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July 12, 2008

We went last night to the opening of our friend Ali’s show at the Bismarck Art Gallery. She is showing jointly with another ND artist, Gretchen Bedermann, who does wonderful, vibrant portraits of her students at Dawson Community College. It was a lovely evening, with a goofily disparate group of patrons wandering amongst the art and food and wine. We talked and noshed and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But the real reason to be there was the art, about which I will now gush (you have been warned).

It was the first time I had seen Ali’s work in person. She’s got a great gallery of work at her web site, but as always it’s a different experience seeing paintings in the flesh, er, paint. For one thing, though this is visual art, the paintings are extremely physical objects. Ali often applies paint in thick squooges that leave textured swathes across the canvas, making me want to reach out and touch the image (an impulse I successfully resisted). She also frequently uses pieces of fabric underneath or within the painting to add texture, which makes everything much more interesting and layered.

But mainly, it’s Ali’s vision and its expression that impacts the viewer most strongly. Her work reaffirms the inherent duality of being human–there’s good and bad in the mortal condition, and often the twain shall meet. One of my favorite paintings of hers carries with it the text: “Sometimes in all the sweetness I hurt,” a statement which goes a long way towards defining the underlying premise of Ali’s art. Even though these paintings seem childlike at first glance, there is something else at work, something at once darker and more fully true. It’s funny, sad, uplifting, painful, exhilarating stuff, full of whimsical images and unexpected emotions. If you are near Bismarck, do yourself a favor and stop by the Bismarck Art Gallery and experience these lovely pieces of pain and joy for yourself. If you’re not, then spend some time looking around the virtual gallery at You’ll be the richer for it.

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