Sunday, October 26, 2014

Local Art Seen: Sarah Brokke at the Kruk

Ask Alice
During the Friday noon hour I made my way over to the Univeristy of Wisconsin Superior campus to take in the opening reception for Sarah Brokke Erickson's retrospective at the Kruk Gallery there in the Holden Fine Arts Center. If you've never been it's a nice little space, a great space for encountering art.

There were several intriguing features of the show, titled (r)evolve. First, I can't seem to recall ever attending an opening reception at noon before. Turns out, this proved an excellent way to bring the school's art students and faculty together, to experience another artist's midlife overview. What struck me though is that Brokke Erickson is on the faculty of St. Scholastica, teaching modern art history, painting and drawing there, not here. Her undergrad work took place at UMD with MFAs from Bowling Green and Studio Arts Centers International in Florence, Italy.

Sarah Brokke is a painter's painter. By that I mean the work clearly show her love of placing paint on canvas surfaces, along with the fluid brushstrokes of one who care about the manner in which the images are formed, shaped, framed, fleshed out. The title of the show proved apt as one could see the evolution in her work while there were recurring features and themes as well.

The Eye of Married

Two recurring trends that I especially noticed were had to do with the manner in which she assembled subject matter. In pieces like Ask Alice and The Miscarriage of You one sees complex compositions with a variety of symbols and images. In many of her other pieces such as The Eye of Married we see a primary focal point, the essence of the story, filling a large space on a large canvas. She frequently assumes a role in these pieces

For example, the show included three images from her graduate thesis in which she portrays herself in an overly rotund manner. "I was painting myself as I felt... you know how our inside and our outside doesn't necessarily align.... I was definitely wrestling a lot with that interior-exterior disconnect." What did the process of producing these works teach her" "I learned that I have more questions than answers, and that's a very good thing."

Of The Eye of Married she explains, "I was engaged to be married. I was looking at the concept of sarcaphaguses... I took the imagery from Egyptian concept of sarcophaguses... spirit transfers.... and the concept of being tied together. Marriage is forever." They were engaged at time of this painting, and now he is husband.

The Miscarriage of You. I saw pain here. "That was my intent," she said.
The Miscarriage of You is not about a physical miscarriage, but rather a portrayal of loss after a relationship, the loss of a person of importance and its debilitating consequences. The piece successfully conveys the emotional pain associated with such a deep and difficult experience.

Sarah Brokke Erickson's paintings have shown up in quite a few public spaces in recent years. Her work has appeared at the Duluth Art Institute, where she also teaches painting, as well as a number of galleries.

The Kruk has irregular hours, so I recommend calling first or visiting their website before you visit. There are some free twenty-minute parking spaces out front which are frequently available. Take advantage of it.

The artist.
Students discussing one of the pieces.

A friend from Chicago shared that an acquaintance of hers said, "There is nothing happening in Duluth." She replied that if this person were a reader of this blog they would not have that opinion. 

Let's keep it going.

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