Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spotlight on Painter Sarah Brokke

It's Visual Arts Week here in the the North Country, an extravaganza of arts-related events on both sides of the bridge including Phantom Galleries Superior's opening receptions Wednesday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. This is year three for the Phantom Galleries, and it's been thrilling to see the variety and caliber of our local talent. New venues have opened up for this month's show, both of them off-Tower, which is now torn up for reparations. The Habitat for Humanity has opened its doors at 1621 Broadway for a Rachel Nelson's "Pilgrimmage" exhibit and Patricia Davey's "Glass Exposed." And the Old Superior Antique Depot at 933 Oakes at the end of Broadway will have still more including the paintings by Sarah Brokke.

Brokke is a painter and from the first I was was drawn to her work, which has been displayed at the Zeitgeist and Duluth Art Institute, among other spaces in town. The exhibition has been described in these words: "Her large scale paintings for this installation explore the feelings of the fragile balance we all hold during this time..... to both be at peace and still be able to step into and care about the bigger picture of what is happening in our world often polarized. Sarah says ,"I am an Artist who seeks truth through the medium of paint. I am a woman, in truth, who seeks to actively define my roles as teacher, mother, daughter, wife, partner, sister. My work is a visual record of that journey'."

I've been impressed by her work, some of which I share here.

Cleansing Breath
EN: To what would you attribute your early attraction to painting?
Sarah Brokke: At age 8, I attended an exhibit of Impressionism at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. I remember being entranced with the luscious color of paint. Later I found the very tactile nature of building something out of that color extremely engaging.

EN: What life lessons did you bring back to the States after studying in England?
SB: My studies in England were early on in my Undergraduate education. Ultimately, my travels there informed my decision to go into the Arts, as it afforded me distance to see my future aspirations clearly. It also taught me that travel was an invaluable way to breathe.

Senzo Titolo (Nonostante)
EN: You also minored in modern dance. Does choreography cross over to influence your painting in any ways?
SB: I compose a painting much like I would choreograph a dance. The movement, layers, tones, and my utilization of the figure definitely have their origins in my study of choreography.

EN: You also lived and studied in Italy for a spell. What were the highs and lows of that experience?
SB: The most wonderful part: Being surrounded by Art and Artists on a daily, hourly basis. The least wonderful part: Living in the city of the Renaissance, Florence, eventually created a voracious hunger in me for 'other' Art. I clearly remember going to visit a collection of the work of Alberto Burri and finding it the equivalent of a cool compress.

EN: In what ways does living here at the edge of Lake Superior inspire and influence you?
SB: The color. The air. The people. I find it hard not to be inspired by where we live. It is as if we live at the edge of an ever-changing Rothko painting.

EN: How do you find the balance between making art and teaching art? How does each inform the other?
SB: I consider myself quite lucky to be passionate about both. To be honest, when my work in the studio is going well, my personal excitement about art making helps to influence my teaching. When my studio work is not going as well as I might hope, seeing my students exploring their own paths is unbelievably inspiring. I am thankful every day to have such complementary focal points in my professional life.

EN: Where can people see more of your work?
SB: Upcoming exhibitions at the Zeitgeist Atrium, opening May 6th, and The Phantom Gallery on Broadway in Superior, WI: Opening May 8th. I will have work displayed at the Duluth Art Institute‘s Water Works Exhibition starting June of 2013.

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This week is year one of the North x North Experience here in the Twin Ports, a celebration of arts and music. While you're in Superior Wednesday be sure to visit the North End Arts Gallery and the Red Mug at the corner of Broadway & Hammond, for art, poetry and an accordion rap. All exhibits are free, and the appetizers scrumptious.

For a full listing of Visual Arts Week Events across the Twin Ports visit the DAI's dedicated page of current activities You can also follow all the North x North Music and Arts Experience events on their dedicated Facebook page

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