Chris Johnson and Lynn Hobart — two artists with shows at the Pump House Regional Arts Center beginning Aug. 31 — have known each other for a long time.

“We’ve been friends for at least 35 years,” Johnson said. Both were La Crosse School District art teachers — Johnson taught at Longfellow Middle School and Hobart taught everywhere from prekindergarten on up to high school.

On the surface the two are very different kinds of artists. Hobart’s work is figurative while Johnson creates abstract art. “Although we work in totally different media, we agree on our philosophies,” Johnson said.

“Even though the end products are totally different, we’re very similar in terms of work ethic and how we approach the process,” Hobart said.

According to Johnson, trusting the process of creating art is crucial. And, in fact, that’s reflected in the name of her Pump House show: “Trusting the Process.”

“It’s totally intuitive,” she said. “We have a feel for what goes where. Sometimes we critique each other’s work, and the critiques are always positive.”

Johnson said her abstracts used to be associated with geometric shapes, but after awhile that got to be tiresome. “It was driving me crazy and I didn’t want to do it anymore,” she said. “I needed to accept that I didn’t know what I was doing (when starting a painting).”

Now Johnson says she’s happy with what happened after she let go of that kind of certainty. “It’s so freeing when you realize that your intuitiveness can guide you,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hobart — whose show is titled “Simplify” — feels like her work has gotten much more efficient. “I used to cover the surface with lots of colors and marks, but as you get older you simplify things. It’s a cleaner looking page and a different way of approaching things,” she said.

Hobart’s often whimsical figures are close to being gender ambiguous. Some look childlike while others look old, and some manage to look both old and childlike at the same time.

“I’m very happy with my art now,” Hobart said. “It pretty much says what I want to say.”

As any good artist knows, however, a work’s meaning is not necessarily easily explained. “I’m not very articulate when it comes to my work,” Hobart said. “I’d much rather hear people’s reactions and questions. I’m hoping that happens at the reception.”

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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