Artists share process, inspiration at reception

Tamora Rosenbaum

It’s not every day you get a chance to pick an artist’s brain and learn about his or her creative process. The South Dakota Art Museum works to reduce the divide between artist and audience with public artist receptions. One of these receptions took place Friday, Sept. 14, introducing the shared exhibit of the artwork of Brett Anderson and Kyle Fokken.

Museum curator John Rychtarik knew he wanted to display Anderson’s work; he was a visiting assistant professor at SDSU in 2002/2003 and 2004/2005. Rychtarik was looking for another artist’s work to feature alongside Anderson’s and came across Fokken’s work online. He “thought they would work really well together,” and the exhibit is now open to the public.

Both artists participated in a joint presentation on Friday to discuss their art and creative processes. Anderson makes relief prints, while Fokken creates sculptures from found items.

Anderson said that printmaking is somewhat like making “complicated, handmade stamps.” He walked the audience through his printmaking process, which starts with preliminary sketching and notes.

“I’m an obsessive sketchbook keeper,” he said. “I’m always taking inspiration from the world around me, sometimes even eavesdropping and taking notes from conversations.”

Once he has sketched the image to his satisfaction, he traces it onto a block of wood or particleboard before carving out the negative spaces. He said this process has made him talented at “thinking backward.”

Finally, he rolls or paints oil-based inks onto the stamp and does the actual printing. This sometimes requires several layers of working with different colors and areas of the canvas.

Anderson’s prints contain allusions and homages to historic art, including portraits and allegoric figures. This is part of what makes the juxtaposition of his work and Fokken’s interesting. Fokken’s pieces are largely inspired by historic technology and examples of what he calls “iconic American ingenuity.”

Fokken said his process is basically opposite of Anderson’s.

“I’m more of a ‘just wing it’ kind of guy,” he said. “My process is liquor and power tools — a shot of whiskey and a hammer, nothing to it!”

Fokken begins with an image in his mind, which he builds on with a sketch. He then goes through several versions of each piece, preferring to fashion his sculptures through multiple layers and versions. He is fascinated by the “pioneer American spirit,” which he also described as a “make-do aesthetic” that he tries to channel into his work by creating them with what materials he can find and manipulate.

Knowing more about the artists’ backgrounds, inspirations and thought processes gives deeper meaning to the prints and sculptures on display in the Anderson/Fokken exhibit and makes the experience of viewing their pieces more memorable overall. The exhibit will remain on display through Oct. 28.

Those who missed Anderson and Fokken’s presentation can take heart in the fact that there will be more artists coming to campus throughout the year. The next reception is on Friday, Oct. 19, featuring mixed-media artist Judy Onofrio.

More information about the museum and its exhibits can be found at the art museum itself or online at