FARGO — Visit the Spirit Room gallery and take a trip into an art world fantasy with imagery that wraps around the mind and slants toward whimsy, fantasy or distortion.

From photographs captured on glass and multimedia and collage pieces that pop off the canvas to paintings picturing fantastic worlds, “Formative Fairytales” is a communitywide show that traverses beanstalks atop unicorns. There’s plenty of wordplay, too.

The concept for this exhibition was developed by the Spirit Room's executive director, Dawn Morgan, who says, “There are a lot of possibilities for delight.”

The welcoming presence of the space at 111 Broadway N. in downtown Fargo lends itself to the creative journey seen in many fairy tales. Spirit Room hosts yoga, meditation and other mindful activities alongside galleries open to the public 1-5 p.m. weekdays.

“Drink Me — Alice Through the Keyhole,” by Kary Janousek. Special to the Forum
“Drink Me — Alice Through the Keyhole,” by Kary Janousek. Special to the Forum

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Inside the gallery on a recent chilly day, artist Kristen Young stands with her daughter, Annie, in front of the piece she created specifically for this show based on the story of "Hansel and Gretel."

“I kind of struggled with painting her,” Young says about the central figure melting into the background of her painting.

Entitled “Gretel’s Contemplation,” the oil painting channels a fresh take on the classic German fairy tale by adding beams of striking color and textured mushrooms that taunt a droll character lost in the forest.

“In the mushrooms there’s a little bit of beeswax to add texture,” Young explains.

“Sensing Danger” by Cheryl Schmidt. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
“Sensing Danger” by Cheryl Schmidt. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

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A graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, Young studied painting under faculty members like Zhimin Guan before graduating in 2002.

“Usually, I wait and use the varnish last, but I used it in with the painting because I knew I wanted it to dry quickly,” Young says.

As gallery manager for the Spirit Room, Hollie DeFrancisco is no stranger to a good fairy tale. Her two kids get involved with bedtime stories as well as the painting — sometimes.

“My daughter is so funny. She saw this painting and she goes, 'Can I hang this one in my room?'" DeFrancisco says about the 3D painting she created based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale called “The Little Matchstick Girl.”

“Not Grandma” by Beth Bradley. Photo courtesy of the Spirit Room / Special to the Forum
“Not Grandma” by Beth Bradley. Photo courtesy of the Spirit Room / Special to the Forum

In between taking care of her youngest son, Uther, Hollie can sneak in a few paint strokes here and there, with her eager-to-help daughter, Nuria, on call.

“The best part is she always wants to paint whenever I do. She wanted to paint on this one, too,” DeFrancisco recounts.

Unwittingly postulating the same story, Morgan also cites “The Little Matchstick Girl” story as one that hits close to home.

“There are many instances where fairy tales are reflected in a person’s life and they don’t realize until much later,” says Morgan.

“I had an experience like that where I found the little match girl outside the Spirit Room. She was dressed in a pea green coat on a snowy Christmas Eve and she was out selling candles for a dollar each — and I adopted her and took her into my family,” Morgan explains.

“Little Red Riding Hood” by Les Skoropat. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
“Little Red Riding Hood” by Les Skoropat. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

There’s plenty of lessons to be learned through each work of art in the exhibit. Some examine distorted perspectives, such as the photograph “Drink Me — Alice Through the Keyhole,” captured by Kary Janousek using the historic collodion wet plate process.

Others use direct references or plays on words like Les Skoroprat’s photograph of a vintage car hood called “Little Red Riding Hood,” meant to evoke a central theme of youthful inspiration.

“I’m so grateful for being inspired early on in my youth by some of these stories that touch your heart, or touch your mind,” Morgan says.

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If you go

What: "Formative Fairytales"

Where: Spirit Room, 111 Broadway N., Fargo

When: 1-5 p.m. weekdays

Info: This exhibit is on display through March 5

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.