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John Lamb, Published June 25 2012

Hjemkomst Center hosts National Juried Watermedia Exhibition

The lower level gallery at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County at the Hjemkomst Center is awash in color. The Red River Watercolor Society’s 19th Annual National Juried Watermedia Exhibition opened last week with a bright and bold variety of works from California to Massachusetts.

“It’s a wonderful show,” says juror Donna Zagotta.

About 300 pieces were submitted and only 38 made it into the show.

“The paintings that appealed to me and all award winners appealed to my mind and touched my heart,” Zagotta says.

The juror walked around the show to explain what she saw in each of the award winners.

The show is on display through September 18. You can see more work from Red River Watercolor Society at the annual 8th Street Show, which is now held at Davy Park, Moorhead.

“Laser Tag and More,” Marilynn Derwenskus, Chicago, Ill.

Gold medal

Zagotta appreciates the approach Derwenskus took in her work, incorporating a variety of images and styles, from a snippet of a cowboy cartoon on the far left to legs and feet extending from a cloud of nerve-like lines on the opposite end and a rocking horse maze in the middle.

“There’s so much going on here, it’s very entertaining,” she says. “I always see something new.”

“Progression,” Janet Flom, Moorhead

Silver medal

“That one has such a wonderful intimate mood,” Zagotta says. “You can almost read what’s going on here.”

Actually, viewers can read what the painting is about, thanks to the artist’s statement hanging next to the piece.

Moorhead artist Flom explains the image was inspired by when her teenage son told his parents he wanted to set aside the piano and violin play jazz guitar. The title reflects not only a musical term, but also the growth of the subject and the soft fading of colors speaks to the feeling of transitions.

“It’s very heartfelt,” Zagotta says.

“Wedding at Levee Park,” Andy Evansen, Vermillion, Minn.

Winner of Red River Regional Award

In her 20-plus years in painting, Zagotta said she’s seen plenty of pieces that use light washes to leave colors and forms seem transparent.

“It’s so done,” she says. “It’s hard to do something gangbuster with this as a medium.”

Yet that’s exactly what she says this piece, which casts radiant setting sun on a wedding, does.

“The Diary,” Darcy Scott, West Bloomfield, Mich.

Bronze medal

“It’s intriguing in its mystery,” Zagotta says. “I just wonder what she’s trying to tell us.”

Good question. The frame is filled with imagery, but little reference to how they interact.

A blue room with a big window and a black bird sitting on the sill. Three stools, one by the window, the other two a ways away. On the floor lays a doll, marbles and the titular diary.

Zagotta admires not only the almost surrealistic puzzle of the elements, but the attention to detail; the wood grain in the floor, the texturing in the walls.

“You can stand here and make up your own story and I really think that’s what art is about,” Zagotta says. “I really like something that really makes me wonder.”

“What’s Left,” Warren Wayne Kessler, Fargo

Excellence Award

The mysteries continue with Kessler’s brooding painting, an upward perspective of a man sitting reserved at a dinner table, across from two empty chairs. To his right is a staircase and at the bottom a photo of two figures.

“What is the story? What’s being said?” Zagotta asks.

The title, “What’s Left,” is a bit ominous.

Though the figure is facing forward, is he looking down at something on the table? The angle of the composition leaves the surface of the table out of view, though a yellow poinsettia pokes above the table top. Are the two empty chairs a reference to the photo in the corner and someone who is gone?

“It’s a story we get involved in,” Zagotta says, adding that she developed her own foreboding tale.

At Wednesday’s opening she approached the artist to get the real story.

Kessler was finishing the baseboards in his house when he grew intrigued by the perspective of looking up at the dining room table.

He posed with a blank look on his face for a self-timed photo and painted himself in this emotionless, Edward Hopper-inspired scene.

He wanted his wedding picture in the frame to add to the mystery – though he adds he’s still married. The poinsettia is a symbol of birth, and the doorway and staircase hint at going to another place.

“Everything is in there for a reason,” Kessler says.

Other than that, he remains pretty mum on what the painting may mean, adding that he wants the viewer to come up with their own story.

If you go

What: Red River Watercolor Society 19th Annual National Juried Watermedia Exhibition

When: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday, and noon – 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County at the Hjemkomst Center, 202 1st Ave. N., Moorhead

Info: hcscconline.org/index.html, (218) 299-5511

What: The 8th Street Show at Davy Park

When: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday

Where: Davy Park, 210 8th St N., Moorhead

Info: The event is free. For more information go to http://redriverws.org/

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533