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Talented twosome: Artistic couple join forces for exhibit at local art center

Linda Ackland Kolb and John Kolb pose with some of their artwork at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Was it love at first brushstroke? Did their eyes meet over the top of a canvas?

John Kolb and Linda Ackland Kolb didn't share the specifics of their first meeting, but it was definitely a mutual interest in art that initially brought them together.

"We met in Mankato while I was working on my master's," explained Linda, a native of Albert Lea who studied at Waldorf College and earned a bachelor's degree from Mankato State University before taking a teaching job in Sioux Falls, S.D. "He came down from his job in the Cities to work on his master's in Mankato."

"Next thing you know, I'm living in Sioux Falls," quipped John, who grew up in Minneapolis.

The Kolbs have been married for 30 years. They have two daughters, both now living in California -- one pursuing a career in interior design, the other going to graduate school with hopes of being a visual arts curator at a museum.

John is employed by Sioux Falls Area Metro, while Linda retired in 2009 from her teaching career with Sioux Falls public schools.

Throughout their life together, both John and Linda have continued to create artwork, and they are currently collaborating on a joint exhibit at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington.

Although they share a passion for art, the artists' techniques and mediums are quite diverse.

"I've worked in mixed media, a lot of colored pencil, handmade paper, washes, ink, collage," detailed Linda.

A few years ago, Linda became intrigued with the process of using pastel on a beeswax ground, and that's been her concentration ever since.

"It's fun to experiment with -- experimenting with how to put the wax down presents itself, and then etching into the surface in different ways, and then being able to mix the color in a more painterly fashion," she said.

When she contemplates a new piece, Linda begins with her sketchbook.

"I create my ideas in there," she detailed. "I just use little thumbnail sketches. When I get one I think I like, I built it to the size I want to work with. Sometimes it deviates from what I start with. I'm always open for change."

To manipulate the beeswax, which hardens quite quickly, Linda may use a palette knife, and she creates a pattern for etching into the surface. The pastel colors are applied over the top.

"Nature is a stimuli for the images as it introduces the visual language to the artist," Linda explains in her artist's statement. "I feel a strong sense to express geomorphic-like forms that create an implied movement and tension of space. Personal freedoms of form and line are taken for an independent feel from the external authorities.

"My pictorial forms give way to color and tonal values for better identification of the shapes and surface quality. The wax and color application process presents unending surprises and enables me to produce certain visual qualities on the surface.

"Pastel on beeswax ground offers a sensitivity to the working surface, to its color, lines and shapes. I search to extract the necessary elements to produce inventive and personalized conclusions."

While Linda is working with wax and pastel, John is doing his own experimentations with a more common medium -- acrylic paint.

"Everything I do is acrylic," said John, who brought an assortment of works ranging from large, vibrant canvasses to smaller, almost starkly white pieces.

The bulk of his contribution to the exhibit, however, is a series of dark paintings framed in shadowbox-like structures.

"I started out with a few religious things," he said, pointing to shapes of a cross and an eye in one of his paintings. "Later on, it got to be faces of saintly-type people."

The dark paintings are textured with metallic colors, adding to the iconic quality of the images. The white paintings stand out in stark contrast, with pearlescent white backgrounds framing smaller abstract images.

"My recent paintings, modest in scale, are a tie to sensitive and highly personal interpretations of the symbolic," John explains in his artist's statement. "The composition is starkly simple, and the forms are brushed in to achieve a more dramatic impact. The use of religious images and symbols is a restless search for otherworldly truths. My work becomes narrative and descriptive by the use of subject and visual symbols subordinate to the overall form.

"Much of the pictorial structure was based on color intensity and management of brushwork. As I added coats of paint, the colors and forms began to declare themselves. The process developed the definition of space pared down to essentials.

"My work represents the struggle to bring meaning from interaction of materials and processes, the work looks rapidly executed, but each action is carefully studied before completed. Only when every part aids in the purpose of expression is the work finished."

As married artists, John and Linda are each other's biggest supporters, but not necessarily each other's worst critics. They try to be supportive of each other's endeavors and offer only constructive criticism when asked for input.

"We don't tend to say, 'You need to change this or add this,'" said Linda. "We just give input that pushes the other one. We don't tend to be critical, even if we think it."

"I never think it," said John. "They're all masterpieces."

This is the first time the Kolbs have been featured in an exhibit at the Nobles County Art Center, although they have been regular contributors to the spring Area Art Show since 1979 and have done a show at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.

"We've probably missed one or two here and there," said John about the area art show. "It's kind of fun to have a show, because you don't ever have it all sitting out at one time."

The exhibit featuring works by John Kolb and Linda Ackland Kolb 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 War Memorial Building, 407 12th St., Worthington. The exhibit continues through Feb. 25. Hours are 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 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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