“I have schizophrenia.” The artist’s words sink quickly into the backdrop of conversation and he returns to sharing his ideas about Fauvism, expressionism, Matisse, and the different emotive effects of abstractism and realism. After an hour of discussing such topics with intelligent command, this artist intently focuses on the artwork surrounding the room over all else. It is what is important. Soon after mentioning his schizophrenia, he resolves, “Creativity isn’t hampered by just about anything.”
The artwork and statements belong to Mark Veblen, an artist whose drawings and paintings are now on display at the Inside Out Gallery in Minneapolis. While Veblen may face certain challenges from schizophrenia, he doesn’t dwell on this disability label. Instead he spends time involved in his passion for art. Through creating, viewing, absorbing and discussing art, Veblen experiences complete freedom and pride in his work.
The bright, energetic abstracts and poetic landscapes in the collection of Veblen’s art reflect the freedom he finds through art. Two notable landscapes include dramatic profiles of a single person peering pensively over the land. The amoebic shapes in his abstracts freely evolve according to Veblen, and are testaments to the artistic process itself in which the art takes on a life other than what is intended. Another unique quality of Veblen’s work, as pointed out by gallery employee Andrea Jayne, is that all of the pieces include a horizon-a theme that unites the different works and brings to each of them a warm, home-like quality.
Veblen’s art shares the room with large-scale paintings of the Mississippi River by artist Mike Kramer. Kramer’s paintings, some standing 7 feet tall, are characterized by linear shapes which capture the colors and action of the river and bring a sense of motion to the paintings. Like the river itself, these paintings go where they want to, with a few of them flowing onto both sides of a canvas. Kramer recreates numerous possibilities with the river and will continue to explore it as a subject, for it “is always changing.”
Executive Director Jeanne Calvit has seen Kramer flourish within the program. She describes him as someone who rarely talks which is partially due to a tumor-related mental illness, and she was happy to find him shaking hands and talking to people at the opening reception for the Veblen/Kramer exhibit. She beams, “He would never had done that even a year ago.” Jayne finds similar value in knowing Mark Veblen, “For me, the reward is listening to Mark talk about his work today. I get inspired to go back to the studio and paint.”
The Inside Out Gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12-5pm and will display the art of Veblen and Kramer through September 23, 2000. It is the only gallery in Minneapolis which features “Outsider Art”-or art created “independently of the academic and commercial art world,”according to Inside Out. Calvit, Jayne, and Veblen agree that “Outsider Art” impacts its viewer with an honest, raw, innate, and experimental approach to creativity.
The gallery is one of many areas housed at the Interact Center (612-339-5145), a center with studios for both visual and performing arts. Here “people with disabilities” have the opportunity to shed that label and redefine themselves as “artists.” The only center of its kind in the Midwest, Interact provides these artists with the space, supplies and mentoring helpful in pursuing art. The program involves over 40 artists who visit Interact daily to create and receive income for their creativity. Currently, Interact is seeking to expand its connections with other organizations, is discussing the opening of another center, and wants to ensure that the center continues as a high-quality resource for art in Minneapolis.
Interact is a place where people such as Kramer and Veblen take an active role in the Interact community and foster a sense of accomplishment. Veblen expresses the fulfillment he finds at the center and through his art, “I love the feeling of creativity. When it hits you…you just can’t say enough about it or do it enough. It really can be a rarified or pure feeling that you get and you think, ‘This says something about me.'”