Levitate / Gravitate | Austin Stiegemeier

Showing May 2019 |  MacRostie Gallery |  Sponsored by Embrace Mental Health

beyond zero.jpg

Austin (Gettysburg, PA) is originally from Rathdrum, Idaho and was educated in the Northwest. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Printmaking from Western Washington University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Washington State University. He is a figurative painter interested in narratives of contemporary human drama in which desire, consumption and exploitation are interwoven. In his paintings and drawings he often juxtaposes dichotomous social relationships posing questions about human nature, and the absurdity of the modern condition.

Austin is an early career art professor and has taught a variety of studio art courses at five institutions of higher education in Washington State over the past five years, including courses in painting, drawing, printmaking, design, sculpture and illustration. His achievements have been recognized with both state and national awards and he has exhibited his work nationally.

“Levitate/Gravitate is a recent series of life-scale figures painted in the watercolor medium. These works discuss a metaphysical perspective on the human condition through an exploration of visual cues that suggest floatation. Individuals and objects in the paintings are depicted to be experiencing a type of liberation from the most basic human constraint, the reality of gravity. A large sheet of paper is stretched to a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood and painted on an easel. The vertical work surface not typically used for watercolor allows the paint to drip down the picture plane, a reminder of the downward force that each figure attempts to transcend.

While they are in a literal sense uplifting, many suggest a dichotomy between freedom and constraint and it is difficult to tell if figures are floating fluidly or frozen, trapped in an oppressive space. The paintings highlight a tension between opposing forces and are intended to allow their viewers to interpret these visual cues as metaphorical of the modern human condition: absurdity and reason, beauty and death, chaos and order, privilege and plight.”

You can find more of Austin’s artwork on his website at, or on his instagram at @stiggyart.


The 2019 little big show | Featuring lea friesen

Showing May 2019 |  Minnesota Gallery |  Sponsored by Grand Rapids State Bank

show3detail copy.jpg

In May, the MacRostie Art Center’s Minnesota Gallery will be filled with miniature-sized artworks from more than 50 artists. The artworks are no larger than 12 inches in any dimension and are priced at no more than $100. Mediums include ceramic art, sculpture, textile art, collage, watercolor, acrylic and oil paint, drawing, photography and more.

The artwork of artist Lea Friesen will be featured in this year’s miniatures exhibition. As the featured artist of this annual exhibition, Lea’s collection “Human is Human” reflects upon the United State’s current social climate and invites us to reconnect with our humanity through a diverse collection of portraits.

Lea Friesen has worked as an art instructor in an array of settings. While she has not worked specifically with immigrant populations, she intends to explore how art could be a medium for connection of immigrant and non-immigrant populations.

Friesen thinks of her art as a record that celebrates the intimate personal nature of relationships. These portraits are made with the intention of representing a universal human condition, something that crosses cultural and racial boundaries. The moments Friesen depicts are centered on observable experience. Her work also is inextricable from her role of being mother of four children as much of her work centers around them.

Friesen values the universal relationships that connect people from different backgrounds and cultures. The interactions we have with our children and the children in our communities are a beautiful way to build bridges.

“The exhibition Human is Human will benefit the nonprofit Centro Guadalupano. They are the outreach ministry for Holy Rosary Church, a mission parish in south Minneapolis. The ministry works with immigrants and refugees providing educational programs and human services. I will donate 30% of profits from my sales to the outreach program.

I am exploring portraiture in this exhibit. The work is a series of small paintings of individuals or family groupings. The family groups are based on photos of Ellis Island immigrants from the early 1900s; specifically the work of Lewis Hines. Hines was a social activist photographer working in the late 19th and early 20th century. His work documented immigrants and workers. He was the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee and his efforts at the documentation of child labor helped raised awareness of the immoral practice.

I am inspired by Lewis Hine’s work. His photography sought to show the humanity of the groups he focused on. It is this aim that I am also attempting. By making the paintings miniscule I invite the viewer to look closely at the image. The use of faces also is a way to catch the viewers’ attention and bring them closer. The act of bringing the public’s attention to the art is a way of bringing attention to the issue of the worldwide refugee and immigrant crisis.”