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Hoping to sell her paintings and prints, many of which present a mish-mash of traditional oil paintings, photographs and digital alterations, artist Lonnie Broden will load up a booth for the first time at the Uptown Art Fair during this year's run.
But despite it being her first time at the much-revered annual festival -- widely considered the biggest art fair in the state and rated among the best in the country -- her work has become the face of this year's show.
The Orono-based artist created the piece selected as this year's commemorative print, which an eight-judge panel agreed captured the Uptown Art Fair spirit as well as this year's theme of fusion of art, flair and flavor.
And how could it not? Broden describes her style as "a lot of stuff pulled together."
Her winning piece features three photographs stitched together to show the Uptown Theatre's iconic sign, refined details like added-in illustrated lights layered with paintings and other photographs that Broden felt epitomize the art fair experience. The lifespan of the fair is spelled out on the left side of the painting, with each year in its history listed.
"It's a great opportunity for me to show a new technique, a new way of doing things in art," she said. "I'm really happy about that."
For the first time in the fair's 46 years, organizers decided to have a contest to select the commemorative print's design. More than 20 entries spanning a variety of media came in from across the country, said art fair chief executive officer Maude Lovelle, who is also the executive director of the Uptown Association, which puts on the fair.
The judging panel, made up of professional artists and fair planners, pored over the prospective 2009 signature artwork and came to a unanimous decision.
"We pulled them out one by one, and when Lonnie's came out, it was just like, 'That's it,'" Lovelle said. "Her art that she created had so much thought behind it. It was the one."
"It's truly thrilling," said Broden, 63, a native of rural Murdock, Minn. "This is really the first time that there's been much attention to the work."
Hailing from a creative family, Broden said she was raised around art. Still, her small-town schooling afforded little in the way of art education, and she largely taught herself until she headed to the University of Minnesota, Morris.
In classes there, she grew to love impressionism and embraced it as her painting style.
"Even if I try not to paint like that, my work is always like that," Broden said.
She went on to parlay her artistic skills into a 25-year career in exhibit design at the Science Museum of Minnesota. She retired in January 2008 to focus on her art career. She also teaches exhibit design at the University of Minnesota.
Working at the museum required Broden to learn digital design programs that she later used to revamp paintings and photographs, a method that became the cornerstone of the mixed-media art Broden now creates.
"This is just a great world to be in," she said, "to straddle both the tradition of oil painting and take that as far as I want, and the new digital stuff, too."
Sometimes, Broden said, she runs into trouble trying to enter her work in art shows. It often doesn't fit neatly into a given category, she said, because it encompasses many art forms.
But Broden said she never meant to be an artistic trailblazer. Rather, she's simply continuing a lifelong passion for art, melding what she likes with the tech savvy she has.
"I fooled around with something that I thought really held great possibilities," she said. "I kept them pretty separate for a long, long time. Then it just occurred to me that this could work."
Margaret King, who designed Science Museum exhibits with Broden for 20 years, said Broden's passion for art has found its way into all areas of her life. Even on getaways, Broden would bring art supplies.
"It was just a part of her," King said. "She always had a really good idea of what makes you want to look at something."
The same goes for the Uptown Art Fair print. Part of why Broden's piece is "the one," as Lovelle put it, is its ability to draw people in.
"You can walk up to it and everybody sees something different, but everybody gets it," Lovelle said. "I get it. I see it. This is it."
Karlee Weinmann • 612-673-7278