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A local oil painter, wood turner and graphite artist will display around 50 pieces of artwork during the second annual Underground Art Show in Cambridge and the community is invited to attend.

Renowned artists Nathan Hager, of Isanti Township; Ken Ekvall, of East Bethel; and Marilyn Cuellar, of Cambridge, will all be featured during the Underground Art Show, which will be held in the Leader Foundation Room (in the lower level of the restaurant), 135 Main St. S., Cambridge. All are welcome and there is no admission fee.

The gallery will open at noon on Saturday, Sept. 26. A special meet-the-artists reception will be held from 4-7 p.m. that evening with wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Besides the opening day of Sept. 26, the art gallery will also be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 27; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 and Sept. 29; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 30. All three artists will be present at the gallery during the opening reception, and at least one artist will be present during the opening times on Sept. 27-30.

“We held our first Underground Art Show last year, and while that was very successful, we decided to add more dates and times to our show this year to accommodate as many people as possible,” Cuellar said. “We’ll have a wide variety of pieces on display, from two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces. We’ll have pencil, oil and wood. Guests will be able to talk to all of the artists during the opening reception. And all of the pieces on display will be for sale.”

Cuellar said due to the quarantine, families are spending more time at home.

“Keeping in mind that we’ve had social distancing and quarantining at home, our interior spaces have become more important to us than ever before,” Cuellar said. “We three artists are providing a local opportunity to make your home space more inviting by adding fine art.”

Cuellar said she thought last year’s art show went very well.

“One friend said he was surprised at the gallery setting, how the room was transformed to look like a gallery,” Cuellar said. “Having someone view my artwork, go upstairs for lunch, and then come back down to purchase was a highlight of the show for me as well as a

win for the Leader restaurant.”

Cuellar mentioned the struggles artists have faced with the cancellations of art shows and art fairs.

“There have been so few places to display artwork, since so many events have been canceled; the last show was at Bachman’s in Minneapolis in February,” Cuellar said. “Many artists have suffered because of this and look for various ways, mainly online, to sell artwork. Normally you can pick from zillions of art fairs each weekend between here and Chicago and anywhere. It’s good for the community to be aware of what the artists have been going through and it would be very meaningful to come out and support us in your hometown.”

Grant Johnson, owner of the Leader, believes in supporting the community.

“We love that we can support the local art scene and support our local artists. Our Foundation room easily transitions to a gallery and provides a central location with plenty of parking in downtown Cambridge,” Johnson said. “We want to be a part of the increased visibility of our local artists and look forward to adding more artists to this event in the coming years.”

Johnson encourages those visiting the art show to patronize other businesses in downtown Cambridge.

“This year we extended the show to five days in hopes that we can attract a much larger turnout,” Johnson said. “We are encouraging people to plan a day downtown to view the show and support other downtown businesses.”

Social distancing and mask requirements will help keep people safe during the art show.

“Our team at Leader works diligently to keep our facilities clean and safe for all. Our team wears masks and will assist with social distancing,” Johnson said. “We will require guests to wear masks when moving around the gallery but not when they are enjoying the food and beverages provided.”

Johnson appreciates the support the community has shown the Leader during the pandemic.

“The restaurant at Leader has been so blessed by all of the community support over the summer,” Johnson said. “Our outdoor tables have been very popular and we are getting great feedback on our new fall menus.”

Graphite artist Marilyn Cuellar

Cuellar has been in juried art fairs for over 30 years, locally and throughout the Midwest, and through those years she’s won the Best of Show Drawing award at the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis.

“I still do botanical pieces and I’ll have my newest botanical piece. I do drawings from my travels and my newest piece is from Venice, Italy, when I traveled there in 2019,” Cuellar said. “My new piece is a drawing of the bronze Triumphal Quadriga, the ‘Four Horses of Saint Mark.’ The originals are inside St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice while the reproductions grace the front facade. Walking among them in October 2019 checked off an item on my bucket list.”

Cuellar loves looking at her finished pieces.

“I like the finished piece most of all,” Cuellar said. “I don’t necessarily like the hard work to get there, because it is hard work. But when a piece is finished and my eyes gaze over it from one end to the other, and watch the movement and see a face or an image come to life, it is worth it all. It is worth all the hard work to do that.”

Cuellar draws from her screened-in her porch during the spring, summer and fall, but moves her studio into her home during the winner.

“The medium of pencil, just black and white, I’m limited by my tools, but I feel I can create the richest drawings with those limited tools, a pencil, eraser and a board to draw on,” Cuellar said.

“Most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing the local audience,” Cuellar said. “I’m also looking forward to seeing who is drawn in from a wider audience to come to Cambridge. I am always looking to place my art on someone else’s walls. I don’t draw to keep it on my walls. I’m always looking for that person who happens to cross my path and a piece is theirs. I have stories, with each piece there is a story and I love to tell those stories.”

Oil painter Nathan Hager

Hager has been an oil painter for 25 years, starting when he was in college, and shows his work in the Twin Cities.

“I started painting seriously midway through sophomore year in college. A lot of ‘life’ has happened in that 25 years, but painting has always been something that I come back to,” Hager said. “I remember being enamored at the wildlife artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s. I was amazed that artists could produce such life-like paintings. Once I really started pursuing it on my own, my horizons expanded and my tastes grew beyond those early influences. But in the beginning it was wildlife art that got me excited.”

Hager plans to have 20-25 pieces of various sizes on display during the show.

“I started in acrylics mostly for convenience, but after a year or two I switched to oils, and that’s mostly all I’ve used since. I’ve tried watercolor more as an exercise like sketching, but when I think of ‘painting,’ to me, it’s oil,” Hager said. “It’s fulfilling to see something and then effectively capture it. I don’t paint for fun. It’s work that requires focus and discipline much like playing a musical instrument. But when one reaches a certain level of proficiency, it’s fulfilling to be able to ‘speak the language.’”

Hager said there is no specific time frame to making one piece of artwork.

“Some paintings seem to paint themselves and they can develop rather quickly. Others are a real wrestling match and sometimes they need to be put away and revisited down the line,” Hager said. “I recently completed a painting that I had in storage for a good 10 years or so. I started it, but got stuck, and didn’t have a clear vision or the skill to accomplish it until those years later.”

Hager looks forward to visiting with guests during the art show.

“Talking to strangers about my work is always a thrill. It’s a little awkward, because I don’t like to blow my own horn, but I enjoy explaining the back story of some of the pieces and my motivation for tackling them,” Hager said.

Hager draws inspiration for his pieces from many different places.

“I drive around a lot, or go for hikes. I just look for something visually interesting or beautiful in creation. Inspiration can come anywhere and at anytime,” Hager said. “I recently sold a painting that I saw the idea for while I was working my construction day job. I just try to look for paintings and be ready when they show up.”

Hager truly enjoys being a painter.

“Painting is a grand tradition that has occupied some great minds through history,” Hager said. “It’s a privilege to be a painter and to really observe and try to communicate something worthy of the viewer’s attention.”

Wood turner Ken Ekvall

Ekvall became a wood turner after he retired.

“I began my career in wood turning 10 years ago after retirement as a machinist,” Ekvall said. “After purchasing a wood turning lathe, I turned a bowl out of a single piece of white ash. Then I heard about segmented turning with a feature ring. That’s when my hobby took off.”

Ekvall enjoys the challenge that comes from wood turning.

“Coming from a machinist background, I already had the ability to work with close tolerances,” Ekvall said. “Segmented turning is an intricate process requiring precise woodworking, design and turning skills. I have always enjoyed a challenge, and wood turning is what gets me going in the morning.”

Each piece of art takes its own specific time to complete.

“Depending on the difficulty of the design, a piece can be turned in as little as six hours, and some pieces take over 100 hours to complete,” Ekvall said. “One of the pieces in the show entitled ‘Spiral’ has 892 pieces that were all cut, glued together and turned. This is one of 12 pieces that will be on display.”

Ekvall won one of three Judges Choice Awards (a $500 prize) during the fifth annual Juried and Judged Art Competition recently held through the Hallberg Center for the Arts in Wyoming.

“A Forest Lake classmate of mine encouraged me to enter the Hallberg Center for the Arts competition and I was totally surprised and could not believe I won one of the three Judges Choice Awards,” Ekvall said. “It was a great honor to hear the judge talk about my vase. I have always turned pieces for the challenge. It feels good to have a qualified person praise something you have done.”

Ekvall enjoys talking with others about his art.

“I look forward to talking to people that come to this event and see what they are interested in,” Ekvall said. “I get inspiration for my artwork from magazines, seeing what other woodturners are doing. Sometimes when I am cutting trees I now see a limb or slice of wood in a whole new light. I also purchase and enjoy working with woods from all over the world.”

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