Dan Johnson, “I Love These Most of All,” Digital, 9 x 12 in, is on display at the FMVA Constraint exhibit, now showing at Plains Art Museum through Jan. 14, 2023. Contributed Image/Plains Art Museum
Spend any amount of time outdoors (sans the cell phones, and ideally, also people you don’t like) and you’re likely to walk away with a renewed sense of contentment. Perhaps even happiness.
Call it what you will, but that peaceful, happy feeling is full of spiritual lessons. Ralph Waldo Emerson knew it. Henry David Thoreau, too. But you don’t have to immerse yourself in early American transcendentalist literature to fully understand the connection humans have between nature and spirituality. Just head to the Plains Art Museum for FMVA’s Constraint exhibit. They got you.
Hazel Belvo, “Homage to Monet,” 2011, Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in., is on display at Plains Art Museum. Contributed Image/Plains Art Museum
Navigating ways nature nurtures spirituality is precisely the idea behind Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artist’s 2022 Constraint Show, now exhibiting in the William and Anna Jane Schlossman Gallery at the Plains through Jan. 14, 2023.
Steve Jacobs, director of curatorial and operational logistics at the museum, said the annual exhibit, which is organized by FMVA, always follows a specific theme. The museum simply hosts the work by FMVA artists, though Jacobs had a hand in developing the 2022 theme.
“This year, that theme was designed to encourage artists to draw inspiration from current exhibitions at the museum,” Jacobs said. The goal of this exhibition was to capture the power and majesty present in nature, and reflect on time when you may have encountered that power yourself.”
Doug Stuckle, “Prairie Woman,” Oil, 30 x 40 in.
Benevolence for Belvo
Featuring more than 50 regional artists, many who are FMVA members, pieces represented in Constraint draw deep inspiration from Minnesota-based artist Hazel Belvo, whose exhibition, “Hazel Belvo—For Love,” is running concurrently at the museum.
“FMVA provides the artists and the artworks. Working with FMVA allows the museum access to a vast number of local artists producing works in a wide range of media,” Jacobs said. “The theme was further inspired by Belvo and a number of landscape paintings and other depictions of nature representing her deep connection with certain places, as well as a record of her travels through art.”
Belvo is a well-known landscape artist and regional feminist activist, and the subject of a recent biography titled, “Hazel Belvo: Matriarch of Art,” by Twin Cities Art Historian Julie L’Enfant.
Belvo’s seven-decade-long (and counting) career came into popularity when she began painting individual cellular structures up close, which evolved into subjects ranging from trees to love to travel. She lives and spends much of her time in northeastern Minnesota, and frequently draws on the trees and other structures to help her make sense of the vaguely human ways nature presents itself. For example, one of Belvo’s popular pieces shows a tree constructed with human characteristics growing from a Lake Superior cliffside.
Regionally, most interest for her works centers around how she renders the power of nature and spontaneous encounters with it that inspired the Constraint exhibition.
“Everyone’s experience with art is unique and intrinsic,” Jacobs said. “But if viewers walk away inspired to either create or to seek out a special place in the world that they feel a connection with and draw inspiration from, then I’d say the exhibition has done its job.”
Looking ahead to 2023
Jacobs is looking forward to a robust exhibition schedule for the museum in 2023. Here are some highlight:
- Gerald Cournoyer, a Native American artist and teacher from Bismarck
- This Is Not Black and White, featuring works from the collection that challenge the notion of a black and white image and looks to interpret these works in unique and challenging ways.
- Social Ceramics, an exhibition that looks at ceramic artwork from the perspective of how it can influence social change and justice, but also highlight the ubiquitous nature of ceramics as a medium we are all connected to.
If you go
There are no admission fees for the museum. Hours and exhibit information are available on the website at www.plainsart.org.
Plains Art Museum thanks our generous PlainsArt4All members and donors, and our Organizational Partners for their support. Additional support provided by The McKnight Foundation, Bush Foundation, The Arts Partnership, The FUNd at Plains Art Museum, and the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which receives funds from the North Dakota Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the author
Lonna Whiting is a freelance writer and owner of lonna.co, a content marketing and communications agency located in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a frequent contributor to The Arts Partnership’s content library and also provides strategic communications consultation to the organization.