On August 15, the K.K. Berge Gallery welcomed the work of former Granite Falls resident JoAnn Almich. The exhibition titled, “Painting Out of Control, Then Some,” is part of an ongoing rotating display of artwork featuring local artists. The exhibition is sponsored by the Granite Area Arts Council and runs through October 1, after "the Meander". Our reporters had the opportunity to talk with Almich about the exhibit and her art.
“I’ve always looked at things differently,” Almich said, pausing before adding, “I like to look at things creatively.” According to JoAnn, this creativity has been with her from an early age. Her own creative imagination eventually found a natural outlet in artistic expression, something that would become a lifelong passion. Almich credits her artistic inclination to her homelife, especially the role played by her parents.
“My father was a contractor who specialized in masonry,” Almich explained, while her mother was a seamstress. Growing up, Almich found inspiration and support from her parents to pursue her own artistic interests. Starting in 5th grade, Almich began making crafts and doll clothing. Eventually, she started making clothing for herself. With four siblings, art quickly became a way for Almich to nurture her creative inclinations. “If I needed my quiet time, I would draw,” Almich said, adding that “art is a great therapy for whatever you’re doing.”
It wasn’t until she became an adult, however, that JoAnn became more serious about her art. She began attending classes, and belongs to several artistic groups. Without any formal educational background in art (studying home economics), these first interactions were a new experience for her. However, she enjoyed them immensely, and seized the opportunity to learn new things. Reflecting on this time, Almich said simply, “I was never satisfied with what I know because there’s so much out there. I love learning and I’ve never had a fear of not being able to do something.”
Through this process, JoAnn discovered a special love of letters. In the early 1980s, she joined the Colleagues of Calligraphy and later, started teaching her own art classes. She also found ways to incorporate art into her everyday life. After marrying Jim Almich, and raising their family, she spent time working at Almichs' Super Valu, managing the Deli Dept. She also decorated cakes, creating special pictures, designs, and calligraphic lettering on the cakes.
“So many things can be art,” Almich explained, “sometimes, you just have to change your medium.” Throughout her many years of creating art, Almich has used numerous mediums and styles. Recently, however, Almich has gravitated towards alcohol ink. Many of the paintings on display at the Berge building highlight this unusual technique of painting. She started painting with alcohol inks a few years ago, she’s fallen in love with it. “I just love using this medium,” Almich says, “you drop it [on the surface] and it just explodes.”
The end product is paintings with bright, vibrant colors that seem to bleed and blend into one another, dulling the boundary between shapes. The eye is drawn first to the color itself, rather than the specific subject. Light and dark intermingle following the random pattern of ink bleeding into paper. As a contemporary artist, Almich feels right at home with this style of painting, explaining that “you don’t have a lot of control and becomes free and loose” over the process. The alcohol spreads quickly, catalyzing the painting process, and also giving the finished product its spontaneous character.
Several of Almich’s favorite paintings are currently on display at the Berge building, including a piece titled ‘Juicy Pears.’ “It was such a fun experience painting it,” she said. The work makes liberal use of alcohol ink, giving the pears a complex color range of bright gold intermingled with dark, earthy brown. JoAnn loves the work because it highlights the abstract potential of alcohol ink.
Throughout the exhibit, nature plays a prominent role in Almich’s work. “I love the intricacies of natural things,” Almich said, “I’m not much of an indoor painter.” In one painting featuring blue dragonflies, Almich uses the creation story of the dragonfly (from small bug to mature dragonfly) to depict the cyclical renewal of life. She says that the painting is dedicated to the memory of friends who have passed.
The work also incorporates calligraphy. Almich frequently weaves words into paintings, saying that she enjoys using the two mediums to express meanings that pertain to her own interests and life experiences. “I like meaning in what I paint,” Almich said, “I like to dig deeper.”
The iris is another important subject for Almich imbued with personal meaning. “My aunt and mother had irises when I was growing up,” she said. Almich explained that the iris is often viewed as the ‘goddess of the rainbow’ containing a promise of love.
While not the first time that JoAnn has publicly displayed her artwork in Granite Falls, she is nonetheless excited by the opportunity to share her art with the community. She hopes that more people will recognize the applicability of art to their daily lives. “Anyone can be an artist,” Almich said, “it’s just a matter of being patient.” She went on to say that creating a work of art helps to build confidence, while creating something beautiful to look at.
The exhibit goes until October 1st, and is open to the public. A special reception for Almich is scheduled for Thursday, September 7, from 7 to 9 pm. Look on the Granite Area Arts Council Facebook for info on her Zentangle class at 4:30-6:30, the same day.