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Maakestad's view changes the landscape

Tom Maakestad’s “Winter Marsh” and images from an aerial landscape project are among his works on display at the Anderson Center.

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Artist Tom Maakestad’s unique perspective on the southeastern Minnesota landscape will be on display this spring in the main gallery at the Anderson Center at Tower View.

A public reception for Maakestad will mark the opening of the exhibition at 7 p.m. Friday, March 28.

Described by the Anderson Center as “one of the state’s most acclaimed artists,” he has been painting landscapes for the past 30 years.

“Landscape as a subject matter holds my attention because it is a constant in our daily lives, and yet it is never the same,” he said. Subtle changes such as the materials used to paint the scene, the time of day or a simple shadow “can have dramatic effects on the outcome,” he explained.

Born and reared in Northfield, Minn., Maakestad has Red Wing ties as well. His great-grandfather Claus Clauson immigrated to this country in 1871. He settled in Red Wing, married a Ylvisaker and became a maker of fine furniture and a partner in the Boxrud dry good business.

Maakestad’s father, the late John Maakestad, was a professor in the art department at St. Olaf College in Northfield for decades.

Growing up there, he came to know Red Wing well — and to appreciate Red Wing Pottery as well as the cereal that was “invented” by A.P. Anderson, founder of the Tower View estate where he has been showing his art work for years.

“I love puffed rice,” Maakestad said, laughing at memories of a commercial from a past era.

But it is the landscape of this area that has stayed fresh.

“In this postmodern era we are re-evaluating our relationship to the land as we realize it continues to have a direct impact on our lives,” he said.

With his newest work, Maakestad is taking a step beyond depicting the countryside as it is seen by those who live in or drive through the river valleys and agricultural regions.

“I’m working on aerial perspective landscapes of riverways,” he explained.

Maakestad began painting the views he saw through the windows of airplanes when he made commercial flights over the region, including Goodhue County. As the planes began to descend, he would take photographs to use as reference material for his paintings.

He was challenged, not just to paint the images, but to examine “what and why” he was painting them.

Waterways are of particular interest to him.

“I am interested in how human beings organize themselves around water. We take it for granted,” he said, predicting that ultimately “it will become the most prized element in our existence — more valuable than oil.”

That international perspective was enhanced by years of living in Hong Kong and traveling extensively throughout Asia.

Maakestad applied for and was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Initiative grant to complete his aerial landscape project. The funds will enable him to make independent fly-overs of targeted areas at times of the day he chooses. The result will be a series of paintings.

His first paintings from this perspective, which were part of his application for the grant, will be part of the Anderson Center exhibit. Included are images of the Mississippi and Minnesota River backwaters.

The full series will be exhibited in October at his home studio in Marine on St. Croix and in May of 2015 at Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis.

The paintings are not intended as political commentary, Maakestad stated, but as observations of his surroundings. “I let people draw their own conclusions.”

The Red Wing exhibition also will feature a retrospective of his landscape work over the past 10 to 15 years in the Northfield-Red Wing region.

Maakestad’s paintings will remain on display through mid-June. In celebration of the closing weekend, Red House Records recording artist Meg Hutchinson will perform in concert at the Anderson Center on June 14.

If you go …

Who: Artist Tom Maakestad

What: Exhibition opening

When: 7 p.m. Friday March 28

Where: Anderson Center Main Gallery

Cost: Free

More info: 651-388-20009 or