Todd Hebert, UND associate professor of art and design, has been selected to receive The Mayor’s Choice Artist Award. An opening reception for the award presentation and an exhibit of his work is planned for 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 2, at City Hall, 255 N. Fourth St.
The Mayor’s Choice Artist Award is presented by Mayor Brandon Bochenski, First Lady Jenny Bochenski and the Public Arts Commission. The Bochenskis selected Hebert to receive the award.
The exhibit, “Icebergs, Bubbles and Snowmen,” will be displayed at the City Hall Gallery through December.
Some of the artworks, with titles such as “Snowman with Iceberg and Hills” and “Bubble and Iceberg,” feature familiar white images positioned on expanses of deeply saturated blue and green.
Hebert works with commonplace objects, such as water bottles, snowmen, windmills, glaciers and sometimes sports balls or basketball hoops -- "things that people can recognize and have their own relationship to, that are specific to me, but then are also broad enough that they can really accommodate a lot of interpretations," he said.
The choice of these subjects stems from his experience as a Valley City, N.D., native who grew up in Dickinson, N.D.
“I’ve always tried to find some sort of autobiographical hold for the images I use,” said Hebert, who earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from UND in 1996 and a master's degree in painting and printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998. He has been a fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass.; and with the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Hebert joined UND’s art and design faculty in 2012. For about 20 years, before joining UND, he lived in upstate New York, Los Angeles and Houston. When people learned he was from North Dakota, “One of the first things you get is, ‘I’ve never met anyone from North Dakota.’ People think of this as a cold place, right? So I thought how can I keep some of that weird identity with North Dakota, I could just, like, use snow a lot -- you know what I mean?”
Hebert describes his style as “representational,” noting that he captures “recognizable things that are kind of rendered in recognizable settings. There are abstract elements and landscape elements. In a weird way, it comes out of still life.”
“I’m one of those artists who try to take seemingly uninteresting things and try to make them interesting in painting,” he said.
He uses acrylic paint on different types of canvas, including linen, he said.
Hebert’s art is “very different” from the works that have been displayed in PAC galleries, said Vickie Arndt, PAC gallery director, who describes it as “playful, vibrant and bold.”
His positioning of simplistic images in varied landscapes stimulates “curiosity and implores you to look and feel differently about ordinary and unremarkable objects,” Arndt said. “They usually draw the viewer in with wonderment.”
To view the exhibition online, visit www.publicartnd.org . Artworks may be available for sale.
Hebert’s art is on display at the Devin Borden Gallery in Houston and Mark Moore Fine Art in Orange, Calif. A statement from the latter gallery about an earlier show reads, “Hebert embraces the label of ‘photorealistic surrealism’ that his past work has earned, yet produces something that is altogether subtler and quieter … The iconography Hebert employs suggests inevitable impermanence and the optimism of continual renewal.”
His art also has been acquired for private and public collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Neuberger Berman Collection, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles. For the past 20 years, has been featured in dozens of exhibitions across the U.S.
Hebert’s work has drawn interest from art connoisseurs such as the Miles McEnery Gallery of New York, which has observed that “Todd Hebert employs both paintbrush and airbrush to develop his positively graphic and atmospheric compositions. The way in which he meshes optical movement with static depiction creates something realistic yet mysterious.”
Hebert’s work, comparable to traditional still-life painting, “has the potential to indoctrinate contrasting emotions through the balance of intimacy and remoteness,” the gallery statement continued. “His play with focus and his manipulation of scale in rendering recognizable objects produces images that are striking, eccentric, and sometimes humorous.”
The Mayor’s Choice Artist Award, which is usually given on a quarterly basis, was established by Mayor Michael and Ann Brown in 2010 to recognize local artists for their contributions to a “more vibrant and cultural community,” as well as the City of Grand Forks’ commitment to and involvement with the arts, according to the PAC.
In a recent statement, Bochenski said The Mayor’s Choice Artist Award initiative “is something my wife, Jenny, and I have enjoyed participating in, and it’s always great to see the variety of talent and strong commitment to the arts this community has. Todd Hebert’s collection will be a wonderful addition to City Hall.”
In addition to the City Hall Gallery, PAC also has been involved in numerous projects throughout Grand Forks and showcases area artists’ work in galleries at the Alerus Center and the Altru Professional Center. Partners that support PAC in this effort include individual donors, businesses, foundations, landowners, the City of Grand Forks, the City of East Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Park District, artists and other non-profit organizations.