Sometimes there are projects that just speak to people. Shelly Julian Bunde’s exhibition does just that. She Left For Good One Time, But Came Back is an exhibit of tiny portraits and one-line stories of 53 fictional North Dakota women–one from each county. The portraits are small but the personas are BIG.
Everyone (both women and men) who spends time with these women finds a memory trigger. Perhaps the likeness of one of the women reminds us of someone we have met or the story resembles something we heard as a child. Maybe the scraps of vintage fabric bring memories of grandma’s attic or forgotten farmsteads. The collages feature cutouts of antique imagery that develop each character and add a folk art-like quality to each image.
I didn’t grow up in North Dakota but these images still speak to me. They are charming. They are delightfully composed and make me laugh out loud. If the rate at which these portraits are selling is any indication, I’m not the only one who finds them worthy. They capture something of North Dakota which is fleeting, changing and disappearing. For the most part the portraits represent voices/attitudes of the generation born of early North Dakota pioneers. We see some of the convictions (like wives being known by their husband’s name) as obsolete and perhaps degrading to our femine independence, but we understand it within the historical context. Some of the portrait-stories allude to cultural attitudes which represent the rich pallet of North Dakota’s many ethnicities.
I like that I see my neighbors and their unique personalities in many of these portraits. Bunde has found a wonderful and unusual way to tell the story of North Dakota’s women. Someone commented that they wished the portraits were of “real” people, I disagree, because what Bunde has done is capture the “essence” of a generation and in my opinion this still has great historic validity. Come see the exhibit, you can be the judge.
MEET THE ARTIST
If you’d like to meet the Artist, come Saturday, March 9 to a free reception starting at noon. To honor the many women who have fed the farmers, families, school children and church parishioners we are having a Hot Dish buffet. If you would like to contribute a dish to share (aka potluck style) we would be most appreciative. Call 701-251-2496. Visitors will vote on their favorite and the winner will take home 2 tickets to the next community theatre performance. Please name your hot dish – the cleverist name will be sure to gain points in your favor!