Pathways to Art

local artists find their way to ArtsWest 40 exhibition

Marie Anthony

THE BEST OF THE WEST. This year’s ArtsWest juried exhibit at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire drew 220 submissions from 139 artists. Sixty works were selected for display, including “Flight of Descending Shadows” by Bruce Warren (above) and “Progression” by Denise Presnell (right). The show will be on display April 7-May 28 during regular library hours.
THE BEST OF THE WEST. This year’s ArtsWest juried exhibit at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire drew 220 submissions from 139 artists. Sixty works were selected for display, including “Flight of Descending Shadows” by Bruce Warren. The show will be on display April 7-May 28 during regular library hours.

One set off to be a nurse; one was a sociology professor; and one found art to be the truest expression of her life. Whether art became a part of their lives at first breath or whether it found them later, it has been a cornerstone for these three artists: David Caradori, Bruce Warren, and Denise Presnell.

Since its inception in 1979, ArtsWest has provided a venue for hundreds of artists to come together and for community members to connect and support art in a more tangible and personal way. The 40th ArtsWest show will hang in the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library April 7-May 28. This year Caradori, Presnell, and Warren will be among the exhibit’s featured artists. They were very welcoming and excited to share their thoughts about art, ArtsWest, and how art has influenced their lives.

“Progression” by Denise Presnell.
“Progression” by Denise Presnell.

“Well, I’m a cliché in that I can’t draw,” Warren said, laughing. “Amongst all my friends, I was the one non-artist, but photography became my artistic outlet.” For Warren – former sociology professor and a member of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library Visual Arts Committee – art began as a hobby when he was 19 years old. It eventually became his way of life, and he went pro in the mid 1980s. Warren humorously refers to himself as a knuckle-dragging Luddite who relishes in his “old-school” practices of taking photos with his camera and a black cloth. “I only develop six prints at a time,” he says. “If I do more than six, I find it complicates my process, and I end up getting bored.” Through his photography, Warren wants to help people re-see things that have always been around and gone unnoticed. “I find it rewarding when people stop me and say: ‘You know, I have walked by that place hundreds of times and I’ve never seen it that way. How did you see that?’ ”

Warren has been a participant in ArtsWest since the early ’90s. What he likes most about ArtsWest is the “regional flair.” “Yes, there’s a competitive element to it, but that’s not the most important thing to me,” Warren said. “I just feel grateful and honored that I ever get in in any given year. The other unique thing about ArtsWest is that no matter how many artists I think I know, I am always introduced to someone new each year.”

Denise Presnell is a newcomer to this year’s exhibit. While art infiltrated Warren’s life over time, Denise has always felt the presence of art in her world.

Gail Schellinger
"Lunchbox Lucy" by Gail Schellinger

“Art is the truest expression of my life,” she said. “I only think of myself as an artist.” Presnell received a bachelor of fine arts in printmaking and drawing from the University of Nebraska and an master of fine arts from Penn State. She then taught at the college level for over 30 years. Presnell is excited to experience ArtsWest for the first time. Through her art she highlights the process of image-making. As an abstract artist, she approaches her subject matter with an open mind – letting the process speak through her as she creates her marks and shapes. “I never have a plan; I let the plan happen to me,” Presnell said.

Caradori didn’t plan to become a potter and an artist. He planned to become a nurse. When he took a ceramics course one summer, things changed. He knew then that he could never be happy as a nurse. As a nursing student Caradori was used to studying habitually, but he remembers that summer and spending hours in the studio.

“I would spend an entire day with my pottery,” Caradori said. “I never once thought about the hours passing me by or what I was missing. It was the only time I loved what I was doing.”

Caradori appreciates the opportunity ArtsWest gives for him to make his art accessible to members of the community. Caradori wants to make his art accessible to everyone. “I want to communicate the idea that pottery is usable art,” he said. “It’s interactive art.”

ArtsWest reminds us that art is not something that separates classes of people. Art is not something that should only be showcased in fancy, pristine galleries. Art is for everyone. Perhaps Caradori captures the essence of ArtsWest best when he says: “People want to put art on a pedestal, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

ArtsWest 40 • April 7-May 28 • opening reception and awards 7pm Thursday, April 11 • L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St., Eau Claire • FREE

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