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Jil Evans, Breaking Light #5, 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. Collection of the artist.

Jil Evans, “Breaking Light #5,” 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the MMAA

If you’ve not yet stopped by Knight Arts grantee, Minnesota Museum of American Art’s new Project Space in Lowertown, this Friday evening’s pop-up program offers a perfect excuse to do so. Artist and filmmaker Kristen Lowe will be on hand to discuss the making of her documentary, still in progress, “Painting the Place Between.” Her film takes viewers behind the scenes of the artistic process, following four Minnesota artists — Betsy Byers, Jil Evans, Holly Swift and Andrew Wykes — as they aim to render on canvas the distinctive regional landscapes in and around Cannon River, Northfield, the Temperance River and the Boundary Waters.

Betsy Byers, Convergence, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of MMAA.

Betsy Byers, “Convergence,” 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of MMAA

By Lowe’s reckoning, translating a sense of these locales into paint on canvas isn’t about documentation so much as it is old-fashioned visual storytelling: taking an inchoate, personal sense of place and making it visible, a process inflected at once by the long historical tradition of landscape painting and the artist’s immediate response to what’s seen and felt on location. According to project notes, through the “physicality of the painted surface — the ‘place between’ the artist, us and the landscape — these artists shape a vision of our natural space as mediated by the artist’s subjective experience.”

Her aim in capturing this creative process on film, Lowe writes, is to show “the painters confront three levels of conflict: the unpredictable weather in Minnesota, the time demands of painting in our want-it-now culture and [their] internal struggles and doubts — all the things the audience doesn’t see in a finished exhibition….”

Andrew Wykes, 12 Hours of Sunset, 2010, acrylic and oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the MMAA.

Andrew Wykes, 12 Hours of Sunset, 2010, acrylic and oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the MMAA

Speaking of which, in a related exhibition by the same name, on view in the Project Space through mid-February, you can see a sampling of work by the artists featured in Lowe’s documentary, as well as a selection of regional landscapes by artists included in the MMAA collection — George Morrison, David Rich, Phyllis Wiener and others.

Phyllis E. Wiener, Colors from the Coast, 1972, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Gift of Phyllis E. Wiener. Courtesy of MMAA.

Phyllis E. Wiener, Colors from the Coast, 1972, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Gift of Phyllis E. Wiener. Courtesy of MMAA

“Painting the Place Between,” an exhibition co-curated by Kristen Lowe and MMAA Curator of Engagement Christina Chang, will be on view through February 17. Lowe will be on hand to talk about the film and preview clips this Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Project Space, The Pioneer Building, 334 N. Robert St., St. Paul. For more information on this and other MMAA pop-up programs this month, visit mmaa.org/pages/January2013

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