The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 16, 2014

Waseca Art Center offers nature-themed retreat — but indoors

Waseca Art Center offers nature-themed retreat -- but indoors

Bring your walking stick when visiting the Waseca Art Center's latest exhibit.

Part contemplative retreat and part whimsical stroll, "Exploring the Woods" offers visitors an indoor hike through a makeshift forest populated with shovel-necked birds, disposable foam ice sculpture and a horse whose head tilts with the breeze. The exhibit remains open through Feb. 15.

"I'm real pleased with the range of things," said Pat Beckmann, WAC's executive director. "I've never felt the arts should be a four-letter word with a capital A all the time. There are times we can take the creative experience more lightly."

Trees are situated throughout the gallery room of the arts center, giving visitors the impression of a trail. Moody background pieces painted by Beckmann herself (though, the works are uncredited in the gallery) lend a sense of depth.

The environs seem a suiting habitat for Paul McMurphy's "Junk Bird Family," a gaggle of birds fashioned from outdoor tools and agricultural implements. Likewise for Liz Haigh's "Karasu," an elegant, avian figure fashioned from plastic forks, spoons and leaves. A playing card (2 of clubs, to be exact) is curiously torn in half and wedged between its asphalt base, implying a deeper commentary on behalf of the Mankato West student who is making her area gallery debut.

Elsewhere, the impossibly lithe and delicately balanced metalwork in David Hyduke's "Emergence" — which was previously exhibited at the Carnegie Art Center in 2013 as part of the Kasota sculptor's solo exhibit — takes on an entirely new significance amongst the exhibit's faux-natural setting. And Joellen Preston's skeletal stick sculpture of a horse incorporates movements through a head that responds to air currents in the gallery.

"I was delighted to pull in a larger group for this show," said Beckmann, who issued a call for submissions through the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council. "And the work that came in was just fantastic."

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