Oil Paintings and Pastels

by Tom Maakestad (LC '80)
Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts
April 14 - May 22, 2011

Tom Maakestad

Following graduation from Luther College in 1980 with a double major in art and English, Tom Maakestad began working in the publishing field as a book designer for Koechel Peterson Design Associates in Minneapolis. When he joined the firm, it had recently completed design and production of “The Green Hymnal” published by Augsburg Fortress, and also The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, which was a best selling book in the 1970s. Maakestad later worked with Lindsey on a 4-color book about the Holy Land, designing and finishing page layouts as Lindsey wrote the text.  He also designed book covers for publishers such as Augsburg and Harvest House and worked on the Dayspring Greetings account.

The position at Koechel Peterson led to a much longer career with the major international publisher and trade show firm Reed Elsevier, where Maakestad was promotions and creative director at the Hong Kong office from 1985-1992. While in Hong Kong he married Anna Beyer (LC ’79) who had arrived there in 1984 to teach art at the Hong Kong International School.  They lived in Hong Kong during one of the most remarkable times in the colony’s history, when the British negotiated the handover of Hong Kong to China in1997.

Maakestad’s first inclusion in a major juried exhibition also occurred shortly after his graduation from Luther.  His work was part of the 1981 “Young Minnesota Artists” exhibition at the University of Minnesota, a show for artists 20-30 years of age.  That exhibition led to an invitation from the Suzanne Kohn Gallery in St. Paul. They took in a series of his large landscapes on paper, which he had developed since graduating college. His large landscapes have been featured in 50 group and solo exhibitions in the U.S. and overseas, including ten shows at the Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis over the past 16 years. The Groveland Gallery has also been instrumental in placing large commissions, most recently 2 canvases based on regional landscapes in the Mayo Clinic’s renovated tower project. Another recent group of 4 mid-western landscapes in oil pastel was purchased by the U.S. State Department for the permanent collection in the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Oslo, Norway.  His work has been featured in numerous national and international publications, among them News of Norway, Art News, and American Art Collector.  It will also be featured in the spring 2011 edition of Studio Visit Magazine. 

Maakestad’s development as an artist was strongly influenced by viewing a major retrospective of Franz Kline’s large calligraphic paintings at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC during the summer of 1980.  He says, “I was moved by the simplicity of composition and an architecture of space in these large canvases. They suggested landforms, however, implied other emotional influences. The interweaving of subconscious stimuli with potentially realistic information was inspiring to my future work while not overtly reflective of Kline’s work.” 

Twelve years later, at the Maeght Foundation in St. Paul de Vence, France, he saw a major retrospective of the artist Nicolas de Stael, whose “unusual career produced beguiling oil paintings which provide a pathway for abstraction and realism using landscape themes. I have often sought out these works for further review.”

Artist's Statement

On College, Family, Church and Community:

“My kin have always had a restless sense of discovery and Luther College has figured into our history almost from its beginnings 150 years ago. In 1872, my great grandfather John attended the school eleven years after it was founded.

John J. Maakestad came to the United States from Ullensvang, Hardanger Norway with his parents in 1856. John was only two years old at the time. According to church records in Ullensvang, the family had owned and operated the same farm property since the 12th century. Maakestad literally means ‘place of seagull,’ which vividly describes the fjord heights where apples, strawberries and other produce were raised. The farm is still in operation.

As a 16-year old, John entered Luther College (1872-75), graduating from the Normal Department. Following his study at Luther Seminary in St. Paul (1879-82), John was ordained in the Lutheran Church and went to Sutton’s Bay, Michigan. Because he was tri-lingual he started churches in the three languages: German, Norwegian and English.  He eventually was responsible for having launched 22 different parishes in the region. Many of these he traveled to on horseback, or via ice skates on Lake Michigan, or by horse drawn sleigh in the winter. John eventually participated in the development of the Norwegian Synod after his efforts to create a full ecumenical synod were unsuccessful.  

John’s sons, Norvald (’21) and John Walter (’15) both attended Luther College and became Lutheran Pastors. My grandfather Norvald was a very active Luther student, co-authoring the Luther fight song and participating in most musical functions at the school as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Norvald’s main church work was in Rochester, Minnesota. He was renowned for his culinary skills, a phenomenal singing voice and a serviceable fastball at the annual church baseball games.

My ties to Luther College and the Decorah community also extend through my paternal grandmother Agnes [Linevold] Maakestad.  She was one of a long line of Luther graduates from Decorah, including her mother Bertha Ylvisaker, whose family has deep ties with the college.  

While my father John N. defected to St. Olaf, lured by Arnold Flaten, founder of the St. Olaf art department, he still considers Luther an important factor in the family constellation. He is now a St. Olaf Art Department Emeritus Chair, having taught there since 1956. During my own college experiences he gave rousing chapel talks at Luther College in both Koren Chapel and the Center for Faith and Life. He also exhibited a series of paintings at Luther College in 1979 and has several paintings in the Luther College art collection. The St. Olaf art department and the Luther art department also exchanged faculty exhibitions over the years.

In this day and age when education is forced to justify itself — due to the rising cost of tuition — it is important to recognize that the benefit of a fixed time in life when a subject can be thoroughly focused on is perhaps the only way to fully internalize and understand the value of that subject. Luther College has been integral in launching many generations of my family since they traveled from Norway to the United States.”

-Tom Maakestad

2010-2011 Tom Maakestad