Frank A. Rinehart, “White Swan, 1898, albumen silver print, as part of site-specific installation by Wendy Red Star. Image courtesy Omaha Public Library.

Looking forward to something feels pretty good right now, doesn’t it? Because, with apologies to the “Best of” reviews highlighting achievements in an otherwise dismal year, it is especially rewarding to anticipate seeing things through the lens of a new season. So here are an array of must-sees in the upcoming months to draw you out of your winter doldrums.

Joslyn Art Museum has gotten back full force into the exhibition business and promises a site-responsive installation by Wendy Red Star in its Riley CAP Gallery (1/30-4/25). The Portland (OR) based artist is known for her recontextualizing investigations into her Apsáalooke (Crow) heritage, exploring intersections between Native American ideologies and colonialist structures. For this show, she will be reframing the 1898 Indian Congress that took place at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, utilizing the Omaha Public Library’s extensive Frank Rinehart photographic collection as part of her visual source material.

Fred J. Otnes, Untitled. Image courtesy Museum of Nebraska Art

On February 5, Gallery 1516 opens its next installment of its MoNA2Omaha collaborations with the solo show Fred Otnes: A Collage. The late illustrator, painter and collage artist was based in Redding, Connecticut, but hails from the Midwest and whose budding interest in graphics began with a teenage stint as artist for the Lincoln Journal. Beginning in the 1940s, he created illustrations for national publications including The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s. Otnes later developed compositional techniques utilizing photo-overlay that informed his commercial and personal work. In response to covid activity in the area, the show’s dates may be fluid; check the organization’s social media pages for updated opening and closing dates.

Last autumn, Kaneko opened its Community season with an evolving roll-out of artists on view. Although they have closed again in response to rising covid cases, they are preparing for the show’s continuation featuring Juan de Dios Sánchez Arce and the Tessellation project, hopefully this month. The former is the Mexican ceramic artist’s first US exhibition and showcases his collaborations with Jun Kaneko on revolutionizing large-scale raku-fired ceramics. The latter is the Kaneko’s global, publicly-sourced digital art project comprised of submitted images on the theme of isolation. For the gallery, images have been printed and curated into a large-scale mural. Check the venue’s social media pages for reopening notices.

Juan Sánchez, “Xolos (Dogs),” red and cobalt matte glaze raku technique ceramics. Photo by Joseph Carter.

Among Omaha’s smaller venues, Project Project has rolled out its slate of winter shows, all of which open on the second Friday of the month. January brings the sculpture of Minneapolis artist Allison Baker, beneath whose colorful and exuberant mixed media creations lie such weighty considerations as hegemonic femininity, working-class aesthetics and environmental illness. February features Omaha’s Casey Callahan. Expect a vivid mixed media, multi-sensory experience from this artist whose work traverses intersections of object, memory and technology in the definition of personal identity. Look for Omaha painter Will Anderson in March and Lincoln sculptor Sophia Ruppert in April.

Allison Baker, “Third Leg/Third Rail,” 2018, mixed media sculpture

Settling into its new home in Blackstone, the Little Gallery kicks off January with Heimweh, a show of Jeanne Pittack’s black-and-white photography (1/8-2/27). Her first show in 20+ years, it dives into personal myths and memories as a way to connect with self and loved ones. March/April features Celtic Footprint, an Irish-themed duad of differing takes on myth and heritage pairing painter Linda Leahy with her son, the mixed media artist Chad Leahy.

Jeanne Pittack, “My Body Below,” black-and-white photograph

In order to support artists while maintaining their public profile, the Union for Contemporary Art and Benson First Friday expect to continue their varied community-focused programs. Despite having their building closed, the Union is celebrating its 10th anniversary by concentrating on the theme of Joy this year and has extended its artist fellowships to a new cohort of five Black, women artists and will soon announce commissions for the Wanda D. Ewing Gallery; its Undesign the Redline project also continues to expand. Installed from February through June, Benson First Friday is sponsoring 16 new banners for the Benson business district designed by artists identifying as Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color. 

At least one gallery has signaled that its successfully revised business model may be its path forward. Modern Arts Midtown has been open by appointment only and, rather than organizing exhibitions, has been working with selected artists to present their new works in a more intimate and immediate kind of studio-style arrangement of hanging and stacked art. It opens the year with new pieces from Larry Roots, Jennifer Homan, Stephen Dinsmore, Kenneth Adkins, Martha Horvay, Graceann Warn and David McLeod.

With the uncertainties of planning events, several venues are still working to arrange their schedules. UNO plans to keep on keeping on with the usual array of faculty and student art. The Bemis Center has elected to extend its current show, Intimate Actions, until April 24. Similarly, Garden of the Zodiac Gallery is keeping Panopticon on view until further notice. And many galleries are simply not ready to announce names and dates at this time. Keep your eyes peeled for future programs at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, Generator Space, Garden of the Zodiac, Petshop, the Roberta and Bob Rogers Gallery, among others. 

Understandably, some venues remain on hiatus until further notice. Creighton University has closed its campus to visitors, hence no shows at the Lied Art Gallery. With its limitations on visitors, the Omaha Public Library has suspended shows at the Michael Phipps gallery for the nonce. Similarly, there are no immediate plans to program spaces at the Fred Simon Gallery, the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center, or Hot Shops, though it is guaranteed that each would hope to welcome art lovers later in the year.

As has become necessary, do check all venue social media and web pages for updated information on show dates and any visitation requirements. And then get your art on!

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