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A sample of cut paper.

A close-up of Winded Suburbia by Sonja Peterson. The handcut creation is one of many artworks featured in "After Hours," the Nash exhibit by art department staff.

Staff by day, artist by night

Nash exhibit features work by Art department staff

By Pauline Oo

June 20, 2007

When Sonja Peterson cuts paper, she invariably ends up taking over the first level of her house. The University of Minnesota research technician's almost floor-to-ceiling or wall-to-wall paper cuts are as intricate as they are massive. Peterson is one of seven Department of Art staff featured in "After Hours," the current exhibit at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the West Bank Arts Quarter.

"I originally became interested in paper cuts through a lot of travels in Latin America and seeing the papel picado, which is a lot of the paper designs you would see for festivals," says Peterson. "Then I started playing around with that, incorporating it into my own work."

Peterson has four large paper cuts in the Nash exhibit, which runs through July 13. Soylandia, a large, upright tree linked to another that's upside down, deals with the soy industry encroaching on the rainforest. "The bottom half of the piece that almost seems a reflection or roots," explains Peterson, "is actually soybean plants entwined within the root system below the canopy of the tree."

Art by "the lost boys"

When visiting the "After Hours" exhibit, do check out the back portion of the art gallery. The Lost Boys of Sudan, a bounty of paintings by artists who are or have been residents of the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya (many known as the Lost Boys of Sudan because they were forced to flee their villages minus their parents), offers a startling portrayal of the atrocities of war.

Many of the paintings carry telling titles; these include "Looking for a place to stay," "Crying man," "Show me your culture," and "Fighter from the Dinka clan."

While Peterson's artwork is thought-provoking and entices you in for closer inspection (you'll find little people, animals, and houses almost hidden in her paper cuts), others, like Karen Haselmann's Fish Trike, are whimsical and beg for smiles. Haselmann's mixed-media sculpture--a blue Schwinn bike retrofitted with pulleys and hinges--comes complete with bright green fins, a tail, and two turquoise-colored googly eyes. A neat little touch to the media technician's artwork: little green fishes on the floor, marking a pathway to the gallery's front entrance.

Shows by art department staff, many of whom are practicing artists and have fine arts degrees under their belts, are sporadic occurrences at the Nash. This year's exhibit is true to its name because many of these artists do create their masterpieces after hours, either at night or on weekends.

Fish Trike sculpture
Fish Trike by Karen Haselmann.--Photo by Pauline Oo

"We always have exhibits by faculty and students, why not the staff," says gallery director Nicholas Shank. "They're also fine artists themselves, as you can tell [when you visit this exhibit]."

A free public reception will be held on Friday, June 22, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Visitors will feast on appetizers and ogle one-of-a-kind artwork, as well as meet the artists.

"[After Hours] is a wonderful opportunity for people who see us walking in the halls at work to see the other side of us," says Peterson. "We're really happy to share that and also very honored."

The Katherine E. Nash Gallery is located in the Regis Center for Art on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. Summer hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.