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“Evolution” solo exhibition opens in Cyrus M. Running Gallery 

MOORHEAD — Local artist Anna Johnson opened a new exhibit in the Cyrus M. Running gallery on October 10, entitled “Evolution.” Johnson’s work showcases a variety of different mediums including printmaking, painting and collage. 

Johnson is originally from Bismarck, North Dakota and is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Much of her work is influenced by her Native American culture as well as issues surrounding social justice, spirituality and issues women and LGBTQ+ people face. 

A public reception took place during the exhibition’s opening, where Johnson spoke to students, staff and the surrounding community about her art, as well as the creative process that goes into making one of her pieces. 

Johnson was introduced at the reception by Chris Mortenson, an associate professor at Concordia in the arts department and director of the Cyrus M. Running Gallery.  

“She seeks to bridge the gap between the world she lives in and the culture she came from,” Mortenson said. “(Johnson) seeks opportunities to connect with her community.” 

Speaking on the title of her show, Johnson considered what evolution meant to her as a person, as well as what it meant for the show. 

“I was thinking about where I came from in my art career and where I’m going, and this show kind of starts that way. I think it’s a full evolution of what I’ve been working on,” said Johnson. 

Johnson traditionally works with monotypes in her pieces and says this was influenced by a mural she made for an elementary school in Langdon. She taught the students how to make gelli plate monotypes as an art project, which resulted in her making a large amount of gelli plate monotypes as well, making their way into her work. 

Natural materials are another major component of Johnson’s work. 

“Sage, sweet grass, plant materials; I like to bring nature into what I’m working on. I also like to utilize different animals that have different meanings to different tribes, not just my own,” Johnson said. 

Buffalo, bears, horses, birds and bunnies are some of the animals that Johnson has captured in her art. 

Johnson’s talk was followed by a questioning period from the audience, where those in attendance asked about her use of color and collecting natural materials, what went in to starting a piece and her favorite artwork she’s made in the collection. 

At the end of Johnson’s talk, Mortenson again spoke to the crowd to tell them to spend time with the artwork. 

“I would challenge you to just come and sit with this work and enjoy it. Challenge yourself to spend half an hour or an hour just looking at these pieces, cause I think this is a really beautiful show. Coming to the reception is great because you get to hear from the artist, but it’s when this (the reception) is not happening that the work becomes really enjoyable, because it’s quiet in the gallery,” Mortenson said. 

Celeste Cone, a student at Concordia attending the exhibition, said they were excited to see how Johnson embraces her culture within her work. “I love the representation of indigenous people in the art show,” Cone said. 

In addition to Johnson’s work as a printmaker, she participates in artist residency programs, teaches printmaking classes and contributes to public art projects, such as the iconic “Greetings from Fargo” mural in downtown Fargo. Johnson also serves on the city of Fargo’s Arts and Cultures Commission and works as a tandem truck driver for part of the year. 

Johnson’s work will be featured in the gallery until Nov. 20. 

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