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Winsted native pursues photography passion in the midst of intense physical challenges
Sept. 22, 2014

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – A broken neck hasn’t stopped 1980 Holy Trinity High School graduate Trudi (Sexton) Porter from chasing her dream – just the opposite, in fact.

“I have always loved creating art, but didn’t have the opportunity to create new works until the course of my life took an unexpected turn this past year,” Trudi said, explaining that, previously, her full-time career working with developmentally disabled individuals had pushed photography by the wayside.

Then, about three years ago, Trudi began having constant pain in her neck and shoulders. At first, she attributed it to stress, but the pain never subsided.

An MRI later revealed a broken bone, and Trudi underwent her first reparative neck surgery in 2012.

Since then, three more surgeries have followed.

“I had a CT scan a couple weeks ago, and the C3 [third cervical vertebrae] and C4 [fourth cervical vertebrae] are collapsing,” Trudi said. “I’m pretty sure surgery number five is coming up.”

Life through a new lens

Trudi kept up her career until February 2013, when numbness, excruciating pain, and a baseball-sized blood clot forced her to step aside.

At that point, Trudi was feeling overwhelmed by the issues she was facing. She began taking photographs, a hobby she had always loved but hadn’t considered turning into a profession.

“A friend suggested I start a website,” Trudi said. She developed an online gallery (see link at www.herald-journal.com), and people began to take notice.

“The Minneapolis Institute of Arts contacted me. I was shocked; I don’t know how they got my name,” Trudi said, explaining that the representative asked to display her photo titled, “Infinity.”

Another boost to her confidence came this past summer, when she received second place and an honorable mention in a photo contest in Prescott, WI.

“I try to share what I see and consider beautiful and tranquil,” Trudi noted. “I want my art to soothe other people, bring back fond memories of days gone by, or else just to put a sparkle in their eye.”

Local appearances

Trudi grew up in Winsted (the ninth of Erwin and Delores Sexton’s 12 children), and later spent 12 years on a hobby farm in Delano with her husband, Eric, and son, Alex.

Trudi takes many photos near her current residence in rural Prescott, WI and along her travels to Minnesota.

Just recently, she returned to the area to show her photos at Luce Line Orchard in rural Watertown, which is owned by the family of Rich Pawelk and Terri Traen (from the KQRS Morning Show).

“I sold quite a few,” Trudi said, adding that she is grateful for the support of her identical twin sister, Terri (Sexton) Hamilton. “She helped me set up my art exhibit at the orchard, as I am very limited as to what I can do physically.”

Trudi’s next local appearance will be as the Winsted Arts Council’s featured artist. Her photography exhibition will open at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, with live music by Lehto & Wright starting at 8 p.m.

“It’s an honor to do this,” Trudi said.

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