MARSHALL - In the last year, the Southwest Minnesota State University art department's alumni has lost a few artists who have made an impact in some way.
There's also those who are returning to the art field after spending some time away.
The Southwest Minnesota State University alumni art exhibit will be on display throughout the month at the William Whipple Gallery on campus.
Retired SMSU art professor Ed Evans said that he recently came across a biography Duane Penske had written. Penske grew up in Vesta and graduated with a degree in art education. Penske died last month, and one of his works is on display at SMSU. Works by Jim Dahl, who died last year, is part of the alumni exhibit.
"This year's alumni exhibit is a bittersweet event," Evans said.
In his biography, Penske said he was self-taught and went to SMSU with dreams of being an artist.
"Thank goodness that I met up with Edward Evans, professor of art in painting and drawing," Penske wrote. "Professor Evans would nudge me along just at the right times to help me develop my own distinct style of artwork."
Penske said all of his artworks are self-portraits, but they involve his experiences of living in rural southwest Minnesota.
"I get creative ideas from stories told to my father when he goes and plays cards up at the Vesta Cafe, or just plain goofy situations people get into, and I make them humorous," Penske wrote. "I get a lot of ideas from music that I listen to, such as the Beatles, U2, John Lennon and alternative independent artists."
Tami Montgomery-Henriksen's art is also featured in the alumni exhibit. She attended SMSU from 1995 to 1997 and now lives in Montevideo. Her father died last year, she said, and during one of their last conversations, he told her "Tami, you really need to get back into your art."
While she was at SMSU, Montgomery-Henriksen was part of the Global Studies program that went to Italy.
"It was the trip of a lifetime," she said.
She said her forte was drawing - pencil, graphite and charcoal. Montgomery-Henriksen said she remembered something Evans told her when he sat down in her studio area in the painting room, that when it comes to drawing, she was as good as she was ever going to get.
"He's basically telling me thatI have arrived," she said.
Montgomery-Henriksen said she had been working hard on capturing the atmosphere in a drawing, the essence of a person's spirit.
"That was important to me," she said about Evans' words. "And it scared the crap out of me."
She went on to start a family and worked in radio for more than six years, doing freelance drawing. In 2006, she was the chairwoman of a design committee for a playground in Montevideo. Almost every piece was her work.
"It really showed me I can do it," she said about the project.
Now that she's made a return to art, Montgomery- Henriksen said she's trying to do more wildlife artwork in the abstract, nudes, adding that they are spiritual in nature. With still-life artwork, she wants to focus on lighting.
"I need practice when it comes to painting," she said. "I'm not there yet. I'm not where I want to be."
Montgomery-Henriksen said returning to art has been "scary."
"I've been terrified," she said. "I put so much of myself into it."
She that when she went to submit her artwork for the alumni show and walked into SMSU, she almost turned around because she thought she wasn't good enough.
But being part of the show has made Montgomery- Henriksen inspired - to perhaps go back to school and finish her degree.
"I just miss being in the studio with other students and artists," she said. "I really hope to go back. I really do."
Montgomery-Henriksen said she's starting to work on illustrations for her sister's second children's book, and she also has some work available at Livintage in Montevideo.
"I'm just taking one day at a time," Montgomery- Henriksen said.