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Two Exhibits Start Season in Ashford Art Gallery
Photographs and paper artwork featured in first two exhibits

“Reflections on Detroit,” an exhibit featuring photographs from a spring service trip to Detroit, Mich., is the first exhibit of the season in Ashford University’s Cortona Art Gallery. Co-sponsored by Ashford’s Art Department and Ashford’s Service Learning Department, the exhibit runs through September 7.

Beginning on September 15, the gallery will be filled with the art of Zaiga Minka Thorson. Titled “Works on Paper,” the exhibit will feature graphite drawings, watercolors, pen and ink with ink washes, and a couple of Thorson’s favorite linoprints. The exhibit will run through October 8. A reception will be held in the gallery from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 8, which will include an artist’s talk at 3:30 p.m.

“Nature has always soothed my soul. The connection between nature and spirituality has become a more conscious interest of late, but I think it has always been at my core. Perhaps it is a reflection of growing up in Michigan, where the woods and ponds near home served as a playground filled with a variety of shapes, colors, and textures to explore,” said Thorson who has been teaching art at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill. since 1999. She holds a BFA in painting, with a concentration in graphic design, from Western Michigan University and an MFA in painting from Northern Illinois University.

“Perhaps it is a connection with my Latvian ancestry,” Thorson said. “The ancient Letts worshiped a variety of nature deities who were formidable figures in childhood folktales. Reflecting on childhood memories, the transition of my role as mother to children now leaving the nest, and pondering the mysteries of what lies ahead in this earthly realm and perhaps, some other, are all things I think about.”

The artist added, “More recent drawings and paintings begin as very loose, spontaneous washes. The surface is saturated with water and a variety of media are applied with a brush. I often mist the surface again with water and guide the ink or paint as it pools and meanders, creating fissures and fractals. Once dry, shapes and patterns seem to emerge and I rework the surface with pen and ink or a brush. Organic contours become visible, along with symbols from my heritage, a raven I encountered hiking in the woods, or the texture of a mossy rock. I try to let my intuition guide me as I make compositional and spatial decisions. Rereading Carl Jung’s work and exploring Native American design and folklore, particularly with regard to guardian spirits, informs my work, as well. Often as I reflect on the work later, I realize a personal connection.”

“Nature continues to serve as a catalyst for quiet reflection and stokes my desire to capture the spirit of a place or passage in time,” she noted.

Thorson exhibits her work regionally and nationally. She serves on the education committee for the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa and has served on the Rock Island Preservation Commission and the Visual Arts Committee for the Quad City Arts gallery in Rock Island, Illinois. Her interests include research and travel to several national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some of her favorite destinations have been Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks; the Lake Powell region in Page, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lake Leelaunau in Michigan; and Italy.

The Cortona Art Gallery is located on the second floor of Ashford University’s St. Clare Hall at 400 North Bluff Boulevard in Clinton. The gallery is named for Sister Cortona

Phelan, OSF, former president of Mount St. Clare College (MSC) and former president of the Sisters of St. Francis. For many years, Sister Cortona influenced the quality of education at the college through her teaching of American history and her love of the arts. She also served as MSC Academy principal and as dean of students at the college.

The gallery is open to the public, free of charge, every weekday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and for private showings by appointment. For further information, please call 563.242.4023.


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