“I live in the room with no ceiling, the one made out of water, forest and sky.”– Ann Klefstad
Of course, all of us here in the Twin Cities, or perhaps nearly all of us, live in the room with a ceiling, with no forest or sky. We live in rooms made of steel and wood. That’s why it’s interesting that Klefstad’s sculptural installation, Living Room at Gallery 13 is made out of plywood, pitch, and welded cortense steel. She has re-repurposed these urban, industrial materials back into the natural world, into deer and wolves and forest panels. Although it isn’t a part of the show, the Hyundai parked in the middle of the gallery, with vines and branches and streams painted on it, seems to be in the process of being reclaimed too.
Taken together, as you wander through the show, the sculptures create an environment; the whole works as an installation. Seeing a bit of turf on the gallery floor, I found myself thinking of those times you see grass growing through a crack in the sidewalk, nature always insistent, forever reclaiming. And here, in this gallery on LaSalle Avenue, a whole room has been taken back: the wooden panels have rough, monochromatic paintings of forest on them, drawn in black pitch, like illustrations for some fable. I particularly like Forest Panels 1-3, which stand on their own, more like individual pieces — large and moving, capturing the feel of a hike through the northwoods, birch trees in the wind. Two welded steel deer stand the surrounded by the wood panels, and there are more deer represented in the painted forests. Along a far wall, there are waterfalls, images of Lake Superior’s waters transferred to flowing sheets of galvanized steel. Keep going and you’ll find a wolf hiding in the trees, life-size in welded steel, as well as a nearby painted nude wood nymph.
For a moment, I let the fable take hold and allow myself to be transported to the forest, leaves on the concrete floor. The wolf seems to be stalking the two deer who are in the clearing, and I found myself half-expecting him to leap; I move out of the line between the hunter and its prey.
Then I remember that the portrayed scene is home to Klefstad; she lives very near these northwoods, in Duluth, thus the title of the show. These may be images of her “living room,” but her woods have found a home here, in the city, too; the show’s pieces make deft use of urban building materials, alongside bits of purposefully employed nature, as a sort of translation, returning them to that natural world. Combined, it’s a delightful Mobius strip, and one that is enhanced by the show’s context at Gallery 13, in the very center of Minnesota’s largest city. As I look, it seems nature really is reclaiming a bit of downtown Minneapolis, that this topical, local scene serves as a reference to what is close at hand, but usually fenced off from us by wood and metal. How wonderful if somehow these deer, these wolves, could find a permanent home on the corner of 7th and Hennepin, a reminder of where we always are.
Jay Orff is a writer, musician and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His fiction has appeared in Reed, Spout, Chain and Harper’s Magazine.