Atelier artists to display paintings in Owatonna Arts Center

“Contemporary Realism: Works from the Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art” will be featured this month in the Owatonna Arts Center.

“I believe the pendulum is swinging back from modern abstraction” to realism, said Brenda Ward, a student at The Atelier who will have several pieces — both still lifes and portraits — in this exhibition. “We’re seeing a resurgence” of this style from the past with a “contemporary feel to it.”

Realism dates back to 1800s France, and “we’re bringing back what the old masters learned, instead of abstract modernism,” said Ward, a lifelong artist who always wanted to paint in the manner of “Rembrandt, Raphael, or (John Singer) Sargent” but didn’t receive the proper training until she began at The Atelier. “We’re painting our world as we see it.”

The exhibition officially opens Sunday and runs through June 30, said Silvan Durben, creative director of the arts center. The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art in Minneapolis has a direct lineage that extends back to the great French Academician, Jean-Leon Gerome, and though the Owatonna Arts Center hosted the Atelier once previously, it was “a long time ago.”

In this exhibit, viewers can track the history of The Atelier, starting with R.H. Ives Gammell, whose blended approach to education produced the true beginning of what The Atelier teaches to this day, Ward said. “We’ll have a Gammell painting” in this exhibition, “color study for decorative mural,” which is “very exciting.”

A descendant of Richard Lack’s is also lending a few of Lack’s paintings, including “The Day of Wrath,” for this exhibition, she said. Lack founded The Atelier in Minnesota in 1969, and he continued to lead the institution until his 1992 retirement.

Dale Redpath and Cyd Wicker both studied under Lack for years before teaching alongside of him at The Atelier, and they took over following his retirement. Both will have pieces in the Owatonna Arts Center exhibition this month, including Wicker’s portrait of Ann E. Bancroft, an arctic and Antarctic explorer, and Redpath’s “Portrait in Grey and Red,” and “the work is exceptional.”

Redpath is sought-after for her figurative work, still-life paintings, and portraits, while Wicker is primarily a portrait artist, Ward said. Wicker has been commissioned for paintings of corporate executives, federal judges, and even presidents.

Also exhibiting pieces at the arts center, including “The Scholar,” will be Laura Tundel, assistant director and full-time instructor at The Atelier, who was a finalist and honorable mention in the annual Art Renewal Center’s Salon and a finalist in “Drawing Magazine’s” Shades of Grey competition, Ward said. Tundel is “an exceptionally-gifted artist,” and she’ll actually perform a painting demonstration during this exhibition’s reception June 9 from 1-4 p.m.

Tundel, Ward, Wicker, and Christine Mitzuk, another full-time instructor at The Atelier, will all be in attendance next Sunday to answer questions and provide information about painting, art, and The Atelier, Ward said. “We’ll have brochures” on The Atelier, where “we have workshops and classes throughout the year.”

Mitzuk is best-known for her imaginative art, including “Voodoo Queen” and “Jack in the Green,” both on display this month at the OAC, Ward said. At The Atelier, “we learn how to draw from life — proportion, size, value, and color — accurately,” and Mitzuk takes those tools “into an imaginary world.”

Paintings from Lynn Maderich, a graduate of The Atelier, will also be in the exhibition.

Maderich is also an instructor, and she paints primarily horses and dogs, Durben said. She is a member of the American Artist Professional League, and she has received multiple awards for her equine paintings.

As for Ward, “I really enjoy painting people, and I want to do that correctly,” she said. “If you don’t know how to draw, you really can’t paint.”

Of her pieces in this exhibition, she’s most excited about “The Secret,” her second Adam-and-Eve painting, she said. “My first one sold at the Minnesota State Fair last summer.”

On the still-life front, she’s enamored of “Spoon,” she said. “It’s my grandmother’s tarnished slotted spoon.”

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