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St. Peter hosts celebration of prairie art

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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 3:02 pm

Neither wind nor roads softened by spring storms and snowmelt dissuaded a few hardy souls from finding their way to St. Peter on the Prairie for a spring celebration of Art on the Prairie Sunday afternoon.

The cozy art festival in the basement of the repurposed rural church attracted several dozen people to hear retired Dakota State University professor Allan Fisher speak about the creation of two laser-cut images of Christ found on the grounds and to enjoy the wares of artists whose work was showcased.

Madison High School student Ailin Montgomery was among the artists whose work was on display.

"I am inspired by faces," said the high school junior.

Spread out on a table in front of her was an assortment bright and playful pen and ink drawings colored with watercolors. Montgomery explained that in crafting each piece, she revealed and emphasized the process of creating a portrait.

"They teach you to break it down into different shapes," she said. "I like to highlight that process."

Montgomery said that she was hesitant to commit to participating in the celebration because -- like many students -- her spring calendar is busy. However, she decided to challenge herself to create a body of work which could be exhibited and available for sale.

"Now I feel I would continue showing what I do," she said.

Montgomery was the only student who chose to participate in an event that was envisioned to showcase student work. Organized by Rachel Black, a business and marketing student at Augustana University who is interning with the local nonprofit, the celebration was expanded to include the work of other artists.

"This is the busiest weekend of the year," Black said, noting that many who indicated interest were unable to attend due to conflicts.

Weather also proved to be a bit of a nemesis. She said the overnight snowstorm, which ended Saturday morning and exacerbated poor road conditions, discouraged some artists from participating.

"I know at least two artists had to cancel because of the mud," Black said.

Two Sioux Falls artists did manage to attend: Jenny Bright and Roxie Schmitz, both of whom are engaged in creating fluid art, a form of abstract art which results when liquid paints are poured on a surface and react with each other.

"It's not very well known in this part of the country," Schmitz said.

She learned about it by watching videos and introduced Bright to the technique at an art party. Bright adapted the technique for jewelry making.

She pours the paint onto a plastic cutting board to create a skin that she can then cut into shapes and manipulate. She will then set pieces of the "paint skin" into a base and cover it with a glass cabochon to make pendants, earrings, pins and key chains.

"I pick out what part of the accident I like best," Bright said.

Other art and baked goods were also available.

At 1 p.m., Fisher spoke about developing the concepts for "The Way," a large laser-cut image of Jesus cradling a lamb, and "Victory over Death," a celebratory image of Jesus following the Resurrection.

He talked about Scriptural influences, especially Psalms 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." However, he also explained how his response to the "big skies" of South Dakota inspired him after living in Eastern states for most of his life.

"`Why don't I just frame God's beauty'?" Fisher reported asking himself. "That's what these do is frame God's beauty."

He said he developed the concept and did the drawing, but the pieces were cut professionally. "The Way" was installed by members of St. Peter Lutheran Church before it closed. "Victory over Death," which stands 24 feet high, was installed with a crane and is anchored in the ground.

Fisher shared that in developing his concept for the latter, he drew upon the work of Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish Baroque painter. He positioned Christ's hands and body much as Rubens did in his piece, "The Crucified Christ."

"I tried to transition it to a life scene," he explained. "The work is a celebration, a triumph representing Christ's victory over death."

Fisher revealed that in creating "Victory over Death," he hoped to offer comfort to those who had lost loved ones.

"People come to the cemetery to mourn. By doing a sculpture like this, it's to give people hope. Death is not the end. It's the beginning," he said.

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