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Studio Hop showcases rich talent of local art scene

Initially, art was not necessarily about expressing herself, but finding a medium in which she enjoyed the process. Phyllis Joos said she found printmaking was exactly what she was looking for. (PHOTOS BY BRIAN EDWARDS | TRIBUNE)

Local artists from all over the region are converging this weekend in Willmar, New London and Spicer to give art enthusiasts a glimpse of their work.
The 12th annual Studio Hop event provides visitors an opportunity to tour artists’ studios while simultaneously viewing their work. The program will feature a vast array of different mediums and styles, from abstract painting to pottery.
Studios will be open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and citizens are encouraged to come meet and support their local artists. Complimentary food will be available at some studios and those visiting all of the studios will be eligible for prizes.
A total of 17 artists at nine studios will be showcasing their works; two are featured here.

The next chapter: The works of Phyllis Joos
Art comes in many forms and at different times in people’s lives.
This is the case for Phyllis Joos, a Hancock artist to be featured at the annual Studio Hop exhibit Friday and Saturday, who didn’t find her niche and passion for art until later in life.
Joos, currently working with prints and etchings, started dabbling in art when she took pottery classes as part of a continuing education program at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Her pottery teacher encouraged her to take up printmaking, but it didn’t resonate with her right away.
“When she recommended it, I thought it was a mistake,” Joos said. But inspiration came with practice, she said, and themes such as gender and nature emerged within her work.
Initially, art was not necessarily about expressing herself, but finding a medium in which she enjoyed the process. Joos said that she found printmaking, an unusually labor-intensive art form, was exactly what she was looking for.

Printmaking requires multiple steps, such as etching, dipping the plates in acid, adding ink to the etched plates and pressing them onto paper. The time from inception of an idea to finished product varies widely. A work session can last multiple hours, Joos said, with much of that time requiring her to be standing or moving around.
The amount of work that goes into printmaking can cause some to shy away, she said, and friends have often encouraged her to pick up painting or drawing. Nevertheless, the process, which often produces works much different than initially expected, is what continues to draw her back.
Many etchings are used multiple times in different works, out of both inspiration and necessity. The ink on an etching might need to be used several times until it is gone and that constraint often helps inspire creativity, Joos said. Pieces evolve as she adds layers, a defining aspect of her work. She puts down an initial print, many times a short written piece or fairy tale, and continues to add to it until she decides it is finished — which is often hard to determine.
“Print doesn’t have to be done,” she said. “It can evolve for a long time.”
A part-time library worker, literary elements shine through in her different pieces. Fairy tales and short stories often make up the backdrop for many of her prints, Joos said. Her identity as a mother, woman and member of a rural community are also evident in her work. She does many prints with seeds and nature in them, comparing how they grow and change to watching her children mature.
“It started maybe because I am a mother,” Joos said. “Maybe it’s because it’s what I know the best.”
Joos’ work will be on display at the A Thousand Cranes Gallery during Studio Hop.

An enduring education: The works of Della Conroy

Paint palettes, leftover from a previous day’s art class, litter the 15-foot-long table that nearly runs the length of Della Conroy’s lean studio in Hancock.
Overflowing with different signs of life — paintings, pottery, plants and a little blue parakeet fill the tight quarters. For Conroy, the space represents a number of things: a workplace, an escape, but most of all, a place to teach and learn.
“The main thing is that anybody can do this,” Conroy said. “ It’s a matter of learning and practicing.”
The pieces littered about different rooms are emblematic of an artist who refuses to be stuck within a certain medium. Oils, watercolors, traditional landscapes and abstract paintings are strewn throughout the space.
Her landscapes are often abstract-influenced, highlighting naturally occurring shapes and colors that bleed into one another. Inspiration seems to come in streaks, as Conroy said she will usually paint a series of paintings instead of one-ofs. This workflow has suited her well, she said, as she has different businesses that hang her work.
Conroy credits her attendance at annual workshops as one of the ways she continues to educate herself about new styles and techniques to keep her work fresh and ever-changing.
Another endeavor of hers, greeting cards, relies heavily on collaboration with another local artist. She said she will paint up to 12 different pieces with a certain theme, such as sympathy. The other artist, a writer, will keep the paintings for a couple months until inspiration comes to her. If it does, she will send Conroy a poem or small piece to go within the card.
“She shocks me with what she does write sometimes,” Conroy said, adding that the writing often reflects something she never associated with the painting. If the writer isn’t inspired by a piece within the few months she has it, she sends it back to Conroy.
Using art to connect people is a theme that runs through Conroy’s life, starting with her time playing organ for her church and continuing in the art lessons she gives to local children. The key to enjoy art, she said, is finding a medium you enjoy working with.
“When kids are 4 or 5, they think they can do anything,” Conroy said. “They get to third grade and say, ‘I can’t do that.’”
To be able to overcome the nervousness and self-consciousness surrounding expression at a young age helps children carry that confidence into adulthood.
Conroy often finds way to collaborate and spend time with other artists — both budding and established. She relishes any chance to get together with other creatives.
For the fifth year, her work will be on display Friday and Saturday during the area’s annual Studio Hop event.
Conroy’s work will be on display at the A Thousand Cranes Gallery during Studio Hop.