The weekly Highland Villager
newspaper (St. Paul) ran the following
feature article on Versea on July 29,
The Art of Hope
by Catherine Condon
In one of Versea Bourdaghs' striking watercolors,
robed figures soar upward against a backdrop of green,
yellow and purple buildings. Groups of children are
clustered about holding hands, while a red bird perches
on a window and a bold star glows in the corner.
"What I try to do is use vivid colors to symbolize the
energy of the hope that I'm trying to capture on my
canvas, the hope that transports you to a place beyond
your poverty, your political oppression," said
Bourdaghs, a Merriam Park resident
The water is among nearly a dozen of her most recent
paintings included in her "Community of Hope" solo
exhibition that will run from August 1-29 at the newly
opened ArtcetRah gallery at 157 N. Snelling Ave. An
opening reception will be held from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.,
Sunday, August 1.
"My current artwork focuses on the relational aspect of
hope and community," Bourdaghs said. "Hope leaves
you with a capacity to live live with purpose and joy and
to have focus, regardless of what your circumstance is.
One of the people who own a couple of my pieces
describes them as 'magical realism.'"
The same description could be used for Bourdaghs'
career. Until five years ago she dabbled in art solely for
pleasure. She earned an elementary education degree
from the University of Minnesota and was employed as
a substitute teacher throughout the 1970s before
holding various positions in the business world. Along
the way, she raised two children who are now grown
and living on the West Coast.
In 1994, Bourdaghs decided to fulfill the thesis
requirement for her master's degree is liberal arts from
Hamline University by exhibiting her collages. That first
public exhibition of her monochromatic creations of
string, wire, fabric, paper and other materials inspired
her to create more. After word of her talent spread, she
began showing and selling her work.
Color my world
Artist finds inspiration in the hope of others
In three short years, Bourdaghs has enjoyed the sort of
success that many artists labor a lifetime to achieve.
She has now had her work featured in 13 exhibitions,
including galleries in Minneapolis and Hudson and at a
nationally juried exhibition held annually in Elk River.
Her collages are displayed as memorials in Minnesota
and Illinois churches, and her work can be found in
private collections throughout the Midwest.
According to Bourdaghs, it was the colorful landscapes,
weavings and the outlook of the people she saw during a
1997 trip to Guatemala that fueled her transition from
black-and-white collages to working in bright watercolors.
"I've seen what happens in those villages," she said.
"I've seen remarkable people who don't really have
anything before them but hard work, yet they see
themselves in a much different light. They envision a life
that still has purpose, that the future holds promise in
spite of all the evidence that tells them life's just tough."
Bourdaghs says she uses doorways, windows, circles,
thresholds, ladders and other symbols in her art to
convey the message that life moves beyond material
reality. She paints tall, narrow buildings meshed
together to symbolize "embracing community."
Community of Hope #2 (1999)
Watercolor and pastel, 32" by 25"
She also uses images of birds in abundance. "In many
cultures and religions, the bird is a symbol of moving from
the physical realm to the spiritual," she said.
The child-care service Bourdaghs runs in her home --
her "day job" as she calls it -- accounts for the presence
of youngsters in her paintings. She also volunteers at the
Center for Victims of Torture in South Minneapolis.
Bourdaghs' exhibition will be the first official show at
ArtcetRah, which opened in May. Earlier this year, Jerald
Brown decided he needed to do something in his
retirement besides puttering at home or traveling. So the
former child protection and human services worker
decided to open ArtcetRah, a combination framing service
and art gallery just a few blocks from his home.
Brown said he learned framing from his carpenter father
while growing up in Arkansas. "My dad would hand-carve
frames and I'd help him out," he said. "I always had an
interest in art and in beautifying other people's works."
Brown said he plans to showcase the artwork of local artists like Bourdaghs. "I'm no real critic, but I certainly
have an idea of what would be complementary to the gallery," he said.
After the ArtcetRah exhibit, Bourdaghs is scheduled to show her works just a few doors down at the Sweatshop
from September 1 through November 30. She also is anxiously awaiting the September publication of the Year
2000 Women Artists Datebook by the Syracuse Cultural Works. Her 1998 watercolor, "Muses of Freedom," will be
published in the datebook. A release party will be held at ArtcetRah later this year.
Bourdaghs' piece was selected from the submissions of hundreds of women artists. She hopes that the exposure
she gets from the datebook will translate into opportunities for her to exhibit her artwork nationally.
"It's been very exiting and rewarding" she said of her art career. "Someone else looks at what you've done and it
speaks to them on some level. And being paid for it is wonderful. All I can do is honor the whole process."