​Frame Gallery Hosts First Art Exhibit, Reception

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
For Rea Mingeva, coming to work at Frame Gallery was yet another turn of fortune in her life—and a reunion with a kindred spirit.
Mingeva, a longtime art professor at Minnesota State University, first met Harriet Runkle when Mingeva was working in the kitchen at St. Mary’s Sewanee retreat center, where Runkle’s husband John was director. The two women had a love of art in common and formed a quick bond.
“On several occasions I was like, ‘I really need this person (Mingeva) in my life; I don’t know how,’” Runkle recalled.
When Runkle purchased the assets of Corners Custom Framing and started her own business there in January, her vision was to not only offer framing services, but create a corner shop of artistic invitation and education. Soon she tabbed Mingeva, a master framer, to join the staff.
“How awesome could anybody’s life be, where you could end up in this fabulous space with this fabulous partner doing this after lifting heavy dishes at St. Mary’s at 65 (years-old)?” Mingeva asked.
Throughout her journey, Mingeva said she has had wonderful opportunities as she wades through what works and what doesn’t for her. She retired from teaching at Minnesota State to focus on her own art, when she could have been making a six-figure salary with summers off—but she said she couldn’t teach passion.
Mingeva’s portraits are on display at Frame Gallery through the end of May, and the shop will celebrate her work with a reception today (Friday), May 18, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Runkle, an art historian, former teacher and museum gallery director, selected Mingeva as the first artist to feature because she felt her friend’s art could be in some of the best galleries.
“I just admired her work and thought it had substance,” Runkle said. “I wanted to give her the opportunity to show other people this talent of hers.”
Mingeva’s exhibit features portraits of people close to her, including her late father, whom she cared for in his last days, and her brother-in-law, Rob Moore, a Sewanee grad and teacher at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, who died from AIDS.
Some of her works are appropriations, which incorporate another artist’s work behind her own portrait. For example, “Melencolia,” a 16th century piece by Albrecht Dürer, serves as background and complement to the pencil drawing of Moore.
Mingeva’s creation process is prayer and conversation, she noted.
“It’s trying to capture a silence between me and the painting that feels like a conversation between me and the real person,” she said. “All my work is very silent, it’s very quiet.
“If there’s anything that feels so honest, so reverent, it would be when I’m watching that brush on my canvas,” she added. “Every mark becomes something that I have to react to differently. I don’t set out to make a painting look any (specific) way, I set out to have this conversation.”
Another aim of the reception today is to showcase the new frame shop, which John, an architect and woodworker, helped remodel. Harriet said she wants to add more artistic opportunities there, possibly workshops and an “Art on the Spot” station, where people can create in the store. Mingeva also currently offers private art lessons at the gallery.
“It’s not a static place where you bring in your art, leave it and come back and get it, but you can look at an exhibit and hopefully get to know this as a place where creativity is alive,” Runkle said. “As a teacher, an art historian and art lover, it’s a place where I feel creative and feel like I can encourage that for people who come in the shop.”
Frame Gallery is between Village Laundry and Shenanigans. The monthly art exhibits continue in June with the photography of John Willis.
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