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Artist couple shares concepts in ‘Common Marvels’

“Pilgrim” was made from fabric, paper, threat, ink and paint. Artist Ann Widness will frequently multiple materials to finish a work. She will sometimes borrow scrapes where every she can find them.

NEW ULM — The “Common Marvels” art exhibit opened in the Grand Center for Art and Culture, Friday.

The exhibit is the work of husband-and-wife artists Brad Widness and Ann Kronlokken Widness. Brad and Ann have each held solo gallery shows and duo shows but this is the first time they exhibited their work in New Ulm.

Brad is an art teacher at Minnesota State, Mankato as well as interim work at Gustavus and workshops at the Minnesota Center for Arts in Minneapolis. He has taught printmaking, watercolor, design and digital media.

Ann has taught fiber and design as an adjunct instructor at Minnesota State, Mankato. Her work combines drawing, painting fiber and collage.

“Common Marvels” is a combination of the couple’s work. Though Brad and Ann create art separately, their pieces do complement one another.

Ann Widness wove a maze of images for her piece “Labyrinth”

Ann said it was not intentional, but the two did share several art professors. The two met while attending college. They also have the abstract in common.

Little of their work can be described as literal. The images are mostly metaphors of lights and shapes based on the concept. It gives the work a dream-like quality.

Telling the difference between pieces created by Brad or Ann requires a viewer to get up close. The biggest difference between their approach is Brad comes from a print-making background and uses paper, while Ann will use different materials and fabrics for canvas.

Brad and Ann acknowledge one of the challenges of creating their art was to know when it is finished. Unlike a landscape painting, which it is complete when the image is transcribed onto paper, Brad and Ann’s work with particular pieces have no designated endpoint. Neither artist has a final plan when they start a new piece.

“It’s a gamble,” Ann said. “You can’t know if it’s done or if you’re going to ruin the work by adding more.”

This multi-medium work by Ann Widness is called “Horse Talk.” It uses paper, fabric and ink to bring an open-ended story to life.

After years of experience, the two have become good at knowing when a particular piece is finished.

As for a grand unifying theme to their art, neither Brad nor Ann wants to put a label on it.

“[The piece] might start out as literal, but then it becomes its own reality,” Brad said. “Shadows become metaphoric.”

Ann said she would never want to cut off someone’s interpretation of her work or limit what a person is allowed to see.

Many of her pieces have titles that suggest a story, but she said if there is anyone’s story it is the story of life. She encouraged viewers to come up with their own meaning.

Ann and Brad Widness describe their work and approach to art during the opening of their new art exhibit “Common Marvels”.

Brad’s hope is viewers will be open-minded about the exhibit. He said, “hopefully it will draw them in and they will have new questions.”

Brad and Ann want to inspire people to look and the world differently and inspire other artists.

“Common Marvels” will be on display in The Grand’s gallery from Friday, Jan. 21, to Friday, Feb. 18. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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