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Experiments in art: Kelly Henkels has her first solo show at Nobles County Art Center

Kelly Henkels and her son, Tyson, 5, pause for a photograph while her artwork is being hung at the Nobles County Art Center.(Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- When Kelly Henkels began to consider a title for her upcoming art show, she turned to an online dictionary/thesaurus.

"I looked up mixed media and started going down, looking for related words," she related. "Mix, mixing, mixable -- I decided I liked mixability."

"Mixability" became the apt title for a show that features Kelly's mixed media images. The show opens with reception Sunday at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington.

Kelly, a 2000 graduate of Worthington High School and the daughter of Ken and Pat Henkels of Worthington, began dabbling in art at an early age. Her interest was fanned during high school art classes and while getting an associate's degree at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. It seemed like a good fit for a career when she headed off to Minnesota State University, Mankato. There, she earned a degree in art education.

"I'd always done it, always done arts and crafts," she said. "In college, I was in track, and I didn't have as much focus as I should have. Track took a lot of time. Then, my last class in college -- a printmaking independent study -- got me to focus on my style of art. I do abstract art and mixed media."

About two years ago, Kelly moved back to Worthington with her son, Tyson. She is currently working three part-time jobs -- substitute teaching for School District 518, helping at Rickers Photography Studio during the busy summer season and at We Care Day Care, where Tyson is enrolled.

Between parenting and those jobs, she's had to fit in time for her art, using a utility room and the garage at her parents' Worthington home as studio space.

"In college, I had all the printing presses, did some etching, pronto plates," she said. "Now I don't have all those (resources). Now I'm doing more painting and mono prints. Most of my pieces are paintings, but I incorporate beadwork, stitching, add other objects to the paintings."

The show date was confirmed about a year ago, and most of the work has been created in the interim, although Kelly is including a couple of larger pieces from that last college class. Kelly prefers to work in either watercolor or acrylic, sometimes adding charcoal and the other adornments.

"I stitch some beads in, or take pins and put beads in that way," she explained. "Some are done on canvas, some on watercolor paper. I try not to frame stuff; I like to find a different way to display it. There's one that's on a big piece of metal and it's bolted in. I have a couple of those. Some are (traditionally) framed."

Kelly credits her dad, a middle school industrial arts teacher, for helping her fashion the metal and wood elements that have been incorporated into the show and is grateful for the support she's received from both her parents in putting it all together.

"My parents have been a big help with this," she stressed.

Kelly has also gotten some assistance from the youngest member of her family. Son Tyson, 5, is billed as a "featured artist" for the show and several of their collaborations -- possibly five paintings and one sculpture -- will be displayed.

"He likes watercolor, printing and stamping," Kelly explained, "so it's his thing, too. We tried some different stuff together."

Another unique addition to the show will be a hand-painted violin that Kelly created as part of a fundraiser.

"My cousin works for a music store in the Cities, and they do this with the old instruments, so they don't go to waste," she said. "I painted two, and one will be at the show. I think they both turned out pretty cool."

Someday, Kelly would like to do an exhibit with a more distinct theme, but for this one, she liked the generality of "Mixability."

"Right now, it's an experimental show. I'm trying to do different things," she said. "I like experimenting with everything and trying new things."

Kelly is also experimenting with ways to make some money from her art. Almost all the pieces in the exhibit are for sale, and she's also turned some images into postcards and is working on T-shirts.

"I'd like to do art for a living," she said. "I did some handmade T-shirt designs and am getting those printed -- only two designs for now -- made from drawings that I scanned in to the computer."

From the show, Kelly is hoping to gauge some interest and see what items might be marketable.

"I want to get my stuff out there and see what people think," she said.

"Mixability" will open with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Nobles County Art Center, located in the lower level of the Nobles County Library, 407 12th St., Worthington. The show will hang until June 30. Hours are 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, phone 372-8245.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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