Sunday, August 2, 2015

Local Art Seen: Watercolors and Poetry at the North End Arts Gallery

One of the seven art openings I attended on the July 10 Second Friday Art Crawl was a watercolor exhibit at the North End Arts Gallery. Watercolors Northcoast WI features both new work and a very special surprise.

Before sharing the surprise I need to backtrack. If you are new to the area, say within the past 25 years, you may have occasionally heard references to the Marshall sisters, Julia and Caroline. What I knew about them was that they were benefactors in our community who gave generously to various causes. The most visible gift of the sisters is the stage at Bayfront Park. Think about all the remarkable events that have taken place there -- Wilco, Dylan, Blues Fest, Steve Martin, and so on -- and then thank the Marshall sisters.

That's the sum total of what I knew till I went to the Watercolors Northcoast exhibit last month. As you enter the gallery space watercolor paintings by Julia Marshall will be on your left. Marshall, I quickly learned, was not only a supporter of the arts, she was an artist herself. And a photographer. During World War II she served as a photographer in the Women's Army Corps. Several of her works are maintained as part of the Tweed Collection.

Study of a door by Julia Newell Marshall, with notes.
Her reputation as a philanthropist was well-deserved though. She helped found the Duluth Art Institute and the Duluth League of Women Voters. She and her sister together formed the Duluth Improvement Association, purchasing the land that has become Bayfront Park.

Marshall not only made art, she also taught classes, influencing many young artists of future generations, including arts advocate Patricia Lenz, an artist and former director of the Duluth Art Institute who is active in the Superior Council for the Arts. "She (Julia) is the reason I got involved in arts organizations."

Lenz shared another little known insight about her great aunt. Marshall was a friend of Georgia O'Keefe, often travelling to the Southwest as a result of her connections to the art scene there.

This show would stand alone as something to see even without the Marshall pieces. I sometimes wonder if we diminish the works of watercolorists because we all did a bit of it in elementary school. (Or have those classes been cut these days?) Fine watercolor paintings are painstakingly achieved and quite something to behold. If you are able, grab a lunch sometime this month at the Red Mug, then make your way upstairs to the gallery and enjoy the show.

"We're Taking Over" by Amy Wilson.
"Poplar Trees, Water, Snow Bank" by Dennis Aho
Patricia Lenz,(L) with members of the local arts community.

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


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