Art is: New member show is diverse, eclectic

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 20, 2018

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

Art is a gift.

When I hear the word “art,” the first thing that comes to mind is a gallery of ornate gold frames enfolding the fine art paintings I learned about in art history classes. Years of following the creative world has brought many, many other ideas to the fore. However, even with that background, I was surprised when I attended the Albert Lea Art Center All-Member Show recently.

Bev Jackson Cotter

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Wow! What a fun, diverse, eclectic group of art pieces. This annual show is always interesting, but this year our members have created a whole new atmosphere. If there were to be a theme for this show, it would have been “How original can you get?”

In addition to the more traditional pieces there are dolls made of found pieces, used barn wood wall hangings, a guy made from tennis balls, a tiny pleated quilted piece, paper cutting and unusual photography.

It’s as if the invitation said, “OK. You’re on your own. Can you do something that’s different?” and the ALAC members responded, “Yes!”

My old Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary defines art as, “branch of learning appealing to the imagination, especially drawing, painting and sculpture also architecture, poetry, music, dancing, etc.” and “branch of learning that depends more on special practice than on general principles: writing compositions is an art; grammar is a science.”

That reminds me of a teacher that told me my writing is too creative. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. I took it as a compliment.

Man has been producing art for thousands of years. According to my fun book, “The Secret Lives of Color,” by Kassia St. Clair, the Altamira cave paintings in northern Spain were discovered in 1879. The charcoal drawings of bison were found by a 9-year-old girl, Maria Sanz de Sautuola, who was exploring a cave with her dad, a local landowner and amateur archaeologist.

The drawings were originally dismissed as forgeries, and it was 20 years before local experts admitted they were authentic. Their date of origin has been established as 14,000 B.C.

Ever since the 19th century many more caves have been discovered containing drawings of lions, handprints, horses, women and bison. One school of thought is these pictures were drawn by shaman or medicine men, who were possibly calling on their gods for sufficient food for their tribes.

It’s more fun to imagine that one rainy day, a cave man was sitting around rather bored, picked up a stick from the fire and used the burnt charcoal end to draw a picture of a bison on the wall. I can just see his admiring wife saying, “Hey, I really like that. Can you do another one?” Thus was born the first home’s interior decoration and possibly the first art gallery. Whatever the reason, art has been a part of our lives for thousands of years. It seems that the need to create something, whether realistically or in an abstract manner, is a part of the human psyche. I know that it satisfies a piece of my being that is not met any other way. I wonder if all of us have this desire and don’t really know how to express it, because its stereotype is similar to my original idea of what art is. The elegant painting in a gallery setting is only a small portion of the concept.

When you visit the Art Center All-Member Show, take a moment to reconsider your opinion of what art is. Maybe you should take your own stereotype off of the pedestal and put it back in your own hands.

When you were in grade school, the drawings you did were wonderful. At home, they were placed on the refrigerator for all to enjoy. It’s sad that as we grow older, we begin to think “Oh, my work is not good enough,” or “I do not have professional training,” or even, “That’s dumb.”

We are wrong.

Art is a part of our lives, our personal lives. Be it making our own greeting cards, laying out the design of our flower garden or camouflaging our duck boat, we are using our own creativity.

And that’s a gift!