Part of the work of an artist involves challenging one's self to look at the world in new ways.

Carl Homstad, of rural Decorah, has spent the better part of four decades doing just that -- and inviting us to join him in the looking.

The artist's first major retrospective, "A Sense of Place," on exhibit at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah through April 2013, takes that invitation a step further.

"Many retrospective exhibits are just works from throughout the artists' lifetime," says Laurann Gilbertson, chief curator at Vesterheim. "'A Sense of Place' is more."

For the exhibit, Homstad selected pieces done, over many years, within a mile of his house in Springwater Village, north of Decorah. He arranged the artworks in the gallery from a central point that represents his house.

"When you look north of that point in the gallery, you are seeing his view to the north," Gilbertson says. "As a viewer, you feel like you are standing next to him at his easel."

Homstad was born in 1951 in Denver, Colo.

"In May 1969 I came to Decorah for my sister's graduation from Luther College," he writes in the artist statement accompanying the exhibit. "I skipped her commencement to canoe the Upper Iowa River. I was convinced that the Decorah area was the place for me. That fall, I came to Luther as a freshman."

He graduated from Luther with a B.A. in art in 1973, having studied with an icon of the art world, the late Orville Running.

"Mr. Running was a student at The Art Students League of Chicago, and he was an 'old school' teacher," Homstad recalls. "By that I mean you started with the basics and stayed there until you understood each part and before you moved on to the next ... He was master of the woodcut print and I am still learning things from his work."

This retrospective exhibit notwithstanding, Homstad is not focused on the past.

"I am convinced I am doing my best work ever," he says.

For more information about the retrospective exhibit, go to vesterheim.org. For more information about the Perfect Edge exhibit, call 563-382-2567.