The Hutchinson Center for the Arts is opening its new exhibit, "Sticks and Stones," Tuesday, Dec. 10. It features the work of four artists: Shanda Landes, Mary Mulenburg, Mary Jo Schimelpfenig and Ellen Starr. 

The show runs through Jan 20, with an artists reception 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. During the reception there will be a rock painting station set up for those who want to paint their own rocks

According to Lisa Bergh, executive director of the art center, the idea for the exhibit came from the four artists, who as a group submitted a proposal during the annual open call for exhibition proposals. This call is open to all Minnesota artists 18 or older. Artists can submit as an individual, or like these women propose a multi-artist show. Bergh was familiar with each artist's work from their involvement in past exhibits such as the annual Community Showcase.

"I am excited to share with the community the way each of these artists works around a similar theme related to nature and her connection to it, but in incredibly diverse materials and ideas," Bergh said. "Viewers will find strong intersections in each artist's interest in process, materials, mark making, craft and visual presence."

To get a sense of each artist's work, Bergh asked each artist to develop a 15-words-or-less description of each other's work. Here's what they had to say: 

"Playful, colorful, with a childlike quality and always about the joy of the process itself," is what Mulenburg said about Schimelpfenig's work. 

"Brilliant, rich, distinctive, intense, serendipitous, often an interconnected web of creative collaboration," Schimelpfenig said about Landes' art.

"Abstract patterns and reflections of the beauty and mystery of nature," Starr said about Mulenburg's photographs.

"Beautiful, cerebral and dreamy, ornate with an intricately skilled appreciation and sense of old-world magic," Landes said about Starr's work.

MEET THE ARTISTS

Bergh conducted a three-question interview to learn more about each of the local artists.

When did you first begin working as an artist?

Starr: As soon as I could color with crayons, I have been creating art. Art was always my favorite thing to do and the subject I loved most in school.

Landes: As a child, I was making art with whatever materials I found or were available to me — from cardboard, crayons, old socks and fabric, to the backs of printed papers brought home from my mom’s workplace. In contrast, outdoor creations consisted of building forts with sticks, stones and rope in the wooded ravines near our house. The sand, gravel, stones and mud near our house were the materials for mud pies and roads for toy trucks.

In elementary school, I was encouraged by my teachers in art and writing with individualized challenges/projects. Later, in high school, I entered local poster contests and showed art projects at the State Fair. Also in high school, I was commissioned, sold my first paintings and was hired to do a variety of art/design work. I had the opportunity to teach in an elementary art classroom with my high school art teacher, too.

Because I liked all kinds of art and working with people, teaching art seemed to be the most natural fit. In more recent years, collaborative work and public art have been what I have done — working with glass, tile and mosaic. Some of my personal work has been working with clay. The joy of being an art teacher is rooted in being able to dabble in many things to share with my students.

Schimelpfenig: In 2009, I had the pleasure of taking a community ed. class called The Creative Journey. The instructor was Shanda Landes. It was the first step of a delightful journey of discovery and wonder. Since then, my eyes have been opened to exquisite details of everyday life. This summer, I photo journaled the making of mandalas using flowers and other items of nature. It was a serene way of beginning each day. I have also been busy painting rocks, painting pointillism pictures, collaging, and exhibiting at the county and state fairs.

Mulenburg: I have always loved to draw and paint since I was a young child, and I knew I wanted to take that direction whenever I was asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” My first memory of using a camera was when I was 13 or 14, which is when my love of nature photography began. I got into it seriously in my 20s when I first picked up an SLR camera and realized its potential. I went on to get a degree in fine arts with a focus on photography, which has become my passion.

What tool can you not live without in your studio?

Starr: Believe it or not, the tool I can’t live without in my studio, no matter what art form I’m working with, is my phone. I am always listening to audio books to keep my conscious mind busy so that my right brain can take over creating, which allows me to stay focused. I’ve used movies or audio books as long as I can remember to help still the “monkey mind,” to go into what I call “Lala Land.” Once I get totally immersed in my art, I don’t hear anything or think of anything other than what I’m doing, but I need that distraction to help me get there.

Landes: I would be lost without the lowly, underappreciated, taken-for-granted, mighty pencil and pen! They start with a point that becomes a line or a word that becomes an idea. That is magic!

Schimelpfenig: My favorite tool right now is a set of oil-based sharpies. I purchased them to paint rocks and discovered I loved using them on canvas. The repetitive motion of making dots was soothing, and I was delighted to see the emerging colors and images.

Mulenburg: The tool I cannot live without is obviously my camera. If I ever leave home without it (which isn’t very often), it never seems to fail that I see something I need a picture of. When all I have is my phone camera, I am bummed out for the rest of the day that I missed an opportunity! I guess I have to admit that I have a tinge of obsessive-compulsiveness with my photography.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your studio practice?

Starr: I’m almost always working on some form of art in my free time. Even when I’m just watching a movie, I’m working a project. Otherwise, I’m reading or listening to audio books, online gaming or gardening.

Landes: I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I like being outdoors on a lake paddling, hiking or skiing down a trail, or working in the garden. I also look forward to taking road trips, camping and exploring new places. Listening, playing and singing music are favorites along with going to music festivals. Journaling, reading and drawing are part of my daily life, but creative and healthy cooking/eating and trying a variety of ethnic restaurants are fun (food) adventures, too.

Schimelpfenig: Traveling near and far, discovering new places, caring for grandchildren, reading, gathering with friends, sharing joy and laughing. All things I love to do.

Mullenburg: Along with photography, I also love music. I grew up in a home where classical music was playing every night, including my dad playing it on the piano (I also took lessons for 5 years). He had our family of five kids singing all the time, too, around the campfire with his harmonica on all of our camping trips and whenever we were driving anywhere in the car, even if it was just 10 minutes. We could hardly all get settled before he’d be exclaiming, “What do you kids want to sing?” Often the vote was “Do Re Mi” from "The Sound of Music," because we had all the musicals memorized. My sisters and I even sang ourselves to sleep every night for years.

I also enjoyed being in my high school’s swing choir, then in community choir groups in college, and now with the Crow River Singers in Hutchinson. I appreciate all genres of music, including some loud punk groups as my son is a musician — guitar player and songwriter — who plays in a couple of punk bands. I love hearing any live band whenever I get the chance.

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