Two artists pair up to produce one work across six canvasses

  • Article by: LIZ ROLFSMEIER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2014 - 12:33 AM

A pair of friends collaborated on a single piece across six canvasses.

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Bonnie Cutts, left, showed one of her works to longtime friend, fellow artist and collaborator Cynthia Starkweather-Nelson.

Photo: Photos by Liz Rolfsmeier • Special to the Star Tribune,

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This past spring, artists and longtime friends Bonnie Cutts and Cynthia Starkweather-Nelson were up north hiking in the snow along the Temperance River. Cutts turned to her friend and asked, “What about us doing a piece together?”

Starkweather-Nelson agreed. This summer, the two spent a week at Starkweather-Nelson’s cabin in Wisconsin, where the Mendota Heights artist created a makeshift studio on her porch. They held what they called their “lakeside residency,” or “art camp” for adults.

At the cabin, they spent their days creating a hexaptych, a dynamic image that stretches across six canvasses, called “Something In Between.”

The 12-foot piece is the focal point of their joint show of the same name, which runs Sept. 4 through Oct. 12 at the Ames Center gallery in Burnsville. The show also features more than 20 new pieces by the two.

“I think it was a good experience as far as stretching the boundaries,” said Cutts of the collaborative painting. “It’s kind of like a collage.”

Friends, but unalike

The styles of the two artists differ significantly.

Cutts, of Cedar, Minn., who recently sold a group of paintings to Minnesota’s Ridgewater College, tends toward the abstract.

Her more recent work is inspired by “brainbow” images, in which brain neurons are lit up by fluorescent proteins. Her son, a neuroscience major, brought the images to her attention a couple of years ago because he felt they resembled her artwork.

She now consciously uses neuroimaging to inform her work, which has trickles of paint that resemble neural pathways and Technicolor cell-like structures.

Cutts, who teaches workshops on using various mediums to create texture, often layers her work with acrylic and pumice gels and thick layers of paint. She also likes to do incising, or scratching, into the work using a sgraffito technique.

“I pull things from the bottom, the back,” she said. “I love my texture. It’s like getting down, digging in the dirt.”

Starkweather-Nelson, who taught at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights for 13 years, is a member of Project Art for Nature, a group that uses artwork to promote preserving and restoring natural areas. Her most recent work is more representational than Cutts’ work, often depicting shallow areas of water and the layers of colors and shadows underneath the water’s rippling surface.

Starkweather-Nelson’s painting “Freeze Frame” just received Best of Show at Maple Grove Arts Center.

“It’s almost like a snapshot of the water,” said Lorrie Link, executive director of the arts center. “She has mastered a technique of painting the depths of the water, and the reeds going into the water.”

Kayak effects

Starkweather-Nelson said she works from digital images she takes while kayaking in the waters by her cabin.

  • related content

  • Starkweather-Nelson’s “Waltz” is a study of light and shadow in shallow water.

  • Bonnie Cutts and Cynthia Starkweather-Nelson discussed their collaborative painting, “Something In Between,” which will be on display with other new paintings by the artists at an upcoming show at the Ames Center in Burnsville.

  • Bonnie Cutts took her inspiration for “Briefly” from a neuroimaging technique developed by scientists.

  • If you go

    Where: Ames Center gallery, 12600 Nicollet Av., Burnsville (formerly Performing Arts Center, on Nicollet between Hwy. 13 and Burnsville Pkwy)

    When: Sept. 4 to Oct. 12

    Opening reception: Sept. 4, 6-8 p.m.

    Also: There will be a conversation with the artists about their work from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 11, courtesy of Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota.

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