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NDSU faculty members collaborate on community arts event

Published October 08, 2013

North Dakota State University, Plains Art Museum and the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo public libraries continue to collaborate on several events inspired by Herman Melville’s classic novel "Moby-Dick." 

The 3.2.1 community event, which stands for three communities, two books, one art exhibit, includes exhibits by renowned artist T.L. Solien and Kim Bromley, NDSU professor of painting, and a book discussion of "Ahab’s Wife" featuring the book’s author Sena Jeter Naslund. The event runs through Oct. 20. 

“For my part, I’m really hoping to raise awareness of the humanities and get North Dakotans to connect with the exhibit’s theme,” said Kelly Sassi, assistant professor of English, who recently was awarded a grant by the North Dakota Humanities Council to help bring Jeter Naslund into the 3.2.1 project.

Planning for the event began about a year ago with the Plains Art Museum’s effort to host a Solien exhibit. Solien, who is a professor of painting at the University of Wisconsin, is from Moorhead.

Solien’s work has been included in collections at the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Australia, the Tate Gallery in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and New York University. He has painted hundreds of works based on the book's characters Ahab and his wife, with inspiration from Melville and Jeter Naslund.

Solien will bring 58 works of mixed media pieces, collages and paintings to the exhibit at the Plains Art Museum.

The "Moby-Dick" inspired work of Bromley is running concurrently with Solien’s exhibit. Bromley, who often uses "Moby-Dick" as a teaching tool, will feature a series of large-scale oil paintings that merge his own subjective and personal narrative with imagery culled directly with the book.

Sassi, Gary Totten, NDSU assistant professor of English, and Matt Duques, NDSU assistant professor of English, recently led a panel discussion of the influence of literature and history on the art of Solien.

Sassi; Totten; Duques; Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of Plains Art Museum, and several other specialists explored the ways in which Solien draws on other art forms and American history to create works of compelling visual impact and broad appeal.

“It was refreshing and exciting for us as NDSU faculty to have an opportunity to talk about our work outside of the university setting,” said Sassi of the discussion titled “Art, Literature and History in T.L Solien: Toward the Setting Sun.”

Sassi, Totten and Duques presented three different yet complimentary approaches to thinking about American literary history with revision and adaptation in mind. Sheehy offered a thoughtful overview of Solien’s art and provided an explanation of how his pieces drew together local personal influences and the books “Moby-Dick” and “Ahab’s Wife.”

The panel facilitated a questions and answer session that reflected the community’s engagement with the community reads of Solien’s literary inspirations.

Past 3.2.1 events featured an artist talk with Solien, a marathon read of “Moby-Dick” at Plains Art Museum and a book discussion of “Ahab’s Wife.”

 “I am totally thrilled,” Sheehy said. “And I know T.L. Solien and Jeter Naslund are as well. It’s also been really fun working with the different library systems, and seeing them use their networks to get a wide range of people who have been reading (Jeter Naslund’s) book.”

Remaining 3.2.1 events include:

  • Oct. 10, 7 p.m.-8 p.m.­–Book discussion of “Ahab’s Wife” by Sena Jeter Naslund, led by Kevin Brooks, NDSU professor of English.
  • Oct. 17, 7 p.m.– Sena Jeter Naslund reads her book “Ahab’s Wife” at NDSU’s Barry Hall.
  • Oct. 19, 9 a.m.-noon–Writing workshop for teachers with Sena Jeter Naslund and the Red River Valley Writing Project at NDSU.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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