Emerging artists awarded VSA Minnesota grants

Seven Minnesota artists won grants of $1,500 each through the VSA Minnesota Project Grants for Emerging Artists with Disabilities Program. The 15th annual competitive grant, funded by the Jerome Foundation, recognizes excellence by artists with disabilities. The grants were awarded following a jury process conducted by individuals with extensive backgrounds in the written, visual and performing arts.

Anne Krocak, Prior Lake, works with communities to create large, interactive, abstract, yet functional concrete sculptures, such as benches or wall hangings. Mosaic designs made of glass and commercial and handmade ceramic tiles are then attached to the surface of sculptures. Working with individual groups from a community allows her and the work group to become catalysts for change. Krocak has exhibited at numerous Twin Cities venues.“I do not remember a time when my life didn’t flow around art. . . Art is an expression of our deepest emotions and expresses our feelings to others. As an artist with a disability, I want to communicate my feelings with people, including others like me, with disabilities,” said Krocak.

Puppeteer Anne Sawyer, Aitch, Minneapolis, has always been fascinated by shadow, light and color. She is fond of storytelling, has a puppet show, a play, or a short story. “I like to think that my shows help send children and adults back into a world before television when the people might sit and watch the shadow puppeteer to learn about their history, their religion, their culture. A contemporary shadow puppet audience will share that experience in common with the armies of Genghis Khan and street urchins of Dickens’ London; with emperors and peasants, Europeans, Africans, and Asians.

There is a magic to the form that has captivated me since I first saw it,” said John Lee Clark, Maplewood, finds that traveling—leaving his abode, his daily routine, and the same old tasks—stirs his imagination, inspiring him to write poetry. He is especially interested in encounters with nature and natural wonders. Clark has edited a book of poetry, Deaf American Poetry: an Anthology and published a chapbook, Suddenly Slow: Poems. He also won a VSA Artist Recognition Grant in 2003.“Ever since I began reading Braille full-time five years ago, my poetry has undergone a dramatic change. Part of the change is due to my continued maturing as a writer, but there are some fundamental reasons why my poems no longer have stanzas and tend to be short. Reading Braille, I am aware of only the line I am reading at that moment,” said Clark.

Adrean Clark, Maplewood, hopes that her comics help promote a positive view of people with disabilities. She doesn’t believe in hitting readers over the head with moral points and instead shows situations that allow them to figure things out without insulting their intelligence. She is a cartoonist at www.Adreanaline.com and has published a book, The Census Taker and Other Deaf Humor; and a comic book, 8 Ways to be Deaf. “As a deaf comic artist, my goal is to open windows into a culture otherwise inaccessible to the hearing mainstream . . . the power of visuals . . . is what I harness with my comics. Humor is also an equalizer, and one of the tools I use to help hearing people connect with deaf people,” said Clark.

Visual artist Pamela Kirton, Bursnville, turned humble observation into a very successful artistic venture. The birds that cluster daily at her window feeder have become friends. Soon they became beautiful, she said, like they had been hatched from Faberge eggs. It became her mission to honor birds by showing them through that vision. “When you see my birds at first or from a slight distance, they appear natural. On closer inspection you will see just how extraordinary they are. The more I drew different birds, the more birds I have become compelled to draw. Being trapped in a wheelchair for so long led me to see my birds as a metaphor in life. As a disabled artist my body may be clumsy on land, but in my mind I fly in creative skies,” said Kirton.

Lisa Dietz’s artwork that is primarily created from recycled materials. Her recycled, re-purposed usage has become an integral part of her passion. After seeing a PBS program about Mark Rothko, the Golden Valley resident gained a sense of purpose about her work. She studied Expressionists and Abstract Expressionist movements. What she internalized was the desire to elicit emotional response from viewers. Now she intentionally distorts the realistic aspects of her work because she doesn’t want viewers to get caught up in what a particular image “looks like.” She has been in many exhibits. “I am a disabled artist and my art rose from my disability . . . I would like to use my artistic abilities to reflect my enthusiasm for helping people with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) using DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy),” said Dietz.

Barbara Harman, Minneapolis, is a visual artist. Twenty years ago she and her sister revisited childhood memories. Harman was astonished by how seldom they recalled the same events or, even when they did, how difficult it was to agree on most, if not all details. Since then, viewpoint has emerged as an underlying theme in Harman’s artwork. Journaling, poetry, site notes from the environments she visits, and readings support and illuminate her thinking and discovery. Work in a series can include paintings, prints, artist books, printed and stitched fabric, and poetry or other original writing. She has exhibited works since the early 1990s.

“My life has often traveled on a current of loss in which only the passing landscape offers permanence and serenity. My artwork forges a relationship between that empirical landscape and my emotional landscape. In the search for ways to express their connection, I have developed a symbolic language of objects —trees, houses, birds, water, leaves—that repeat, overlap, and relate,” said Harman.