'Confluence/Confluencia' opens Jan. 17 at Duluth Art Institute

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Former Duluthian Carla Stetson, best known for her Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial sculpture, and Cecilia Ramon are pairing up for a full-scale installation piece, "Confluence/Confluencia," for the Duluth Art Institute's Morrison Gallery at the Depot. The exhibit opens Jan. 17.

"Cecilia had a stellar installation at the Duluth Art Institute eight years ago where she used wood," said Anne Dugan, curator at the DAI. "She has a background in Sumi-e ink painting. She is known for her delicate hand and influence from Eastern philosophy."

Stetson teaches drawing at Ithaca College in upstate New York. Ramon teaches in the department of art and design at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The two first realized that they might like to work together on an installation when they did a two-person show in 2010 at Concordia College in Moorhead. Each said that her artwork is very different from the other's, but the ideas behind their artwork were similar.

Both had experienced leaving a place behind and taking up a new residence. Ramon is originally from Argentina, and Stetson moved from Duluth five years ago. The two friends talked about how where they have lived affected them. "You start thinking of the place that formed you," Stetson said.

"We've been friends for a long time," said Ramon, "Probably about 15 years."

Ramon said that although their type of artwork was not similar, the thought process was. "It was more like the ideas behind our art," Ramon said.

"We started to share that more and more," Stetson said. "How people divide up things like borders of land and countries, but you can't really divide up air or water. We are interested in air movements."

Part of their installation includes map collages, on white drawing paper covered with vellum, a translucent material similar to parchment, representing the troposphere, the atmospheric layer closest to the Earth.

"How do you describe air?" asked Stetson. "Flying from Ithaca to Duluth, it actually looks like this," said Stetson.

"It's a metaphor, it's vital," Ramon said. "We would not survive as a species without the atmosphere."

The pair was given three weeks to complete the installation.

"A collaboration that really works between two artists takes you to a different direction," said Stetson. "It's also really thrilling ... you have a partner who says, 'Yeah I get it,' and you actually work a little faster because your energies increase exponentially."

According to Dugan, the length of an installation can vary, depending on the artist or what is being undertaken. "We had the luxury of giving time," said Dugan. She said the Institute wants the artists to live with the space. "All those things are important if you are responding to it in an artistic way."