5 with sean jackson

“They’re at The Door” by Sean Jackson opens Friday, April 7, at the little gallery from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

The installation, inspired by an ad Jackson saw during the recent presidential campaign, will transform the little gallery into a typical living room. Once the transformation is complete, he will take stock of his surroundings and create ways to protect his family from the objects he has access to. This process will be videotaped, and the creations Jackson makes will be available for sale.

During the reception, people will be able to talk to the artist, walk through the aftermath of his creative process and watch the video of him at work. Below is a Q&A with the Omaha artist behind this installation.

Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I didn’t start painting until I moved to Omaha in 2008. Before that, I stayed away from the visual arts and focused on creative writing. When I began painting, I started with strictly paint on canvas. As I grew more sure of myself, I ventured into different mediums.

Q: Describe your process.

My process changes depending on my medium – most of my painted works are maps, so I spend a lot of time scouring old city records to find fun and unique maps. For my more experimental installations, almost all of my time goes into the planning – getting help, finding and purchasing materials, and having others set up the space so that what I create in my limited time is genuine and unplanned.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

For “They’re at The Door,” my inspiration came from a Trump smear ad during the election. A woman is asleep in her room, and she is jolted awake by the sound of breaking glass. She runs to the phone, and as she is calling 911, she unlocks a gun case on her dresser and reaches for the loaded pistol inside. At this point several things happen – the gun she is reaching for disappears, and a voiceover tells viewers that Hillary could take away her right to self defense.  There is a cut to a scene in front of the woman’s house with crime scene tape up and the words “Don’t let Hillary leave you defenseless” on the screen.

This ad left me speechless. As a husband, father and one of the many Americans who do not own guns, I found myself looking around my living room and thinking, “I don’t think I’m defenseless just because I don’t own a gun.”

Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.

Good, loud speakers with music constantly pouring through them, a freshly steeped pot of tea and my apron with pockets overflowing with both necessary tools and random bits and bobs.

Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?

I want others to know that being an artist and creating doesn’t always have to be paint on canvas. If you have an idea that seems outrageous or intriguing, you should run with it. As for my work, I want to change how people view the objects we interact with on a day-to-day basis.

“They’re at The Door” runs through April 29 at the little gallery. For more info, call 402.681.1901.

ps and qs

Roberta Willet
24″ x 40″

A quilter since the mid-80s, Roberta Willet has always loved working with fabric. She has made dozens of quilts and became interested in textile arts about three years ago when she joined the Studio Art Quilters Association. In 2016, Willet joined the Midwest Fiber Art Alliance (MFAA). This is her second piece for MFAA. She currently has a piece traveling with the SAQA exhibit “Architecture.” Below, she explains “Ps and Qs” in her own words.

“Minding your ‘Ps and Qs’ can mean so many things to so many people. In the old days, working with individual letters on printing presses, it was easy to get ‘p’ and ‘q’ mixed up. When visiting a bar in England, it was important not to mix up your pints and quarts or you might get too drunk too soon! Kindergarten teachers point out to their students that the lower case ‘p’ and ‘q’ curl in opposite directions. My childhood favorite was to remember to say please and thank you.

“Whatever definition you choose, it translates to ‘watch yourself!'”

debates: fracturing america

Peg Pennell
24″ wide by 40″ tall

Peg Pennell is a native Nebraskan who was born and raised in Omaha. Primarily drawn to design pieces inspired by nature, she also loves to create quilts with a vibrant and playful flair. She has won more than 200 ribbons and awards, and has had her work published locally and internationally. Below, she explains “Debates: Fracturing America” in her own words.

“Political debates have turned into a venue, not for explaining what a candidate can do to help our country, but rather a forum for mudslinging and criticizing the other candidates.”

gustav’s girl

Wendy Maliszewski
24″ wide by 40″ tall

Wendy Maliszewski is a fiber artist, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that break the rules of traditional quilting. The layered, embellished and hand-guided machine quilting create pieces that are both sculptural and full of texture. Her color palette ranges from monochromatic whites to jewel tone brights.

Maliszewski graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1988 with a degree in textiles and design. She is happily married with two grown daughters. Maliszewski has exhibited work in Nebraska at the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln as well as Lauritzen Gardens, the St. Cecilia Cathedral Art Gallery, the Lied Art Center Gallery at Creighton University and the Hillmer Art Gallery at the College of St. Mary, and is also in private collections. Below, she describes “Gustav’s Girl” in her own words.

“This piece was inspired by the art of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), a famous Austrian painter known for his realistic oil paintings. He loved painting women and was often criticized for painting them partially nude. In his later years, he entered what is known as his ‘gold phase,’ which included actual gold leaf in his paintings. A popular piece that you may have seen even today is titled ‘The Kiss’ (1907-08).

“I was inspired by the contrasts in his work. He often used geometrics, circles and curves alongside strong vertical lines. He incorporated bright colors alongside neutrals and metallic gold. I continued this contrast using silk and hand-dyed antique damask against the heavy texture of linen stenciled with gold metallic paint. I used tea bags for the woman’s face, torso and hand because of its skin-like texture and rich brown color.”

earth textures

Aimee Mahan
24″ wide x 40″ tall

Although not always intense in color, Aimee Mahan’s pieces have a strong color language. She creates rhythm through color, form and repetition that moves the viewer’s eye throughout the composition. Her background in interior design is evident in her forming a foundation and focus but not forgetting to incorporate a bit of unexpected interest. Mahan’s work has been shown in numerous venues and has been featured in several publications. Below, she explains “Earth Textures” in her own words.

“I used a marbling process with earth toned dyes to create organic, morphing shapes that remind me of the Mud Pots in Yellowstone National Park. Next, I selected batiks and other fabrics to support the colors and textures of the earth. To contrast the organic nature of the dyed pieces, I collaged the rest of the piece in a very linear manner and added additional interest with fibers, buttons and beads.”

don’t text and drive

Cynthia Levis
24″ wide x 40″ tall

Cynthia Levis was fortunate to have people on both sides of her family who had great imaginations and were very talented with their hands. Her father took random parts and made a working tractor, which still runs to this day. At an early age, she began learning embroidery from her paternal aunt and maternal grandmother, making little potholders. Levis then progressed to home economics and made the dreaded skirt. She continued on with handwork, cross-stitching for a number of years.

In her early 20s, she started making traditional quilts. In her early 40s, Levis began making art quilts. She enjoys every aspect of the process, from generating the idea to displaying the finished work. Below, she explains “Don’t Text and Drive”  in her own words.

“Text’ure was the challenge for this MFAA project. Hearing the word ‘texture,’ I thought of texting. When thinking of texting, my first thought is of people texting and driving. This has become an extremely dangerous activity that people of all ages are doing. We all have heard of the many people killed, or they have hit and killed someone else because they were texting while driving.

“Please take a moment to think about the following – is a text worth your life or someone else’s life because you need to read or text while driving?”

Materials used: 100% Cotton Commercial Fabric, Cotton and Clear Polyester Thread.
Surface design techniques used: Stenciled lettering with fabric paint, texting abbreviations printed using inkjet printer.


buff is back, but better

Josh Kaufman from Benson Machine Works and the new and improved BUFF.

A few weeks ago, someone plucked BUFF – our Benson Underground Film Forum mascot – from the planter outside the little gallery at 5901 Maple in beautiful downtown Benson.

We purchased BUFF for about 8 bucks from one of Benson’s vintage stores a good while back and have no idea where he came from or why he was created. He hung out in our planter during the winter months in lieu of plants and flowers.

When we discovered BUFF was gone, we circulated some ‘missing’ fliers, hoping a neighbor might spot him and return him. About a week ago, we got a call from a guy named Josh. He said his wife had seen our flier, and he asked how big BUFF was, saying the couple would keep their eyes out for him.

Late last week, Josh stopped by the little gallery after he got off work. When he opened the trunk of his car, there lay BUFF – but bigger, smarter and a lot less rusty. The folks at Benson Machine Works, where Josh spends his days, had laser cut us a shiny new BUFF based on the photo in our flier. They even went one step further, adding his name to the base.

This is why we love Benson and why we’re honored to be part of such a thoughtful, caring business community.

Benson Machine Works, now located at 1604 Fort Street, is a locally owned and operated metal working facility that’s been in business for more than 60 years. So if you need laser cutting, CNC machining (we have no idea what this is but you will if you need this service), fabrication or welding, stop by Benson Machine Works.

Tell ’em BUFF sent you.

The Benson Underground Film Forum screens free, short films in conjunction with art openings at the little gallery on Benson First Fridays. Are you a local filmmaker looking for a place to show your work? Contact us at 402.681.1901 or info@polecatcommunications.com.


avian communication

Debo Hysack
24″ wide by 40″ tall

Debo Hysack was born in Wisconsin. She studied music, printmaking, graphic design and political science at the University of Minnesota. As a textile and surface design artist, Debo has explored painting, printing, marbling and manipulation of fabric in quilts and small structures.

Large works depicting quilted insect images are in private collections in Nebraska and Minnesota. As a SAQA member, Hysack has exhibited in online galleries and in juried regional shows in the Midwest. Five of her mailable art pieces have been published in Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines, along with several articles.

She has taught textile surface design for the Joslyn Art Museum and to private students. Below, she explains “Avian Communication” in her own words.

“After taking a series of workshops from Judy Coates Perez, I was inspired to use Golden high flow acrylics and alcohol inks to draw and paint the original maple leaf structures in this piece. The heavy, linear quilting provides a rough texture to place the collaged bird and language images into relief. Scattered pieces of text are nestled beside the leaves as well.”


feathering the nest

Cindy Erickson
24″ x 40″

Cindy Erickson started her career as an interior designer in Arizona and Utah, then specialized in creating applique wall hangings and clothing for boutiques. Since being introduced to the rotary cutter and half-square triangle, she’s been unstoppable. Erickson makes commission quilts and samples for various international companies and individuals (including RJR and P & B). She is an NQA certified Quilt Judge, teaches quilting and clothing specialty classes at Bernina Sewing Center in Omaha, and lectures and teaches classes around the country. Erickson has been published in Quiltmaker, Fons and Porters magazine and Leisure Arts publications. Her quilts have been shown at AQS, Houston, PIQS and NQA.

Below, she explains “Feathering The Nest” in her own words.

“I was thinking about the things I use to feather my nest – all the different objects I collect and use (or just touch) – and I tried to represent them in this piece. I used washi tape, newsprint, paper, lots of threads, sparkle, commercial, hand-painted and dyed fabric. All of these things have visual and actual texture.

“There are also many hidden words, texts and messages. Some are easier to see than others.”

give me a sign

LaVonne Dunetts
24″ wide by 40″ tall

LaVonne Dunetts has been creating with fiber in many forms for much of her life. Most of her quilting works are original designs using fabrics she has hand-dyed, overdyed or painted. Dunetts has won numerous awards for her art, quilting and sewing both locally and statewide. Her background in engineering and construction help her visualize how materials can be arranged in complex variations. Her goal is to create harmony and beauty from disorder and chaos.

Dunetts describes “Give Me a Sign” in her own words below.

“Signs are all around us, using language and symbols to convey information. They can be informative, creative, obscure, misleading and amusing. This can be text at its best or worst. This piece uses my hand-dyed fabric and photos I have printed to fabric. Photos were taken in the English countryside where we love to hike and were used by permission of my husband, Michael Dunetts.”