Thursday, August 11, 2016

Artist Monica Ares Talks About Her Upcoming Show at the Washington Studios Gallery

Monica Ares arrived in Duluth in 2010, and moved in to Washington Studios in the Central Hillside in 2011. Today she is co-chair of the co-op along with Jonathan Thunder. Next week her first one-woman show will open at Washington Galleries. What follows here was assembled from notes taken during a visit this weekend at the gallery.

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Monica Ares was born in Huron, South Dakota. While growing up she never knew that her parents were Native American.

Like many artists she grew up making art in childhood, but when it came time to graduate high school she and her mother had an important conversation. "My mother asked, 'What do you want to do?' I said I wanted to go to art school. But she said I needed to get a real job." As a result Ares went to school for nursing, eventually completing her degree while living in California. But she never forgot her interest in art.

It was a high school art teacher who really ignited her art interests. "We had an art teacher who let you try things and allowed you to experiment. On one occasion I had to have an art project and an English project, so I wrote a paper and sculpted." Years later that introduction to sculpting re-emerged while she was working in a hospital emergency room. "I saw so many faces that it became a good resource for sculpting. I started sculpting again. Doctors and other personnel who saw my work encouraged me and it took off from there." Some of her work was plaster of Paris. Some clay. Some wood carving. There was a fence company that had leftover redwood that was for free and this also became material for Ares to create with, teaching herself how to work in each of these various mediums.

Many years later she married her husband and they moved to Tennessee. "I went to a lot of art fairs where I got interested in stone sculpture there," she said.

When her husband retired from the military they decided to move to the Southwest. She moved to New Mexico six months prior to her husband. There she met a realtor while looking for a house and he introduced Monica to his wife who was student teaching at "The Art School" in Albuquerque.

Here she was finally able to get the schooling she desired when she was young, investing three years in an apprenticeship program. "I learned welding, metal sculpture, stone sculpture, painting, drawing... It was great. I knew I was in the right place when I opened up the door and could smell the linseed oil and the thinner," says Ares. "I cried."

"We lived in Albuquerque ten years. I did art the whole time. Got into a guild. Became involved with a group of women artists and we showed in group shows."

Then her husband succumbed to a bout with cancer. Ares next moved to Nevada where she spent five years in Pahrump outside of Las Vegas. "It was a time for regrouping. I wasn't doing art but was working, until the company I worked for eventually closed." She had to decide if she wanted to stay there or not.

At this point Monica's dear friend from California suggested that she consider Duluth because of what was happening in the arts here. "My native people are from the Midwest so it gave me a chance to learn more about what's here." Ares learned she was Lakota. "Now, they are the focus of my work. I didn't know until my parents were already passed away that they were both Native."

"When I moved to Albuquerque it was very interesting. I asked my realtor what the ethnicity was there. The whites have the money, the Indians have the land and the Hispanics have the power. It works because everyone has a bargaining chip."

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Now that she is co-chair at the Washington Studios, her desire is for there to be good quality shows here. "My focus is to make sure that what we have here in the Gallery is interesting, insightful, exciting. It may not be everyone's taste, but that's OK.

"I want the artwork to be memorable in a good way. I realize that living in a co-op not everyone went to art school, not everyone is professional level... One of my all-time heroes, Bob Ross, took the snootiness out of art. I want the arts to be enjoyable for everyone, not just the elite."

"I worked at the Tweed for a couple years and had the opportunity to look at the Native artists and read their packages. If I remember there was a comment by George Morrison that he was proud to be an Ojibway, but he was an artist and an Indian, and one doesn't cancel out the other."

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Next week Monica Ares' one-woman exhibition will open at Washington Studios Gallery at 315 N. Lake Avenue in Duluth. The show, titled In Their Midst, takes a look at the history of the Southwest Indians, what they contributed. The work pulls together information from historical societies, museums and parks. States Ares, "There's millions of acres in the Southwest. We know the Indians were here because they built these structures. There's animal bones, but no people bones." And to some extent it is a great mystery. "How can they make such an awesome mark but there is nothing left behind of them. One author said that because of the size of the area there is probably an underground cache somewhere..." The reception card is a painting of a kiva ladder that goes into a dug out area where they would put caches of food, sometimes sleep and also do ceremonies.

Another painting shows two adobe structures on a rock ledge... When the Spaniards came the Natives had the advantage of being up high. The image points to lessons about life strategies.

Other paintings show half-ruins... Underground huts enabled people hide their cache, their things, and they could follow where the harvest was or the food....

Ares currently works in oil and acrylic, sculpting mud, canvas and masonite box... plus some three-dimensional gourd pieces, gourds and antlers. The exhibit will be on display through the end of September.

Opening Reception: August 19, 5:30 - 8:00 p.m.

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Tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. is the opening reception at Lizzard's Gallery for a joint show called Collusion. Lizzard's is located at 11 West Superior Street, a half block west of the Tech Village, across from the HQ for Minnesota Power.

This afternoon beginning @3:00 p.m.: Duluth Quantum Computing Project at 3 West Superior Street.

This evening, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.: Artist Talk at the Tweed, Iron Range photographer Vance Gellert.

Friday, AJ Atwater's 400 Paintings opens and Saturday eve Lydia Walker's colorful show will open at Studio 15.

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Meantime, life goes on.. Let's see what happens next!

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