Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Soleful art in Paradise August 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:24 AM
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"1,001 Uses for Duct Tape" by Harry Skalski

THEY ARE NOT EXACTLY ruby slippers. They are, in fact, quite the opposite of the sparkly, magical heels worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Yet, angled on a pedestal under the strategically-placed lights of the art gallery, these one-of-a-kind silver flip flops shine with individual style, for they are made of shiny duct tape-wrapped board.

Welcome to “Shoe Stories,” the latest art exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. Here nearly 40 pieces of juried art, like “1,001 Uses for Duct Tape” by Harry Skalski of Northfield, fill the gallery. Artists were invited to submit a shoe-themed piece that fit inside a shoebox.

"Shoe Stories" opened Friday at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

The result is a show as magical and alluring as the Emerald City. As I circle the gallery, weaving in and out of displays, I feel as if I am on the yellow brick road, encountering not flying monkeys, but pieces of soleful art that engage and invite me to pause and ponder.

Visitors peruse "Shoe Stories" on the exhibit's opening night.

"Step on a line," a batik with stitching by Faribault artist Tami Oachs, received first place as judged by Minnesota State University-Mankato Professor Emeritus James Tanner.

"This is My Box," an oil on canvas by Cindy L. Brant of Faribault.

Internationally-renowned Faribault woodcarver Marv Kaisersatt's wood caricature, "If the Shoe Fits."

Faribault artist Deb Johnson's batik, "Hey, Baby, Let's Go For a Walk."

Truly, every artist has communicated some message, some idea, on the subject of shoes. Many have shared stories in addition to art.

Krista Kielmeyer Swanson, for example, presents a nostalgic remembrance of shopping at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a long-time family shoe store several blocks away and a co-sponsor of “Shoe Stories” along with Johnson Advisors. Writes Swanson: “To this day I can remember the feeling I would have when you handed me my shoes, tied with string. I felt so proud walking out of the store carrying my new shoes.”

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, "A Family Tradition Since 1949," and located at 128 Central Avenue in Faribault. Purchased shoes are still boxed and tied with string in this old-fashioned traditional shoe store.

As I read the stories, peruse the art, I begin noticing the shoes of other art gallery visitors—strappy leather sandals, shiny Mary Janes, sturdy two-toned practical ties, clogs…

"The Sole of Art," my blog art version of "Shoe Stories," inspired while photographing exhibit visitors' shoes.

And then I look down at my feet and my silver flip flops which, except for the field of flowers growing under my soles, resemble “1,001 Uses for Duct Tape.”

My silver flip flops, purchased at a major retailer.

“SHOE STORIES,” the idea of Faribault artist and PCA Gallery Committee member Arlene Rolf, is showing through September 25 in the Carlander Family Gallery. The art center is open Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 321 Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling