Visual Art 8-29-2006

State Fair Winners: Textiles and Photography

Barbara Martinson and Ryan Kane are this year's winners in the categories of Textiles and Photography respectively. Read on to get the back-story on the winning artwork by these two talented artists.

Clandestine Incantations
Splish Splash


Barbara E. Martinson,

Clandestine Incantations (Textile paint and dye on
cotton fabric)

Martinson, this year’s winner in the Textiles category, is a St.
native who teaches graphic design in the University of Minnesota’s
Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel. She’s loved working with textiles
since her days as a graduate student at the U of M. “I loved working with dying
and printing, but I mostly put those interests away until I finished my Ph. D
in Design.” She unearthed that passion as a reprieve from spending so much time
working with software to create digital designs. She explains, “Textile work is
very material-based and hands-on. It’s a good complement to all the computer
work I do. It’s important for me to find some balance between digital work and
using my hands. Whether I’m working on the computer or with my hands, though, I
think of myself as a ‘maker’ more than a ‘designer.’”

State Fair competition-winning piece, Clandestine
is a genre-defying work combining photography, printing, and
textiles. The imagery of the piece was inspired by a recent trip abroad,
specifically a sculpture of two mysterious women she photographed at the
Louvre. She printed the photo on fabric, adjusting the image by hand to suit
her purposes, juxtaposing the strength of the stone with diaphanous textures
and open stitching. “I was amazed at how I could change the story [of these two
women] simply by manipulating the image. It was almost like being a kid,
playing dress-up with these figures.”

asked to describe her artistic interests, she’s uncomfortable with neat
categories. “I work with collage sometimes, too, but my collages often end up
looking like textiles. I prefer to think there’s a kind of dialogue between my
textile work and the graphic design work I do—one feeds off the other.”

research areas are as diverse as her artistic inclinations. One of Martinson’s
current interests is the use of color in design, and she recently curated an
exhibit for the Goldstein
, Seeing Color, exploring the topic. At
this point, she’s looking forward to taking a sabbatical year to pursue
research on the interplay of ethics, craft, and design.


Ryan Kane, Inver Grove Heights

Splish Splash (Digital

Kane is a native of a small town, Plentywood, in northeastern Montana. He first came to Minnesota
for college, graduating from Concordia
College in Moorhead with a Mathematics degree in 1994.
After a stint teaching high school in North Dakota for a couple of years, he
returned to Minnesota, where he now works as a software engineer and lives with
his wife, Colleen, and their two small children.

years of watching his dad explore working in various arts, Kane comes by his
artistic bent naturally. But he had a difficult time finding his niche at
first. “My father had many artistic hobbies while I was growing up. He painted,
did stained glass, leatherwork, carving, and photography. I tried to carry on
his legacy, but was poor at everything except photography.”

a good photographer he certainly is. Kane’s winning picture of his son Riley, Splish Splash, was
taken just after Christmas 2004 on a visit back home to see his folks in
Plentywood. His photo captures the exuberance of bath-time with a happy baby
and brings with it the warmth and intimacy of a family photo—but most of us
will only take snapshots with this kind of delicate immediacy in our dreams. You’d
be surprised to learn that his wife had to talk him into entering Splish Splash for the Fine Arts competition
this year. After his photograph submission last year didn’t even make it into
the running, he was unsure about it.

with the win under his belt, Kane remains self-deprecating.
believe my best skill as a photographer is having the camera ready. My mother
does scrap-booking for my son with pictures I take. My wife spotted this
picture as she was going through the album with a friend, and she encouraged me
to submit it. She’s my biggest supporter, but we were both very pleasantly
surprised to see the blue ribbon.”

credits an online community of photographers with helping him make the most of
his talent. “I learned most of what I know about photography by reading the
forums at Digital Photography Photographers there inspired me by showing me
what was possible with the tools I already had.” He describes himself as a purely amateur,
hobbyist photographer for the time being—no galleries, no shows. But maybe all that’ll
change now that he’s become an “award-winning photographer” (about which he
says, “it still makes me want to laugh when I write or say that”). Then again,
perhaps he’ll shelve that ambition for a while. At the moment, with his now nearly
three-year-old son and daughter Maggie, just born this past March, I’ll bet he and his wife are keeping busy enough as it is.