CEDAR FALLS — Frje Echeverria’s studio brims with souvenirs from a recent vacation spent in Venice, Italy, but he didn’t stuff his luggage with Murano glass, lace, Venetian masks or even a gondolier’s hat as a trophy.
Instead, Echeverria brought home the canvases he painted along with drawings, rough sketches and notes jotted down in his journal while on a working vacation in Venice. The paintings depict historic Italian Gothic and Renaissance architecture along the Canal, infused with light and evocative colors.
Some of these Venetian paintings may show up in Echeverria’s upcoming Hearst Center for the Arts workshops, “Seeing Pairs and Following Threads,” which begins Jan. 31 and runs through Feb. 21. The free program meets Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Hearst Center, 304 W. Seerley Blvd. It is open to all ages; pre-registration is required.
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Like pulling a loose thread on a tapestry, Echeverria hopes to unravel traditional perspectives of studying art based on focal point, color harmony, interpretation and analysis, for example, and focus instead on the stitches – lines, shapes, patterns, textures – as a means of exploring visual form, ideas and multiplicity.
The University of Northern Iowa professor emeritus has always been intrigued by how creativity happens and ways to encourage exploration and discovery. In the classroom, he encouraged young artist to learn to see without telling them what to see. The Hearst Center workshops is a natural extension of his interest in expression, experimentation and investigation.
“For me, it is to see if one can keep their eyes open without fixing or solidifying an idea of what we’re seeing,” said Echeverria. “What I love about art is the imagery, the association and influences. How long can a piece let us stay engaged and involved? Exploring visual form and ideas, multiplicity? The main thing is being open to seeing and recognizing threads.
“You notice three lines on one painting, for example, and see if you can see the threads and variations of lines that may appear in different places on the painting. Can we follow the threads? I want to see, examine and follow the threads, the details of what I’m seeing,” he explained.
Echeverria painted his Venetian works while seated with the canvases propped in his lap, “so I get drips of paint on the canvas from making the work. So, you notice a drip or drop of paint and you think the brush must have been here to make that shape. And here’s another but it looks different and, suddenly, you’re following threads.”
Echeverria said he’ll wait until the last minute to choose the art he wants to bring to the workshops. “I’ll cull what seems most alive to me at the moment, and that in itself opens up a greater awareness from me. What is interesting is the focus on a work is very different from simply talking about a piece.”
Art materials will be provided for participants to experiment with topics presented.
Echeverria’s career spans nearly six decades. A prolific artist, his works number in the thousands in various media, including pastels, acrylic, charcoal and mixed media. His work is in private collections and galleries and was the subject of a retrospective exhibit in 2008 at the UNI Gallery of Art, “Four Decades of Working Beside Students.”
Pre-registration is available online at www.thehearst.org, by calling (319) 273-8641, or at the Hearst Center.
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