Blogs Jehra Patrick

JEHRA PATRICK is a Minneapolis-based arts program director, artist, curator and gallery founder. As Program Director for Mn Artists, she supports Minnesota’s art community through an open digital community and artistic programs and partnerships. Through her work with Mn Artists, she's produced numerous public programs for artists to expand their definitions for digital participation, museum engagement, and community involvement. These programs have taken the form of panels, lectures public art, round-tables, open discussions, interviews, co-presentations and new distribution models for artwork. Jehra is a frequent writer, lecturer, visiting critic, and independent program organizer on topics relevant to the practices of visual artists. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout the Midwest, and nationally, and she is a recipient of grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, McKnight Next Step Fund, and the Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists.

2013-2014 McKnight Photography Fellows: Now Available on iBooks

For the past 30 years, the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Photographers program has supported the work of mid-career Minnesota artists, both to recognize their accomplishments and to assist ongoing work. The fellowship provides four annual awards which include a $25,000 stipend, visits with nationally and internationally recognized curators and critics, and the production of a […]

For the past 30 years, the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Photographers program has supported the work of mid-career Minnesota artists, both to recognize their accomplishments and to assist ongoing work. The fellowship provides four annual awards which include a $25,000 stipend, visits with nationally and internationally recognized curators and critics, and the production of a monograph artist book or catalog. has hosted and managed the fellowship for the past five years, working with a total of 20 mid-career photographers.

The 2012-2013 McKnight Artist Fellows include an accomplished group of contemporary photographers selected by jurors Kevin Moore, an independent scholar and curator; Lisa Sutcliffe, a former Assistant Curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and current Curator of Photography at the Milwaukee Art Museum; and San Francisco artist, Todd Hido. The fellows worked closely with the McKnight Photography Fellowship staff and Minneapolis publisher Location Books to produce four distinct monographs. The completed books are published in a limited edition of 100 copies, and they represent the distinct bodies of work made by each fellow. Each book includes an introductory essay on the artist’s work written by independent curator Charlotte Cotton. Below is a preview of the newly published catalogs: see a sampling of each fellow’s images, read excerpts from the essays. We encourage you to download a copy of each through iTunes if you’d like to read more.

Frozen by Jenn Ackerman

Jenn Ackerman, Crib Ruins. Lake Superior, Feb. 2013

Jenn Ackerman

Ackerman’s work has been recognized by the Inge Morath Award, Review Santa Fe/CENTER, Magnum Expression Award, the Honickman First Book Prize, Communication Arts Photography Annual and others. One of her projects, Trapped, was named Non-Traditional Photojournalism Publishing Project of the Year, and the project’s short film won an Emmy. Ackerman studied photography at the Danish School of Journalism, and received a master’s degree in visual communications from Ohio University. During the fellowship year Ackerman continued working on her project, Frozen, shooting with a 4×5 camera in the rural areas of Northern Minnesota.

From the introductory essay by Charlotte Cotton for the book, Frozen: 

Jenn Ackerman moved to Minnesota three years ago, and it is perhaps not surprising that her first mature body of work created here would engage with one of the defining characteristics of this state.  In her series, Frozen, Ackerman responds to the unique visual drama of winter weather.  She gathers a series of scenes and encounters in northern Minnesota, seen through the eyes of a newly arrived photographer, each conveying a graphic sense of the infinite terrain that the ice and snow create in the winter months.  There are solitary structures and vehicles that she finds in remote places — almost comical and anthropomorphic, resilient and even optimistic in their ability to endure these harsh winters, disconnected from regular fall or spring time use.


Teri Fullerton, from the series The Return, ongoing

Teri Fullerton

Fullerton is a 2010-11 Jerome Emerging Artist Fellow whose work has been included in 22 solo and group exhibitions in Portland, Seattle, Milwaukee, Santa Fe, the Twin Cities and Paris. Fullerton grew up in Lake Tahoe, California, completed a Master’s in Education (1996) in Portland, Oregon, and a Master’s in Fine Art (2008) from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Fullerton traveled to both Molokai and Hawaii during her fellowship year, where she created photographic and video portraits of veterans for her project, The Return. 

From the introduction to Before Eros/After War:

Fullerton often takes an observation and something that is, for her, an emotional point of pressure, and thinks through how a photographic strategy can reveal the contradictions and hidden narratives of contemporary life.   There are a number of facets to Teri Fullerton’s photographic practice, which all centre upon the human condition of loneliness and the quest for a feeling of homecoming.  This is absolutely explicit in Fullerton’s ongoing series of photographs, which portray American military veterans.

But Fullerton also introduces her own interventions into this mediated system of desire, creating an artful gallery of ‘fantasy boyfriends’, reworking the iconography of heterosexual male desirability that the Internet now provides, reminding us of the deep-seated desires that we project so naturally upon online photographic imagery.


Jason Pearson

Pearson has exhibited his photography and drawing both nationally and internationally and is the recipient of the Jerome Foundation Travel and Research Grant (2011), Djerassi Resident Artists Program Residency (2008), The Cooper Union School of Art Residency (2007) and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center Residency Program (2007–08). His work is in a number of private collections as well as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL. Pearson was born and raised in Minnesota. He holds a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2002) and an MFA from Syracuse University (2007), both in photography. During his fellowship, Pearson traveled to Playa del Carmen where he staged photographs that function in tandem with a cache of images co-created with his twin brother for his project, No Kissing.

Cotton, on No Kissing:

Jason Pearson, in collaboration with his brother, has been creating a cache of photographic imagery. They construct a visual language of shared memories, notes, and proclamations that collectively provide an idiosyncratic glimpse into their histories and experiences.  Their photographs act as a set of codes and signifiers of imagined events, games and desires.  Jason Pearson has an eye for the visually strange and contradictory, and this is the overarching characteristic of all of the photographs shown here.


Katherine Turczan, Reubens and Watermelon, Ukraine, 2012

Katherine Turczan

Turczan’s work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. She was a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and 2010 Fulbright Fellow and has travelled extensively in Eastern Europe, making photographs which reflect the changes in the former Soviet Union. For her fellowship year, Turczan returned to Dneprodzerzhinsk, where she photographed the impact of social upheaval on the lives of young women in her project, Breshnev’s Daughters.

From Cotton’s essay on Breshnev’s Daughters:

Katherine Turczan uses a slow camera, the 8” x 10” large-format camera, positioned on a tripod, and that determines the gentle scrutiny that she gives her subjects.  Working in the women’s domestic spaces, with their distinct patterned carpets, wallpapers, paintings, and elegant displays of flowers, Turczan provides a sense of safety and respect in these photographic encounters with her use of black-and-white photography.  The delicacy in the play of light, of finely detailed fabrics, the women’s hair and skin are all palpably present in these monochrome scenes.

Complete catalogs, with full essays by Charlotte Cotton on these fellows’ projects, are available for download on iTunes.

Anne George: Readymade Gestures

Anne George welcomes me into her studio one sweltering Minnesota evening in late June. I’m greeted by the soft flutter of crepe paper flagging through the air as a standing fan oscillates. Her studio is — through my aspiring eyes — quite dreamy; easily 1,000 square feet laid out in the form of an “L,” […]


Untitled, Banner Series Canvas, twill tape, acrylic, 108″ x 96,” 2012

Anne George welcomes me into her studio one sweltering Minnesota evening in late June. I’m greeted by the soft flutter of crepe paper flagging through the air as a standing fan oscillates. Her studio is — through my aspiring eyes — quite dreamy; easily 1,000 square feet laid out in the form of an “L,” with generous daylight, massive walls, large utilitarian carts, flat files, a built-in bookshelf wall and seating area. Together we walk through several bodies of work, each which investigates medium as subject, and draw connections between formal interests, slippage of language, and non-fixity with respect to “gesture” and artists careers.

The artist's studio. Photo by Jehra Patrick

The artist’s studio

George’s earlier work was centralized in printmaking with a conceptual interest in sequential nature of film. Influenced by film and video’s emergence, and acceptance, into contemporary art practice during the 1990s, she transcribed an interest in time and framing into a motif of pagination carried out across books, prints, and multiples. Choice in medium, format, and therefore subject, within George’s practice tends to shift by happenstance and introduction, rather than placing an exterior interest into the medium as a vehicle. In example, her interests shifted from books and prints to working photographically, through the catalyst of simply being given a camera. The medium itself then becomes the cause for its employ. She’s not interested in resolving topical or content issues, rather the issues specific to medium, form, and the properties of both.

Untitled (Level), 1997. Image: Walker Art Center

Her earlier work in digital photography, bypassed traditional photographic concerns for framing, subject and documenting contemporary history. Rather, she became interested in the qualities of the digital mark – the pixel – and its ability to shatter and break apart an image. Digital cameras and resolution quality are now a part of everyday vernacular, but in the mid-90s this was an exploration of the nature of the object of the camera and its output – with concerns for what is can do, what kind of information does it transmit – rather then engaging the language of the photograph as commentary on, or reflexivity of, the medium.

George’s material interests are also apparent in her concerns for resolving two-dimensional design applications though drawings. She works on a smaller — we’ll call it store-bought — dimension, which bears a nice relationship to the body. Easily at arms length, the size of a torso, or something you’d carry. On that size, one’s hand can caress the paper and enjoy its smoothness, burrs, and other tactile qualities. George will also enforce the drawing paper by stretching it over foamcore, creating an airy tablet.

George approaches the substrate employing everyday materials as formal, and physical, “gestures.” For George, the notion of the gesture sprawls out in all its semiotic glory: as an action, doing, articulating movement through space, occupying dimensions, acting as lines, or compacting into iconography. One drawing bares a craft-paper brown bow on a dirtied piece of 18” x 22”paper; the charcoal-smudge across the paper’s composition a gesture as well. A decorative bow — the same thing one would find affixed to a present — is inducted as a drawing implement. As gesture, the bow has association with the act of gift giving, it signals appreciation — a warm gesture — and, located on the drawing’s surface, recalls the bodily motion of securing it with a gentle, pressing force. Its loops, folds, curves and bends, can be unraveled through one’s vision as a undulating planar line in space. All of these gestures George compresses in the bow. The drawing slips in out of flat space and sculptural space; just sitting there — half-object, half-image — it embodies art as an offering itself, being set into the world like a metaphoric open hand.

Assorted drawings.

Assorted drawings

A few other surfaces are adorned with paper shopping bag handles, seemingly functional, like little portfolios an art student might have filled with prints. Other non-traditional materials employed in the artists compositions include the ephemera of everyday: tape, paper, scraps, clippings, the kind of stuff organized by bins of some sort — recycling, discounted fabric, dust, hardware, discount. The drawings and their implements live between substrate, medium and object, each material forming a sculptural drawing or character. Though George is hesitant to say character, or even symbol; these meanings are fixed. Gesture implies malleability, movement, action. She holds her hand in the air, pursing her index finger on her thumb and waves her forearm side to side. This is the motion we all make when we perform the charade for “Drawing.” We also happen to be miming the production of a check mark, or tick. This check mark is the most reductive form of “gesture” for George — a readymade gesture – and we see this formal element reoccur throughout her oeuvre, pointing us to a movement, line, shape, and its denotation. Check. Good, I completed this. Or bad, I supposed, when next to our names on an elementary chalkboard. It is a simple and reductive motion, and drawn line, symbolizing both doing and undoing. Those things accounted for, or simply: yes.

One of the artist's book compositions

One of the artist’s book compositions

George’s palette is also reductive, working in the values and colors inherent to her substrates, drawing implements, and readymades, often black, brown and their tonal and textural variances — sometimes glossy, inky, dull, or matte. Her lack of pigment allows for greater emphasis on form, as well as removes the connotations of color from her compositions.

Along side object-drawings and material collages, George continues to work in book format. Her artists books are living documents, rather then a finalized container for a collection of content and function more like notebooks and sketchbooks.  They allow her to work in demonstrations, exercises, and modular units. On each page she introduces new problems to solve and alternate delineations to break apart, ruin, pull back, and reclaim. Each page gets eradicated and repaired, interrupted and completed. The drawings, while manipulatable, are also vulnerable, delicate and often times loosely assembled, such that an element can detach, fall or hang limply; all of these actions being gestures as well.


Untitled, Banner Series. Canvas, twill tape, acrylic. 90″ x 70,” 2012

In her newest works, the Banner series, draping tarps speak their own language, hanging raw with solid icons, panels or washy stains. While she’s not one to look into the self-awareness of medium, these new works invoke the language of painting.

George is quick to say that she has, “never been a painter,” in fact, in her formative years was adamantly anti-Painting. George recalls from her instruction that, “in the hierarchy of art processes, painting sat predictably at the top, valued over the others.” It was this disdain that motivated George to pursue less predicated avenues — or those lower on the ‘hierarchal’ totem – for production. She confirms this is an old ethos, but it is a reminder of her influences and values.

If her pages, tablets, boards, are intimate and flexible palimpsests, the tarps provide a solution for scale and durability, as well as offer an out from the traditional picture plane. The weight and texture of the material and its ability to accommodate forward-jutting attachments, allow the piece to suspend between image and object. This discursive and gestural, ne symbolic, properties of the tarp pieces are amplified when George introduces the accompaniment of tributary objects and loose images as a supporting cast. Despite the spatial orchestration of the arrangement, George is also hesitant of claiming territory in sculpture and installation – she didn’t confirm this, but I suspect that it, too, is because of the hierarchal weight of those disciplines. In plain speech she said she ‘didn’t really like having those objects around. ‘ Which, as an artist who produces wall-hanging work,  I grinningly agreed with. Where do these things live?

Does it really matter if her work fits neatly into a league of drawing, collage, sculpture or another discipline? I would argue that it does. Not that the lack of identification and medium-specificity is detrimental to knowing what she makes, but it is precisely that she is not concerned with these medial differences that defines the ambit of non-fixity of her practice. After all, an artists work is defined by as much by what it is not as by what it is. Her work is about an output that lives between and around objects and images — this is also what the works do — they escape the picture plane and point away from themselves – these are the areas of interest. It’s not the thing. It’s the movement that expresses the meaning. It’s the gesture.


The artist in her studio

With gesture as the subject, Anne George is  more interested in formal and compositional resolutions then pursuing medium or composition as a vehicle for content. Whereas some artists tend to load a lot of narrative into work — in promotion of an idea, or inclusive of a story — she’s not that kind of artist. She is willing to offer us a premise. She is also aware of that, now, and encouraged that artists to also be open to non-fixity in their work and pursuits. Gesture, in its non-fixed nature, allows for a longer life and an open reading, which also allows for artists to be agile, open their work up for new audiences and markets, and continue to offer new approaches through the gesture of their individual practices.

5 Takeaways from Eyeo 2013

This past week the Walker Art Center filled with artists, coders, and interactive intelligentsia as Eyeo Festival, an art, interaction and information conference, brought these creative together for four days of talks, workshops, and interactions. What is Eyeo? Is it an art and technology event? Is it creative coding? Is it a data visualization conference? […]

Festival co-founder David Schroeder kicking off the festival. Image courtesy of Carla Januska

Festival co-founder David Schroeder kicking off the festival. Image courtesy of Carla Januska

This past week the Walker Art Center filled with artists, coders, and interactive intelligentsia as Eyeo Festival, an art, interaction and information conference, brought these creative together for four days of talks, workshops, and interactions. What is Eyeo? Is it an art and technology event? Is it creative coding? Is it a data visualization conference? Is it design? Storytelling? “Yeah,” said festival co-founder Dave Schroeder, addressing an auditorium, “It is all of those things.”

Now in its third iteration, the festival acknowledges that art, interaction, and information — and their intersections — are changing, and these changes, intersections, and the projects that emerge from these territories are exciting and should be shared. Data is also changing; data is no longer numbers — it’s words, a social media feed, a color, a sensor, a houseplant, or a ship. Access points to data are expanding and processes and tool sets that manage data are evolving, becoming more transparent, and are now open and sharable.

What happens when possibilities, ideas and community come together? Great design, alternative storytelling, and inspiring theory ensue.  Here are five reasons to follow the festival, and its practitioners, as this community grows and continues to leave brilliance in its path.

Projects > Products

The beauty of Eyeo is how brandless it is. Sure, Eyeo itself is now a brand, and there are certainly intersections between art, code, and advertising, but “interactive” isn’t limited to the next hot start-up, million-dollar app, or the latest service. Eyeo distinguishes itself from other festivals, like SXSW Interactive, for its lack of commercialization and focus on the intelligence of good projects. Eyeo reminds us that art is essential to digital innovation and the ethics of the community prioritizes responsive ideas, creative solutions, and alternative storytelling rather then trying to make a buck. As one panelist joked, “Data visualization artists are kind of the free R&D departments for [advertisting] agencies.” Perhaps a sarcastic side effect, but producing cool work on ones own volition, for me, is a true artistic gesture.

Light Leaks from Kyle McDonald on Vimeo.

Ideas are better when they are shared

Media artist Kyle McDonald finds inspiration in a collective and continual awareness of how and what is released to the ether of the Internet. We only give things half of our attention anyway, so McDonald encourages us to think of projects in small but elegant and sharable terms and calls us to action with tweet-sized proposals for projects to take and run with. His brainchildren, each of them less then 140 characters, include open-ended proposals for the public to realize like “sand-sorting machine to automate sand granule tonalities” or “subtractive modeling in foam with high-frequency heterodyning.” Take these and do with them what you will. Others the artist turns into real artists projects, like a “scattered array of 50 mirror balls reflect light from three projectors, filling a room completely, casting patterns that fill the visitor’s peripheral vision,” which evolved into Light Leaks or “a room full of Sonos speakers that follow you through the space” turned into a interactive installation and collaboration with musicians the XX for their music video for “Missing.”

Process 18 (Software 6) from Casey REAS on Vimeo.

Software is a relevant art form

Artist and professor Casey Reas offered to dispel the density of software as visual arts medium, as well as the context for viewing and understanding software as art form. A professor at UCLA, Reas articulates that software-as-art arrived as early as the 1970s, and has been ushered out for decades, in tandem with Conceptual Art. Software meets the criteria of an artistic medium as it is both a tool set and matrial. Reas is not only a proponent of this thinking, he developed a series of principals for code that replace the antiquated ‘principals of art’ you may have learned in high school – Unity, Harmony, Variety, Balance – are replaced with computation-specific variables including Repeat, Parameterize, Transform, Visualize, and Simulate. These are not methods of process for emerging software artists, but also by extension criteria by which we can bring clarity to, and critical discussion around, digital art forms.


Chocolate, History Flow (2003). Image courtesy of

Data is not (just) numbers.

Visualization typically happens with numbers; quantitative truths are achieved by objectivity. Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg of ask us to consider the subjective truths — what people are thinking, or rather, obsessing about: the data on the periphery of the data.  The interesting link between objective and subjective data, and maybe an overarching theme at the conference, is the notion of the self-appointed project. What better example of the self-appointed project than Wikipedia! Viegas and Wattenberg use words with a color-coded ledger as data to uncover the secret obsessions of self-appointed Wikipedian entries, edits, and patrolling, in History Flow (2003). The result is a Missoni-esque pattern in florescent colors only native to hex-codes, riddled with subjective data and human interruptions and vandalism. In a more recent project, the collaborative creates composites from varying discontinuities of digital versions of famous artworks in Reproduction (2011).

Visualizing Painters Lives, All rights reserved by

A short, well-designed story

The “show don’t tell” mantra applies for data-visualization artist Giorgia Lupi, who acquaints us with the notion that stories don’t have to be told with articles or event statements. Storytelling through data mapping allows for retelling of non-linear and layered stories in ways that are clear and in data that can represent reductive, but complete, information.  Often constraints — like time, space, and information — are also resources. The founder of Italian data visualization studio Accurat continued to show, not tell, us about the lives and works of 10 abstract painters through clean, well designed diagrams highlighting palette, size and artistic period of masterpieces, as well as love affairs and life events, throughout their career trajectories. The designer is also an advocate of drawing out ideas to visualize as she works, reminding us that the Italian verb for “draw” is synonymous with “design” or “plan.”


Posture Is Everything: An Interview with Artist Kristina Estell

Duluth-based artist Kristina Estell’s recent exhibition Posture Is Everything currently occupies the north gallery of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Composed of cool, pale blue sheets of silicone elegantly draped atop triangular wooden armature, Posture Is Everything calls to mind winding river beds, fallen skies and couch-fort mountain ranges. […]


Posture Is Everything, 2013. Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Duluth-based artist Kristina Estell’s recent exhibition Posture Is Everything currently occupies the north gallery of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Composed of cool, pale blue sheets of silicone elegantly draped atop triangular wooden armature, Posture Is Everything calls to mind winding river beds, fallen skies and couch-fort mountain ranges. Like many of Estell’s sculptural forms and installations, this ethereal work evokes the gestures and forms of nature, rather then offering a direct representation of the natural world. I chatted with the artist recently by email to learn about the complex process involved in making the work in her exhibition, nature as medium, classical drapery and institutional posturing.

Jehra Patrick

I heard that the “drapery” in your piece was produced by the very labor-intensive process of painting silicone onto the walls of the MAEP space. Can you walk me through that process?

Kristina Estell

Actually, the piece in the MAEP gallery was produced in my studio! Due to material off-gassing and other concerns, the museum didn’t approve the original proposal to use the silicone on the walls of the space to create the work. A connection to the MAEP space is made apparent through the actual size of the combined dimensions of the sheets of rubber in the exhibition. These dimensions equal that of the MAEP space – 1352 sq. feet.

For Posture is Everything, the process was labor-intensive, but necessary to achieve the desired thickness – as well as to economically use the material — and to make it strong enough to support itself on such a large scale. Once I had determined the size of the pieces of rubber I needed, I mapped those dimensions out on the wall’s surface and then applied a thin layer of the silicone directly onto the wall using a three-inch chip brush. The liquid rubber is quite thick and has to be applied fairly evenly to achieve the effect that I want.

Installation in progress for Posture is Everything. Image courtesy of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Installation in progress for Posture is Everything. Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Once the first coat is applied, the material cures for 24 hours, all the while creeping down the wall’s surface as it sets. I then laid down a layer of thin nylon mesh fabric on the silicone’s surface and applied another full coat of rubber, adhering and sandwiching the material onto the first coat of rubber. Once the second layer was set, I simply peeled the rubber off the wall, rolling it onto a large cardboard tube to keep it clean and flat. The color of the silicone rubber comes “naturally” from the chemical activator provided by the manufacturer, and it’s one of the reasons why I like using this particular kind of silicone. Another great characteristic of this silicone mold material is that it doesn’t permanently adhere to (almost) any surface except itself, which makes it very user-friendly and flexible in terms of potential applications.

treatment (covered), 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Jehra Patrick

A process similar to that was used to produce a previous work, treatment (covered), completed for the Kabinett Gallery during your residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Germany – how was that process different?

Kristina Estell

For the treatment installation, the goal was initially much more about creating a subtle and materially-charged space – treating the space, as it were. After many calculations, much prep-work, and a call for volunteer helpers, I set up a station in the middle of the gallery and just starting mixing silicone. This particular silicone was dyed with a bit of blue and gray color. Using the same small chip brush technique, my helpers and I brushed two layers of silicone onto the ceiling, walls, fixtures, windows and radiators, in this case, without the layer of fabric in between. I then let the material cure and migrate down the walls as it set.

Jehra Patrick

I’m interested in the relationship between the two pieces and your decision to repeat the action and make use of the material in a new way for the MAEP show. Can you speak to the evolution of your concept and process from one exhibition to the next?

Kristina Estell

treatment directly inspired the work at the MIA. At the end of the exhibition at the Akademie, I returned to de-install the work. Through this process, I realized a whole new experience of the material. My expectations for covering a room in silicone included, initially, the experience of the material as a direct part of the space as an installation, and secondly, being able to remove this material to retain the mold of the space as a rubber negative. In practice, the additional and unexpected part of the process became even more interesting to me as I started to remove the material from the space and learn about the spaces characteristics in such thin dimensions and at such a large scale. As the material started to come off, it began to peel itself from the wall — pulled down by its own weight — and that created really beautiful, and kind of theatrical, draping forms hanging from the surface of the walls. I found these forms so interesting, I knew I wanted to create another work that intentionally used this discovery in a more deliberate way and which might really exploit the weighty, draping potential of the rubber.

Installation in progress for Posture is Everything. Image courtesy of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Installation in progress for Posture is Everything. Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Jehra Patrick

Silicone, or rubber, seems like a particularly unnatural and permanent [non biodegradable] material. What is the importance of the material in this work? Is it the behavior of the material or the implications of its use that you’re primarily interested in?

Kristina Estell

The silicone material I am using is, of course, industrially manipulated to have the uses and properties it does, but it is not so very far removed from [unprocessed] silicon, the chemical element found in nature, and that makes up an enormous percentage of the earth’s crust, for example. And in this rubberized form, the silicone mold material is actually not permanent. In fact, the life of all these sheets of rubber is very uncertain. The “skin” will start to degrade and the color will change over time…probably pretty dramatically within the space of just five years.

Jehra Patrick

That is interesting! I had it in my head that silicone (probably in terms of medical implants, etc.) was this permanent, fake thing. Thanks for returning me to the Periodic Table! That really gives the piece an added dimension, to think about it behaving like a skin – in form and behavior – molting off the walls, really delicate and fragile, even taking on attributes of aging.

Kristina Estell

To answer your question: Drawing lines back and forth between the material and the referring implications of its use is exactly what interests me so much in this material as a central subject and object in my work.

Processing and Computation, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist

Jehra Patrick 

Working directly with the site, as in the walls of the exhibition space, or collecting materials – such as rocks – from the area where you work appears to be a thread in your practice. Does your general studio practice guide you to work in response to your site of production? Or, does this [site-specificity] differ from your general studio practice, having more to do with preparing for a particular exhibition?

Kristina Estell

Depending on the project, where I am working at the time, etc, my working practice is very flexible. I do find inspiration in being outside of my everyday environment, and often I create work for specific locations. Many projects only exist in certain locations, but others can translate to other sites as well.  I see my studio practice as a kind of magnification process — taking a small thing from outside and blowing it up into something else within my work space.

My working practice is materially inspired but conceptually relies on finding and creating simple connections and gestures. Depending on the idea, my working practice, materials, processes change for almost every new project. Recently, I have been studying glass working and am preparing a station in the studio to start exploring this medium. I work with a material for some amount of time until I am able to understand it, how it acts and what connections I can develop between its physical properties and a set of ideas that interest me. This naturally involves a lot of trial and error, but this is also the best way to actually learn and make discoveries that can inform finishing a project and inspiring a new one.

Jehra Patrick 

The natural world has long been central to your work, yet you often approach the subject in subtle, indirect ways. Is this reflective of your own experience of nature? Or, are you simply looking for less representational ways to discuss natural forms?

Kristina Estell

That’s an interesting question. I feel like I use nature within my work as more of a medium than a subject sometimes: a set of imagery and objects to think through, learn from, processes and events that are relative to my own experience but which are also just the common experience of living today. Nature is something that holds us all; it’s a reflexive subject and it makes sense to pay attention to it that way. It’s also just the language that seems most essential to me.

Installation view of Posture is Everything, 2013. Image courtesy of The Minneapolis Institute of Art

Installation view of Posture is Everything, 2013. Image courtesy of The Minneapolis Institute of Art

Jehra Patrick

That is beautiful and poetic — the notion of nature as medium. This resonates with so many disciplines: painting by way of oil, photography’s use of light and chemicals, sculpture’s origination in stone.  I also appreciate your intentionality in blurring subject-object-medium and the slippage between form and materials. These poetics seem to work their way into the title of your current exhibition. Would you talk a little about that title: Posture is Everything?

Kristina Estell

I liked the ambiguity and the structure implied by the title, Posture is Everything. It is obviously resolute, but I was hoping that – in combination with seeing the work in the gallery – this resolution would be dissolved a bit and the title would help create a sense of urging effort within the sculptural forms; a sense that this dense, heavy, sagging but beautiful material — with all its references — has intentions of real structure or ‘posture’ but no such actual potential without the wooden armature underneath it. The ‘everything’ in the title makes it just priceless, bringing up an elusive sense of value and what matters. I especially thought this title would be interesting within the institution context of the art museum.

Jehra Patrick

Let’s talk more about the work’s placement within the art museum. In form, the silicone brings to mind historical imagery within a museum such as classical painting, or assemblies of objects and fabric swaths from life drawing. The armature nearly references easels. In titling, ‘everything’ might refer to all the museums holdings, or all things of greatness – art as valuables, or the art or the artist’s role, or stature, but also implies that these roles or behaviors are misleading. Do artists, or the museum posture as well?

Kristina Estell 

Yes, all these points you bring up are connections I am interested in. Right away during the install process, I was getting comments from various people about the visual similarities the piece has to other artwork within the museum and beyond. I didn’t expect such a direct relationship to specific works held by the museum, but did anticipate the relationship to the tradition of drawing, painting, still lifes and enjoyed pulling from that [classical] ‘standard’ of beauty that suggests objectivity, as well as genericness of subject.

The practice of working from drapery or fabric shapes with such attention and detail to accomplish form without content is very interesting to me; it is the most simple and empty way to illustrate ‘posture,’ or the act of posturing, which I definitely believe art does. The genre of still life most honestly reveals its postured nature. Necessarily, I do think artists and art institutions build on a series of postures that feel flexible and tenuous…at times misleading as well, but possibly just more undefined in our culture.

Kristina Estell’s work references physical material systems through an exploration of the theme of landscape and vision. As sculpture, my work exists in pieces, parts of a whole. It is ephemeral in its design as well as in the quality expressed by the use of such materials as transparent resin, sheer fabric, lenses and clear silicone. Using a range of sculptural and drawing techniques, my work aims to expand our understanding of landscape to include sites outside of our immediate periphery, which might be deeply interior or vastly exterior. These processes often result in a collection of naturally suggestive but ambiguous forms that come together to narrate a space and question our perceptions of nature.

Kristina Estell’s Posture is Everything runs until Sunday, June 20, 2013 at in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program gallery at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Artist’s Talks: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7-9 p.m.
Special Guests: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7-9 p.m.

Look for Kristina’s work in the Minnesota Biennial at The Soap Factory, where she will create drawings from materials collected from the gallery, itself.

For more on the artist, visit her website at and blog

Trouble in Paradise: A Conversation with Painter Melissa Loop

Minnesota artist Melissa Loop draws attention to the complexities and double-standards inherent in fetishizing and idealizing exotic locales, exploring the consequences of tourism through the lush, layered surfaces of her paintings. In a recent conversation, we discussed the lineage of landscape painting, from Hudson River School to Peter Doig, painting and viewing art as work […]

Melissa Loop, I Turned Your Kingdom Out, acrylic and spray paint, 2013

Melissa Loop, I Turned Your Kingdom Out, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 2013

Minnesota artist Melissa Loop draws attention to the complexities and double-standards inherent in fetishizing and idealizing exotic locales, exploring the consequences of tourism through the lush, layered surfaces of her paintings. In a recent conversation, we discussed the lineage of landscape painting, from Hudson River School to Peter Doig, painting and viewing art as work and leisure, and the recent public drama that erupted around a slanted news article about her pursuit of travel as artistic research.

Jehra Patrick

On the surface, your paintings depict fluorescent and glowing equatorial landscapes. Talk about your process for finding, taking and selecting images.

Melissa Loop

My process has changed somewhat since I’ve started traveling to the places and making a whole series around one place. Before, I chose iconic photos that appeared over and over in Google images when I searched for a place. I would be specific for each thing I wanted in the painting, though — like “Hawaiian waterfall.” So I was always constructing made up landscapes that were collaged together from various photos.  I now actually go to the area I want to make work about, but what has stayed the same are the reasons that draw me to a site in the first place. It’s rather organic, in the sense that these are just landscapes that I get obsessed with, but they are also always places that are being massively affected by climate change, colonialism, tourism – they’re all in the process of being Westernized in some fashion through globalization. But they’re exotic in some way for me. When I visit a place, I am thinking about how to tell a story about the history, culture, climate, landscape, as well as the memory or dream of the place that lasts after you leave. I’m not just interested in iconic landmarks, but also the odd-shaped rocks, plants, moments that make up a place.

Melissa Loop, A Dream of a Made up Hawaiian Island, acrylic and spray paint, 2012

Melissa Loop, A Dream of a Made up Hawaiian Island, acrylic and spray paint, 2012

Jehra Patrick

To which places have you traveled? What is your criteria for selecting your destinations?

Melissa Loop

I’ve been to the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, which was the start of my interest in the continuing colonial mindset you see behind resorts and international tourism. I’ve also been to Belize, the Mexican Yucatan near Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. In less than a week, I will leave for the French Polynesia, where I will visit Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Nuku Hiva.

I’ve been picking places that are exotic to me, which have a rich archaeological ruins, are rapidly changing or will change drastically in my lifetime because of humans and that have a history of colonialism. I’ve learned a lot from some of my previous trips, about what works and what doesn’t. When I planned my Polynesian trip, I looked for places that were not resorts per se, or even normal hotels, but rather small places that are run by Polynesians.

Jehra Patrick

And these are not lavish places, like ‘Sandals,’ I presume…

Melissa Loop

A posh paradise is very nice for a vacation, but not conducive to locating the different sites where I draw, photograph and research every morning. Each day, I concentrate on a different location on the island to study; it is actually quite physically strenuous, requiring lots of hiking up mountains, through valleys and ungroomed terrain to get to the places that tourists really don’t reach very often. In this trip, I’m really excited about all of the archaeological ruins that I’m going to visit on the islands — particularly the most important Polynesian ruins, outside of Easter Island. I’m also meeting with a woman on Huahine who is in charge of an important cultural heritage site. On my last trip, I only had one day where I didn’t completely exhaust myself, and that’s only because I got really sick and couldn’t go anywhere.

Jehra Patrick

What has been your impression of these places you have visited? How do they hold up to both your notions of exploitation? Are they beautiful and exotic? How has actually seeing these sites in person changed your work?

Melissa Loop

When I went to Belize, I had this notion that I wanted to take pictures of the shacks – the “real place” – but I realized, after I got there, that such thinking is disrespectful of their culture. I saw how proud they are of the beauty of their country. So, the work became about, essentially, the idea of memory, misconceptions, exoticism and fantasy of the place after I returned home.  Belize doesn’t get much tourism; they caught my attention because their tiny country is the only one standing up to the cruse ship companies by putting strict rules on how many cruise tourists can enter their protected areas (if at all).  I ended up leaving there very hopeful and optimistic, because of how they take care of their land and try to grow tourism in a more sustainable way.

The place I visited in Mexico was an entirely different story. There resorts are allowed to be run like a compound that you never have to leave….unless you get bored of the beach, and then you’re shuttled to some manicured ruin. Tulum doesn’t have huge resorts, but all of the beaches are currently being transformed into this long strip of luxury eco-hotels, where they keep guards at the front of the road, like gatekeepers to the beach. It was also kind of unnerving when a guy trying to sell us a tour informed us that we could stand on the coral in the water. It really makes you wonder what’s going to be left in 50 years.

Jehra Patrick

I’d like to hear bit more about your composition and creative decision-making – your paintings, in their handling, feel like amplified or fantastic adaptations as opposed to a straight plein air study of these lands.

Melissa Loop

All of the actual paintings are made in my studio in Minneapolis; I consider what I make during the trip to be notations. I am interested in what happens between seeing and experiencing a place and the gap of memory, time, fantasy, dream, and outright lying. That’s why I like to reference grand landscape painters, like Fredric Erwin Church, because they would amp up the color, rearrange details, and try to make a place as desirable as possible. The neon and extreme saturation in my paintings come from the influence of CGI and Photoshop, and the way that everything [online] seems to want to be so loud in order to be seen and noticed. But I am also fighting with the surface by destroying and creating space through spilling paint, spray painting, dripping, and sanding so that the painting will flip back and forth between the deep painting space and a reminder that it’s all just surface and paint. For me, it is kind of a metaphor for my own struggles with my participation in global change, and the sense of helplessness that I (and I think a lot of people of our generation) feel.

Fredric Edwin Church, Cotopaxi, Oil on canvas, 1855

Fredric Erwin Church, Cotopaxi, Oil on canvas, 1855

Jehra Patrick

This exaggeration in the color choices gives your work look of “vacation-ness.” What are the complications of traveling for learning vs. traveling for leisure? Is leisure still a byproduct of your research?

Melissa Loop

I suppose it depends on a person’s definition of leisure. When I and the other Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative (MSAB) recipients were catching flak for visiting places that are usually thought of as leisure destinations, it became a joke between my husband and I that you should only receive funding if your trip will be dangerous, cold and not enjoyable. There tends to be more frustration for me when I travel for research, since my main goal then is to collect information; traveling in the manner I do is not set up for that. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to go about my research with a more scientific approach on future projects, but it’s difficult since I do need to see more than one location to do my work.  There’s also a lot of stress involved, because it is research — I’m working, even if it is amazing, fun work. This upcoming trip involves 13 flights (six flights just to get there and back, because it’s so far away), six islands and seven different lodgings. That sure isn’t what I would do to myself if I wanted to relax.

Jehra Patrick

What about the “vacation-ness” of viewing your work? Is viewing art ever about taking a moment of vacation? Isn’t museum-going a leisure activity?

Melissa Loop

For me, art is a form of escapism and I love being able to create a painting that I can “escape” into; there’s definitely this duality between what I’m doing in my studio, what we do in museums, and what we do when we travel.  Paradoxically, I think that making paintings that require me to travel so much has forced me to do the opposite of escape.

Melissa Loop, Fragment, acrylic and spray paint, 2013

Melissa Loop, Fragment, acrylic and spray paint, 2013

Jehra Patrick

In looking at your work, comparisons to Paul Gauguin and Peter Doig come to mind. Do you think they were ever criticized for the type of work they do? Also, do you think they’re saying something about the places they visit in their work, or do we love them for their palettes, their application of paint and composition. In other words, does the subject matter?

Melissa Loop

The interesting thing about Peter Doig is that most of his work deals with memories of his early childhood in Canada — it’s a kind of dream landscape. Also, he lives in Trinidad, so he’s not really a visitor. But he talks about the fact that he will always be the white guy. that he can never get away from the exoticism of a place that is so vastly different from the place he came from. I think the difference between Doig and Gauguin is that Doig isn’t trying to live out or sell some sort of hedonistic fantasy. A lot of historians criticize Gauguin, because most of what he wrote about his experiences were vastly exaggerated. He went specifically to seek out this “noble savage” sort of lifestyle; the thing is, the Polynesians had been converted to Christianity by that point, and he was highly disliked for taking on so many young lovers. Gauguin was really just perpetuating a fantasy of what he wished was there, but maybe never really was, in fact. I am interested in the notion of fantasy, but I think I am coming from a very self-critical point of view; I’m not really perpetuating a fantasy, but rather presenting the fantasy that we all have of such exotic places, acknowledging its impossibility. I think both artists tap into some inner desire we share [about “paradise”], and that its part of the appeal of the work. Besides, isn’t subject merely a vehicle for content, anyways?

Jehra Patrick

True! Within your work, that content addresses the misconceptions of place – e.g., a gorgeous island that is actually a site of exploitation. Interestingly enough, when your MSAB project received coverage, many misconceptions about artists’ funding were aired in the conversation surrounding it. What are misconceptions, for artists and these places? Aren’t both a bit romanticized? Are artists still exotic? Is there a misconstrued understanding of what it means to be an artist?

Melissa Loop, Untitled, acrylic and spray paint, 2013.

Melissa Loop

I think there is a lot of mystery, and sometimes angst, surrounding the idea of being an artist. There is this myth that we are lazy, or don’t pay taxes ourselves (apparently), and that we are bad at what we do if we have to rely on grants to help bring projects into fruition. The truth is that most successful artists have several sources of income to make their practice work, including sales, grants, and some sort of outside income, such as teaching, freelance work, or side-jobs. I feel people tend to think that we should live in poverty until the day comes when we are “discovered,” because we would just make art anyway — it’s part of that romantic Van Gogh idea.  A lot of people seemed very upset to see my blogs and figure out that not only was I not destitute, but  I also travel a lot. But I and every artist I know and respect in this community work very hard at not only making our work, but also promoting, writing and a long list of other non-creative admin-type tasks. This is a career as much as it’s a lifestyle.

Jehra Patrick

You were recently vilified by’s “Minnesota Bureau,” as well as in the public commentary, for receiving a MSAB for travel purposes (among a hundred other artists of varying disciplines.) While this is a very slanted and misleading media piece, I think it’s worth making note of the interesting conversations that cascaded from this incident, including the role of the artist as both a worker and a culture-bringer, the role of grants in support of the arts and artists, and the place of government subsidy for arts and culture. These are all huge topics, I know, but I do want to provide the opportunity to initiate some of this continued conversation.

Melissa Loop

The man interviewing me asked the question: “Do you think this (traveling to French Polynesia) a good way to spend people’s tax dollars?” which I find purposely misleading, since these projects are funded by the MSAB, a small state organization that receives a small component of the Arts and Cultural Legacy Fund. The purpose of the money isn’t to send me on a trip, it is intended to make the work after, to foster gallery shows and artist talks, and to enrich Minnesota by bringing up conversations about how we can and do directly affect people and places halfway around the world through the choices we make, with how we perceive the world to be. As an artist, it is my role to spark new conversations, present new ideas, comment and make work about the times we live in. There should be a component of art that responds to these aspects of globalization. The fine arts are integral to the Minnesota creative community and artists do create create an economic return for the state.  Artists have been supported for hundreds of years through patrons, monarchies, and the church, so I’m not sure why there is this idea that a good artist never needs support to help bridge their practice.

Jehra Patrick 

What are your big takeaways from this? What are the conversations that you and fellow artists are having around the issues of artists’ means for finding monetary support and the granting system in Minnesota?

Melissa Loop

I think this conversation has highlighted the paradox of being an artist in the Midwest: here, you can be “successful” and yet never make enough money from your work to run a studio, or to make a decent living. That’s why many artists choose to go somewhere else. The grant system is a way to help us bridge some of that gap, so we can stay here and make work.

Jehra Patrick

What about the misconceptions surrounding the granting process? Do you have any suggestions for avenues of conversation where we can continue to communicate to the public accurate pictures about the roles of the artist in their communities and the ways artists find to support themselves?

Melissa Loop

The news story did accentuate some vast misconceptions about the [Artist Initiative] program; the author of the piece likened getting a grant to winning the lottery; people seemed to think awarding public money means that they should have some sort of ownership or control over how those funds are used, simply because they’re a member of the public. I actually don’t think that MSAB is opaque — anyone can go and see the panelists who are judging the grant proposals.  A real concern I had, reading the public comments, had to do with the broader feeling that they indicated a lack of value for artists and what they do; some of the commenters aren’t interested in learning about the process for applying for grants — they’re not really objecting to that so much as they don’t seem to think of artists as really “working.”

When I started a dialogue with the news reporter about the story, he just kept asking what my project had to do with the state; I realized that we were simply having two different conversations. What I do doesn’t directly produce a certain quantity of jobs or result in a monetary outcome or return on investment – that’s not the purpose of my project. This leads me to think that there is confusion about what the phrase “impact the state” means to the general public when we’re talking about the arts. Maybe it’s about changing the language. Maybe it’s about all of us artists being vocal about what we really do: educating our families, friends, co-workers. When this all came out, I realized that I, too, create that fantasy of an artist in my blogs. I never really considered myself a public person before this, and I think defending myself against things that are not even trying to be true or balanced only serves the fuel their criticisms. But I do feel a responsibility, now more than ever, to be as transparent as possible with this project and leverage it to have the most impact as possible.

Melissa Loop is a landscape painter who mines the long history of the genre and subverts it with her fantasy landscapes. Her hyper-colored canvases with their haphazard drips, neon spray paint, jumbled digitized shapes, and rainbow-infused skies literalize the artificiality of imagined paradises and bespeak her concern for ongoing globalization, colonization, and touristic expansion in exotic locations. In 2005 Loop received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

See more of the artist’s work at: 

Learn more about the artist’s project at:

5 Artists Expanding the (Painting) Field, from the Midwest

Painter, Painter, now on view at the Walker Art Center through October 27, 2013, includes a selection of living artists responding to the materiality and open-endedness of the medium of painting, as well as the fluidity of the role of artist as painter. Operating as painters creating new work in a time of unlimited ontologies, we […]


Rarely Do We Stretch, Matthew Yaeger, 2013

Painter, Painter, now on view at the Walker Art Center through October 27, 2013, includes a selection of living artists responding to the materiality and open-endedness of the medium of painting, as well as the fluidity of the role of artist as painter. Operating as painters creating new work in a time of unlimited ontologies, we see these artists gathered in the exhibition for the thoughtful ways in which their practice holds strong footing in studio-based activities, demonstrates backwards-glancing at historical movements, and shows a continued interest in the material possibilities for painting, often incorporating the jargon of adjacent disciplines; all of whom produce objects with an proclivity for the genre of Abstraction. This exhibition presents an acute, though diverse, edit of broader tendencies that pivot and reshape frameworks for painting practice.

In her seminal 1979 essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” Rosalind Krauss posits that, “practice is not defined in relation to a given medium…but rather in relation to the logical operations on a set of cultural terms, for which any medium…might be used.” Krauss opened up the possibility for artists – in this case, painters – to perform operations, as practice, on the collectively held idea of what constitutes “painting.” The resulting broad guidelines about what the medium is and can be, coupled with what philosopher Arthur C. Danto described as “pluralism” (i.e. the idea that no kind of output is more ‘true,’ or advanced, than another) left the terminology of painting gaping and unwieldy decades ago. It is important to note this history, as it has given artists legroom to reply, and the opportunity to reply to one-another’s replies, for some time. It is also important to note that these conversations, while historical, have been advancing for years; a discussion of “painting” is not being re-opened in 2013 — dialogue within and about the medium was never closed. This past June, New York Times critic Roberta Smith reviewed string of five exhibitions opening in Chelsea, noting the dominance of artists “examining the ways painting can merge with sculpture or conceptual art and yield pictorial hybrids that may not even involve paint; others are more focused on the medium’s traditional forms.”

In other words, these tendencies for painters are synchronic, and are representative of interests occurring nationally, internationally and locally. Positioning Painter Painter in a contemporary art museum in the Midwest is as relevant to that ongoing conversation as it would be if the exhibition were showing in a gallery in New York, if not more so; situated here, the exhbition bears witness to and charts the prominence of these currents, the immediacy of these practices and the proximity of these activities: the exhibition is here and this work is also occurring here. The Midwest is part of this conversation.

As evidence, note the following artists, all of whom are working and living in the state of Minnesota and who offer thoughtful contributions to the growing dialogue on the expanded conditions of painting though material, surface and process. Aside from pictorial strategies or abstraction of subject, abstraction is also employed as descriptive device, stretching and abstracting the medium  itself – reducing, distilling and providing partial information about the practice of painting.

Installation view of Joe Smith’s Softside at David Petersen Gallery in Minneapolis, 2013. Courtesy of the artist’s website.

Joe Smith

Smith’s practice takes conceptual coordinates as departure points for the insoluble conundrum of painting itself, seeking the possibilities – formal, conceptual and material – that occur between those coordinates, not necessarily the shortest distance. In Softside, the artist’s most recent exhibition at David Petersen Gallery, Smith selects security blankets and self-help books as his cues, taking the territory between the two as his starting point. Wooden planks suck up coppered salt like a pacifying thumb, and blankets dangle, coated in paint and varnish, serving as guides for improvements to self, and painting. These materials, though symbolic for self-help, are also corrupted from the most rudimentary painting supplies: wooden stretchers and woven substrates.

Installation view of Paintings for Germans, Sculpture for Snobs, Rochester Art Center, 2008.

Installation view of Paintings for Germans, Sculpture for Snobs, Rochester Art Center, 2008.

Bruce Tapola

Tapola’s practice has long oscillated between painting and sculpture, abstraction and figuration, often resulting in hybrids of both. Humorous and wise, his work often jabs at art historical precedents, bargains with tropes, and juxtaposes idiosyncrasies of painting’s material qualities and capabilities. Balancing the acts of looking and toying, Tapola’s practice centers on the revealed intention behind the process of art-making and the expansive terrain between image and object. Destroying, repurposing and piling traditional supports, applying gorgeous paint handling to wonky refuse materials, nesting picture-hosting contraptions and color-coated detritus — all of it resides together in non-hierarchical installations: Tapola builds and dismantles the value system around painting’s objecthood.

Words woldrs woroid, Ute Bertog, 2011

Words woldrs woroid, Ute Bertog, 2011

Ute Bertog

Bertog’s practice leverages our trust in text as signifier; her work dissociates written language’s ability to communicate through abstract gestures, cursive mark-making, and word and character-shaped forms, as well as their obfuscation. She works in layers, painting over texts and letters, allowing the language of painting itself to be the communicator by leaning on its material qualities as a means of conveyance. Sometimes her surfaces take the form of the rectangular canvas, but other times the artist crops, cuts and reduces her canvas to silhouettes of utterances. Though language is central to her concepts and forms, Bertog’s work is equally interested in miscommunication – for Bertog, abstraction preoccupies, and her texts become secondary to painting’s materiality and the non-literal qualities of picture-making.

Young and Restless, Megan McCready, 2011.

Megan McCready

McCready arrives at wall-hanging objects via a background in sculpture, and her most recent body of work emerges from the exciting territory of three-dimensional strategies that conflate within the mien of painting. Her works are produced from swaths of cloth, leather, and vinyl, pulled and stapled over sculptural forms — some plinths, others more like the rectangular praxis of easel painting. Their lush material surfaces – from loose and folded to taught and pinched – reenact the motions of prepping a canvas, or suggest the pliability of a thick impasto. Her post-minimal objects, surfaces and unconventional mark-marking explore spatial concepts and the blur the mannerisms of both painting and sculpture.

Project Index #1: Wall Construction, Matthew Yaeger, 2012

Matthew Yaeger

Functioning as both objects and studio performances, Yaeger’s conglomerations of ascetic, unassuming materials depart from the picture-plane. Sculptural in form and experienced in situ, these arrangements suggest the painting process in its most fundamental, essential state. Some are wall-fixed and others floor-resting, the self-contained, pithy interactions among ordinary, Home Depot-variety materials address painting as an act of construction, as well as art object. Distilled elements from painting, including structural elements like stretchers, or the relationships between local and applied color, operate loosely in space – sometimes literally hanging – creating sculptural references to the geometries and gestures of abstract compositions usually found on canvas.

Introducing the Artists and Teams of Mini Golf 2013 and the Walker Art Center are pleased to present our third year of Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf, opening this May 23 and running through labor day. To celebrate our public launch, is excited to introduce the 13 artists and collaborative teams that will be producing 15 holes, composing two 7-hole […] and the Walker Art Center are pleased to present our third year of Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf, opening this May 23 and running through labor day. To celebrate our public launch, is excited to introduce the 13 artists and collaborative teams that will be producing 15 holes, composing two 7-hole courses with a shared 8th hole. Situated in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, this year’s call for artists encouraged garden-themed holes to celebrate the MGS’s 25th Anniversary. The course was selected by a team of Walker Art Center curators and staff, and presents a well-rounded roster of artists, architects, craftsmen, and designers, as well as a diversity in hole concepts, strategies for game-play, and new spins on traditional obstacles, skills and elements of chance.

LOCUS Architecture - Gopher Hole

Gopher Hole, Locus Architecture 

Locus Architecture, of Minneapolis, crafts meaningful architecture for clients who care about their spaces and what they represent. They are true to their passions – modern architecture, sustainable design, community participation, innovative construction, detailed craftsmanship, and beautiful space. Gopher Hole challenges golfers to combine chance, putting skill, and physical analysis. The hole combines a converging chute, an elevated centripetal cone, gopher tunnels, and an obstacle-laden putting green. Can you predict where your ball will pop up?


Roaming Hole Gardens, Makesh!t

Dubbed a weekly artistic free-for-all in St. Paul,” MAKESH!T is a free-form collective founded in 2010 with a mission of exploring the social and process-based aspects of art and collaborative making. Recent projects include rubylith screenprinting, slide and film manipulation, collage, letterpress, linocut, improvisational music, concrete casting, rubber stamp-making, outdoor projections and public drawing. The collective’s output reflects the wide-ranging interests and backgrounds of its members — Lucas Alm, Justin Heideman, Aaron Marx, Jake Nassif, Craig Phillips, Paul Schmelzer and Witt Siasoco — who are architects, collectors, writers, designers and media enthusiasts.

Deceptively simple in design and appearance, Roaming Hole Gardens transforms the familiar mini golf experience with a crucial twist: the hole roams. By moving topiary plugs from one hole to another, players change the object of the round for everyone, thereby altering the competitive and strategic landscape. The course’s artificial trees, shrubs and flowers are not merely aesthetic adornments, but mobile equipment. To play, you need to learn only one new rule: On your turn, hit your ball OR move the hole.


18 Holes in One, David Lefkowitz and Stephen Mohring

David Lefkowitz and Stephen Mohring are artists and Professors in the Art Department of Carleton College. Lefkowitz’s work in painting, installation, and mixed media addresses the blurry boundary between the human-built environment and the natural world, and his paintings of trompe l’oeil wall fixtures appeared in Lifelike at the Walker Art Center. Mohring’s sculpture combines traditional woodworking elements and digital technology. He also works as the resident set designer for Ten Thousand Things a Twin Cities based company that brings lively, intelligent theater to people with little access to the wealth of the arts.

18 Holes in One is a physical manifestation of an overlay of all 18 legendary greens as Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Master’s Tournament. The resulting composite will thrill and challenge both the novice and seasoned mini-golfer alike with eighteen potential targets on an undulating surface.


Garden Gnome Foosball, Nicola Carpenter, Bryan Carpenter and Susanne Dehnhard Carpenter 

In 1998 Nicola, Bryan and Susanne had their first collaboration, a Peacock inspired Go-kart for the Father’s Day Art Soap Box Derby sponsored by the Soap Factory. Bryan brought his architectural background, Susanne her enthusiasm, and Nicola the whimsy of a seven year old. This family collaboration presents a mash-up of mini golf and foosball: the course first makes a half circle turn, banking noisily off of submerged wheelbarrows onto a playing field upon which the player and/or friends of the player may help the ball to its goal with assists from garden gnome strikers.

 zen garden hole

Zen Rock (The) Garden, Sarah Balk McGrill and Wesley Thayne Petersen

Sarah Balk McGrill is a photographer and owner, curator, consultant, and designer at McGrill Art Associates, an Art Consultation Group, where she produces creative environments for commercial and healthcare organizations through visual arts and exhibition programs. Wesley Thayne Petersen is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and owns a small construction company in Minneapolis, and values sharing the importance of sustainability as a core concept for living and building.

Zen Gardens are intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, rather then reproduce nature’s appearance, as well as inspire meditation about the true meaning of life. Zen Rock (The) Garden brings this concept to mini golf, adding an element of playfulness and a focus on sustainable design.

 Concept Illustration

Garden Maze, David Hultman and David Wulfman

Dave Hultman started his own design, machining, and fabricating business after working 28 years for the University of Minnesota where he designed and built research equipment. His current scope of work includes medical devices and scientific research equipment, furniture and building renovation. David Wulfman is a principal research and development engineer at Boston Scientific where he designs new products, processes, and material systems for medical devices. David was founder and principal at Facture Design, St. Louis, holds over 10 patents, including a track lighting system, a mechanical system for hard disk drives, as well as therapeutic medical devises, and is currently a PhD candidate. Hultman and Wulfman’s hole consists of a two dimensional, bi-directional pivoting frame, on the surface of which is embellished with a patterned garden maze motif, comparable to a tilting labyrinth game, in this case, the golf ball is used in lieu of a marble.


Rock! Garden, Aaron Dysart

In Dysart’s studio practice, the sculptor often parodies natural formations like tree branches or rocks, recreating and amending them with synthetic materials, such as wood glue – as well as the connotations of the alien material – often reimagining them as hybrids, functional objects and prosthetics. As a natural extension of his studio work (yeah, pun intended), Dysart will fashion his mini golf hole from musical fiberglass boulders, each coated in a glittering finish, appropriated from electric guitars and drum kits. We think these Dysart’s mini concert hole will be a rockin’, sparkely counterpart to Jim Hodges’ boulders and the infamous outdoor concert located on the adjacent hill.


Can You Handle This?, Tom Loftus and Robin Schwartzman

Robin Schwartzman (aka the Pink Putter) is an installation artist, a CNC Router technician and an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Minnesota. Tom Loftus (aka Mr. Tee) runs Modern Radio Record Label, works as a Career Services advisor at McNally Smith College of Music and is an organizer of creative endeavors. Tom and Robin share their love of mini-golf through A Couple of Putts, a blog that follows their adventures as they play and review courses around the country.

Loftus and Schwartzman create a giant watering can, incorporating kitsch and a combination of skill and chance. Can You Handle This? instructs players to loop through the watering can’s handle, through the can, out the spout and onto the lower putting green among glimmering ‘water’ and giant flowers.

Alyssa Baguss and Alison Hiltner

In their individual artistic practices, Alyssa Baguss and Alison Hiltner are drawn to chronicling the histories of technological artifacts and how these objects can inform us of what is yet to come. Baguss’ work has been exhibited in the Twin Cities and regionally, most recently as a part of the Admire exhibition at Form+Content Gallery and Open Door 8 at Rosalux Gallery. Hiltner’s credits include solo exhibitions at Spike Gallery in New York, the Museum of Surgical Sciences in Chicago, a residency at Sculpture Space, two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grants and she was named one of the 2011/12 Jerome Foundation Fellows.

Swarm explores a failed agrarian culture, the landscape now arid and repurposed by new inhabitants whose only visual imprint is their architecture. Players are challenged to work their way through the landscape as an ominous hum echoes through the chambers of the structure, leaving players uneasy of what resides within. Through craterous insect nests into watershed carved alluvial flats the players will traverse this par 4 environment of the future’s past.


Be A Sculpture!, Nicola Carpenter, Bryan Carpenter, Susanne Dehnhard Carpenter and Sean Donovan

Artist Nicola Carpenter works in different mediums including video, digital photography, sculpture, and textiles, exploring themes of memory. Sean Donovan is a multimedia artist working with new media technologies, sound, and is interested the relations made by collaborative participation. Nicola’s parents Bryan and Susanne are delighted to join in collaborative production. Be A Sculpture! invites fellow putters to engage with mini-golf using their bodies to obstruct game-play: you become the obstacles for your friends! Taking cues from sculptures found in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, participants are invited to place their feet upon footprints on the green in this part-performance, part-sculptural, interactive hole.


Earth Avenues, Stormi Balise and Kyle Potter

Artist and painter Stormi Kai Balise and conceptual artist Kyle Potter have an outstanding collaborative practice through working on Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement.  In Earth Avenues,

players walk up a constructed hill to tee off into a flower bed, then watch their ball tumble through an unpredictable subterranean world laid out by ants before rolling out onto the green.


Holey Lighted, Jeffrey Pauling and Tyler Whitehead

Jeffrey Pauling and Tyler Whitehead began working with each other while attending Clemson University for their Masters of Architecture degree in 2009.  Both have a developed a passion for design and fabrication specifically dealing with the intersection of technology and craft.  Jeff and Tyler are both currently designers at Cuningham Group Architecture in Minneapolis.

Holey Lighted calls into question the nature of nature. By using digital fabrication techniques and non-organic material, the hole attempts to recreate the sensation of a shaded canopy in summer, while the player navigates multiple folded steel planes. The constructive forces of nature help inform the overall form, structure and experience.


Le Bagatelle de Bagatelle, Karl Unnasch

Karl Unnasch creates hobbyist artworks from his rural outpost in Pilot Mound, Minnesota. He is known for his Guild-of-One mobile workbench where the public is encouraged to drop off acculturated ephemerae for the artist to re-contextualize and/or re-engineer. Le Bagatelle de Bagatelle, designed as a game board known as a bagatelle, is played as a tribute to the pivotal history (circa 1770’s) where French parlor games of skill developed into gambling games of chance in an era of opulence and excess. The playing field consists of a small-scale version of the Chateau de Bagatelle and its accompanying gardens.

2 Holes, titles TBA, University of Minnesota Students

These holes will be designed by students from the University of Minnesota’s Arts 3390 course, Sculpture Methods and Practice: Site, Environment, and Community Engagement, taught by Chris Larson.

Ten Artists to Watch in 2013

This past year celebrated introductions to new spaces, innovative public programs, and remarkable solo and group moments for up-and-coming Minnesotan artists. With so many artists on the rise, I’d rather look forward to the year ahead by calling out emerging talents who show promise, authenticity, and sophistication. Keep your eyes peeled –these artists are up […]

This past year celebrated introductions to new spaces, innovative public programs, and remarkable solo and group moments for up-and-coming Minnesotan artists. With so many artists on the rise, I’d rather look forward to the year ahead by calling out emerging talents who show promise, authenticity, and sophistication. Keep your eyes peeled –these artists are up to nothing but good.

Installation view of HOTTEA’s recent exhibition at HAUS Salon. Photo: Eli Eijadi

Eric Rieger

You may know Eric Rieger via his cozy, semiotic moniker, HOTTEA, whose typographic, temporary graffiti first appeared in rogue, public locations throughout the streets of Minneapolis and internationally. Rieger’s practice has since been endorsed by contemporary art venues, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where he created glowing color-field canopies from thousands of dangling strings of yarn. Rieger’s ability to pivot between form, discipline and artistic communities is a recipe for success in a broader contemporary practice. Rumor has it he has a painting show on the horizon and exhibitions soon to open in New York. My attention is fixed.

She Walked Into the Room Dripping Gold, Luke Grothe, 2011

Luke Grothe

For Luke Grothe, glamour is an aesthetic. In his “endless dance-party,” glitz, gold, fashion, lamé, and late nights are the subjects of his installations and images. In a heady, minimal, high-concept art landscape, Grothe’s practice is like Andrew WK kicking a Solo Cup around the set of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” video; let’s keep this energy at a crescendo and hope there are more good times to come!

JAN-DEC, Lauren Thorson, 2012

Lauren Thorson

A recent MFA graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design–and clearly an excellent designer–Lauren Thorson’s practice covers the gamut, from data visualization and web design to GIFs, motion graphics, and interactive work, often taking meteorological findings as her subject with beautiful, graphic outputs and attention to palette and presentation. This includes interactive events, such as her project Synthetic Unity for Northern Spark in 2011. Thorson is also part of the Interactive Visualization Lab team at the University of Minnesota, where she specializes in illustrating rendering algorithms for describing complex motion data.

Alan Gerlach

An up-and-coming student of Chris Larson, Gerlach moves with ease through interdisciplinary arenas including printmaking, sculpture, video and photography. His fall 2012 BFA exhibition tackled the rich history and mise en scéne of a dilapidated flour mill through urban exploration coupled with archival historical studies and showed an impressive comprehension of materials and subject far beyond an undergraduate level.

Desperate Drawing #6, Katelyn Farstad, 2012

Katelyn Farstad

In what could be described, locally, as the best volunteer show ever, Katelyn Farstad received a solo exhibition at Midway Contemporary Art only two years after receiving her BFA. Her gritty sculptural painting conglomerates, haughty titling, and perverted artist statements stand out among her modest Minnesotan contemporaries. Discussion-worthy and easy to dismiss as youthful, Katelyn proved prolific enough to keep up with the hype. She recently caught the attention of major New York gallery Zach Feuer, where her Lee Press-on Nails, flypaper, spackled lattice, and crusty wicker frosted in acrylics merge seamlessly with Feuer’s roster of dirty Q-tip and soy sauce packet formalism. Next up for the artist is an exhibition at Chicago’s Julius Caesar Gallery. Am I curious as to what is in store for Farstad? Absolutely!

To the Victor Go the Spoils, Lea Sorrentino, 2012

Lea Sorrentino

Self-described as “short, loud and angry,” Lea Sorrentino is a vaguely sassy, whip-smart artist, recently graduating with a MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Working in sculpture, installation and video, in addition to being a thoughtful writer, Sorrentino produces work calling attention to the constructs of American success and the emotional investments we place in possessions and entertainment. Also, anyone with John Rambo and Steve Buscemi tattoos is alright in my book.

Sighting near Scipio, Utah, Nate Burbeck, 2011

Nate Burbeck

Catching a wave of popular circulation for his tumblr blog Fly Over Art and sister blogs, Beyond 9th Avenue and In The New FrontierNate Burbeck has initiated regional conversations with a broad and national audience, introducing new work from emerging artists in a non-hierarchical feed among contemporary stars like Nathan Hylden and museum favorites like Edward Hopper. New platforms for art sharing are trending–could Burbeck’s blogs go the way of Contemporary Art Daily? Either way, we artists thank you, Nate Burbeck, for expanding our circle and increasing our SEO! He’s an accomplished painter to boot, working in eerie social realism/contemporary regionalism.

MONOLITHS, Jesse Draxler, 2012

Jesse Draxler

Jesse Draxler’s collages are smart; the artist demonstrates a clear level of competence and purpose with editing and compositions. Working from pop-cultural and vintage imagery, his craft–call it X-acto expertise?–puts him at the forefront of other artists working with similar materials. His work borders on design–as in, it would make an awesome t-shirt–but the pieces also have strong footing as gallery-hanging art objects. What’s most notable is Draxler’s confidence with production and distribution. Aware of his audience and the context for work, the artist leverages the internet as a venue (and art form!) and reaches a broad audience which interacts with his work by reposting, commenting, and tagging.

The Pittz, video still, Katy Vonk, 2011

Katy Vonk

Katy Vonk works with a diverse array of media, including digital videos, photography, environments, drawing, sculpture. Her work feels fresh and diverse, creating digital atmospheres and static planes that feel painterly, abstract, spastic, frantic, and flippant, but then at other times soothing, gorgeous and vapid. Layered guttural sounds wash over manipulated synthetic animations in moody vignettes. All together they’re awesomely disturbing, visually compelling, and at times annoying.

The artist you haven’t heard of.

Don’t underestimate young blood. Emerging artists are growing up, graduating with gusto, relocating here from other states, creating their own venues and making better work, everyday. In 2013, I encourage artists and the arts-minded to make new acquaintances, and follow, support and collect work from that new and exciting talent.

On Wryness and Precision: A Conversation with Artist Steven Lang

Minneapolis-based artist Steven Lang’s idiosyncratic and hard-to-pin-down artistic practice ranges from collage and photography to social media and performance. The artist is comfortable with his own quirks – like an inside joke he shares with himself – and slyly indulges his deadpan humor, multiple personae and obsessive perfectionism in each project. In this conversation with […]

Steven Lang, photo: Jesse Martin, 2012

Steven Lang, photo: Jesse Martin, 2012

Minneapolis-based artist Steven Lang’s idiosyncratic and hard-to-pin-down artistic practice ranges from collage and photography to social media and performance. The artist is comfortable with his own quirks – like an inside joke he shares with himself – and slyly indulges his deadpan humor, multiple personae and obsessive perfectionism in each project. In this conversation with the artist, Steven Lang lets us in on the joke and the content behind his array of projects.

Jehra Patrick

Steven, you self-identify as a perfectionist; as an artist, is perfection related to adhering to a certain level of skill or craftsmanship in your work, or is more about personal satisfaction?

Steven Lang

I am usually kidding when I self-identify as anything. But yes, I’ve struggled with perfectionism in my work. It helps and it hurts. A balance needs to be struck. If I can’t let things go, I try to stop and look at the work of other artists who know how shake themselves loose when needed. Artists who can get into a new groove and let it ride for a bit. (I’m thinking someone like Mike Kelley vs. someone like Richard Artswager.) Then I go back and see where perfectionism has helped me and where it has hurt me.

Jehra Patrick

Your predisposition and eye for details is clear from earlier collage projects, including optical compositions of pop culture references like Mickey Mouse and Paul Bunyan. Your meticulous approach to these subjects seems contrary to their iconic nature…. Tell me more about these subjects and your pursuit of challenging art forms like micro-collage.

Steven Lang

Well, I actually see icons as an ideal form, a perfect manifestation of type. So, when I approach them as subject matter, the details matter. Not that the figures can’t morph into something else, but something of that ideal has to remain. That’s where being meticulous seems to help. I can’t imagine a sloppy rendition of Mickey Mouse (who is actually a rat if you look closely).

Steven Lang, Double Aught, #1, M.A.G.S. series, digital photograph

Jehra Patrick

The M.A.G.S. series is a nice bridge between your collage work and photographic work, where you make use of a Richard Prince-esque approach to re-photography while including found objects in your compositions. Can you talk about this process?

Steven Lang

I wanted something to do when I was too tired to move, something I could literally set up on my nightstand. That’s where I did a lot of the M.A.G.S. series, all of which I did with my phone camera. Images of the body are compelling, and I like studying the minutiae of printing techniques of any kind. Photographing magazines really reveals the way they are printed (usually four-color halftone). You also pick up on things like fingerprints, gloss and reflection, staples, folds. I love the tactile quality of magazines often more than the content. In terms of found objects, it was something that came from my collage work — incorporating material and letting the layering of information lead to (hopefully) interesting connections.

Steven Lang,Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet (To Go), $4.99/lb,  pigmented inkjet, 2011

Steven Lang,Teppanyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet (To Go), $4.99/lb, pigmented inkjet, 2011

Jehra Patrick

Comedy also plays an important role in your practice. As with the exaggerated chest hair in the M.A.G.S. series, or the S.C.A.N.S. series, where we see you making art jokes – like a parody Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty – and, at other moments, contemplating the value of technology by dropping entire meals on a scanner bed. How direct is humor in your work? Is it a conceptual interest, or do you feel like comedy is embedded – is it for you, or your audience?

Steven Lang

Q: What did the Fluxus artist say to the critic who was late? A: It’s about time.

Jehra Patrick

Hah! Okay, that was a very appropriate answer.

In addition to humor, I can sense an interest in systems and human behavior in your work. We see this take an autobiographical turn when you include your own behavior in your work, like your affinity for Diet Coke in the C.S.A. project. Talk a bit about your comfort level with revealing personal obsession in My Lonely Condition.

Steven Lang

My Diet Coke addiction was a running joke on Facebook for a long time, and I really wanted to use it as a point of departure in a piece. I had initially thought of saving all the bottles, cans, boxes, and receipts (a la David Hamlow) but decided against that since I work from home and don’t have enough space. Instead, I took the show on the road, so to speak. My Lonely Condition is a fairly light-hearted look at addiction, which of course has a darker side too. In this case, it was also about creating a travel-based photography project in addition to delivering a tangible product for the C.S.A. program.


2. Royal Tesoro, Royalton, MN, My Lonely Condition, 2012

2. Royal Tesoro, Royalton, MN, My Lonely Condition, 2012


Jehra Patrick

Other times you distance yourself from your work and introduce alter egos and characters, like Sue Earl Lang and Set Van Glen. Do you consider performance through social media to be an extension of your artistic practice?

Steven Lang

Everyone’s online presence is an alter-ego of sorts. But I consider myself an internet-based artist (as opposed to a gallery artist, street artist, book artist, etc.), particularly when it comes to photography.

Jehra Patrick

Your most recent work has taken a shift to photography, in the traditional sense. You are working with multiple camera formats and processes, and it seems like this heavily process-oriented art form would be a good fit for your detail-minded nature. Process aside, talk about your interest in shooting: You are out often, shooting in your own neighborhood and traveling – what are your interests in subject and composition?

Steven Lang

I worked my way into photography in a completely backwards manner. I had ruined my back from so many years of detailed collage work, so I decided to get a camera thinking it would be easy on my body. With very limited experience, I started looking for photographers to emulate, and for ways of looking through a camera at the world. I became attached to the process, and it helped to round out my repertoire of image making. But it also gave me a respect for photography that I didn’t have before. It’s an entire world in itself. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, but because of the nature of the medium, there are bounds: it’s either a physical/mechanical image capture of some sort, or it isn’t. The capture was either happening at a certain time, or it wasn’t. I like that. And I like the triangulation of the photographer, the camera, and the image. The presence of a camera changes the relationship so significantly it’s hard to think outside that triangle the way you can with drawing or collage.

Best Steak House, St. Paul, 2012

Jehra Patrick

You recently participated in a residency at Elsewhere from which you created a photographic project. How did your experience there inform how you continue to shoot?

Steven Lang

My experience at Elsewhere gave me the time, space, and creative license to combine all of the ways I’d been working into a single project, which ultimately became a photo book called A is for Elsewhere. The book is a diary, a typeface, a photo series, and a story all at the same time. I think of storytelling as the primary purpose of art (in its non-ironic mode), so I was glad to be able to bring that into this project too. There are lots of stories at Elsewhere, and a few dozen of them, including my own, ended up in the book. I think if I do more photography and more books, my story will be in each of them in some way. So, as much as I love detail, I’m not a photographer who is necessarily looking to be objective.

 More on Steven Lang:

Steven Lang is currently featured in the Artists in Storefronts project at Frenz Brakes on 28th and Nicollet, has work featured in Someplace Else at Friedman Iverson, and Lang has work featured in the December 18, Family Issue, of MPLSzine. Steven Lang will be the first guest on Salon Saloon’s, “The 2012 Show”, the late show, on Friday, December 28 of this year.

For the banner art of each issue of our twice-monthly newsletter, features a different Minnesota artist who is then profiled here, on the blog. Our Zoom In profiles offer a friendly introduction to Minnesota’s diverse arts community, a peek into the rich variety of work, across disciplines, made by creative individuals living in every corner of the state, one artist at a time.

An Ineffable, Emotional Place: The Landscapes of Tara Costello

Tara Costello’s richly painted panels have a sensibility of recollection — a feeling that you, the viewer, may have seen them somewhere before. You probably have seen her work before if you live in the Twin Cities; a seasoned member of Minneapolis longest-running collective, Rosalux, Tara has exhibited there since 2003.  Or perhaps you’ve been […]

Tara Costello, Span, Venetian Plaster on panel, 2012

Tara Costello, Span, Venetian plaster on panel, 2012

Tara Costello’s richly painted panels have a sensibility of recollection — a feeling that you, the viewer, may have seen them somewhere before. You probably have seen her work before if you live in the Twin Cities; a seasoned member of Minneapolis longest-running collective, Rosalux, Tara has exhibited there since 2003.  Or perhaps you’ve been to the place her landscapes point to, a nondescript someplace that locates the viewer in a feeling rather than a specific destination. Or perhaps you are familiar with the legacy of abstraction; you may recognize materials and surfaces that look like art objects, with a kind of family resemblance. Tara Costello’s work is produced with and recalls in layers.

Through varying compositional strategies, Tara’s paintings vacillate between familiar and unfamiliar territories, and they invite her viewers to both enter, and then distance themselves from the latitudes she creates. While she uses a painter’s vocabulary, Tara’s facility with the medium comes from an atypical background, in commercial interiors and printmaking, giving her handling of the paint a distinct physicality and awareness for her materials.

Historically, painters parted with painting-as-illusion by exposing the medium’s viscous and drippy nature, or by revealing the tools and process of painting through loose brushwork and exposed canvas. Costello is not working in brushes and canvas. Instead, she applies pigment in Venetian plaster, an interior technique that combines plaster and marble-dust, allowing for rich variances in texture, surface and finish, through application and finishing treatments. Costello uses a trowel to apply the plaster atop wood paneling, working on both constructed and found substrates. She mashes on thick, sludgy layers, then levels them, at times planning for taped off areas of color, other times improvising, allowing pigments and materials to blend in broad swipes, catching on each other, piling and separating, creating grained surfaces like Richter’s squeegeed abstract canvases.

After applying the plaster and working her surfaces, Costello approaches them with a burnishing tool as an oil painter might varnish their surface with a glossy topcoat. The burnishing tool smooths the rough surfaces of the gritty marble dust and creates a glassy, mirrored surface. Through selective burnishing, Costello’s contrasting matte and opalescent surfaces achieve a mirage of depth that can only be detected through a personal encounter, varying from lush, velvety, or shimmering, to organic, raw, muddy, and silt-y.

Heavy Metal, Venetian plaster on panel, 2012

Heavy Metal, Venetian plaster on panel, 2012

Beyond its surface attributes, working in plaster gives Costello a level of comfort and incautiousness in approaching her paintings — sometimes working subtractively, tearing back into the plaster with a trowel, perhaps a violent action but also a mark that resonates with the artist’s background as a printmaker. She can also work over these surfaces, repairing any damage, dents, or cuts with a smooth reapplication of plaster, like one might repair a wall with more efficient materials. The metaphors of building, repairing and covering in her work style point to the emotional range of material itself.

Regarding composition, we see Costello audition styles of mid-century American abstraction, discovering these forms and resolving modes of production on her own. The artist works free of historical association in favor of using these methods as a platform for working through emotion and the physical nature of plaster.

In form, Costello’s earlier work emerges from the tradition of abstract expressionism rooted in landscape. She works spontaneously in her handling and with compositional flexibility, producing mutated horizons, detectable pools of bodies of water, splashes of natural and reflected light, all through non-local color. She describes her work as hinting at the feel of the place – an ‘ineffable,’ emotional place – which for Tara is largely autobiographical. Sometimes she geolocates us to the Ballyvaughn’s rolling green hills and shimmering limestone coasts or other times we are third party to a romantic break-up.

Her work evolves into cropped portions, zoomed-in spaces in the landscape. Trees become geometry; lakes become swaths of color; rectangles are characters for barns, trees, amidst color fields. This level of reduction of her subject is akin to the  push-pull of first generation abstract expressionist Hans Hoffman, or aerial landscapes of second generation Ab-Exer Richard Diebenkorn.

Curve, Venetian plaster on panel, 2012

Curve, Venetian plaster on panel, 2012

Tara’s most recent work takes a more non-objective, but stylized turn. Her rich velvety black panels recall Harvey Quaytman’s geometric arrangements or the intense black on black of Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings. Little color is introduced — perhaps white, or a single shade of green. For Costello, these panels are also emotional, but a means of issuing controlled emotion, providing her with order during personal disorder or emotional challenges. She approaches these panels with a design strategy, but leaves elements of surface and handling to chance and reaction as she continues to work through the piece.

More on Tara Costello

Tara Costello currently has work on view through SOOlocal, a pop-up boutique gallery on Nicollet Avenue and will have an exhibition with Val Jenkins this February at Rosalux Gallery.


For the banner art of each issue of our twice-monthly newsletter, features a different Minnesota artist who is then profiled here, on the blog. Our Zoom In profiles offer a friendly introduction to Minnesota’s diverse arts community, a peek into the rich variety of work, across disciplines, made by creative individuals living in every corner of the state, one artist at a time.


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