Thursday, June 20, 2013

Water Themes Featured In DAI Shows Opening Tonight

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” ~ Norman Maclean

The overarching theme is water, a common touchstone for many local artists who draw inspiration from living at the edge of the world's largest freshwater body in the world. At least two of Mike Savage's novels have Lake Superior water-related issues as a central plot element. Tonya Borgeson's series of "Something About the Water" shows, with other participating artists, keep cropping up. Visual artist/critic Ann Klefstad's water themed works likewise reflect her passion for the theme. (Both Klefstad and Borgeson can be found frequently out sailing on the waters as well, the one passion that overrides their desire to be in the studio.)

So it comes as no surprise that the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) would have a summer art opening titled Water Works. What did surprise me, though, was seeing the full page, front page story about the opening in Tuesday's Duluth News Tribune. Whether it was paid advertising, or a generous plug by the DNT, the net effect was that Water Works is an event not to miss. (Opening from 5-7 p.m. tonight.)

Here are a few notes about the three overlapping exhibitions that will be on display this summer. Lee Englund's A Strong Experience of Nature is aptly titled. The now-retired art teacher is a leading painter in the "plein air" school. "En plein air" is French for painting in the opening air. Englund describes it as the visual equivalent of jazz improvisation as the artist responds to the stimulation of the scenery which is ever changing.

One day back when I lived in the Central Hillside I came home from work to find a painter from Hungary on the sidewalk in front of our house, painting the hillside scene with the sunlight pouring through the trees and houses down toward the Great Lake. I asked why he was here and he said Duluth is one of the three most beautiful cities in the world to paint because of the steep hills and the lake, and the way the late day sun pours through everything. (The other two cities were San Francisco and one of Switzerland's beauties.)

Anways, it's been a pleasure watching Englund work and the title of his show is a thrill in and of itself. The show will run through August 18 if you can't make it tonight.

Then there's Jerry Allen Gilmore's Boats Will Float and Bumble Bees Will Sting which will have a shorter run in the Steffl Gallery, from June 6-24. Another fun title.  Gilmore states that his work "has always contained an element of water in its narrative." The images here are autobiographical in nature, and what he calls "markings" from his life.

Finally, from July 1 thru September 8, there will be Chris Faust's photography exhibit titled Revisiting Twain's Mississippi, a suitable companion for the other exhibits. Many people unfamiliar with North American Geography are not aware that we not only have the world's largest lake, but also the headwaters of one of the great rivers in the world, and our longest in North America. The headwaters of the mighty Mississippi begin here in out North Country.

St. Paul native Chris Faust chose to revisit the river that had been documented in such detail in Mark Twain's time by photographer Henry Peter Bosse.

Our ongoing fascination with rivers is nothing new. Rivers have been part of human history for ages, serving as transportation routes, power generators, geographic barriers, political boundaries, and more. Rivers have also served as a source of inspiration for poets, writers, artists and philosophers.

The flowing river is a theme upon which many minds have meditated. Twain, Hesse, Annie Dillard, Norman Maclean have all recorded reflections on rivers. Hesse’s Siddhartha concludes with a contemplation on the meaning of his life while watching, and listening to, the river.

Tonight's art opening(s) will give us a chance to explore our waters, and our selves, in new ways.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ed, I so appreciate that you write about and give voice to the wonderful visual arts community that exits in this region!