Exhibit becomes family affair for local artist

WORTHINGTON -- Kathleen Kusz had never painted with watercolors before she signed up for a art department-sponsored trip to Ireland through Minnesota West Community and Technical College. In fact, she had never really painted at all, although she...

WORTHINGTON -- Kathleen Kusz had never painted with watercolors before she signed up for a art department-sponsored trip to Ireland through Minnesota West Community and Technical College. In fact, she had never really painted at all, although she had expressed her artistic side through paper cuttings.

Now, just two years later, Kathleen is displaying her work in an exhibit with other family members at Minnesota West's Worthington campus. Kathleen has contributed watercolors completed during that Ireland trip, this summer's trip to Italy as well as paintings inspired by area scenery. The exhibit also features paintings by her sister, Mary Kusz of Richfield; porcelain pottery by sister-in-law Margaret Bohls of Minneapolis; and two paintings by 7-year-old nephew Thomas Severson of Minnetonka.

"I wanted a family show because I didn't think I'd have enough stuff," Kathleen explained. "As it got closer, I realized how cool it was to have other family members who do art, other people who understand the process, and you value their opinion."

Kathleen has been the assistant Nobles County attorney for 12 years and a lawyer since 1981. A native of Bloomington, she worked in Marshall for nine years, then took a four-year sabbatical before moving to Worthington. Artwork has become a respite from the rigors of her day-to-day job.

"Painting is still work, but a different kind of work," she compared. "The first year, when I went to Ireland, I had never painted before, so it was always about composition, learning to use the materials. In Italy, it was all about the color. My favorite painting in the show is the one that's all yellows. It was a class exercise ... using colors that are beside each other on the color wheel."


Prior to the Italy trip, Kathleen had agreed to do the exhibit, so she was motivated throughout the three weeks she spent there to learn as much as she could about painting and paint as much as possible. Many of the watercolors in the exhibit reflect the architecture and landscapes of the Italian countryside. But Kathleen also finds inspiration closer to home.

"I did that one sitting in my car in the parking lot at the Prairie Justice Center," she said, pointing to a farmland scene. "I've gotten so I stop at this rest stop between here and Sioux Falls (S.D.) ... In Italy, most of the pictures were painted from the same balcony, just different angles. By the same token, some of these were painted from the same picnic table in the rest stop. It's just a different angle, a different time of year, a different composition."

While there's a feeling of tranquility in much of Kathleen's work, her sister Mary's work inspires more frenzied emotions.

"I am a person living with mental illness, and perhaps that influences the way I feel about my art," said Mary in her artist's statement. "Though I have never had training in pastels or acrylics, I use both. I go through periods of time when I experience an intensely powerful urge to paint or write. I think some of it comes from my hallucinations or from seeing something I feel. When I get that intense urge, I see the completed piece in my head, and I can't stop until I have made that image. But what I do is never really complete to me, not the way the image in my head was complete. ..."

Bohls is the most highly trained artist in the family, with a master's degree in fine arts-ceramics and extensive teaching and exhibiting experience. For the Minnesota West exhibit, she is showing a series of porcelain pottery tableware items, including teapots, cups, trays and even a butter dish.

"My current body of work combines a strong sense of interior volume with a net- or grid-like surface of textural lines that contains and shapes that volume, creating buoyant, full, yet architectural forms," Bohls explained in her artist's statement. "These seemingly upholstered forms are draped with a series of rich, complex glaze surfaces, many of them crystalline, lustrous, or having deep visual texture. These surfaces are sometimes further adorned with floral glaze decals or metallic lusters. Porcelain forms are often placed in or on earthenware baskets or trays. The result is a layering of disparate and complex elements that become integral. These pieces, in form and in the details of form, are created to visually communicate their use or function. Their complex shapes and rich surfaces embellish and enhance this use."

The two paintings by young nephew Thomas were added to the show because he asked to be a part of it and also took an active interest in picking out other pieces to the show, Kathleen said. Consequently, his pictures were matted, framed and hung among his aunts' works, and one of his paintings was also used on the promotional materials for the exhibit.

The exhibit is already on display in the Minnesota West Art Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building. An opening reception will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. All the artists will be present, except for Severson, who has a prior commitment -- his own birthday party.

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