August 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This past summer, the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery hosted an artistic and cultural exchange with Sophia Wanamaker Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica. Elisa Morera, a Costa Rican artist who splits time between Omaha and her native country, extended the invitation that became the exchange. The five traveling artists were Lori Elliott-Bartle, Cheri Ginsburg, Judith Anthony Johnston, Katrina Methot-Swanson, and Linda Hatfield.

Linda-Hatfield2The artists spent the first week visiting studios and setting up for their gallery opening in San Jose—resulting in an impressive turnout. The second week of the trip, the artists scattered throughout the country: A few stayed with San Jose locals, one traveled up to the east coast and rented a cottage, and the rest familiarized themselves with Costa Rica by taking a week-long tour around the country.

So, what happens when five artists venture to Costa Rica and separate for a week? Hatfield found a vibrant culture, a newfound love for ox carts, and a plate of oranges that stole the show—literally.

She says discussion of the exchange began a few years ago: “I had never even really thought seriously about going to Costa Rica. It was all sort of out of the blue, so I had no expectations.” But the most memorable part of the trip for Hatfield, an illustrator whose style tends toward the cartoony and colorful, was handmade, intricately painted ox carts: “When I first saw them, it felt like I had painted them myself.”

Linda-Hatfield3Hatfield proceeded to visit the longest-running ox cart shop in Sarchi, where the artists use waterpower rather than electricity to run their machines. “We ate lunch there, and I skipped and took the tour again, because it was so amazing,” says Hatfield. In an attempt to preserve her Costa Rican memories, Hatfield recorded her day-to-day activities in a doodle book. “I draw instead of write, so it’s all pictures,” explains Hatfield. “It’s almost better than writing.”

As the Costa Rican exchange came to a close, the artists convened at the family-owned Toledo Coffee Plantation for lunch. “The best photo—we all agreed out of everybody’s photos—was a picture someone took of a plate of oranges, which they call limons,” claims Hatfield. “I think four of us have already done an art piece based on the photo. So that plate of oranges will be prominent, I’m suspecting, at this show.”

The show (located at Hot Shops Art Center and open from Sept. 2-25) features 30 pieces from each artist. “They decided this over a lot of wine, in Costa Rica, on a mountaintop, by a pool,” laughs Hatfield, “So, that’s how that came to be!” The show includes a video to give guests a detailed overview of the whole experience.

Besides the plate of oranges (or lemons), Hatfield found a great deal to inspire her 30 pieces. “Every minute of it was just a learning experience, and that’s why the show is going to be so fun,” says Hatfield, “because all of us have a different take-away and different view, and really different
artistic styles.” Encounter

Visit hotshopsartcenter.com for more information.Linda-Hatfield1