September set up to be an active month at OAC

The Owatonna Arts Center will feature exhibitions to suit any taste in September, with pieces ranging from photography and textured fabrics to clay, paintings, and drawings.

Candy Kuehn will fill the gallery with her photography, as well as textured fabric creations, including hats, pots, and dresses. She’ll display examples of her process, as well, so visitors can see the way she moves from raw materials to finished products.

Characterizing Kuehn’s art as strictly photography is limiting, as it’s heavily assisted by technology. She takes photos on her iPhone, then introduces them to many apps in order to build her desired results.

“My phone is filled with apps,” her favorite of which is actually iCamera HDR, which unfortunately for Kuehn “no longer works on new phones,” she said. “I was really sad when I updated my phone and lost it,” but she’s keeping a previous phone around strictly so she can use iCamera HDR.

Her photography is infused with feelings.

“I sort of randomly put things together until something all of a sudden creates a meaning,” she said. “Something will look right all of a sudden.”

Most of her photos are “amalgamations of where I live,” like parks in the Twin Cities and the northern woods, she said. Her images are found in nature, “unless they’re my friends,” and there “may be a couple portraits” in this exhibition.

She plans to have prints available during her exhibit so visitors can “take them off the wall, hold them, and move them around,” she said. “I want people to hold them, talk about them, and show each other.”

“I keep messing with them until I click into a place where they hit me deeply,” she added. “I try to push my pieces until they become alive.”

Kuehn has been fascinated with fabrics since the age of 5, although “I didn’t get good at it until college,” she said. Still, “I’ve saved all my dyed fabrics, and you will see a lot of those” in this exhibition.

“Hyper-creative” and “heavily ADHD,” Kuehn pinballs with eagerness between her photography and her fabrics, she said. Lately, she’s created several dance costumes, mostly for Flamenco dancers.

On Sept. 23, Kuehn and her husband, composer, multi-media artist, and actor Craig Harris, will visit the arts center. Harris will play original music on the piano while digital projections are visible behind him, and Kuehn will lead a fascinator workshop.

“It will be an exciting instillation,” said Silvan Durben, creative director of the Owatonna Arts Center.

The event on the 23rd is set to begin at 2 p.m., and Kuehn’s art will be on display from this Sunday through the end of the month.

The headwear creation event is free, although individuals are asked to pre-register with the center for the sake of supplies, Durben said. Attendees are invited to bring hats and materials to create — or resuscitate — their own hats.

“We’re recycling,” Kuehn said. “You can clean the earth and embellish yourself at the same time.”

In the workshop, Kuehn will teach her charges how to “be the wind,” she said. “That’s how I was taught to make hats.”

Kuehn’s art reflects — among other things — her “sense of time,” which is different than most, she said. “My sense of time is like a penumbra,” where she sees “slightly ahead and slightly behind at the same time.”

“I work like nature,” she added. “I work for the same reason the flower buds want to open.”

Bigs and Littles make art

Artwork by “Bigs,” the adult mentors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota, and “Littles,” their young protégées, will also be featured in the gallery next month, and that reception will be Sept. 9 from 1-5 p.m., Durben said. Adding to a busy month at the arts center, Ev Stranski will conduct a poetry reading Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. and sign copies of her book, “The Half.”

Many Bigs and Littles “love doing art projects,” said Andrew Carlson, marketing coordinator for BBBS. In fact, “we even host or fund some classes and events where they can do art together,” and plenty of “matches” execute projects on their own, as well.

Indeed, an appreciation for arts and crafts is often part of the matching criteria for Bigs and Littles, Carlson said. “Why not let them share” those works with the public in arts centers?

In August, pieces have been on display in the Waseca Arts Center, and after the Owatonna Arts Center exhibit, they’ll move to the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault, he said. Roughly a dozen Bigs and a dozen Littles submitted pieces for this project, and the art is a mixture of mediums, including clay, paintings, drawings, and photography.

Becky Johnson, who began volunteering with BBBS two years ago and has “been loving it,” decorated a 3D cardboard with “B,” for Becky, and a “G,” for her Little, Giselle, this winter, and they submitted their artwork for this project, said Johnson, who is a special education teacher for Owatonna Public Schools. “We covered them with cloth, stickers, and glue, and Giselle drew on hers.”

They also offered a few paintings they worked on together, Johnson said. “Giselle did a really cool nature scene that turned into a collage.”

“She likes to craft and draw,” Johnson added about her Little. She even “writes and illustrates her own stories.”

The idea of displaying BBBS art around the region is “a great idea,” and “we’re looking forward to checking it out,” not only to see their own projects, but also the art of others, she said. “We may get some new ideas for ourselves,” too.

Furthermore, the endeavor “gets the Big Brothers Big Sisters name out there,” which is beneficial, as more people ought to at least consider volunteering, she said. “A couple of hours a month is all it really takes, and Big Brothers Big Sisters is really good about giving us (activities) to do so you don’t have to come up with them on your own all the time.”

Art from Bigs and Littles will be on display in the OAC gallery from Sunday through Sept. 26. Gallery hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

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