Waltzing Through Wintertide

Northeast Minneapolis Art Association’s biennial exhibition

Photographer: Carter Blochwitz

Photographer: Carter Blochwitz

Large oil paintings glistened under warm lights on white gallery walls, photographs were being closely inspected, sculptures were slowly being circled and discussed, and artists and others mingled over plates of fruit, cheese, and fabulous gourmet appetizers. The exhibition was comprised of 29 different pieces from different artists, yet the high quality of the work seemed to unite them.

People young, old, and equally as fashionable gathered last Saturday night for the opening reception. The chic, modern gallery, misleadingly located in the midst of a Northeast residential neighborhood, was buzzing with energy. Artists and art lovers sparked up conversation at the coat-rack, in line at the bar, and while analyzing the same piece as a stylish stranger in turquoise cat-eye glasses. Favorite appetizers were discussed, work critiqued, and the DJ’s music choices celebrated. All gathered on one night, in one space, for the sole purpose of supporting and appreciating the local art and artists of Northeast; the crowd was extremely inclusive and easy-going.

Established to highlight the impressive arts and artists of Northeast, Wintertide showcases “the best of Northeast’s amazing artists,” praised Dameun Strange, Executive Director of NEMAA. Strange noted that out of 175 submissions that were received, there were only 29 finalists. The winners were announced from third to first place in each category, and the audience applauded sincerely for each and every artist. The six categories included: 3D Objects, Mixed Media, Photography, Paint, Oil Paint (the newest Wintertide category), and finally, Best in Show.

Shortly after the winners were announced, a small crowd gathered around CL Martin’s mixed media piece, the winner of “Best in Show.” Titled “Actor IV,” the piece consisted of graphite and charcoal on paper and portrayed a realistic yet painterly portrait of a man. His eyes bright and sharp, his expression vigilant. The portrait’s deep and rich greys, contrasting with the purposeful use of highlight and white background, boldly stood out from the collection of more vibrant pieces.

Martin’s piece may have been intriguing due to light, shadow, and absence of color, but pieces like Trista Hendrickson’s “Girl in Blue Veil,” were stunning in their own way. The subject of the painting, a young girl draped in a striking blue veil and matching blue fingernails, folds her hands as she glances away from the viewer. The piece invited thought and inquiry with its use of bold color, texture, and subject matter. Her work experiments with styles of Pop Art and Impressionism, and in turn creates powerful, thought provoking pieces. A first-time contributor to Wintertide, Hendrickson is an emerging artist in painting. She joined NEMAA last spring and added that she will definitely be submitting to Wintertide again.

Circulating the gallery, there were many portraits and figurative pieces, each different from the next. One portrait however, called for an extra bit of the viewer’s time. Mary Solberg’s piece, “Night Swim,” could in no way be ignored. Winning first place in the Mixed Media category, the piece was a large and captivating portrait of a young woman who wore a beautiful and intricately textured swim cap, a style exclusive to Solberg’s work. She noted that to be featured and recognized in Wintertide as a professional artist is validating. “I respect this show,” she said. “The quality of art is very high, and I have been very impressed.” Solberg’s work was featured in the 2015 exhibition, where she won second prize.

The future of Wintertide is promising, especially with organizations such as NEMAA and Public Functionary working behind it. According to their website, Public Functionary’s modern approach to gallery space “challenges past paradigms of gallery culture,” and “invites a broader audience reflective of the creative diversity of the Twin Cities to feel welcome, engaged, and connected.” If the association’s other events are organized and executed in a similar way to Wintertide, Public Functionary is achieving their intentions.

Likewise, NEMAA, “works to build a more vibrant, diverse, and economically healthy community through the arts.” Today, NEMAA has about 900 members, and 750 of them are artists. In essence, “we’re supporting 750 small businesses,” Strange said. Wintertide will be on display until Feb. 11, followed by “Art-A-Whirl,” the largest open studio show in the country, fast-approaching this May.