Art Center opens new show in May

Published 9:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2016

Art Is… by Bev Jackson Cotter

“A laborer works with his hands. A craftsman works with his hands and his head. An artist works with his hands, his head and his heart.”

I’m not good at remembering wise words, slogans, names and lots of other things.  However, this quote by a favorite art teacher was locked in my mind many years ago. More and more I realize how true it is.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter

Eric Anfinson, an artist friend of mine from Key West, Florida, recently sent an email regarding a new show. He’s calling it “Red” and almost all of the paintings have a touch of red in them someplace, a flower, a scarf, a balloon, a dress, lips and — Eric’s work is emotion packed, no matter what colors he uses and this gallery showing is stunning.

Eric is a quadriplegic and controls his brush through shoulder motion, yet the personalities of his subjects are so well defined that you feel that you already know them. He’s working with his heart.

A couple of years ago, I attended the gravesite memorial service for Jane Oiseth. I met Jane when we were both involved in a little artist cooperative called Gallery 101. It was a small space on north Broadway with a store and gallery area where ten area artists divided the rent, utility and phone bills and open hours and where one could paint or draw and share ideas and discuss styles and anything artsy that you had in mind. It was a fun gathering place. Jane’s paintings were free in spirit, specific and tight when she was in the mood and loose and rambling when her heart took her to that place. At the memorial service, her brother stated that he was now the owner of more than two hundred paintings of clouds. As Jane’s health failed and she was confined to her room, the incredible views out her window sustained her and she painted.

Ever since that day, I have watched the sky with more awareness. It is beautiful, ever changing, ever new.

In late May, the Albert Lea Art Center will be opening a new show in Northbridge Mall. We are the recipient of the original art collection of Merna Sunde. Because of the large number of pieces, we have selected about a quarter of the paintings to preserve and display as she requested. The balance of her work will be offered for sale during the show. It is a most unusual collection. Everything from large, square framed canvas abstract paintings to small sketches on paper, from a realistic drawing of a horse (one of her favorite subjects) to the type of painting that makes you scratch your head and ponder, “What on earth was she thinking?”

Merna Sunde’s story is unique. Her art is unique. Her head, her hands, and her heart are connected in every piece. Be watching for more information as the date approaches.

So, how does one paint with their heart?

I love hearing, “I got so caught up in my drawing or my sewing or fishing or running or…, that I don’t know where the time went.” I believe that’s where the heart part comes in, when logic, time and awareness of surroundings all disappear.

I lost a sister to cancer when she was only 55. Before the cancer was discovered, she had planned to purchase a ceramic studio and teach classes. They needed to do some heavy duty cleaning in the small barn on their little farm, pour a cement floor and then transfer all the supplies and materials before the dream studio could become a reality. When she said to her husband, “Maybe we shouldn’t do it,” his response was, “We are building the studio.” Thanks to his love and her doctor’s wonderful care, Lois had five years of following her heart. She would tell her husband that she needed to check the kiln in the studio and hours later he would find her totally absorbed in a project. He didn’t mind, and today, we all have reminders of her creativity.

In some ways, we all work with our hands, our heads, and our hearts, sometimes together and sometimes separately. How interesting our world becomes when we do.


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, 226 W. Clark St. in Albert Lea.