Sewing together a community of artists

Katie Wilber

It was only a few hours before the exhibit’s opening reception. But one of the show’s two featured artists was still hard at work – buying wine.

So it is at the Rosalux Gallery. Here, artists worry about more than art, because they’re part of an artists’ collective. Sometimes that means running errands, painting walls or working on the Web site.

As members of this artists’ collective, Marilyn Stevens and Ingrid Restemayer created the gallery’s new exhibit “STITCH.” For this and every show, the cooperative relies on the talents of all the artists to ensure the preparations for every month’s show go smoothly.

Rosalux opened about four years ago as an independent space for local artists to show and sell their work. The artists involved are at different points in their careers. The gallery is mainly for artists who already have emerged on the art scene but “aren’t snobby enough to stop talking to other people,” Restemayer said.

Some artists work on setting up and painting the walls for exhibitions, others focus on public relations and a few operate the Web site. Each month two artists show their work, and the money from the art sales goes directly back to the artists.

“It’s a place to share resources,” Restemayer said, “and it gives us an opportunity to show our work in a professional setting.”

Rosalux Gallery is nestled in a corner of Washington Avenue’s Open Book, which also houses the Loft Literary Center and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The interior’s industrial look – complete with pipes and old wooden beams – and numerous windows create a bright and open space that practically screams for an art exhibit.

Mixed-media artists Restemayer and Stevens are relative newcomers to Rosalux, and “STITCH” is their first Rosalux exhibit.

The first section of the gallery is a collection of smaller pieces by the two artists.

The only stipulation they had was that they would use the same size of frames for all the pieces. It’s fairly apparent which pieces are done by which artists, even though each uses handiwork techniques like sewing stitches and cross-stitches.

Restemayer discovered a penchant for printmaking when she went to school for fabric art. She’s always sewed – “It’s just something I have to do” – because her mother made clothing and Restemayer made doll clothes from the scraps.

Her series titled “Storytelling” has delicately created koi fish and fancy goldfish interspersed with stitches made to resemble text. The sharpness of the black thread and the straight angles of the stitches somehow blend with the soft lines and bright colors of the fish to make a cohesive piece of art.

Stevens focuses more on creating art from found objects. She uses her grandmother’s apron in one piece, and others contain parts of dressmaker forms and sewing patterns. A piece titled “Completely” creates the form of a woman out of patterns. Three mobile-like pieces dangle metal-rimmed letter stencils that cover pattern pieces and old-fashioned photographs.

“It’s hard to believe that these started out as utilitarian objects,” Restemayer said.

The gallery started with a dozen artists and now boasts a membership of 25. It gives artists like Restemayer and Stevens a place to earn a regular spot in the monthly rotations.

For Restemayer and Stevens, it became a place to co-create an exhibit and a way to tie their experiences to their love of creating mixed-media arts and crafts.