Watercolor artists defy typical limits

Justin Costley

Images of peaceful birds, mighty trees and a curious child captivated visitors Friday night at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in Willey Hall.
But the image of a farm in early morning hours filled with vivid peaches, blues and oranges won the best of show award.
The opening reception of the Minnesota Watercolor Society’s 1999 Autumn Open Exhibition featured more than 160 watercolor paintings by the society’s novice through professional artists.
David Rickert’s “Early Light” received an honor because it has a lot of feeling, said Arne Westerman, a nationally known watercolor artist and renowned teacher who judged the event.
“It was a real delight to come,” Westerman said. “Oftentimes, watercolors are a typical kind of thing. These don’t look like typical watercolors, they look like paintings. It doesn’t really matter what medium it is, pastels or oils or watercolors. Either it’s a good painting, or it’s not a good painting, and these are good paintings.”
Rickert, who painted for nearly 20 years, said winning was not only an honor but a surprise as well.
“I’m really honored because the quality of the work (in the show) is so high,” he said. “This is the best watercolor show we’ve ever had, and this watercolor society has so many good artists that an award of any kind is quite an honor.”
Coffman Union’s Visual Arts Committee is presenting this exhibition as one of three it picks each year.
Normally the committee chooses a theme, said Karina Rindone, the committee’s chairwoman. This exhibition was different, however, because it was a group show, and the paintings don’t fit one particular theme.
“We thought it would be good to provide a group exhibition such as this, and we’ve really never done a watercolor show before,” Rindone said. “It’s something different, and we want to have a diverse selection.”
The paintings in the exhibit used every color imaginable and took on a wide variety of forms, from multi-colored abstracts to paintings of specific settings or people.
Westerman awarded honorable mentions all the way to first prize.
Cynthia Peyton, a gallery visitor who came to see Cindy Young Skaalrud’s “Segregated Swine,” said the quality of the work — a pig’s face — surprised her. The painting won honorable mention.
“It was excellent,” she said. “I was really surprised. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because I have never been to a watercolor show before. They did a great job. I was really impressed with all the different varieties of watercolors.”
Gean Emrich and Jeanette Stordahl, two women interested in painting, formed the Minnesota Watercolor Society in the mid-1980s with 31 members.
The group’s size has increased steadily and now includes more than 400 artists from all over the Midwest.
The Minnesota Watercolor Society invites guest artists to judge shows or teach workshops, publishes a newsletter, offers two exhibitions a year and meets monthly. The society is open to all people interested in painting with watercolors.
“You don’t have to have a specific area of work or hobbies,” said Linda Drackert, fall exhibition chairwoman. “We try to include everyone.”
The exhibition runs until Nov. 19.