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Kris Kerzman, Published December 29 2013

Artist uses rural Minnesota garden for inspiration

FARGO – It doesn’t take long when talking with Amber Fletschock about her new solo exhibition at ecce gallery in Fargo before the conversation turns to her biggest influence: working in the large gardens at her home in rural Hewitt, Minn.

“Watching your garden grow and putting your hands into the dirt, it’s so nice,” she says, with extra emphasis on “hands,” “dirt” and “nice,” describing working her family’s three vegetable gardens and many flower gardens.

Those gardens provide much of her family’s food, Fletschock adds, and that time spent in the gardens informs both the subject matter and the process for creating her intricate collages, vibrant and highly detailed works that vine across the visual plane, spread and pool like water, or stretch high through a panel.

Like a garden, her art begins simply enough. Fletschock wades through recycling bins, searching periodicals others have tossed aside, particularly fashion and food magazines. She likes them for their “liquidy-ness and gloss” and especially likes National Geographic because of the high-quality paper.

“It’s a natural element,” she says of the magazines, “something that was once alive and organic. I’m looking to return them into something that’s more natural, to take something that’s synthetic and part of commerce and turn it into a more organic form.”

From there, Fletschock snips tiny details from the magazines and assembles them.

“It’s all done by hand – with a very, very, tiny scissors,” she says. “It’s quite a meditative and pleasant process. I have bits and pieces everywhere, all organized by color. I try to start with a piece that’s really speaking to me at the moment, then find something that feels right to go with it. It develops a theme and grows and changes from there.”

Like all gardeners, Fletschock is acutely aware of the rhythms of nature, and using discarded materials to bring forth new life in her art closely mirrors the cycles she observes.

“My work is becoming more about nature. It’s something I’m immersed in every day here, being out in the garden and seeing the constant growth and blooming and death. The whole cycle influences me,” she said.

Fletschock, a Devils Lake, N.D., native and a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, has seen plenty of growth recently in her career.

Last year, her art chosen out of work from across the Upper Midwest to receive an honorable mention at Plains Art Museum’s “Art on the Plains XI” exhibition. Earlier this year, Fletschock worked with Food Network host and Minnesota writer Amy Thielen on the visual design for Thielen’s book “The New Midwestern Table.”

Her new ecce show marks her first solo exhibition in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The show will feature 12 panels. In addition to the collage work for which she’s known, the exhibit will include work that combines collage with painting and photography.

Mark Weiler, director of ecce gallery, said Fletschock’s work “speaks its own language” and has become “more precise, refined and bold” in the years he’s been following her.

“(Her collages) usually evoke a sense of awe due to both composition and presentation, but also to the delicacy of the medium itself,” Weiler said. “Because of the precision of the paper cuttings, the work is often misinterpreted as a digital pigment print. Once the viewer realizes the process, it only furthers the interest level.”

“I think it’s still developing,” Fletschock said of this new collection, “it’s a lot like my prior work, but I’m refining it more. It’s much more intricate and works better as a whole.”

Spoken like a true gardener.

If you go

WHAT: Amber Fletschock: New Works

WHEN: Opening reception is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The show runs through Feb. 3.

WHERE: ecce gallery, 216 Broadway, Fargo

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, and its online publication, ARTSpulse. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net/artspulse.