Artist Pearl Ziegenhagen’s inspiration comes from both home and away
Local artist Pearl Ziegenhagen of Clements created the poster for this year’s Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee! festival at Willmar. She received the award for Best 2-Dimensional Art, and Peoples Choice Award overall. The following story and photos produced by Dan Burdette, community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune, Willmar, are reprinted in the Advance-Press with his permission.
Clements, Minnesota, appears a place lost in time, clinging to some shred of life. Main Street is mostly shuttered, the 115-year-old post office the only remaining link to a bygone era. There was a gas station in town. But it, too, is closed; two rusting pumps its remnants. Thus, this hamlet of some 150 residents, a few miles south of Redwood Falls, would seem an unlikely stimulus for an artist. But Pearl Ziegenhagen sees something different.
For more than 50 years, she has lived on Ash Street, four blocks west of the main drag and opposite the old Catholic Church. Her portfolio of art pieces is extensive, numbering thousands, she predicts, and features scenes from some of the world’s most aesthetic locales: the rolling hills of rural England; the olive groves and vineyards of Tuscany; the sun-soaked flats of South Africa.
But it’s a rendering of her own backyard — framed and positioned next to the fireplace that separates her living room from the dining room — that takes its place among her most-satisfying works. The piece was inspired by the deep greens and jazzy flora that grow beyond the deck of her home, and while a little “creative artistic licensing” was applied — “I removed all visible buildings,” she said through a smile — it captures the allure of what she sees in the community she calls home.
The painting is also the official poster for 2015’s Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee!, an annual festivity presented by the Willmar Area Arts Council.
This year’s bash is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in downtown Willmar, and will feature artist demonstrations, a juried art exhibition and sale, and free java.
Ziegenhagen is a member of the Willmar Area Arts Council and has been attending the festival for a number of years. She half-heartedly mentioned to her daughter at the conclusion of last year’s event that it would be her last.
“But when the council asked me if I would do this year’s poster, I couldn’t say no,” she said.
The art scene
Ziegenhagen moved from her native Springfield to Clements after meeting her future husband, Cal, an insurance agent there.
Though she believes her appreciation for art is something she was born with, she began only to immerse herself in painting following Cal’s passing in 1986.
It began with a sprinkling of classes and experimenting with acrylic and her now-favored watercolors, before quickly turning into a love affair.
Over the years, she has been active in a number of regional arts councils and has toured with fellow artists, photographing and painting varicolored landscapes the world over. Some of the pieces have sold; others are displayed amid the dozens of trinkets that line her spacious home.
Thirteen years ago, she was commissioned by the city of Clements to produce a rendering to be sold as individual prints for the community’s centennial celebration. The piece featured a much different Main Street scene, one drawn from faded photos from the 1930s and 40s that capture a small business center with a barbershop, a mom-and-pop eat-in and a dusting of stores.
“How things change,” she said.
Ziegenhagen’s works are also on display across the region: paintings hang at the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council Gallery and a number of other pieces adorn the walls of Lola’s, a contemporary bistro in downtown New Ulm.
Now 78, though an eye for fashion and a slender frame hint at an age far younger, Ziegenhagen spends much of her time sandwiching painting between family visits: she has four children, five grown grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.
But on the days she creates, sitting at her dining room table, a river of natural light carving through that kaleidoscope of color beyond her deck, she finds the ideas flow as freely as they ever have.
“I get lost doing this,” she said. “The hours can just fly by.”