her work has been recognized and exhibited nationally and is in numerous private and public collections including the Dubuque Museum of Art, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the Figge Art Museum, and the U.S. 9th District Federal Courthouse in Cedar Rapids.