Lake Okabena provides inspiration for artist

WORTHINGTON -- Whether it's an image of a sunset delighting a family on a pontoon outing or pieces of driftwood used to create a mobile, Gail Holinka sees an ever-changing canvas outside her Worthington home along Lake Okabena.

Worthington artist Gail Holinka stands before some of her photographs on display in the Nobles County Art Center. Holinka's exhibit, "Earthly Treasures II: Capturing Color Through Light" opens Sunday, and will remain in place through Sept. 23. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Whether it’s an image of a sunset delighting a family on a pontoon outing or pieces of driftwood used to create a mobile, Gail Holinka sees an ever-changing canvas outside her Worthington home along Lake Okabena.

She has turned her inspiration into an art exhibit opening at the Nobles County Art Center. An opening reception is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, and the exhibit will remain in place through Sept. 23.

Holinka received an individual artist grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council a year ago. The grant provided the push she needed to focus on her art and spend more time in the studio -- something she finds challenging between her work as a Worthington High School art teacher and her service to the community as chairwoman of the Public Arts Commission.

“Everyone knows me as an art teacher,” Holinka said. “I love being an artist, too. I think that’s part of the purpose of the grant.”

In her second exhibit in 20 years -- her first was right out of college -- Holinka has titled this show “Earthly Treasures II: Capturing Color Through Light.” The title reflects two of her loves -- photography and nature.


“It’s going to have a lot of photos -- that’s the main thing I’ve been working in lately,” Holinka said of the show.

Still, there will be other treasures.

“I teach all art forms, so I like to do everything,” she said. “I made some jewelry out of driftwood, shells and stones. I also have small sculptures using driftwood, shells and coral.”

With the grant she received, Holinka enrolled in a week-long intensive photography training at the Madeline Island School of the Arts in Wisconsin last summer. The sessions were led by Vincent Versace, a Nikon Ambassador and internationally recognized pioneer in digital photography. During the class, Holinka learned the art of photo harvesting -- taking multiple photographs of the same image and merging the photos together. The technique was used in some of the photos she has included in her exhibit.

While the lake was the inspiration for several of the pieces in Holinka’s exhibit, she also enjoys traveling and gardening, and visitors will find both reflected in her show.

Her love for old barns led to the construction of barnwood frames for a couple of the large photographs in the exhibit, and the replacement of windows in the family’s home allowed for the glass to be repurposed for the photo frames.

These days, Holinka is shooting her photographs with a Canon T3I.

“It really took me a long time to want to go digital,” she said. “I love the old manual manipulation (film cameras).”


The advantage to digital, though, is that she doesn’t have to print all of the photos, and storing her images is so much easier now.

“Living by the lake I have a beautiful canvas right there,” Holinka said. “I find myself often sitting by the shoreline with my camera, waiting for that perfect capture of light.

“An artist has to have patience. You take thousands of pictures to have a few good ones sometimes,” she added.

Now that she has a collection of framed photographs for the exhibit, Holinka hopes to find another gallery to showcase her work once the show ends at the Nobles County Art Center.

Holinka’s exhibit will be on display at the art center, 407 12th St., Worthington, through Sept. 23. Art center hours are noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Related Topics: ART
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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