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West Fargo painter hangs with Cormorant Club

Most people have the mental image of the typical painter trudging through the countryside with his or her easel, plopping it down to paint a landcape in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the solitude and inspired by a subject.

Those days are long gone.

Art clubs have created a common theme among artists, as people who enjoy their media, whether it's sculpture or watercolor, oil paint or collage, get together and share their tricks of the trade.

So it is with the Cormorant Art Club and West Fargo resident Marilyn Geske, organized nine years ago with many talented artists, including several retired art teachers. Together, they display their wares with the Cormorant Area Art Show, the 9th annual edition of which will take place this Saturday and Sunday at the Cormorant Community Center, located 13 miles south of Lake Park, Minn., and just a mile and a half from the Zorbaz Restaurant on Pelican Lake.

"It's a good support group," Geske, who lost her husband a few years ago and leaned heavily on her friends in the club, said. "Once you start painting, or any form of art, it just becomes a part of your life. That's how it is with me. And it's nice to have someone who shares that interest, sharing ideas and learning new things."

Geske, who has painted for more than 35 years, said she first was interested in art when she lived near Longville, Minn., with her husband. Across the road from their remote location, a man would spend hours on his property painting, and Marilyn would observe his tactics.

"It really gave me the bug to try it myself," she said. "And I did, and I was hooked."

She immediately joined an art club in Pine River, Minn., and was impressed at how a club could continue her education in the field. She was privy to workshops and other artists' displays, and she enjoyed other advantages a club had to offer.

"I'd encourage any young artist to be a part of a club," she said. "There are just so many things you can learn from the people that will come in and talk to you. And they get you to try new things. We had a gentleman come in and speak about collage, and all of us broke out of our mold and tried it the next week. We were pretty surprised."

Geske said she spends her time painting things that just kind of inspire her to pick up a brush. Actually, they inspire her to pick up a camera, first. Geske oftentimes will take a photo of her subject, whether it's a hollyhock in bloom or an old abandoned farmhouse on Interstate 94. She shoots the photo, and then works in her studio on Sixth Street East in West Fargo.

"When you paint, you just kind of notice little things more," she said. "I think I see things more clearly than I ever have."

The Cormorant Club, which has about 40 members from Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and the Lakes Area, also offers their art club seminars to the general public, working with area artists who aren't "part of the gang." Geske said those classes fill up quickly, and the Art Show is always well-attended.

"I think people are surprised at the talent level every year," she said. "People are going to see a lot of really nice work. There's always a lot of watercolor painting, some acrylics, one woman does some very nice Rosemaling. It's some very nice stuff. And our little 'boutique' will have unframed prints, cards and other things that we've all made for sale. It's a very nice show," Geske said.

Organizer Donna Chalimonczyk of Moorhead said the group raises a modest amount of money through its annual show, and donates a portion of the proceeds back to the Cormorant Community Center, which hosts the club's bimonthly meetings. The rest of the money raised is used to fund art club operations, including paying for instruction and supplies.

Last year more than 500 people attended the show.

Awards will be given again at this year's exhibition, with guests voting on the People's Choice Awards from a selected group of the artists' pieces. Door prizes will also be given away.

For more information, call Chalimonczyk at (218) 287-2065, or Kris Gray at (218) 532-2131.

"There are lots of people that head out to the lake for the weekend from this area," Geske said. "I guess we'd invite them to take some time and stop by, especially if it rains."