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What comes naturally

February 5, 2011
By Cindy Votruba

At Southwest Minnesota State University, you don't necessarily have to be an art student or an art professor to be part of an art show.

Members of SMSU staff and faculty have their artwork on display through Feb. 18 at the William Whipple Gallery on campus.

The exhibit features works from Jay Brown, Glen Bruns, Tom Dilley, Peg Furshong, Jerry Haas, Glenn Horky, Linda Nelson, Barb Okrina, Wanda Paluch, Pamela Sanders, Jacob Speer, John Sterner, Michele Knife Sterner, Jim Tate and Daniel Wahl. Art mediums range from needlework and photography to woodcarving and iron sculptures.

Dilley, an environmental science professor at SMSU, has a couple of his carved masks in the exhibit. He grew up in Alaska and was intrigued with the culture there, including the Yup'ik.

"I got into native art," Dilley said. Especially the masks and the shaman rattles, he said.

Totem poles and masks are two of the biggest things native people used to and still do carve in that part of the country, he said.

Dilley taught at the community college in Bethel, Alaska.

"We really got into the native culture," Dilley said. "They have a whole different spirit world."

Like her brother John, Michele Knife Sterner said her art reflects her Lakota culture. Her grandmother had told her brother that Lakota were artistic people and her family took it to heart.

"I?love looking at art and going to museums,"?Sterner said. "I've learned a lot from him (John)." She said seeing John's artistic process is amazing to her.

While her brother did more of the visual art, Sterner said she was into music in high school. But she did dabble a little in art.

"I like to draw and doodle a lot," Sterner said.

Dilley said he tends to work on his craft when he's away from school.

"I at least try to carve one to two masks every summer," Dilley said. "We collect all the materials for it naturally."

Dilley said he'll walk along the beach, finding feathers, driftwood and other items to create the masks. He'll also gather the clay to make the pigment for paint. All of the masks are carved by hand with a chisel, he said.

"It's a way to pass the time," Dilley said. Dilley said his son, Sean, has started helping him make a few of the masks.

Dilley said he draws his inspirations for his masks from seeing the old ones.

"The modern day revival masks are just beautiful," Dilley said. But they are also expensive, he said, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.

Dilley said he doubt he would do the carvings if they weren't native.

On her daughter Kaziah's request, Sterner decided to put a robot in the exhibit.

"My husband and I worked on it together with Kaziah," Sterner said.

Sterner and her brother helped out at a Dakota culture camp, doing different arts and crafts with the kids. One of the things they made was a wooden horse.

"I was able to make one with the students," she said. That horse is part of the exhibit. along with a Plains Indian doll made by Little Buffalo Crafts, an entrepreneurial program in Osseo that Sterner worked with.

But most of the artworks Sterner brought to the exhibit are pieces she made at the Lamberton Iron Days iron pour.

"I?think it's a fun process to watch,"?Sterner said of the iron pours. "They get it to come to life at the end of the day."



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