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Turning reading into art

April 14, 2012
Marshall Independent

By Cindy Votruba

MARSHALL - In the latest exhibit by Dawson artist Lucy Tokheim, there should be a few familiar faces.

Tokheim's exhibit "Bookface, Portraits of People Reading Books" consists of 20 oil paintings of people from around the region reading their favorite kind of books.

There will be a public reception for the exhibit from 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. Howard and Jody Mohr, Dr. C. Paul Martin, Jessica Pederson and other portrait subjects will read from their favorite works. The exhibit runs through May 10 in Marshall before going to the library in Willmar.

Tokheim had gotten a Legacy grant to do the project and for part of it, she would write a regular blog.

"That was the fun part of the project, I had never done a blog before," she said. She said the blog enhances the exhibit because it was a way she'd tell about her experiences as she'd do a portrait of a subject.

Tokheim started doing the paintings in late June of last year.

"I did the portraits in basically six months," she said.

And the way she chose the subjects was not random because she knew most of them.

"I picked people who I thought would say yes," she said. "I knew it was kind of a favor for people to be willing to sit for an hour to an hour-and-a-half."

She also selected people who liked to read and wanted to get a diversity of people.

"Old and young, male and female and people sprinkled around the region," she said. Some of the subjects are from Marshall, Cottonwood and Minneota, she said. "Most of them thought it was kind of fun. It was very enjoyable to get a chance to observe these people."

Tokheim said it's hard to get live models in order to draw people. In her portraits for "Bookface," she noticed the concentrated attention people put into reading, where they shut the world out.

"To me, it's a private conversation we have with the authors that we read," Tokheim said. "When I was painting I was sort of having a private conversation with my subjects."

She said that she noticed people have an interesting look when they're reading. Also, an important part of the project was to get herself to be a traveling artist. When she was doing the portraits, she wouldn't know exactly what setting she'd have or what kind of lighting would be involved.

"That was a function of being on the move," she said.

She said she painted in a coffee shop courtyard, a public library and a classroom.

"It was fun to load up my portable easel and oil painting gear to travel around the region for six months like a WPA artist from the 1930s," she said. "I like to paint quickly from life to try to capture something essential in a person."

Tokheim said she just adored doing the project. For some of the works, she took photographs and then would take the paintings home to take them in another direction.



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