Commissions & Collections opens at Museum of Art

On Sunday, Oct. 27, the North Dakota Museum of Art opened their newest exhibition, Commissions & Collections.

The Museum embarked upon a new program, the “Art Makers Series” underwritten by Dr. William Wosick of Fargo, a diagnostic radiologist, in 2015. Because few professional opportunities are available for artists from the region, the program spotlights artists who reside and work here. The Museum staff selects artists who seem on the edge of a breakthrough in their work.

Four solo shows fall under the umbrella of the Commissions and Collections exhibition. Two are current art makers: Vernal Bogren Swift and Donovan Widmer (UND Art & Design).

Vernal Bogren Swift: Meadowlark Buried Her Father is a collection of 13 batiks inspired by the history of bone fossils in the prairie regions of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Manitoba. The prairie fossils that inspire the batiks are mostly from the Eocene epoch of deep time. This is the time, millions of years ago, that follows the falling away of the dinosaurs. He focused on the Eocene epoch because, for one thing, the word means “Recent Dawn” which is charming in itself.  Small animals flourished in this time and the air became sweet with the scent of flowers and grasses.  Dragonflies were bigger than the horses.  There were no humans, but much of what began those millions of years ago has continued into modern time, with sizes varying.  Refreshing after an age of dinosaurs.

Artist Donovan Widmer is a jeweler and metalsmith who moved to Grand Forks in 2004 to teach at UND. He was appointed chair of the Department of Art and Design in January 2017. Five months later, he and his wife acquired a new home in East Grand Forks, specifically, a house with the potential to house a private studio. In 2017, Widmer was named by the North Dakota Museum of Art as the 2018-19 winner of the Art Makers Award.

Each year, the North Dakota Museum of Art collaborates with one or two Art Makers. Because few professional opportunities are available for artists from North Dakota and Northern Minnesota, the program spotlights those who live and work in this region. The Museum selects artists who seem on the edge of a breakthrough in their art. They are often at a juncture in their artistic careers where a “leg up” could invigorate, revitalize, or change the course of their art.

The two other shows under the Collections & Commissions banner include 16 gifts of African sculptures from Sarah Watts of Illinois and Arizona, and over 150 small drawings of vase forms by Canadian ceramic artist Robert Archambeau. The drawings augment the Museum’s large collection of Archambeau’s ceramics given by the artist to the Museum in 2013.