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A Pathology of Process

Some art is about product, the final work, and some art is about the work coming into being, about process.  Katelyn Farstad’s current show, Mouthbreather at Midway Contemporary Art, is a hybrid, a collection of works that show the scars of their creation and express a pathology of process.  The works are all busy with detail […]

Katelyn Farstad, Mouth's Self Portrait. 2012 . Cat litter, caulk, photographs, ink, acrylic . Courtesy of the artist's website.

Katelyn Farstad, Mouth’s Self Portrait. 2012 . Cat litter, caulk, photographs, ink, acrylic . Courtesy of the artist’s website.

Some art is about product, the final work, and some art is about the work coming into being, about process.  Katelyn Farstad’s current show, Mouthbreather at Midway Contemporary Art, is a hybrid, a collection of works that show the scars of their creation and express a pathology of process.  The works are all busy with detail and assorted parts–collected odds and ends, ostentatious junk, painted over and glued together; this is making as compulsive behavior, worrying over the details for the sake of worrying over details in the creation of a meticulous chaos.  You can recognize the constituent bits of some of the pieces from across the room.  And You Will…, for instance, features a broken (deconstructed?) chair and a nail strip used in a nail gun.  Some of her works hide their bones at first, but as you get closer and study them, you suddenly spot the plastic netting or painted sponge, some odd and out of place bit, and realize all of the pieces come from the same impulse. Mouthbreather is, in a sense, a collection of modes, a family of creations — the talented older sister, the careless little brother, the uncle no one sees anymore.

wake up sleeping dogs secret.farstad

Of course, there is only one artist here, but what is on display strikes me as evidence of a struggle: of the self striving to present itself, of a knotty, complicated process of working out confusion and frustration — breaking the chair into pieces, throwing clay, shoving sticks through family photos on the wall.  Some things emerge lovely despite the apparent tumult of their making, such as Caught by the Ripe Fruit Cop.  But many of Farstad’s works come out intricately insane, honest, and visceral; Wake Up Those Sleeping Dogs is a good example.  Carpet is roughly stapled to one side of the piece, a wicker vase crudely glued to the top; there’s a plastic tray of some kind, that has been abused by slashes of paint and clay; and a hole on one side of the work’s base, with a chunk of wall or ceiling inside.  It is a dog house as chew toy for our most anxious pets, those with the nervous habit of chewing through walls.

Many, if not all, of the pieces on view feature a tenuous, even unnatural physicality: the works are impossibly balanced, sticking out horizontally from the wall, fabric ready to slip.  They offer a record of kinetic energy like debris after a storm, with things where they should not (could not) be — upside down, sideways, splattered over, unstable.  This further evinces that feeling of process throughout the show — of control and the abandonment of restraint, of frustration and release — what the act of creating is all about.

Installation view of Mouthbreather at Midway Contemporary Art. Courtesy of the gallery.

Installation view of Mouthbreather at Midway Contemporary Art. Courtesy of the gallery.

Each piece in the informs the others; I found I learned more about the success of one work from the perceived failings of another. And taken together, they evidence nothing so much as manic creation in action, the process at work — like someone breathing with their mouth open, perhaps.

Noted exhibition details:

Mouthbreather by Katelyn Farstad is on view through February 2 at Midway Contemporary Art in Minneapolis.

Image credits: Middle left, Wake Up Those Sleeping Dogs, 2012, mixed media, 66″ x 26″ x 36″. Middle right, The Secret V.2, 2012 acrylic, bleach, fabric, plastic.

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Jay Orff is a writer, musician and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His fiction has appeared in Reed, Spout, Chain and Harper’s Magazine.

Viewfinder posts are your opportunity to “show & tell” about the everyday arts happenings, interesting sights and sounds made or as seen by Minnesota artists, because art is where you find it. Submit your own informal, first-person responses to the art around you to editor(at)mnartists.org, and we may well publish your piece here on the blog. (Guidelines: 300 words or less, not about your own event/work, and please include an image, media, video, or audio file, and one sentence about yourself.)

Counting Time and the Illusion of Precision

We use numbers in an attempt to measure precisely, to know exactly of how much of something we have.  It’s perhaps ironic, then, that we use numbers to measure time, as numerical values are at once infinite, in the universal sense, and extremely limited in the personal sphere, our clocks always running.  Either way, how […]

From “Counting Time” by Art Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Douglas Flanders Art.

We use numbers in an attempt to measure precisely, to know exactly of how much of something we have.  It’s perhaps ironic, then, that we use numbers to measure time, as numerical values are at once infinite, in the universal sense, and extremely limited in the personal sphere, our clocks always running.  Either way, how much time is there? The work on display in Counting Time: Recent Work by Art Gillespie at Douglas Flanders Art explores this conundrum in a brain-tickling way.

From a distance, Gillespie’s pieces are exemplary of clean, black and white precision.  But when you get up close, you notice the chafed, uneven surface — how it looks beat up, disintegrating.  Gillespie starts with a piece of black tar paper, paints it white, and then, using stencils, painstakingly scrapes and removes the white to once again reveal blackness surrounding the letters and numbers. The dark areas are rough and full of texture, at odds with the numeric precision.  Seeing the work in person, I wondered how the pieces might be changed by digital reproduction, if the black areas lost their texture and dimension to the smooth sheen of a print. A glossy, flat rendering of his images would likely make the illusion of using numbers to communicate precise temporal information more believable: the line would be cleaner, allowing for less doubt. Which makes it all the more interesting that he’s chosen to leave room for that very sort of uncertainty, with the rough, uneven textures of reality; he’s left visible the marks of physical labor behind the works’ creation, of craftsmanship, and in so doing, he’s reintroduced the messiness of human struggle into the ideologically orderly world of scientific measurement.  His aren’t fixed, static measures; there is a neurotic, anxious life in Gillespie’s numbers.

Fortunately, Gillespie was in the gallery when I visited the exhibition, so I could ask him directly about the work. He said he’d been thinking about how he could use letters and numbers to form a line, about using them as content, and that in these works he’s exploring that idea.  That is, we know exactly what we are looking at, a letter or a word; we recognize these things. But taken together, the words become abstract, meaningless, lost in the sea of numbers, in the unyielding flow of time they are trying to represent, to capture. In this way, counting time is like trying to hold a flowing river in your hands: the water passes through your grasp, and any idea that you’re actually holding something in your hand is an illusion.

Gillespie said each piece took approximately a month to create, which means that the current show represents a year of labor. Looking around the gallery, seeing the accumulation of works as individual months of his life gathered on the wall, I felt a touch of vertigo, as if I were standing in a room surrounded by every one of those days.

I highly recommend you experience this subtle, mind-bending show for yourself. As with most independent galleries, admission is free and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 am to 6 pm. If you find yourself in Lyn-Lake or Uptown Minneapolis, or anywhere nearby, you should stop in and give your mind a spin via the engaging work of Art Gillespie.

Noted exhibition details:

Counting Time by Art Gillespie is on view through December 29 at Douglas Flanders Art, 910 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Jay Orff is a writer, musician and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His fiction has appeared in Reed, Spout, Chain and Harper’s Magazine.

Viewfinder posts are your opportunity to “show & tell” about the everyday arts happenings, interesting sights and sounds made or as seen by Minnesota artists, because art is where you find it. Submit your own informal, first-person responses to the art around you to susannah(at)mnartists.org, and we may well publish your piece here on the blog. (Guidelines: 300 words or less, not about your own event/work, and please include an image, media, video, or audio file, and one sentence about yourself.)

Viewfinder: Ann Klefstad – Living Room at Gallery 13

“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 […]

Installation view of Living Room, at Gallery 13 in Minneapolis through October 14. Photo by Ann Klefstad.

“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.

Ann Klefstad, lake sculptures, installation view of Living Room at Gallery 13. Photo by Ann Klefstad.

Related links and information:
Ann Klefstad’s solo exhibition, Living Room, is on view in Gallery 13 in Minneapolis through Sunday, October 14. Gallery hours and more information: www.gallery13.com.

Jay Orff is a writer, musician and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His fiction has appeared in Reed, Spout, Chain and Harper’s Magazine.