Columbus area residents looking to capitalize on an assortment of quality agrarian-themed art never have to travel very far.

Just a short drive away in David City, the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, 575 E. St., features several annual changing exhibits and numerous pieces of permanent work. Now, a new display is being showcased that inevitably will pique the interest of art-lovers.

The exhibit, featuring Aurora-based artist Ernie Ochsner, kicked off Nov. 22 and will be open to the public at no cost from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays – including until 8 p.m. Thursdays - and 1-4 p.m. Sundays at the museum. The numerous paintings on display intricately crafted by the artist will exit the museum on Feb. 16 of next year.

The exhibit’s opening night turned out to be quite a success, Museum Curator Amanda Mobley Guenther said.

“I heard that there were attendees from California and Oregon and Kansas and another state – quite a few out-of-state people came,” said Mobley Guenther, who fulfills her curator duties remotely while now living in California. “Just old-time friends and followers of Ernie. So, I know that everyone that came had a wonderful time and enjoyed the work.”

Ochsner has spent a lifetime devoted to painting the rural landscapes of Nebraska, according to information provided by Bone Creek Gallery Manager Gabrielle Comte. Born in South Dakota in 1944, Ochsner has made his home and studio in Aurora since 1974. Ochsner spent his childhood summers outdoors along the School Creek and the Platte and Blue River bottoms. This mix of natural and agricultural environment left a deep impression on him and he is continually drawn back to rivers both for renewal and inspiration.

This retrospective exhibition includes his earlier work with abstraction. He has also found deep pleasure and meaning in painting figurative work and portraits. Now, he most often paints in his studio with photos as his guide, occasionally juxtaposing pieces of several photos to create his compositions.

The level of realism displayed through Ochsner’s work is fairly astounding, Mobley Guenther said.

“(People), I think, will appreciate how he has a very fine technical detail skill when he is working on landscapes,” she said. “So it’s not an impressionist style where there are great big brush strokes and splotches of color, it’s really tight. You know when you’ve heard someone say, ‘wow, that painting looks like a picture!’ I mean, it’s that level of tightness that you can get up real close and see those really tiny brush strokes.”

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The displayed pieces enable those perusing through Bone Creek Museum to see how Ochsner progressed and adjusted certain aspects of his approach to a canvas throughout his lengthy career.

“In Ernie’s case, earlier in his career he worked more in abstraction – we don’t have a true abstract piece in the show, but we do have some portraits and things that are not agrarian and specific to our mission,” she said. “But, we felt like it was important to show the (extent) of his career and the skills that he has.”

Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art is the nation’s only museum exclusively displaying and collecting artwork relating to the land, agriculture and rural life. Founded by volunteers in 2007, Bone Creek has continuously promoted its mission to connect people to the land through art.

“Some of the notable artists represented in the permanent collection include Robert Bateman, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Marilyn Bower and David City native Dale Nichols, whose artworks form the heart of the collection,” Comte said, through a provided statement. “Through exhibitions and educational programming, the museum hopes to celebrate rural heritage and educate visitors of all ages about historic and current agrarian issues worldwide.”

Mobley Guenther reiterated how Bone Creek Museum continues being an asset to area residents. In particular, it’s a great means for youth to learn about art and gain a broader appreciation of its beauty and power, she said.

It’s also a place where Nebraska artists are allowed to shine and have their work proudly displayed.

“It’s phenomenal that we have the support we do locally – and afar – to be able to bring this kind of caliber of work to our community,” Mobley Guenther said. “And it allows us to support local community artists like Ernie, who is from Aurora. That is a win-win for all of Nebraska.”

For more information regarding Bone Creek activities, those with interest are encouraged to visit www.bonecreek.org.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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