‘Country Images’ to be featured at The Albert Lea Art Center

Published 9:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steele County watercolor artist Sandy Dinse will share her collection of farm-inspired paintings in hopes of transporting viewers back “home.”

Dinse grew up on a farm in Pratt, a small community south of Owatonna. In her youth, she attended a one-room schoolhouse. This humble beginning has become a source of inspiration for her love of the family farm.

“Art for me started in country school,” Dinse said. “I spent eight years in a one-room country school, and Fridays were always the highlight for me because that is when the teacher planned this art project at the end of the day and I couldn’t wait to see what she had planned.”

Dinse later took art classes while attending Owatonna High School. Dinse met her husband, Ken Dinse, at the high school in the 1960s. The pair has been married for 53 years, and they farmed in rural Steele County together most of their lives.

The couple has two sons, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Their grandchildren are third-generation alumni of Owatonna High School.

“The boys never asked ‘what is there to do?’ They never asked because they knew there would always be something,” Dinse said. “When there was a snow day at school, all the other kids that didn’t live on a farm thought ‘whoopee!’ — but my boys knew that when they got home they had to shovel their way to the hog house and shovel to get to the barn and that kind of thing. It was never such a big treat for them as it was for those kids living in town.”

Having been influenced by the nature of a family farm growing up, Dinse said the family farm is a wonderful place to raise children and remarked how grateful she was her boys were able to grow up the way they did.

“Memories of this heartwarming aspect of agriculture are vanishing — thus compelling me to record the recollections in watercolor,” Dinse said about rural life in her biography.

Since the family farm setting means so much to Dinse, she is nostalgic about keeping her memories alive through her work.

Although she has experimented with acrylic and oil painting, her primary medium is watercolor paint. She uses the same paint and same paper with each of her paintings.

“Something just really attracted me to the watercolor,” Dinse said. “I just love the way the colors blend together — some is by accident and some is on purpose.”

Dinse said she enjoys going to auctions because, for her, seeing the old things brings back old memories.

Nostalgia is a key component to the success Dinse has had in her 30-plus years as painter. Dinse said she has taken her painting more seriously now that she has retired and has more free time.

Dinse usually works off of a photo to compose her art. Generally she is inspired by a scene and then adds her own personal touches to the setting by pulling from her own memories.

“I like to have people — when they view my paintings — think about that old saying, ‘you can never go home.’ But maybe when they look at some of my paintings, they can go home just for a short time and remember the barns and how things used to be,” Dinse said.

Dinse prefers to work on multiple paintings at the same time so if she gets stuck with a painting, she can move on to another one.

“Retirement years have brought a continued interest in the land, church, community and my love of painting,” Dinse said.

A reception will be held for the artist from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Albert Lea Art Center. Original works, prints and cards will be available for purchase at the art center for the duration of the exhibit. Her gallery will run through July 22 in Albert Lea.

“Her theme for the gallery is ‘country images,’ and that is basically what it is,” said Tom Mullen, a coordinator for the gallery exhibits at The Art Center. “(The collection) is a retrospect of a long interest in art, and what drew her into it is her farm life and it really shows — it comes from the heart.”

Mullen said photos of Dinse’s work will be ready to be viewed on The Art Center website in the next few days.

“If people have an interest in farm life and bringing back some of the images from the past years, this is a good show to come to,” Mullen said.

If you go

What: “Country Images” reception

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Albert Lea Art Center

How much: Free

About Evelyn Seffinga

Evelyn Seffinga covers education and arts and culture for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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