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A oil pastel by Fred Peterson

Nassawango Woods by Fred Peterson

Studio arts on memory lane

By Sydney Sweep

February 6, 2008

One is good. Two is better.

The Humanities Fine Arts Gallery, located in the largest building on the Morris campus, is hosting two exhibitions through mid March that feature artwork from former and current studio art faculty at the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM).

Visitors will find "Past and Present" on the gallery's main level. The exhibit comprises the work of about 20 artists "who have made a contribution to the studio art program over the past 47 years;" they are Ann Barber, Therese Buchmiller, Briar Craig, Tom Durham, Michael Eble, Kevin Flicker, John Ingle, Jess Larson, Meredith (Butch) Jack, Gloria Koehl, Marlene MacCallum, Karen McCoy, Bruce McGrew, Joe Milosevich, Molly Mason, Jenny Nellis, Ruth Ann Olson, Jennifer Onofrio, Fred Peterson, Tracy Otten, Theresa Peper, and Don Sherman.

The works of art in this collection are of varying media, from bronze to watercolor paint. Fred Peterson's "Nassawango Woods" and Michael Eble's "Highway I Erosion" are two pieces that stand out.

Peterson's oil pastel rendering of the woods (see photo) is strikingly realistic from far away, and it offers an almost different picture with a jumbled mixture of bright colors up close. The shading on the trees and the variety of colors and texture they create is more apparent when you're right up next to it. In 1961, Peterson initiated both the studio art and art history disciplines on campus. After 1973, his primary efforts as a professor of art history were directed toward the development of the curriculum and faculty in both these areas. But he always found time to create masterpieces and continue his study and research in studio arts.

Eble's "Highway I Erosion," an oil painting of standing water in a landscape, is similar to Peterson work, in that, the painting does not seem so remarkable when you're standing further away but when you look at it from a shorter distance, the distinctive textures and color that contribute so much to the image just jump out at you.

The Lois Hodgell Memorial Exhibit on the mezzanine floor of the gallery is dedicated to the artwork of former studio arts professor Lois Hodgell, who passed away in November 2006. The pieces in this collection are primarily watercolor on paper, but other works that vary in media, such as woodcuts and oil paintings, are also included.

Lois Hodgell
Former UMM studio arts professor Lois Hodgell.

Hodgell came to UMM in fall 1962. She taught basic studio art classes and painting classes. At this time, UMM was three years old and still in the process of creating a workable, lasting liberal arts program for students. In 1963, Hodgell received a printing press and other necessary materials to begin the first printmaking course on campus. When the studio art and art history programs were relocated to the Humanities Fine Arts building in 1974, Hodgell "played a major role" in designing the printmaking studio. After her retirement from UMM in 1993, Hodgell returned to Wisconsin.

Two of Hodgell's works are of particular interest, though all are fairly intricate in their own way. The first piece, "The Pears," is a watercolor painting of about a dozen pears laying on a surface in different positions. In an artist statement that she wrote for an exhibition in April 1998, Hodgell said that this was "the most complex painting...and the most difficult." In the piece, Hodgell manages to maintain both the lightness and simplicity of the colors, as well as to create texture.

In another watercolor painting, Hodgell presents two vases of flowers, a dish with peaches, an orange, and a conch shell on a table. The balance of dark and light in this untitled piece and the subtlety of the very dark blue are especially notable. Up close, the precision of Hodgell's brush strokes, like those in the purple flowers, enhances the painting's overall simplicity from afar.

Both exhibitions--"Past and Present" and the Lois Hodgell Memorial--will be on display in the Humanities Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Minnesota, Morris, through March 14. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a .m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Sydney Sweep is a freshman in anthropology and history at the University of Minnesota, Morris.