Marty Camino’s 6-year-old daughter Nieve was so attached to her pencil and watercolor spaceship painting, she didn’t want to give it up for the Art Association’s annual members’ showcase.

But then Camino told her she could make $100.

“Okay,” she agreed, “but only if the money can go to the people at the Living Center — they need it more than me.”

Nieve’s painting is now on display in the Art Association’s gallery in the Center for the Arts along with 90 other creations by some 55 area painters, sculptors and photographers. Most of the works are for sale, with 40% of the proceeds going to the arts nonprofit. But Nieve’s has a bucket in front of it for donations destined for St. John’s Living Center, a long-term care facility in Jackson.

Also greeting gallery visitors is a life-size polar bear sculpture made entirely from cardboard, bubble wrap and other recycled material.

Gallery manager Jennifer L. Hoffman said that this year more than ever artists experimented with creation, pushing boundaries and finding new forms of expression to cope with the chaos of a pandemic world.

“People have been finding new ways to express themselves and get away from all this digital stuff and do something more tactile and hands on,” she said.

That was certainly true for Sue Cedarholm, who said, “Art saved me in COVID.” She has been with the Art Association for decades, but this year, she said, her work has changed: Instead of her typical hyper-realistic watercolor, she has been experimenting with abstraction, trying to capture the emotion behind an experience.

For this year’s members’ show, she painted a flock of snow geese taking flight, a spectacle she witnessed in Nebraska while assisting famed wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, though looking at the painting, you probably wouldn’t think of snow geese. While the birds are starkly black and white, her rendition is vibrant, with slashes of red and yellow. But it captures the energy and the sentiment. It’s chaotic, but beautifully so, like the organized frenzy of thousands of birds taking flight.

This year, Cedarholm said, painting and art-making have been more about the essence of experience. It has become a calming, comforting practice in a year in which she has been isolated from her children and fearing for the future.

Hoffman also noted the uniquely restorative power of art this year. Part of her role with the Art Association includes running its art supply shop, where she lately has welcomed a lot of new faces.

“It’s been really interesting,” she said, “just seeing how many people come in who haven’t used a medium before or haven’t really made a whole lot of art, coming in and asking questions. I find that really encouraging.”

She’s hopeful this year’s members show will be a chance for the community to come together, not just to admire the talent of the valley, but also to celebrate the vitality of artistic expression.

A reception for the participating artists involved in the members’ show is set for Thursday, May 20. Visit the gallery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

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