New artwork in place for summer/fall season of Healing Arts

Artwork for the summer/fall season of Healing Arts at Owatonna Hospital was officially unveiled Tuesday during an opening reception, and multiple artists featured in the exhibition were in attendance to answer questions and discuss pieces with community members.

Variety is always a goal with Healing Arts, and this season is no exception, with the paintings of Sheri Grube and Susan Waughtal, Julie Bronson’s photography, the batik works of Susan Hayes, and Jacob Jensen’s clay, said Silvan Durben, creative director of the Owatonna Arts Center. “The wonderful thing is how many people who work at the hospital enjoy the changing of the artworks,” too, in addition to the appreciation of patients and guests.

Furthermore, “it’s always surprising what individuals will like,” Durben said. While he may hazard a guess prior to any opening which pieces will be crowd favorites, he’s usually incorrect, as often “people will stop me” to compliment unexpected works.

This exhibition marks the first time all seven acrylic-on-canvas pieces in Grube’s “Marriage” series are displayed in one place. On a wall in the hospital, the oldest painting is on the far left, depicting the merging of paths of Grube and her husband as they started walking together.

The next painting embodies the “kid years,” which are “messy but fun,” she said. Then, it’s on to “Heart Strings,” demonstrating Grube and her husband are “always tethered together, and “inside the hearts are rose petals of anniversary flowers,” as “I try to do things like that that have meaning to me.”

Later in the series is “It’s Complicated,” which Grube believes “sums up marriage the best” in a single phrase, as well as “Dystonia,” the medical condition that continues to impact Grube’s life and her relationships with her husband and two children, she said. Grube has battled dystonia for years, a neurological disorder which entails involuntary movements and postures in the body and limbs.

The final painting in the series, “Scrambled,” is “how you feel so busy and overscheduled, like you’re running out of time with your kids,” she said. Her sons are now 17 and 18.

Other paintings in the exhibit include “An Excited Neuron,” as “I’m kind of a science geek gone wild,” and “Sand Dunes,” a nod to her environmental leanings, she said. “I’d like to save more things.”

“Sand Dunes” is a “bird’s-eye view” of a flock flying over sand dunes, which are growing larger and larger due to climate change, she said. “The world is getting hotter and drier, and there’s not enough water.”

Indeed, “water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change,” according to the United Nations. In fact, nearly 2 billion people worldwide are expected to be living in countries or regions with “absolute water scarcity” by 2025, and under the existing climate change scenario, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people by 2030.

Hayes, who was raised in Edina but now resides on a rural property in Montgomery with her husband, was first exposed to batik while studying art education in college, and “I liked it from the start,” she explained earlier this month. She’s stuck with the technique—which involves wax melted to liquid and painted on to fabric, wax then resisting applied dye, each color requiring a separate waxing and time to dry—for four decades, even though it’s a “long, tedious, and messy process,” because of the final result.

“You get a unique piece when you’re done, and no two are ever the same,” she continued. The end product “is always a fun surprise.”

The majority of photos in this exhibition for Bronson are of abandoned barns and homes, as well as other features “you find on old farms,” she said last week. She’s also begun using windows to frame her images, which lends a “really cool” effect.

“What intrigues me so much is the architecture, how much thought and care went into the buildings,” she said. Modern homes and barns “all look alike,” but “there’s so much detail in older houses.”

Jensen’s pieces follow one of three directions, natural—waters, rocks, and rivers—the “sculptural and human side,” and “functional ware,” he said last week. “If I see something that strikes me, I’m sold on it.”

“I really like having these pieces (displayed in Healing Arts) in my hometown, and it’s exciting to share work,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of point in making something to hoard it yourself; I want the work to find a home where it’s appreciated.”

The pieces for this exhibition for Waughtal are a mixture of old and new, with the former featuring family—a time when her children were younger—and the latter focusing on “farm critters,” as she recently took up farming with her husband on a plot north of Rochester, she said earlier this month. No matter the subject, however, they’re all “joyous and bright.”

“I love making art,” she concluded. “I try to capture the joy of the moment.”

Healing Arts is a collaboration between Owatonna Hospital and the Owatonna Arts Center. Pieces in this exhibition will be on display through October.


Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.