Artists in Victoria and Chaska

A look into the wonderfully creative lives of southwest metro artists Deb Zeller, Sara Hanlon and Kevin Daniel

A look into the wonderfully creative lives of southwest metro artists Deb Zeller, Sara Hanlon, and Kevin Daniel.

Name: Deb Zeller

Location: Victoria

Medium: sculpture, oils, pencils, homemade walnut ink, watercolors, clay, stone, glass, bronze, photography

“When I’m sculpting, I’m in my space… Sometimes I don’t know how my hands know what to do,” says Deb Zeller with a laugh. “I think I was born to do this.”

Taking a look at Zeller’s works for the first time, it’s pretty apparent that yes, she was born for this. You’re taken aback by not only the labor and craftsmanship that went into the sculpture, but the love; the majority of photos featuring Zeller with her work show her smiling brightly as she physically embraces the now-finished works

Zeller, who is a co-owner of Parley Lake Vineyard and Winery in Waconia, received her first palette of oil paints on her thirteenth birthday and developed a passion for art, which took her to Corcordia College in Moorhead as an art major, where she spent a summer studying Art History abroad in Europe in 1975. The love of sculpture developed nearly 25 years later when she took classes at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts.

Deb Zeller, The Artists

Her passion for sculpture became officially validated five years ago, when she entered her first life size sculpture, known as “The Plunge,” in an outdoor sculpture walk. The work shows the bottom half of a male figure plunging into the unknown; a metaphor for Zeller’s own journey into sculpting: “I took ‘the plunge’ into sculpting life size,” she says. These days, “The Plunge” is one of her most popular works—she’s already cast four of them.

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Experience the art of Deb Zeller throughout Minnesota. Her sculptures are currently installed in public walks everywhere from Mankato to Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis to Eau Claire, Wis. Make a private appointment to tour Zeller’s studio at zellerstudio.com.

Name: Sara Hanlon

Location: Chaska

Medium: acrylics, 2D, 3D, polymeric fusion

“My favorite work is always the one in which I am currently engaged,” says Sara Hanlon, Mill House Gallery and Gifts’ resident artist. “My personal view is about progressive exploration and development that takes an artist well beyond the mainstream.”

No one can deny that her artistry has pushed the confines of mainstream art. Having developed an entirely new medium of construction known as polymeric fusion, Hanlon now creates art by reprocessing plastics, reshaping their forms and painting over the works in acrylics. “My ‘flat works’ are rather three dimensional,” she explains.

Sarah Hanlan, The Artists

Hanlon has been a creative force since the age of three. She started selling her art at 12 and received a B.A. from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1972, as well as earning additional post graduate credits in art therapy. She lives out of her “studio to die for” (which was formerly a servant’s quarters) at Mill House Gallery and greets visitors in her trademark hairdo, which is streaked with red, silver and platinum.

Now at age 62, the Chaska-based artist shows no signs of slowing down. “I thrive on self-made challenges,” Hanlon says, reflecting upon her work. She is passionate about one of her current projects, Textures, which is made up of eight small panels that can be rearranged to change its look. “Compositional issues became very critical and problematic to resolve until the pieces actually worked together well. Because I was able to be successful with this ‘problem,’ Textures is a current favorite work.”

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Discover Sara Hanlon’s art at Hearts West Gallery in Minnetonka, Mill House Gallery and Gifts in Chaska.

Name: Kevin Daniel

Location: Victoria

Medium: acrylics, oils

Days spent fishing on the lake, sleeping under the stars on camping trips and taking music lessons in his earlier days gave Victoria’s Kevin Daniel an appreciation for Minnesota’s wildlife and all of its natural wonders. This appreciation led to a 40-year journey into painting a variety of scenes inspired by nature and family life in the style of romantic realism.

“I never had any formal training,” Daniel says. As an artist who is completely self-taught, Daniel studied up on the Impressionists such as Monet, Rembrandt and Renoir, adding that “most artists learn from looking at each others’ work.” He learned well from these classic artists; Daniel sold his first original at age 14 and hasn’t looked back.

Kevin Daniel

Daniel has since won numerous awards, including an induction into the U.S. Art Hall of Fame and being named “Artist of the Year” by the Minnesota Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

His success could be attributed to his mastery of his medium of paint by usage of acrylics and oils. Most of his wildlife art is done in acrylics, but most of his portraits are oil-based. “I can get tight with the acrylics, painting animals of all kinds, but it’s easier to blend colors with oils when I'm painting people,” he explains.

Daniel’s favorite painting is a beautiful portrait of a woman tucking her baby in as her other daughter watches from the side. The influences of Renoir and Rembrandt are apparent with soft lighting and a dreamy atmosphere. The imagery alone makes it easy to see why it is a favorite of Daniel’s, but he lets us in on the real reason why he loves it: “My wife is in this painting along with my niece.”

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Kevin Daniel originals can be purchased at The Art Barbarians in Rogers, The West Gallery Lives On Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyo., or directly at kevindanielart.com

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Feeling inspired? Here are a few places to help you on your own artistic journey:

  • Arts Consortium of Carver County

You may have read the story behind the Consortium in our July issue; did you know that they frequently host events and offer classes? Visit their website for up-to-date listings of all things art in Carver County.

  • Eden Prairie Art Center

The Eden Prairie Art Center is the perfect place to finish your art project, as it not only boasts enough studio space for all of your creative needs, but also offers exclusive classes and discounts for a reasonable member fee. Just looking to network with other local artists? Check out their website for the comprehensive “it” list known as the Eden Prairie Artist Network. 

  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The MIA is a given when it comes to planning an outing to one of the Twin Cities’ best art museums, but have you heard about Sketching in the Galleries? Artists of all experience levels (including beginners) are invited to try their hand at drawing based off artwork displayed in the galleries. $30. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis