Today’s guest is Karen O’Kane, a writing friend of mine who had her art exhibit featured in the Fine Arts building at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair. More than 2,600 people entered their artwork into this year’s juried competition. Karen’s artwork was one of the 300 accepted into the exhibit. Here’s her story.
Thanks for joining me on the blog today, Karen. I’m so happy that your piece was selected for the Fine Arts Exhibit! Congratulations.
You and I met in July 2014 in your driveway on our way with two others to Montana for a writing retreat. I remember well the constructed art hanging next to your front door. It was so unique.
Hi Julie, it’s so good to talk with you. Yes, I remember well our first meeting. The four of us were so excited for our writing excursion to Montana. And I remember your comment about my art piece as well. I did not realize the significance of it until a few days ago when I started piecing together the many steps that had taken place to see my exhibit placed into the Minnesota State Fair. Your approving comment before our trip sparked something in me.
Tell us a little about the piece your created and entered into the fair’s exhibit.
I created a metal wall sculpture of a ship in stormy waters. A re-claimed wood and metal shop-table I found from an old house in Waconia, Minnesota, served as the canvas.
When I got the piece home, I set it on a saw horse and looked at it for several weeks. Eventually, I laid a rusty 18” c-clamp on it, a natural boat hull to me, and started to build from there.
What made you decide to enter it into the fine arts competition?
After visiting the Fine Arts building a couple of years in a row, I asked staff if anyone could display their art there. When they said yes, I thought, hmmm, well, maybe one day maybe I would submit something. A year later, this year, after another friend commented on the piece, and that I should submit it, I decided to give it a try.
What is the process for a person who’d like to enter an art piece into the fair? Is each work judged?
The process for submission is quite easy. An online form, and a picture of your work is all that’s required to get started. After that has been sent, the artist is notified by email, if they will move on to phase two. If so, the piece is brought to the Fine Arts Building for judging. If the artists’ work is accepted, again they are notified by email.
What is your piece called?
My piece is called “Ship to Sea.”
What was your inspiration for creating it? How did this idea come to you?
My inspiration for creating it is my love of the ocean and boats. I also love the idea that my maternal grandfather – my mother’s father – made wood boats as an occupation. Following in his footsteps gives me a lot of pleasure. Being raised on the Maine coast also inspired me.
What is the artwork comprised of?
The sculpture is comprised of many “found” items: An antique c-clamp, sheep sheers, a trailer pin, galvanized floor joist brackets, light switch plates, a tire jack iron, to name some.
I noticed a price tag on your piece, but on others, there were no prices What is that about?
The artist has the option to place the art for sale or not. It is entirely an individual choice.
Did you end up selling your piece? How did that transpire? What was that like to have to part with your creation?
Yes, I ended up selling my art. If someone wants to buy a piece they pay the Fine Arts Foundation the total cost, and then pick the piece at the conclusion of the fair. I had mixed emotions on parting with my sculpture. First, there was disbelief that someone would even want it. Then there was a sense of wow. Then I felt honored, and validated, and giddy, and excited all at once. And then after that, I felt a little sad. Sad I would not have it by me. It may sound odd, but your work becomes a little part of you. I remember when I first dropped it off, how it felt like I was bringing my baby to college. A little separation anxiety for sure. But now I’m happy that it may bring joy to the purchaser.
How far in advance did you have to submit something? Were there parameters that you had to follow?
There is a deadline in which to submit. All information needed is available on the Minnesota State Fair website. Submission usually starts in April.
Do you think you’ll submit something next year? What was your whole experience with submitting something to the fair?
I’m not sure if I will submit again, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. The whole experience was a blast. I had so much fun with it.
Anything new on your artistic horizon?
I anticipate starting my next project shortly. Getting excited to create again. There are a few ideas bouncing around my head. Not sure what exactly, but it it’s probably safe to say there’ll be a boat in it.
Thanks so much, Karen, for sharing your creative process as well as your journey to entering your sculpture in the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll look forward to hunting your piece down in the Fine Arts building next year!
Thank you so much Julie. It was great to talk to you.
If people are interested in contacting you to create an art piece for them, how should they contact you?
People can reach me by my email. That is, email@example.com
Julie Saffrin is the author of numerous published articles and essays. Her latest book, BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life, explores the power of gratitude and offers 120 creative ways to journey toward positive, lasting change.