Minneapolis fine art photographer Alejandra Pena flipped through a copy of her mother's little 1961 photography booklet "Taking Your Camera on the Road" as she reminisced about how much her mother inspired her.
Her mother worked as a Peace Corps volunteer, and as a kid, Pena was always fascinated with her vivid Kodachromes of India, as well as with vibrant images of far-away places she saw while flipping through "National Geographic."
"That was kind of the seed for me," she said.
Pena, now a mother and photographer herself, is the volunteer overseeing this spring's 31st annual Art Fete ("Fete" is French for "fair"), which opened last week and runs through April 27 at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.
Pena, one of the 64 artists represented in this year's show, entered "Critter Paws," a black-and-white photograph of skeletal paws dangling on the outside of a trapping shed.
"It's a very upsetting subject matter; it's chilling," she said of the piece, which is part of her series "Private American Landscape."
This year's Art Fete, the annual members' show for the Burnsville Visual Arts Society, presents a variety of media — oil, watercolor, photography, 3-D and graphic art. The pieces vary from more representational landscape paintings, such as Richard Mittelstadt's acrylic "Early Morning Flight," to abstract pieces like Andrew Nagahashi's "Colonies" (a triptych made with pen, spray paint, wood and resin) to Richard Monte's driftwood sculpture "Fish in Flight."
Each year, a trio of judges spends a morning debating and whittling down the competition to select a "Best of Show" winner. This award and other honors are presented in an awards show on opening night.
Last year, Pena said, they decided to incorporate an "Evening with the Judges," a salon-style event for artists to get more extensive feedback from the judges, which they are repeating this year.
"It's rare to have feedback for the artists from the judges themselves," Pena said. "It was a huge success. It's a really important way to learn."
Pena said one of the most important aspects of the show is the variety of experience levels of the artists represented. "We have emerging artists who have little experience exhibiting their work side-by-side with seasoned artists," she said.
Pena, who been taking photos for 18 years, became a member of the Burnsville Visual Arts Society after learning about it five years ago. She said she appreciates that the organization strives to provide educational and networking opportunities for members.
"I really look at it as an opportunity to build community and to learn something as well," she said. "It was a great little gem to come across."
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.