Looking to past, present, future through photography at Red Wing Arts
Chicago couple connected with Red Wing and continue to come every year.
RED WING -- Red Wing Arts’ current show features husband and wife photographers Liat and James Smestad. He shows black-and-white photos from his time as a journalistic photographer and she displays photos from her most recent visit to Vietnam.
While the topics are very different, they do a nice job of showing the diversity and beauty of photography.
The show is dedicated to Dan Guida, a former director of Red Wing Arts, and the father of Emily Guida Foos, the organization’s current director.
"Why it’s dedicated to my dad," Guida Foos explained, "is James and Liat took a train here maybe eight years ago, seven years ago, just to come visit and popped into the gallery. My dad tended to open it if there were a lot of train people waiting, open it up to expose anybody who wanted to. So, they came in, of course made a connection and started talking, have since come back every year at the holidays and stay at the St. James and just enjoy being in Red Wing. And so throughout my dad’s time here he got to know them a little bit more and realized they were both artists."
The first room of the gallery features James Smestad’s work.
In a short statement that he gave to accompany his work, the photographer writes:
"To work as a wire service photographer meant never knowing what would be covered: the exception was a scheduled sporting event. I covered over 1,300 Major League Baseball games, plus an unknown number of all major league teams in football, basketball, hockey to include Division-One colleges such as Northwestern and Notre Dame plus seven Super Bowls."
From the thousands of photos that Jim took during his career, he selected a handful to display at The Depot. They show a new-born gorilla, an ump and baseball coach arguing face to face, Marilyn Monroe, Castro’s son, the first female mayor of Chicago and many other interesting shots that can serve as time capsules for past decades.
Liat Smestad’s work fills the second room of the gallery.
She is originally from Vietnam. According to Guida Foos, Smestad is a professor of fashion design at the Chicago Institute of Art.
"But photography is her joy," explained Guida Foos.
Her portion of the show features portraits of women, mostly from Vietnam, and landscapes from the same country. In her comment on the work, she writes:
"Travel offers glimpses of places beyond our everyday and as an artist, I want to capture a personal panorama of experience and time. With photographs, I create a document of people and places I’ve come into contact with."
She also explained, "Time reshapes the cities and stretches of land I’ve visited. An identical return to anywhere is impossible. Photography offers the opportunity for me to freeze the frenetic pace of growth and change, to linger in what was a second, and spend ample time noticing its every detail."
An opening reception for the show was Saturday, March 7. Along with local visitors the event brought to Red Wing Liat and James Smestad's family from Colorado, California and Chicago. This combination of community and art is one things that Guida Foos and Red Wing Arts strives for.
"One thing I pride ourselves in as an organization is the relationships we make with our artists," she said. "That is another reason why this was dedicated to my father, was just, that was who he was; people mattered and the artists mattered and I think it was very representative of that. Their family came in to be part of our family as an organization."
The combination of James Smestad’s journalistic photos of decades past with Liat Smestad’s images that capture an old and current Vietnam echo perfectly part of Red Wing Arts’ mission and vision:
"An appreciation of artistic expression helps us to remember our past, energizes our present, and develops a strong faith in our future."
If you go
The Liat & James Smestad exhibit will be on display through March 29. The gallery is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and by chance or appointment between noon and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Beginning in April the gallery will be open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
The April show will be the 19th annual Poet Artist Collaboration. The opening reception will be 5-7 p.m., Thursday, April 2. A reading and reception will be held 5-11 p.m., Friday, April 24. The second reception will begin at Red Wing Arts and move to the St. James Hotel for the reading.
For more information about the Liat & James Smestad exhibit, Poet Artist Collaboration exhibit and receptions and Red Wing Arts, visit redwingarts.org .