Travis Apel, "Dream at Sundown," 2019, serviceberry root, brushable rubber, sod, soil, plywood, 42 x 32 x 28 in.
Elizabeth Boutin, “Everything Happens for a Reason” (diptych detail), 2019, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

There is much to be celebrated in the vibrant arts community of Omaha. Among the successful outcomes of the community is local organizations stepping up to meet the needs of our creative individuals. Lacking in the Omaha area is a university to provide a MFA program for visual artist to hone and refine their profession and trade. Amplify Arts is working to meet this need.

Its current exhibit in collaboration with Petshop Gallery in Benson, Work in Progress features works by five local aspiring artists. The artists presenting in this show are participating in a cohort that is engaged in a 10-month program provided by Amplify Arts. The driving force behind the program is to provide maturing young artists opportunities to receive feedback, practice critical writing and participate in collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavors.

Artist Liz Boutin contributes two large oil paintings on canvas titled, ”Everything Happens for a Reason I” and “Everything Happens for a Reason II.” In these works Boutin employs a primarily dark palette of grays and blacks highlighted with reddish-brown and off-white accents.

The rhythmic blend and delicate balance of dark colors with highlights is superbly presented with contrasting pulled lines. Not necessarily hidden, but also not prominently exposed in the center of each painting are fairly large lower-case letters. The subtly of these letters, and perhaps the meaning, is both present and reserved.

Throughout the gallery in several small groups, Anne Dovali displays over two hundred roughly cut ceramic greenware sculptures in varying sizes of four to six inches. These numerous unglazed and unfired pottery pieces are similarly fashioned in the shape of a heart with sides to create bowl like effect resembling that of an old-fashioned candy dish.

Many of these heart shaped dishes were placed upside down in groups of four creating a resemblance of the most inner part of a flower, the heart of the bud. On the outer perimeters of these groups of ceramics, a small portion of the pottery pieces rested in shattered bits and pieces. These broken pieces are suggestive of the very frail nature of pottery and of the heart.

Travis Apel, “Dream at Sundown,” 2019, serviceberry root, brushable rubber, sod, soil, plywood, 42 x 32 x 28 in.

The lone sculpture provided by Travis Apel, “Dream at Sundown” might very well be the most refined work of the show. With what appears to be an unearthed and upended root resting up a pedestal of sod, soil and straw, Apel very carefully and with great intention places the organic materials to create a richly balanced three-dimensional work that can be admired and appreciated from all angles. These earthy materials, along with finely finished glossy rubber, make for a contrasting and complimentary finished product.

Tyler Swain’s work “BREACH!upandtotheleft/Newport No.3” uses fencing, cinder block, tin tile, red, white and blue chalk paint. As displayed in the gallery, the tin tile is fixed to the opposite side of the room where the cinder block lay on the floor as a makeshift stand for the fence post. It is easy to appreciate the resourcefulness of Swain’s work to repurpose discarded materials into new works of art.

What is difficult to identify is how the artist handled the materials, worked with, or manipulated them into their present state as displayed. Specifically, the tin tile and fence post very much have the appearance of being freshly rescued from the recycling pile. As the title of the show puts forward, this truly is a work in progress.

Holly Kranker, “drape,” 2019, stoneware, oak, 36 x 16 x 16.25 in.

Appearing to be a series or a study on stoneware, Holly Kranker offers six variations of a white afghan motif in differing states frozen in time. The creamy white stoneware afghan with a precision detail in crisscrossing knit to present differing, but believable states of resting position. The attention that Kranker puts into the display of each work must be appreciated. Careful thought is evident into how each work was created and intended to be displayed.

As the title of the show suggests, the art presented in Work in Progress may seem incomplete. Yet, there is evidence of developing technique and skill, however lacking some pieces may appear to the viewer as finished products. Keep in mind that the choice of materials and mediums are discernibly experimental and fortuitous.

This is very understandable for artists who are exploring and developing. As such, viewers may find some work lacking a clear focus or theme. Perhaps a more accurate title for this show might be Artists in Progress.  

2019 Work in Progress Cohort Exhibition continues through March 27. Petshop is located at 2725-2727 N. 62th Street in downtown Benson. For further information, check the gallery’s facebook page, at or at


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