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Body of work: Cottage Grove artists included in Red Wing exhibition

Ernest Gillman of Cottage Grove is one of 31 artists featured in “The Figure,” an exhibition devoted to representations of the human form. It runs through June 18 at the Red Wing Depot Gallery. Submitted photo courtesy of Ernest Gillman

One of the most fascinating — and eternally daunting — subjects for an artist to reproduce on canvas or paper is the human figure.

Artist Ernest Gillman of Cottage Grove had been sketching since he was a child. But he was not satisfied with the way the men and women in his drawings were rendered. Natural aptitude wasn't enough, he decided. It was time to improve his people skills.

"I wanted more of a challenge," he said. "I wanted to develop my skills in that area. I primarily did still lifes. I did that basically because I could do it at home. I could just take the objects I had laying around the house, set 'em up and paint them."

Gillman enrolled in the fine arts program at the University of Minnesota at the relatively late age of 30.

At 63, he's exhibited his drawings at the Minnesota State Fair, the Owatonna Arts Center and ArtReach St. Croix. One of those drawings, "Burgers and Beer," is part of an exhibition that opened last week at the Red Wing Depot Gallery.

The Figure, presented by the Red Wing Arts Association, features 33 works of art created by 31 artists from the region. It runs through June 18.

Gillman's graphite and colored pencil drawings depict the everyday life of blue collar workers. He said he's lived most of the scenes in the series, which is titled Blue Collar/Americana. It earned him a $10,000 2016 Artist Initiative Grant awarded by the Minnesota Arts Board.

"Pretty much what I've been my whole life is a blue collar worker so it's near and dear to my heart," said the former roofer, who also supported himself building wheelchair ramps.

Now retired, the Bemidji native exhibits his work around the state.

Another local artist whose work is on exhibit in Red Wing is Cuban-born painter Marchia Shubert. She and her husband recently moved to Cottage Grove from Ohio.

Her painting, titled "Denise," is a rear view of one of her former art students.

"This is my first exhibition here," she said. "I'm very excited about it."

Shubert has taught art in Puerto Rico and Arkansas. She's taught professionally for 40 years, but now devotes herself full-time to painting.

"One of my art professors taught me that you never compete with another artist," she said. "I compete with myself trying to improve myself. You never stop learning."

If you go:

The Figure, a collection of 33 works of art depicting the human figure, runs through June 18 at the Red Wing Depot Gallery, 418 Levee St., Red Wing. For more information, call 651-388-7569 or visit

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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