Winona artists take the spotlight in 2021 Bluff Country Studio Art Tour

From April 23-25, 2021, artists in Southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country will open the doors to their creative spaces for a behind-the-scenes studio view not usually offered to the general public. During the 20th annual Bluff Country Studio Art Tour–a self-guided event–these accomplished artists will be displaying their work, demonstrating their processes and selling pottery, paintings, turned wood items, jewelry, fiber arts and more. Set your own pace while driving through the scenic hills and valleys of Southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country exploring one of the area’s best attractions: our artists.

Winona is home to an incredible variety of art and artists, and five of our own creatives will be featured during this year’s tour. Get a sampling of these artists’ wares below and take a peek into the individual processes behind some of their favorite works of art.

Richard Brown

  • Why did you select this one piece of art?

“Verna McDonald’s Last Dance” is the most recent sculpture I completed that turned out as I envisioned.

  • What was the inspiration behind it?

My title for this piece reflects my inspiration. Verna MacDonald was a sort of patron among my brothers and friends as we grew up. Maybe in her forties, she’d let us play football in a lot extending from her yard while spectating over a beer. Afterwards, she’d often treat us to ice cream. My mother said she loved to go out at night and dance and have a good ole time. Kit Rohrbach, a regional poet and acquaintance of mine, wrote the following to honor that memory and convey her impression of my work:

 
Verna McDonald’s Last Dance

They thought I was too old for rock ‘n roll,

said Act your age. They never understood

the joy a song created in my soul.

Could I ignore their scowls?  You bet I could!

It’s not like I would boogie down the street

with flowers in my hair and tambourine.

Well, maybe once or twice – but the beat,

the music felt like I was 17.

With organ-heavy chords they sang my grave,

then filled it up with dirt and tamped it flat.

They thought that now I’d finally behave.

They should have known this old girl better than that.

 When moonlight strums and midnight chords advance

I gather my bones about me and I dance.

  • How long did it take you to create?

I don’t keep track—maybe three months. At 85 and struggling a bit with Parkinson’s, progress can be quite slow. Paradoxically, the scale of my recent sculptures exceeds most of my earlier work.

  • What is something that people don’t know about you as an artist?

I start with a general idea, but I no longer sketch much in advance, and a piece often evolves in concept as I continue working on it. That surprises me somewhat, given that I’m working in wood.

  • If you had one wish for art/artists in Winona in the coming year, what would it be?

Winona has some very dedicated sponsors of local visual artists, including the River Arts Alliance and various shops and restaurants. After a very tough year, I hope the venues can recover, expand and multiply. With enough sponsorship and community involvement, Winona could stand out as an artistic hub in the Midwest.

Julia Crozier

  • Why did you select this one piece of art and what was the inspiration behind it?

The idea for “Blood of the Tree” came from reading a few different books about how trees are connected to each other through their root systems, Fungi, and other organisms in the soil. The reality of the whole tree being alive and dependent on other organisms and others of their own species have become of great interest to me lately, which is what led me to paint Blood of the Tree.

  • How long did it take you to create?

The painting took me a few weeks to paint.

  • What is something that people don’t know about you as an artist?

Trees are one of the things that give me comfort. The solace that I have gotten from trees began when I was a kid and used to climb pine trees when I  was growing up in Red Wing. My friend and I used to get up as high as we could in pine trees, the windier the weather the better for the climb. The comfort I receive from being around trees has helped me a lot through the years and this past year in particular.

  • If you had one wish for art/artists in Winona in the coming year, what would it be?

I hope all artists in the Winona area get a chance to be outside as much as possible and get what comfort they can from whatever interests them.

Anne Scott Plummer

  • Why did you select this one piece of art and what was the inspiration behind it?

I love to both create and use my ceramic watering cans! This vessel type has four distinct elements, and the proportions and interplay between those elements is endlessly fascinating. The body of the watering can be cylindrical or oval in shape, and contain one cup to one gallon of water. The spout is long or short, and can be attached at a very upright diagonal, or a more gentle, relaxed angle. The half lid that helps contain the water while pouring is flat or domed. Finally, the swoosh of the handle connects the body to the spout and creates a large negative space shape that is fun to focus on. The handle provides a solid grip for pouring. In the springtime, there is nothing more satisfying to me than to carefully water my plants and watch them grow.

  • How long did it take you to create?

I create the watering cans in series of 6 – 8 pieces, using both wheel-throwing and handbuilding techniques, with partial drying between assembly steps. When fully assembled and leatherhard, they are decorated with slip and sgrafitto techniques. After thorough drying they are bisque-fired, and liquid glaze is applied. They undergo a final glaze firing to create the glossy surfaces that are impervious to water. From start to finish a series takes two – three weeks to complete.

  • What is something that people don’t know about you as an artist?

I like to listen to podcasts and dance to 70’s rock music while I work.

  • If you had one wish for art/artists in Winona in the coming year, what would it be?

I believe that most artists share my fervent hope to see and interact with our visitors and customers in person this year. We love telling you a little bit more about our work, and hearing your responses to it as you look at it and – in the case of ceramics – handle it.

Joan Porter-Einsman

  • Why did you select this one piece of art and what was the inspiration behind it?

I selected this painting, “Red Osier”, Mixed Media, acrylic and ink, 2019. It is Square which is a favorite shape. The subject is Red Osier which grows abundantly along roads in Northern Wisconsin. It is also called Red Willow or Dogwood. In the winter it turns red. It looks beautiful against white snow. It also has magical qualities and practical purposes. Native Americans make a medicine from the branches. Sometimes they smoke them. They also make baskets.           

  • How long did it take you to create?                                                                                                     

My drawings and paintings always have a story or history that inspires the work. Usually a piece of art takes a few weeks or so depending on size. 

  • What is something that people don’t know about you as an artist?

I love to work to energetic music like Mozart.

  • If you had one wish for art/artists in Winona in the coming year, what would it be?

My wish for Art/Artists is good health, warm weather and a Covid-free community.                   

Jovy Rockey

  • Why did you select this one piece of art?

I really love this statement piece. Leopardskin Jasper is one of my favorite gemstones. It has lots of earthy tones and a really beautiful pattern.

  • What was the inspiration behind it?

I love making jewelry that draws attention to the person wearing it. Using this stone was a pretty easy inspiration in and of itself. I just let the rest happen organically.

  • How long did it take you to create?     

3 hours

  • What is something that people don’t know about you as an artist?

I am self-taught and am a tool junkie!! I have only taken one jewelry class in 2019 that was a beginner’s metalsmithing class, but I have been making jewelry for 9 years now.

  • If you had one wish for art/artists in Winona in the coming year, what would it be?

My wish is that everyone finds a way to support the arts in some way. Donate to a public art project or arts organization. Show up to events (if you’re comfortable). Skip the box store and buy handmade. Take a class or workshop offered by a local artist. Contact your councilperson and express your support for public art. There is so much that we can do to keep the arts a vibrant part of Winona and I hope that we continue to do that.

Learn more about the Bluff Country Studio Art Tour by clicking the links above, or reading the April 7 Winona Post feature here. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and Minnesota State Arts Board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. Additional support provided by the River Arts Alliance

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