When local artist Amy Rice purchased property Up North, she didn’t anticipate that her neighbors would inspire a painting — by stealing her building supplies.
Track 29 Gallery
“It’s been hilarious,” she says, of the beavers that have taken up residence on the land. “Who would have ever thought they’d incorporate our supplies into their dam and into their lodge?”
Initially, she thought the beavers would have to be evicted, but it “turns out they’re doing really neat things for us,” she says. “They’re turning our river into a pond. They’re reshaping the landscape in a way that I think will be great for us long-term.”
This unlikely alliance is portrayed in a painting that will be part of the upcoming "Delightful 10" exhibition that Rice is mounting with fellow artist and friend Jennifer Davis. In the work, titled Beaver Collaboration, a titular critter contemplates a collection of painted sticks on the ground; the aforementioned lodge, dam, and the river are in the background. Rice has been tinkering with the idea of leaving colored sticks out to see if the beavers will use them, but she hasn’t attempted it yet.
The painting is just one example of Rice’s animal-themed oeuvre. A lifelong and self-taught artist, she grew up on a farm in southern Wisconsin near Madison. A 4-H girl, she showed artwork as well as sheep, cattle, and rabbits at county and state fairs.
Though she later studied sociology at Augsburg, Rice has been a full-time artist for the last five years, honing her delicate, realistically whimsical painting style that focuses on wildlife, nature scenes, and flowers. A new homeowner in the Twin Cities as well, Rice has become invested in gardening, and the floral imagery in her work reflects what she’s been growing.
While Rice’s fascination with the natural world mirrors Davis’ artistic themes, the two painters’ aesthetics are unique. Davis’ work is more abstract, uses stark color contrasts, and has a foreboding energy to it. It’s clear in the eyes of Davis’ animals that they rule the land; we humans, the viewers of the scenes, are mere visitors.
“Jennifer can paint a sloth, and it is authentic to her and expresses something through her and about her even if she has never met the sloth,” Rice explains. “I just couldn’t draw a sloth, because I’ve never met a sloth. If she were to paint phlox, which are purple and green, she couldn’t paint them purple and green. She’d have to make them her own thing, whereas it would be really hard for me to not paint them purple and green.”
Rice discovered Davis’ artwork early on via mnartists.org, and went to see one of her shows at the Rosalux Gallery. “I never thought that I would be in that same realm. I really looked up to her,” Rice says of Davis. A couple of years later, Davis encouraged Rice to join Rosalux; the two became friends, collaborated on artwork, and exhibited in a joint show titled “Delightful.” “I was nervous and excited,” Rice says. “I’m just as nervous and excited 10 years later to show with her.”
Davis arrived at art after a period of uncertainty about what to major in while an undergrad at the University of Minnesota. She took a drawing class and found her calling, graduating with a BFA two years later. She initially worked at ad agencies but was laid off in 2003. She used her unemployment checks as a springboard to do art full-time.
Davis’ artistic bread-and-butter are custom pet portraits. “I’m an animal fanatic, like a crazy cat lady,” she says. “I just love them. I like painting animals more than I like painting people. Animals kind of stand in for people in the work.”
As the friendship between the two women has matured, the artwork has as well. “We both started off doing more pastel, cutesy animal things,” Davis says. “When we got together to look at art for this show, it was kind of astonishing how even our color palettes have changed together into darker, bolder colors. It’s really weird how our work parallels each other's over the years, but it’s unintentional.”
IF YOU GO:
Jennifer Davis and Amy Rice
Track 29 Gallery
The opening reception is from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 23
Through October 2
Free; all ages