“Joan of Art Gallery”
by Natasha Walter
Many of you have probably driven past the colorful Joan of Art gallery just off Franklin Avenue near the River Road and thought, as I did many times, “I really should stop in there sometime.” The vividly painted gallery is guarded by jovial Humpty Dumpty statues who practically shout “Come in, be merry!” to passersby. Currently the gallery is seeking to establish a community outreach space for art and yoga classes. A sliding-scale fee system is being set up to accommodate the neighborhood’s growing and diverse needs. Gallery visitors are welcome to contribute to this noble cause, so if such an ambition warms your heart, pop into Joan of Arc with a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Inside the gallery bright rooms are jam packed with paintings and sculptures, the bulk of which are the product of artists Kathryn Stemwedel and sculptor and owner Kimber Fiebiger.
When I visited the gallery, painter Kathryn Stemwedel’s adorable twin girls were sitting at a table enthusiastically drawing, so naturally a painting that featured the angelic duo caught my eye. As the girls sat animatedly bickering over the quality of their own artwork, a painting entitled “Gift” hung nearby, showing them in a decidedly more subdued mood. In the painting, which focuses on the strange phenomenon of twins, the girls stand dressed in matching green frocks; their long golden hair flowing romantically behind them. They clasp hands and share an eerie outward gaze.
In another painting Stemwedel features a young girl with a sober expression sitting on a royal-looking chair, one knee tucked beneath her in an awkward adolescent pose. A black crow perched on the tip of her chair holds a blue flower in its beak—a sweet yet unsentimental accessory. The flower symbolizes something precious stolen from the young girl, or is an omen that something dangerously alluring is on its way. During my visit I had to study the prominent bronze Humpty Dumpty sculptures outside the gallery. These pieces will either charm you with their innocence or put you off with their indisputable sweetness. Whimsical though they may be, there is a Buddha-like quality to their joyful expressions. Many of the statues are sculpted in positions that create movement, such as those rocking back in merriment. Others exude smiles that curl up to their eyes, forming deep creases of blissful delight.
If the dreamy figure of a child or the palpable joy of a fairy-tale character isn’t your thing, I challenge you to take a turn around Joan of Art—you may be surprised to discover a whimsy within.
Kathryn Stemwedel’s paintings will be on display through Sept. 29. Joan of Art Gallery is located at 3020 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls. 612-338-2511. Gallery hours are Wed.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. noon–5 p.m. and by appointment.
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