Minneapolis-based artist Carol Strait is bringing her paintings of animals and mythical creatures to a one-woman show at the Arts Consortium of Carver County.
Thirty of her paintings featuring animals, real and imaginary, will adorn the walls of the gallery from April 12 to May 5 in a show called Animals & Dragons.
“I’ve always painted or drawn. I love drawing and one day I looked around and said, ‘I have a lot of paintings, I should either burn them all or start showing them,’” she said. “When I’m painting, I’m happy.”
Strait classifies herself as an impressionist and sees her work moving toward being more abstract.
“I hope I don’t confuse my audience because there’ll be two different styles, but I think when you see it, there’s continuity,” Strait said. “There will be a flow because my energy in the paintings will keep the show together.”
She is particularly influenced by the work of French Romanticist painter Eugene Delacroix, but her work is centered around animals, as will be shown in her animals on black series and her collection of dragons.
As for the animals that she paints, she prefers to pay tribute to the stealthy survivalists of the natural world. In the past this has looked like crows, elk, bears, owls, foxes and racoons.
“I was thinking about enemies… the bottom feeder… I came up with an emotion that I wish that I had — stealth, cleverness, survivalist… that’s why I chose those,” she said.
She has a particular affinity for crows that comes from her past experiences selling her art at the Renaissance Festival and also because “they’re really phenomenal.”
“They’re in every country except for one island. They’ve been around for centuries and they have like five different languages,” Strait said. “They’re really smart and it’s always fun to do a black animal… I can paint anything.”
The dragons she creates are inspired by her other work in Chinese medical massage as a licensed massage therapist.
“They’re all made up of dragons. They’re not the kind of dragons you see in the Game of Thrones. They’re totally dragons that came out of the canvas,” she said.
It can take Strait as little as 45 minutes or many days to create one of her works.
“The whole idea of overworking a painting is easily done,” she said. “I’ve spent maybe 55 hours on a painting because I should have just left it alone in the first hour that I had painted it.”
Strait hopes those who view her work “feel the water coming up from the ocean when the whale breaches” and the “penetrating eyes of the racoons hiding in the woods.”
“I hope some pieces will go home,” Strait said, adding that the Arts Consortium takes 40% of sales. “I’m not making a million dollars. It’s more important that people just enjoy the work and I try to bring out the beauty of the animals.”
Strait hired local guitarist, singer/songwriter, pianist and family friend Jammer Mazziteli Regan to play a mix of original music and covers at the reception on April 27.
“I wanted to be more upbeat and get the younger people out… and Jammer will be perfect,” she said of the musician, who plays a mix of blues, Motown, country, Americana and rock ‘n roll music.
“The Arts Consortium of Carver County, it’s a really cool place — not only is it visual, it’s music, it’s theater, it’s spoken word and that’s incredible,” she added.