An email from the Granite Falls Arts Council today proclaimed that art is all around us this week. Indeed, it’s the annual Meander: Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl weekend, and for the first time we’re one of the studio stops. The brochure has us listed as Number 1, a designation cited for destination rather than documentation!
Over the past several months this has all been quite new and exciting. First was being accepted as one of the 45 artists to exhibit on the Meander, then came the various meetings where we mingled with many of the artists we’ve known over the years. However humbling, it was nice being considered a peer. Then the brochure arrived and there it was, officially, in brown and black …
Now comes crunch time. Sleep has become a luxury, and many unanticipated trips are being made picking up last minute pieces. Like this morning, when I awoke wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling. Those cards? What can I do about the cards? After a drink of water, I crawled back under the freshly washed sheets we were so happy to lay under last night and tried to sleep once again. Going back to sleep was fruitless.
Yes, we’re in the midst of the “Meander countdown.” Those cards! Reality hit pretty hard Sunday afternoon when I broke down the card packs to fold and place them into their respective categories and realized they were all at least ten to 15 percent darker than the proofs the company had originally mailed. Many were simply not usable, much too dark for putting on the rack. Three long and dark hours after crawling from bed, an early morning phone call was made to the printer, and, yes, they will reprint.
As the countdown slowly creeps toward the Friday opening I find myself falling back on the experiences of all those years in the publishing and ad agency business: Trying to minimize stress while by taking a deep breath and realizing that in the end things will be okay. “Hiccups!” they say.
Over the past several weeks tools have been worked overtime in cutting mats for the prints; sawing, gluing and sanding the cedar frames; designing and building display panels for the framed prints; hanging the canvas prints; and even constructing a homemade card display unit … which I hope to fill with usable cards. We have configured and reconfigured the layout of the rooms, and hopefully today or tomorrow we’ll start setting things up. Our goal is to confine our “showroom” to our dining and living rooms.
Even beyond the actual prep for the Meander, this has been an interesting personal journey. Ever since the Meander began a decade or so ago I’ve been a huge supporter by doing artist interviews and photographs for my country weekly, and over time I began to dream of being among the select few artists chosen. Thanks to Rebecca’s encouragement, along with our move to Big Stone County where there is some semblance of the native prairie pothole biome, my photography has moved into a new and hopefully a more “artistic” direction. Earlier in the spring I was asked to present at the Minnesota Master Naturalist’s convention where my subject explored the use of natural light in making nature images. My research took me back into a “rediscovery” of the works of Impressionist painter Claude Monet.
About 20 years ago I did a photo essay entitled, “If Monet Lived in the Prairie,” where I tried to mimic some of the French painter’s more iconic paintings to similar scenes I found in the prairie. Since the presentation my personal prairie work has become more “impressionistic,” if you will. In playing around in Photoshop I’ve discovered a technique to “soften” the images in ways you couldn’t in a darkroom. Other photographers have asked about the technique and have tried it with mixed results. Trying to simply soften an image without using traditional photography techniques is often a folly. These techniques may include, depending on the circumstances and subject matter, the focal length, selective focus, and ISO readings, not to mention the ambient physical aspects of wind, the quality of natural light and the use of the fore- and background color and texture. This is certainly beyond “point and shoot.”
Since using this technique we’ve basically “turned over” my complete portfolio since my last hanging show in January; a technique some photographer and artist friends have suggested carries a personal “signature” or style. How will it play on the walls in the Meander? We’ll see.
Perhaps the saddest part of being on the tour is not being able to visit the other artists along the river valley. We have an incredibly talented, vast and rich artist’s community, and one much larger than the Meander itself since over the years several very talented individuals no longer display on the tour. This continues to be a strong tour even with the departures.
Yes, the feel is different on this side of the Meander. So much work goes into it, including contributing to the marketing displays along the way. Now, we’re just four days away. Gulp-time. Hopefully my printer cartridges will arrive along with the glass being cut for the last two frames, and of course, receiving those freshly printed replacement cards. We’ve yet to test the “Square” for our sales, and we have to set up the two rooms. Oh, and place the directional signs out on the highways. So much to do and so little time.
Come Friday the doors will open and hopefully some fine folks will find their way to Listening Stones Farm. By then we’ll have done all we can do. Rebecca will have some produce and eggs available, and my sister is bringing up several dozen of her great cookies. Me? I’m up on the wall! And the countdown continues!