By Tanner Kent
---- — ST. PETER -- Charlie Putnam and Le Ann Gehring-Ryan don't share a studio.
They very seldom paint together and don't really share influences. Yet there are similarities between the artistic couple.
For starters, both are teachers. Putnam has taught art in Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools since 1985; Gehring Ryan teaches visual art at Mankato West.
And for seconds, both share a painting style that showcases attention to storytelling detail. Their works will be on display beginning Friday in an exhibit, "The Next Step," at the Arts Center of St. Peter.
"We kind of bounce ideas off each other and critique each other's work," said Putnam, whose only previous shared exhibit with Gehring-Ryan was at the Carnegie Art Center a few years ago. "We both use storytelling imagery, and some of our stories have merged and become intermingled."
Gehring-Ryan's paintings often draw upon her childhood and rural upbringing. Her works seem to explore connections between history and the self through the places and memories that both have inhabited.
In her artist statement, Gehring-Ryan writes: "I am a painter who gathers inspiration from life situations. ... Much of the work in this show centers on old photographs of my family and myself."
Putnam, too, explores connections between the self and the outside world, but in a more introspective fashion.
Marked by richly symbolic imagery that sometimes touches on expressionism, Putnam said his most recent work represents a continuation of the style he's developed throughout his career.
In his artist statement, Putnam writes: "My works in this exhibit were completed between 2011 and 2013. They are all based on some level of personal experience, visualized in abstracted whimsical scenarios. ... The work often times starts out as blind exploration and becomes an idea at some point along the way."
If You Go What 'The Next Step' exhibit by Charlie Putnam and Le Ann Gehring-Ryan Where Arts Center of St. Peter, 315 S. Minnesota Ave., St. Peter When Exhibit on display Friday through June 16. Opening reception will be held 2-4 p.m. on Saturday