IN THE NEWS | Iowa Artist Molly Spain

IN THE NEWS | Iowa Artist Molly Spain Jackie Wilson City View | 06/01/2022

Iowa ArtistMolly Spain

By Jackie Wilson


Spain created “Totemic Timber I” from charred wood and tar paper beads. Photo by Jackie Wilson

When Mainframe Studios refashioned an old Qwest Communications building off Keosauqua Way in 2017, the nondescript concrete exterior didn’t resemble what was inside: a creative studio with talented artists.

In 2021, Mainframe approached one of its own artists, Molly Spain, to paint the building’s exterior. Spain created a mockup of the building, which includes an array of colors, along with totem shapes, called “Critical Mass.”

She designed a grid, mapping out the shapes for the professional painters with Heartland Finishes. The painting process took six months to complete.

“For such a big process, it was a positive, pleasant experience,” she said. “The building is vibrant, and now people can find the building.”

Molly Spain designed the exterior of Mainframe Studios, called “Critical Mass.” Photo by Ryan Damman

Spain has been an artist since childhood. Her parents both taught in Des Moines. Her mom was an art teacher and her dad a science teacher; both nurtured her passion.

She attended the University of New Mexico, obtaining a fine arts degree. There, she found creativity and inspiration in the rich landscape.

One memorable and inspiring college class was an outdoor studio. Every Friday, she and other students gathered art supplies and camping gear, finding an outdoor space to paint, draw, sculpt and camp for the weekend.

“Living in Santa Fe — the art and landscape collided. It gave me a great foundation outside of art school,” she said. “Santa Fe was a critical part of how my life has imbued in art.”

One of her talents was ironically discovered in a bathroom. A fine art class she attended was close to the downtown plaza.

“The bathroom there looked terrible,” she recalled. “I decided to paint it to look like a Grecian garden.”

Spain’s show “Relic” showcased her new work at Polk County Heritage Gallery in March 2022. Photo by Jackie Wilson

One of her roommate’s friends was in town for a video shoot when they used the bathroom, inquiring who painted it. After that, she painted a mural in the owner’s home who shot the video.

From there, she took a “leap of faith” and opened a decorative painting and mural business. A friend in Beverly Hills encouraged her work, and she gained new clients.

“That’s when faux painting was really popular,” Spain said.

After doing mural and painting design work for 15 years, she put the career aside to focus on her art, which includes painting and other mediums.

“My art started taking off,” she said. “I was determined not to be a starving artist.”

She moved back to Des Moines and slowly built her art practice. She avoids being pigeonholed by just creating one type of art, as she’s talented in various mediums.

“Being self-employed, I can design a mural, build a gate or paint a house out of necessity,” she said.

Her ideas and inspiration come from traveling the world. A recent trip to Spain and France was reflected in her most recent showing at Polk County Heritage Gallery last March.

“That’s my vice — traveling — it’s not a fancy car. Travel is central to my progress,” she said.

As an artist, she relishes a full range of creativity in all her projects.

“My art isn’t dictated by anybody. Nobody is telling me what to do. I have a lot of freedom with my art,” she said. ♦