Tina Blondell: 100 Creatives
Number 43: Tina Blondell
Years spent living in MN: 15
There are no pop-culture icons featured in Tina Blondell's portraits. Instead, she chooses to capture regular folks in a moment in time. Recent pieces have included a gleeful female drummer ready to jam, a man casually enjoying a beer, and a family in swimsuits, the bulging belly of the mother suggesting that there will be a new addition any day now. They are the folks you sit next to in a bar, you pass on the sidewalk, and you smile at while riding the bus. They are Midwestern performers, parents, and craftsmen (sometimes they are all of the above). Some occasionally dress like super heroes, others prefer to chill on a couch. The subjects of her oil paintings are varied, and sometimes even unexpected, yet her works often contain narratives that are familiar.
Some of these works are currently on display in "Lace and Gunpowder," a group exhibition at the Bloomington Art Center pairing male and female artists in their medium of choice. Meanwhile, Blondell plans to continue her series celebrating the average American, and she plans to eventually expand her collection to include people from all over the country.
Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:
1. The diversity of the people who make up the broad term "Americans."
2. My family, friends, neighbors, and brilliant people whose impact is taken for granted or even unnoticed.
3. Because I live in Minneapolis all my subjects thus far are residents of the Twin Cities. So this particular segment of my work is specifically a story about Minnesotans.
Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:
1. My parents. They were very interested in exposing us to opportunities that would broaden our minds and creative processes. Starting when I was five, my father spent time teaching me to draw from life, and we spent many hours in art museums.
2. My environment. I grew up in several different countries where I had to learn different languages and customs. All this made me acutely aware of human behavior that transcended language. It is probably the reason I am so interested in people and telling their stories.
3. The early discovery and lifelong knowledge that I had an outlet for my passion and imagination. Again, I owe this to my parents who encouraged my interests.
What was your last big project?
I am always most excited about the thing I am currently working on. I am in the process of documenting people who are overlooked by our media, though who, in fact, represent the larger percentage of what I would consider Americans. These are not the manicured, perfectly coiffed subjects Hollywood and mainstream media would like the world to believe is representational of who Americans are, but the real people who live and breathe among us every day. Though my long-term plan is to include subjects from coast to coast, for the past four years I have concentrated on people living in the Twin Cities, so this first chapter is definitely about the local culture.
What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?
I have taken the past four years to build up a strong body of work that is representational of my current direction. I now feel ready to begin approaching venues that are willing to showcase this work. I have secured one solo exhibition at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Wisconsin in the spring of 2013, and hope to secure more venues in the months ahead. I am also one of the eight artists exhibiting with a traveling exhibition titled "Lace and Gunpowder" curated by John Schuerman.
Creative/career high point (so far)?
I have been very fortunate of being able to make my creative outlet my career. I have worked as a professional painter for over 30 years, and made it my full-time career in 1992.
I have had a number of recognitions, but among the top I would count my two museum acquisitions: one to the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the other to the Weisman Art Museum. My work has been highlighted in such publications as Gustav Klimt, published by the Neue Galerie New York Museum for German and Austrian Art; and a 14- page essay, "Living on the Outside of Your Skin: Gustav Klimt and Tina Blondell Show Us Judith," by Sarah Henrich published in Visual Theology: Forming and Transforming the Community through the Arts. Most recently, my work was included in an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, titled "Beware Her Wiles: Woman as Temptress in the Renaissance Tradition" (August-December 2010).
What has been your biggest challenge as a creative type?
I think that would probably be the fact that I have remained a painter my entire artistic career, even during the decades when it was not fashionable to be a painter -- especially a figurative realist. But I stuck with it in spite of the fact that I was often ridiculed for continuing on this path. I often found it frustrating that there is a common assumption that if your creative process takes you outside that which is currently in vogue you are ignorant to the current trends. Yes, I do visit museums, galleries, and read. I am aware, and have chosen this as my vehicle of communication. Fortunately for me, there has been a renewed interest in figurative painting in the past five years.
How has the Minnesota scene changed since you began working here?
Since I first moved here 15 years ago many exhibition venues have shut down, which has left artists with very little opportunity to showcase their work. Minnesota is filled with talented people who are underrepresented and under recognized for the wonderful creative people they are, so I am happy to see things like this list. There is so much positive energy within the art community here, and artists have been very creative about opening alternative exhibition spaces which often can be more interesting than commercial venues. I have faith that in time more exhibition spaces will reemerge.
Name another local creative type that you're currently excited about:
In all fairness, I can't just list one person. I know so many creative people in Minnesota. This is after all what my current work is about -- the unrecognized talent that surrounds us. So, I would say any of the people I have chosen to paint, and the ones I have yet to paint would all be great candidates.
Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.
Past creatives, so far:
81. Joseph Scrimshaw
80. Adam Turman
79. Raul Osorio
78. Kristin Berwald
77. Rudy Fig
76. Laura Fulk
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