UI student creates prints and embroideries inspired by traditional practices and contemporary ideas

University of Iowa senior Zoe Hermsen is inspired by old art created in traditional ways, such as printmaking and embroidery.

Back to Article
Back to Article

UI student creates prints and embroideries inspired by traditional practices and contemporary ideas

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






It takes years for some artists to decide whether or not to trek down the path of creativity. For University of Iowa senior Zoe Hermsen, pursuing the practice was all she had ever envisioned. 

By spending numerous hours in the studio while working toward a B.F.A. in printmaking, Hermsen has acquired all the skills needed to morph into a certified printmaker, specializing in lithography and intaglio. 

“They’re both traditional practices,” Hermsen said. “What’s nice is that print isn’t as finite as drawing. You can make multiple copies; it’s not as precious as drawings.” 

Some of Hermsen’s work includes a print with stinkbugs stamped across the paper. The insects look as though they are scattering across the page, with a few fading out into the white background while others remain a stark black. 

“A lot of my work is about femininity, anxiety, and vague things like ‘the self,’” she said. “I’m just trying to describe myself by the things I see and experience.” 

Old religious art also inspires Hermsen’s work. A couple of her own prints include the birth of the goddess Venus and of Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

It’s hard doing art in our culture. People like to make fun of liberal arts majors and compare them to doing underwater basket weaving. But at one point in time, basket weaving was and is a valuable skill.”

— Zoe Hermsen

“It’s based off of a famous painting by Giotto called ‘Madonna Enthroned,’” Hermsen said. “When you take Jesus out of the picture, she’s in this stance. I wanted to make her modern and not dependent on Jesus.” 

Along with creating prints, Hermsen has immersed herself into the intricate art of embroidery. Having a longtime interest in fashion, she embroidered a design with the phrase “No thanks” onto a denim jacket, as well as small flower designs and other small objects onto shirts. 

“There is an interesting relationship between embroidery and the art world, because it’s almost more of a trade than a fine art,” Hermsen said. “I think that it’s not viewed as fine art because it has traditionally been women’s work.” 

Despite Iowa City having what Hermsen describes as a great art scene, the societal pressure against artists remains strong. 

“It’s hard doing art in our culture,” Hermsen said. “People like to make fun of liberal-arts majors and compare them to doing underwater basket weaving, but at one point in time, basket weaving was and is a valuable skill.” 

As an artist, Hermsen has come across a mountain that troubles all in the industry: the public undervaluing art. 

“They don’t realize the worth of the art,” Hermsen said. “I’ve had to grapple with people seeing art, enjoying it, but not wanting to spend on it. But then I see people buying $20 art from Target and I think, ‘Well, now what?’ ” 

Facebook Comments