Mary Catherine Solberg
Painting the Fleeting Moments
As an artist, Mary Catherine Solberg chooses to portray moments of good in the world. Knowing that these rare moments can be all too brief, she chooses to capture them forever in her work.
“I believe peace, fulfillment, and joy can be revealed in fleeting moments, and it is this I try to depict in each piece,” says the Minneapolis based artist.
Solberg’s inspiration is drawn from her interest in the masters of classical art, religious iconography, and circus sideshow banners. As part of a large Catholic family, Solberg viewed the stained glass windows, the smell of incense, velvet vestments, and flickering candles of the churches and cathedrals of her childhood as a “more idealistic and beautiful” reality than that of day-to-day life. In contrast, a peek into the dimly lit world behind a circus sideshow curtain showed her glimpses of the bizarre and extraordinary. “This dichotomy of beauty has stayed with me and is infused in all I do,” says Solberg.
While the subject matter of Solberg’s work is derived from various sources, she often depicts a single protagonist who allows viewers into their intimate world to share in a single moment of perfection. “I am mostly interested in what a central figure can reveal about emotions rather than the representation of a particular image,” explains Solberg. “Dogs capture balls in mid-air, clever squirrels clutch their prize candy corn, and swimmers enter or emerge from the water, each in their own way achieving transcendence.”
For the last 14 years, Solberg has been a full-time artist, using a degree in fine arts and a love for creating to pursue her dream. Art has always had a place in her life—she has enjoyed drawing, painting, and creating since childhood—but for a long time, she saw art as a hobby rather than a feasible way to make a living.
For many years her career revolved around her family’s land surveying company in La Crosse. But even then, she managed to bring art into her work, applying her drawing capabilities as a draftsperson in land surveying and architecture. Eventually, she began working at an art gallery and cooperative, slowly becoming more immersed in an art-centered career until she finally took the leap to become a full-time artist.
Now, Solberg’s art has drawn buyers from places as far away as Spain, New York, California and Alaska. The majority of her shows, sales, and commissions, however, come from within the tri-state area she calls home.
The idea of home is a reoccurring theme in her art, often highlighting the natural beauty of the Upper Mississippi Valley. In an upcoming solo exhibition titled Water Portraits, at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum from January 7 through May 20, Solberg pays tribute to her former home of Winona. “The Water Portraits are large scale, moody portraits,” says Solberg. “Many are of women diving, contemplating, and savoring the aquatic life.”
This issue’s cover image is one of the pieces Solberg created for the exhibition. Influenced by a painting by Botticelli, Dream Time is a mixed media painting of oil pastel, plaster, and acrylic that features a Winona native and the iconic Sugar Loaf Bluff landmark. Like many of her pieces, this painting expresses appreciation for the people, creatures, bluffs, rivers, and lakes of the Seven Rivers Region.
A Gallery Walk and Talk will be held at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum on Saturday, January 20 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Solberg will guide attendees through her exhibition, telling stories of inspiration and process.
For those interested in testing the artistic waters for the first time, Solberg encourages would-be artists not to fear trying new things. She notes that she has developed many new techniques through trial and error and experimentation. “I can spend hours and weeks on a direction which I will ultimately reject,” she explains. “I always glean something from the effort. At the very least, the rejected work can be painted over.”
As someone whose path to becoming a professional artist was a bit indirect, Solberg encourages people to try to follow their dreams as early in life as possible. “Get clarity on what fulfills you, and then to the extent possible, make it happen.”
Upcoming events at Minnesota Marine Art Museum: