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Waterborne: An Art Show Not a Disease or Parasite!

December 1, 2008

SalminenChicagoNovember

Right: Chicago, November, by John Salminen, is just one of the large (22 x 30 inches or more) detailed and stunning watercolors by this artist in the current show. You will want to see this image in person to check out the delightful blend of colors Salminen uses to create a patina of rust on the large El-train support in the left third of this painting.

OK, "Waterborne" isn't what I would have called a watercolor show, but then I tend to spend altogether too much time reading about parasites and tropical diseases. As I stood outside the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Main Campus I couldn't help think of the double meanings in that title. But since parasites and such don't put me off I walked right in; and so should you!

Members of the Minnesota Watercolor Society will recognize the work of many of the included artists here (several past presidents of the society, and other office holders). Other regional artists are also included. In addition to the regional watercolorists there are watercolors from the Weisman's collection (including some really cool pre-1800 stuff and a couple George Grosz hand colored lithographs!).

I welcome any chance I get to look closely at the detailed and thoughtful work of Terry Genesen Becker. Nine paintings of her De Loteria series are present immediately when you enter the exhibit. (I'm just annoyed that they are hung a little high for close examination by a short person!)

Also at the entrance, but behind the reception desk, you'll see one of Cheng Khee Chee's stunning Koi paintings. Don't be bashful, just go right up behind the desk and take a good, long, close look. In another area of the show there are other paintings (including another Koi painting which you can contrast in style—one is painted directly on Western watercolor paper, the other is painted on a mulberry type paper that is mounted on a stiffer paper; just looking at the mastery involved in creating those two paintings is an education in technique). 

My favorite Minnesota watercolor artist, Andy Evansen has several paintings in the show. Everytime I look at one of Andy's paintings learn something about light, values, and color. Watch him prove all you need to know about aerial perspective with one confident brush passage in his "Sea Spray at Budleigh Salterton" painting. The painting also sports a dazzling array of gulls suggested by dabs and omissions. Andy is an amazing talent. 

Dan Weimer (I can't find a website for him) is another past president of the society and his watercolors also always inspire, intrigue, and impress. It looks like he is playing with liquid mask in interesting and inventive ways these days. I'll leave it for you to decide how he achieves his strokes.

Bill Murray (or William Murray; not the actor) is a popular and respected Minnesota watercolorist who is represented by the Groveland Gallery. A few of his landscapes appear in this show, as well as a stunning image of a doll's head. All I can say is things happen in the darks of Bill's paintings. You need to see them in person.

A show of Minnesota watercolorists wouldn't be complete without some nudes from Doug Lew. (There are additional images from Doug, but I have enjoyed watching him paint nudes at a local life drawing co-op and they are always amazing to me.)

There are many more artists in this show. The styles are as varied as you can imagine. There are strict transparent watercolorists, artists mixing acrylics with gum arabic watercolor, and some artists working with a bit of gouache. There are representational works and abstracts. Some artists will show you nature and the world with strict adherence to natural color while other artists have taken a bold departure in the assignment of colors. Still other artists approach the medium as a linear one and draw, rather than paint.

So there is something for everyone interested in the medium of watercolor at this show. The hours are generous. I suggest you get over there and check it out; there are somethings such as paper texture and the interaction of paint, or the fine translucence of white paint over color, or the sponging out of color, or the dragging of sharp implements through wet paper and paint, that you really need to see close up and personal.

The opening has come and gone, but you can still see the show for free, through December 11, 2008; gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check their website for a map of their location.

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