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Photography exhibit to open Friday at Nobles County Art Center

Worthington High School grad Sky Alsgaard presents "The Women of Clay: 30 years of Fine Art Photography," with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the art center. The public is encouraged to attend.

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Worthington High School graduate Sky Alsgaard has returned to Worthington to display her photography exhibit, "The Women of Clay" at the Nobles County Art Center. The show opens Friday with a reception planned from 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery, located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building, 407 12th St.

WORTHINGTON — Photographs that capture the essence of women in nature are the focal point of a new art exhibit slated to open later this week at the Nobles County Art Center in downtown Worthington.

The public is invited to the opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, or to view the images any time thereafter during art center hours through Sept. 13. Photographer Sky Alsgaard, daughter of local artist Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien, is celebrating her first art show at the center with “The Women of Clay: 30 Years of Fine Art Photography.”

The opening coincides with Sky’s 30-year class reunion this weekend in Worthington, and is a nod to the women who raised her — her mom and her mom’s friends who were “very much hippies,” she said.

The name was inspired by their time spent in the Missouri River Valley, harvesting clay from the cliffs along Lake Marindahl to be used in making pottery. Alsgaard wrote a song about those experiences, also titled “The Women of Clay.”

“We were always out in nature and learning about nature — the cycle of life and the environment,” Alsgaard said of the women, all of whom were artists.

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Influenced by their art from an early age, Alsgaard said she fell in love with photography.

“It was just my thing that satisfied my soul,” she said.

When Alsgaard initially contacted her former high school art teacher, now art center director Tricia Mikle, about doing a show, she’d approached the idea as a retrospect to her two and a half years in Worthington, from the middle of her sophomore year through senior year at Worthington High School.

Mikle encouraged Alsgaard to combine a selection of her earlier images with new work, which meant Alsgaard needed to let go of the need to “feel rural” and find natural spaces in San Francisco, Calif., the place she has called home for the past 23 years.

“The good thing about the Bay Area is there are beautiful wooded areas,” she said.

The recent photographs combine with those captured while Alsgaard was in Worthington, as well as the years she spent in the Midwest and West. Among the images are a few with her high school friends at familiar locales, including the Dayton House before it was renovated.

The camera equipment she used 30 years ago in high school is still the equipment she uses today — the workhorse of the single-lens reflex camera — the Pentax K-1000. That camera, a single 50-millimeter lens, and black-and-white film were used to create all of the images in Alsgaard’s exhibit.

Though at one time Alsgaard developed all of her own film, she no longer has space for a darkroom. Instead, she has the film processed and then scans her negatives into her computer, where she can edit them as needed through Photoshop and make her own prints.

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“About 85% of them are just as they were taken,” she said.

While the exhibit is considered a 30-year compilation of her work showcasing women’s relationship with nature, it skips about a decade in the early 2000s, during which Alsgaard delved into the digital age and worked primarily in color photography.

“It just didn’t fit the theme of this particular show,” said Alsgaard, whose work has been shown in exhibits in San Francisco.

A student of both the San Francisco Art Institute and the Academy of Art University, Alsgaard worked in art galleries for more than a decade. Today, she is employed by the San Francisco Ballet, doing film and photo editing, graphic design and producing marketing materials.

The work allows her to spend more time focusing on her art — something she was determined to do after being diagnosed with a nerve disease in 2015.

“I was severely disabled for several years,” she said. “Stemming from that experience, my focus in life has shifted from ‘I have to work a whole bunch; I have to be successful in my career,’ to ‘I want to make art; I want to focus on relationships and friendships.’”

Alsgaard is excited to have an art exhibit in Worthington, and said some of the pieces have never been shown before.

“Each one of these pieces … plays on the idea that women have a little bit of every part of the world — we have a place,” Alsgaard said, adding that among the images are “The Woman of Roots,” “The Woman of Time” and “The Woman of Shrouds.”

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All of the photographs are available for purchase.

To view a collection of Alsgaard’s artwork online, visit skyalsgaard.com.

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