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Find yourself, and zombies, at local art exhibit

Kayla Strayer/Daily Globe Clay zombies designed by Annie O'Fallon sit on display Wednesday afternoon at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus. O'Fallon's work will be displayed starting today in the gallery of the Center for Performing and Fine Arts on campus.1 / 2
Kayla Strayer/Daily Globe Minnesota West Community and Technical College Art Instructor Leah Gossom (left) stands next to artist Annie O'Fallon Wednesday afternoon at Minnesota West, Worthington campus. O'Fallon's work will be displayed starting today in the gallery of the Center for Performing and Fine Arts on campus.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, is hosting an art exhibition and reception from 5-8 tonight at the Center for Performing and Fine Arts gallery.

This month's featured artist is Annie O'Fallon, of Annie's Designs in Sioux Falls, S.D. O'Fallon will be on hand tonight to discuss her pieces and answer questions.

The idea for this gallery came about when Minnesota West Art Instructor Leah Gossom discovered O'Fallon's work at the Art Rocks festival in Luverne.

"We got to talking and she connected with some of my goofy stuff," O'Fallon said.

"Annie's art was such a pleasant surprise," Gossom said. "I think her work is original and unique."

Every month brings a new exhibition with a different artist. Gossom said her students help coordinate the events.

"They get involved in designing, creating flyers, learning how an exhibit works and how it functions," Gossom said.

O'Fallon, a retired art teacher, has worked in the field for about 35 years. Retirement has left her more time to focus on her craft. While she enjoys many forms of art, she said designing clay and painting are among her favorites.

Working out of a home studio, she creates different mediums of art, from paintings, sculptures and textiles, to rubber stamps. One of her goals is to get into residential tile making.

"I try to do different things, like right now I'm doing tile," O'Fallon said. "As you get older your wrists get weak. It's hard for me to center a big bowl or platter, so I went to hand building."

She describes herself as having "clay-dd."

"I kind of bounce around, but my key themes are traveling, existence and scientists looking for life in other places," O'Fallon said. "I keep working with those themes and probably always will."

She cites science, biology and space exploration among her inspirations. She said she enjoys looking ahead, behind and within for ideas.

"I like things that might not have the same meaning to someone else, but they have meaning to me," O'Fallon said. "They might feel something different than you, but if you make somebody feel something, you've done your job."

Gossom said one of her favorites in O'Fallon's collection is a set of clay zombies.

"I think art should make you laugh," Gossom said. "Art doesn't always have to be something hanging on your wall. It should also have a humor and darkness about it."

"I'm kind of wacky," O'Fallon said, speaking of the zombies. "I think the zombie culture is really hilarious."

"I really like when I have an idea and I start with it, but the clay does something different," O'Fallon said. "When I first started, if it wasn't what I wanted I would try to get it back. Now, I've gotten to where I accept little gifts of surprises that come along and let things go how they go."

One of O'Fallon's challenges is finding balance between her studio time and everything else in life.

"Sometimes I can get lost (in my art) and I just have the best time," O'Fallon said. "I'll be working in my studio and the next thing I know its seven hours later and I forgot to eat."

"Left to my own devices I probably would sequester myself away for weeks at a time and just do my own thing," O'Fallon said. "I need to remember to take time to find the joy in other people."

O'Fallon hopes her studio time pays off and inspires others to make their own art.

"I think everybody should try to do art," O'Fallon said. "Because when you do, your creativity feeds all of your other intelligences."

Art offers a freedom that everyone should have, and there's not one right answer, she said.

"People realize they can be free to say what they want to say visually, they don't need words," O'Fallon said. "If you're not a speaker or writer, you can still make statements on how you feel about things."

Gossom encourages people to support local artists because it "creates dialogue within a community."

"There's so much around us that's art," Gossom said. "Supporting artists helps us become more visually sensitive and think about ourselves, our community and our environment."

"It's good for people to realize you can communicate visually," O'Fallon said. "You can make yourself known visually and communicate in that matter."

Gossom agreed and said she strives to help her students become better visual thinkers. She said her class is not about being right and wrong, but rather finding joy in the process.

"I like them to laugh and enjoy themselves," Gossom said. "If they never do art again, I just want them to have an exciting experience."

O'Fallon's art will be displayed at Minnesota West and available for purchase throughout the month. Prices and information will be available for each piece. Those who purchase the art will receive it next month when the exhibition is finished, Gossom said.

"I think people will get a good laugh at the zombies, if nothing else," O'Fallon said. "Hopefully they will see something they haven't seen before."

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.