By LACI GAGLIANO
Robbin Gallery is hosting an exhibit through Oct. 21 in partnership with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.
Titled “The Art of Possibilities,” the show features the work of artists living with a variety of disabilities.
Participants were selected from a previous exhibition at Courage Kenny, including work from artists Linda Frankenstein, LouAnn Hoppe, Max Reiss, Tina Kabage, Sandra Muzzy, Jill Ness, Jennifer Platter, David Spohn and Susan Warner.
Frankenstein, a semi-retired painter from St. Louis Park, is living with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes a gradual loss of vision. Because her peripheral vision has been lost and her center vision is spotty, she has adopted a technique to compensate.
“It’s different than it used to be since I can only see a small part of the canvas at a time. I’ll do that area, then paint surrounding areas, and take a photo with my phone and look at that to see how I’m doing, because I don’t have good enough vision to accommodate the whole thing,” she said.
She made the switch from colored pencils to acrylic paints when her vision began receding, since she needed to switch to larger canvasses to do her composite technique.
Her perception of color and distinguishing between shades is also a struggle, so she said she began using bright, highly saturated color palettes, which makes her work stand out.
“After you look at them compared to the other paintings in the gallery, you’ll see a difference. It was startling to me to see how different they were, because I’m used to my own. Then I put them up against other peoples’, and I realized, ‘oh, I’m living a different reality.”
She typically paints botanicals, like flowers and leaves, and appreciates working with up-close, micro images of them to draw out a deeper appreciation in the viewer.
“Usually when you look at something, you just look at it from a distance and it’s beautiful, but you haven’t really appreciated exactly what it is and how it’s formed into different forms inside, so I take a really close-up view of it and try to understand how things work in there.”
Both Frankenstein and fellow painter Hoppe, whose paintings are also on display in the show, work from photographs they’ve taken of images they’d like to paint. Hoppe captures landscapes, natural scenery, and travel experiences, sometimes embellishing them with extra details or additions.
Hoppe lives in White Bear Lake, and started painting in 2000 after passing by a business displaying an ad for watercolor classes, which she attended nearly every Saturday for the next five or six years. She mostly works with watercolors, although the occasional acrylic painting or even photograph makes its way into her portfolio.
“Before I started painting I was sewing – I could sew almost anything. I was an interior designer for almost six years. So I was already artistic, but it was not fine art; it was more durable art,” she said.
She employs a process called watercolor batik on some pieces, which uses wax and black ink to provide extra depth and tones. She said most of her ideas come from the photos she takes on a regular basis.
“I’m always thinking if something is going to be a good painting or not,” she said of her consistent eye for possible subject matter.
She is retired from a career teaching special education in primary schools, and later teaching students at Hamline University who were entering the field of special education teaching. She first got involved with Courage Kenny after having one of her paintings chosen to be published as part of the organization’s annual holiday card fundraiser. The cards are distributed nationally at department stores and through a catalogue, and Hoppe has published a painting for the fundraiser every year for more than a decade.
Frankenstein has published cards for the fundraiser, too. She said Courage Kenny provides ample opportunities for artists with disabilities to display their work. The institute shows work from around 200 artists during its spring show, which is where Robbin Gallery drew its featured artists for The Art of Possibilities.
“It’s a really nice thing to do, very generous of them. October is Disabilities Month, so that‘s why Robbin Gallery is doing this show,” she explained.
Robbin Gallery is open to the public from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 1-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and is located at 4915 42nd Ave. in Robbinsdale.