Sculpt, Photograph, Paint the Town


PHOTO COURTESY Ellen Jean Diederich | "Bison Territory" by Ellen Jean Diedrich, of Givinty Press, was perfectly indicative of Homecoming Week
PHOTO COURTESY | Ellen Jean Diederich  “Bison Territory” by Ellen Jean Diedrich, of Givinty Press, was perfectly indicative of Homecoming Week.

They’re everywhere: tucked into side buildings and up flights of stairs, part of a museum or their own entity entirely. Each location is as unique as its artist: a perfect team working in tandem to create works of art. This was indicative of the 2016 Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists Studio Crawl, held throughout the F-M and surrounding areas.

When we first began, we weren’t entirely sure where to go.

“I think we’re on the corner of Broadway and 1st,” I said, pointing to a spot on the map. “No, wait …” A few confusing turns later, and we arrive at Renaissance Hall. Three artists are working in the printmaking shop on the third floor. Faculty member Kent Kapplinger greets visitors into the labyrinth of machinery. Artists are working on presses, old and new, to pump out complex works of art.

Some of the machines are from the 1950s; some are even older than the 1900s. But they still work like a charm: so well, in fact, that Renaissance Hall and Kapplinger are offering classes in traditional printmaking for beginners and advanced students alike.

One technology is traded for another: vintage printmakers for burning metal.

Minnesota metalworker Karman Rheault is covered in black, metal dust from head to toe. Wearing gloves and protective eyewear, she cuts a heart into a piece of steel using a plasma cutter.

“How hot is that piece of metal right now?” a viewer asked.

“Really hot,” she laughed. Rheault is just one of thirty-nine different artists who opened up their studios this past weekend for the FMVA Studio Crawl. There’s immense variety in the F-M area, from painters and photographers like Scott Seiler, to glass blowers and metal workers like Karman Rheault.

Originally a potter, she switched to painting and then metal work when a friend introduced her to someone who taught welding. While she still paints, most of her time is spent in her backyard studio working on one of her many sculptures. Her work in metal ranges from the towering statues in her front yard to the light switch covers in her house.

Although she’s limited with a broken elbow, her injuries gave her a new perspective to start another piece that worked around her restrictions. The metal art is very free form, with thin steel easy to bend with her reduced strength. But it seems nothing will stop her. Her pieces have rawness to them and she tends to refrain from using paint, instead using heat and rust to bring out the natural colors in the metal.

Unlike Rheault, Ellen Jean Diedrich focuses entirely on paint. Diedrich describes her works as “kind of like a giant paint-by-number.” The artist uses a grid technique on several pieces, including one of several cows and horses at an area ranch. After taking photographs of the animals, she brought the prints back to her Fargo studio to piece together her painting.

The finished piece is one of many done of farm animals, as well as bison, and numerous paintings of downtown Fargo. Diedrich pointed out how her own car has made it into many of her paintings, too: “It always seems to find its way in there.”

She got her start in high school when her art teacher encouraged her to sign up for the painting class for gifted students. After high school, she studied art at Minnesota State University Moorhead, and going to be honored at MSUM’s homecoming this week as a distinguished alumnus. Since then, she’s helped to form a local society for watercolor painters and has had paintings in multiple national shows.

Although she still uses watercolors for many of her paintings, Diedrich has integrated the occasional acrylic into her work, saying it gives her more control than the traditional watercolor would.

From his photographs, you wouldn’t think Tim Laney is a trained biologist with a Ph.D. in zoology, but his passion for the environment is what fuels his photography. As a landscape photographer, Laney has never been too keen on working with people, preferring to travel to Western North Dakota since early 2014 to photograph the landscapes that are now considered protected by U.S. law.

Although according to his artwork, there’s only fourteen locations in North Dakota, he said they cover much of the western half of the state, including the entirety of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and considerable chunks of the Badlands.

His work in that area started as a way to preserve a visual history of what the natural landscape looks like in the midst of the oil boom. Two years later, and he said he’s started to see the effects on the landscape itself. When he’s not traveling to various reaches of the country, he said he enjoys to find the subtle beauty of the Fargo landscape. He works in film, and prefers to take things slower than most, producing gelatin silver prints of his work, creating the stunning black and white images intermingled with the color prints in his studio.

Like Laney, photographer Scott Seiler’s work showcases much of his heritage and North Dakota pride.

He got his start on his family’s farm, taking pictures of farm animals, barns and other quintessential Midwestern. His piece “Porch Lights for Protectors” is a collage of many of the houses with blue porch lights in support of Officer Jason Moszer and the Fargo Police Department.

While some of his work, such as the collage, is inspired by the architecture of the Fargo area, most of the photos he showed this weekend were a variety of scenes from around North Dakota. He said he feels a personal attraction to the state, having grown up here, and wants to preserve some of the history.

“Things are disappearing,” Seiler said. He points out you don’t often see the iconic red barns of North Dakota past, traded in for newer technology that has impacted the North Dakota agricultural industry. “Each barn has its own character, its own personality.”

When asked where he finds his inspiration, he said, “I just get in my car and drive. Sometimes I don’t even know where I’m going.”

The FMVA Studio Crawl served as not just an event to promote art in the F-M community, but showcased the variety and the passion of these artists for their community.

From the stunning landscapes of Tim Laney’s photographs to the rawness of Karman Rheault’s metal, there is something for everyone in the FM Visual Arts community.

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