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An Artist's Perspective: The Ernatt 'Blue' exhibit is the best I've seen this year

I took a road trip to Lindsborg’s Birger Sandzen Museum to view the work of Connie and John Ernatt. The exhibition, titled “Blue,” is a brilliant new venture for the well-known—husband and wife—Wichita artists. Connie Ernatt is the creator of many profound bronze sculptures, including the new WuShock, and the infamous Troll under the riverwalk. John Ernatt is a prolific, veteran painter who got his start as a member of The Fisch Haus group of artists, and most recently had his own monumental bronze sculptural design erected at Wichita’s Botanica.

The Ernatt exhibition at the Sandzen is quite simply, magnificent. Connie’s many intricate works feature cast, bronze chimpanzees involved in acts of comedy, tragedy, love, and wonder, while the chimpanzees and their actions work metaphorically to reveal the human condition—beautiful, wounded, hilarious, and flawed. Her works connect with the human mental wavelength and at times, grab at the heart. Her technical brilliance and artistry is at full attention.

John is instantly represented by his epic 7 x 12 foot painting titled “Cold Sand,” an oil on wood abstract in relief. The color palate in Cold Sand is dramatic, deep, and thought-provoking. Each smaller painting in this show is an absolute tutorial in deft, mixed-media approaches involving mark-making, oil washes, paint on various rich surfaces, and dramatic shapes captured with uncanny balance. As a painter myself, I find myself studying John’s actual brush strokes alone, as they convey his gamely energy and intellectual approach to the very act of painting itself.

I think the Ernatt exhibition is the best show I’ve seen so far this year in Kansas.

Curt Clonts is a Wichita-born artist who volunteers as KMUW's art reviewer. 'An Artist's Perspective' airs on alternate Fridays and can be found at kmuw.org or through podcast platforms. When Curt isn’t working in his College Hill studio he is usually spending time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He also spends the spring and summer months kayaking and camping. He collects art, has coffee or whiskey with friends, dislikes politicians, and hates his telephone.