Sunday, February 22, 2015

Local Art Seen: Double Opening at the Duluth Art Institue

Cuttlefish galore. (48 patterns in all)
The Duluth Art Institute hosted an opening reception for two very different shows Thursday evening. Despite bitterly cold temperatures many brave friends of the arts chose to attend.

The George Morrison Gallery featured a unique show by Japanese-American artists Ryuta Nakajima and Aya Kawaguchi called Natural Contract. The two have been collaborating for more than a decade and after a two-year stint in Hawaii they chose Duluth for their home this past ten years.

Nakajima, who is an associate professor of painting and drawing at UMD, finds source material in squid, octopus and cuttlefish, exploring the way they create color and patterns. He finds similarity in the way humans and cephalopods take external information and react by producing new shapes and colors. This show features more varieties of cuttlefish than you have ever imagined in your life.

Kin Ika
Admittedly, over the course of a lifetime I have not given much thought to what cuttlefish are. What I know is that they do not appear to be cuddly. I have since learned they are a marine creature in the Cephalopoda family, which includes squid and octopus. They have eight arms, and two tentacles with suckers on them to hold their prey. Most are small, sic to nine inches, though there is a large species which runs 20 inches and weighs about the same as my son's dog Noodles, 23 pounds.

Artists and photographers who are familiar with sepia tones, which is something akin to brown stain, may not know that the original Greek and Latin word for cuttlefish is sepia, based on the brown liquid it disgorges when frightened. Next time you have a sepia-toned print, think cuttlefish.

from Pillow Drawing Series
According to the program guide Kawaguchi's art explores the differences between experiencing something and interpreting it. When she sees something she finds beautiful, she often finds she has a memory or other experience that connects her back – interlacing the two. She adds or subtracts information from her photographs to transform the originals into something more personally meaningful. The main part of the gallery featured dozens of varieties of drawings of patterns on pillows.

In addition to the variously decorated or designed cuttlefish sculptures, there were several large paintings and also a large flat-panel monitor showing underwater footage of what must have been a cuttlefish in its habitat.

NOTE: Mark your calendar for March 19. There will be an Artist Talk that evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Gallery.

Sunday Drive by Chris Dillon
The Steffl Gallery featured work by the Lake Superior Watercolor Society in a show titled A Retrospective Response. Though I enjoy seeing the variety of subject matter and the colors, I occasionally get depressed by exceptional watercolorists. If you've ever worked with watercolors you know that it requires an uncommon patience, something I liked when I attacked this medium.

The Watercolor Society has been quietly producing art for as long as there have been artists in the Northland. There are few places in the world as conducive to painting as our Lake Superior region. This show will be on display thru May 1 and Natural Contract thru April 19. Next time you visit the library, put a couple extra quarters in the meter and visit these two exhibitions at the Depot.

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Don't forget the opening reception tomorrow evening at the Zeitgeist Cafe featuring work by Ann Klefstad and Bridgett Riversmith. The show is titled Flight. From 5 - 7 p.m. you can meet the artists and ask questions about their work. Enjoy!

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it!

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