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Broadside: Alec Soth and Brian Beatty

FAR AFIELD Like a scarecrow with its missing eye up to a telescope   in the wee hours of another starless night   I fooled myself into believing I’d seen all I needed   of life — as if lightning isn’t always about to   flash/strike somewhere along the horizon. *** Brian Beatty’s writing has […]

Alec Soth, Untitled, 2011.

Alec Soth, Untitled, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

FAR AFIELD

Like a scarecrow

with its missing eye

up to a telescope

 

in the wee hours

of another starless night

 

I fooled myself

into believing I’d seen

all I needed

 

of life — as if lightning

isn’t always about to

 

flash/strike

somewhere along

the horizon.

***

Brian Beatty’s writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications. His column of one-liners, “Jokes by Brian Beatty,” originated at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and wound up in the gutters of the front spreads of METRO Magazine, which also once rated him among the funniest people in the Twin Cities.

Alec Soth is a photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and proprietor of Little Brown Mushroom. He has received fellowships from the McKnight, Bush, and Jerome Foundations and was the recipient of the 2003 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. His photographs are represented in major public and private collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Walker Art Center. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney Biennial and a career survey at the Jeu de Paume in 2008. His first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published by Steidl in 2004 to critical acclaim.  Since then Soth has published NIAGARA (Steidl, 2006),  Dog Days, Bogotá (Steidl, 2007) Fashion Magazine: Paris/Minnesota (2007), Last Days of W. (2008), Broken Manual (2010) and Siren (2012), and several limited-edition installments in his LBM Dispatch series created with writer Brad Zellar. He is represented by the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York and the Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis.

A retrospective of his work, Alec Soth: Until Now, is on view at Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis, March 21 through May 10, 2014.

For mnartists.org’s occasional Broadside, artists are presented with a selection of written works and asked to respond in kind to a text of their choosing, with an image drawn from their own body of work. The text and visual art are presented on equal footing, neither one merely accompaniment or illustration for the other, more like artist-driven, mixed-media call and response.

Broadside: Brian Beatty and Gregory Euclide

LOAM   The first snow of the year started flying an hour ago.   It’s still too warm for it to stick, but here I sit watching where our garden used to grow.   Dumb, I know.   You were out there just last night, or maybe another few weeks have passed, picking late herbs, […]

Gregory Euclide, When I Noticed the Tethering Edge of Nature as Barrier and Density as Future, 2013. Acrylic, sumi, paper, metal wire.

Gregory Euclide, When I Noticed the Tethering Edge of Nature as Barrier and Density as Future, 2013. Acrylic, sumi, paper, metal wire. Courtesy of the artist.

LOAM

 

The first snow of the year

started flying an hour ago.

 

It’s still too warm for it

to stick, but here I sit watching

where our garden

used to grow.

 

Dumb, I know.

 

You were out there just last night,

or maybe another few weeks have passed,

picking late herbs, squash, tomatoes.

Digging up what was dead.

 

Making room, I suppose,

for where winter comes from.

 

Brian Beatty’s writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications. His column of one-liners, “Jokes by Brian Beatty,” originated at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and wound up in the gutters of the front spreads of METRO Magazine, which also once rated him among the funniest people in the Twin Cities. Brian took a turn at penning “The Columnest” for a few months, and he continues to host mnartists.org’s monthly literary podcast, You Are Hear.

Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. His work has been featured in shows at MASS MoCA,  Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio among others, and was recently on view in a solo exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art. His work is also featured on the 2012 Grammy Award winning album covers of the musical group Bon Iver and on the cover of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #43. Euclide was awarded two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants through the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Jerome Foundation Residency through the Blacklock Nature Sanctuary. Keep track of upcoming exhibitions and browse through his series of prints made from the Bon Iver album art on the artist’s website, http://gregoryeuclide.com/.

Help Koo Koo Kanga Roo Pick their #CATVIDFEST Inspired Album Cover

Dance party maestros and Internet Cat Video Film Festival featured band Koo Koo Kanga Roo  are crowdsourcing their album cover design for their upcoming “EP ‘VIRAL: Songs About Cats and Stuff’.” After receiving a litter of cat photos — over 300 #kookoocat tagged contributions — and posting them on their Facebook page,  they are looking to YOU to whittle their […]

Dance party maestros and Internet Cat Video Film Festival featured band Koo Koo Kanga Roo  are crowdsourcing their album cover design for their upcoming “EP ‘VIRAL: Songs About Cats and Stuff’.” After receiving a litter of cat photos — over 300 #kookoocat tagged contributions — and posting them on their Facebook page,  they are looking to YOU to whittle their top six choices down and selected the winner.  The options are as follows….

1. Running Cat

Running_Cat

2.  Fat Cat

Fat_Cat

3. Cat In Air

Cat_In_Air

4. Close Cat

Close_Cat

5. Table Cat

Table_Cat

6. Curious Cat

Curious_Cat

CLICK HERE to vote on your favorite. Voting Closes Friday, August 9th.

The winning design will adorn the cover of the Koo Koo Kanga Roo EP set to be released on August 13th as a free download.  In addition, be sure to snag your tickets to the 2013 Internet Cat Video Festival on August 28th at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand including an exclusive performance by Koo Koo Kanga Roo.  Meow.

GOLDEN KITTY 2: The Internet Cat Video Festival People’s Choice Vote is Open

The time has come  to choose the People Choice award of the Internet Cat Video Festival.  Last year, Will Braden’s now iconic Henri Le Chat Noir #2, described by the late film critic  Roger Ebert  as “The best internet cat video ever made” took home the coveted Golden Kitty Award as the People’s Choice Best […]

GoldenKittyAward

The time has come  to choose the People Choice award of the Internet Cat Video Festival.  Last year, Will Braden’s now iconic Henri Le Chat Noir #2, described by the late film critic  Roger Ebert  as “The best internet cat video ever made” took home the coveted Golden Kitty Award as the People’s Choice Best of Festival. After viewing thousands of clips and consulting our jury of curators, artists and media members here are the nominees  (in no particular order) that have emerged as both popular and critical favorites.  

The Original Grumpy Cat

Catalogue 

Кот и пылесос (Cat Licks Vacuum)

Cat In A Shark Costume Chases A Duck While Riding A Roomba

Kitty and Hedgehog

You know what to do.  Watch and vote, and then vote again.  

VOTING IS NOW CLOSED

The winner of the popular online vote will be revealed – live – at the end of the second Internet Cat Video Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  Just like last year there is no shortage of cute, funny and heartwarming videos to pick from, and some will always be left out.  But before you jump to any conclusions, keep in mind that some videos may have been intentionally left out of this particular CATegory because they are reserved for other categories or special honors such as the Cat Video Hall of Fame.  All will be revealed on August 28th at #catvidfest.  If you can’t make it to the premiere festival for Internet Cat Videos in Minnesota hopefully you can make one of the several national and international tour dates scheduled for the coming year.  

The voting closes at midnight on July 31st.  So jump to it.

Njideka Akunyili and Her Elegant Scrapbook

Njideka Akunyili’s five mixed media works in I Still Face You at Franklin Art Works are elusive and elegant; the sort of work that asks time and attention from the viewer. By filling up her spaces with xerox transfers and painted portraits of herself, her family, and friends, Akunyili has created an intimate and artful […]

Njideka Akunyili’s five mixed media works in I Still Face You at Franklin Art Works are elusive and elegant; the sort of work that asks time and attention from the viewer. By filling up her spaces with xerox transfers and painted portraits of herself, her family, and friends, Akunyili has created an intimate and artful scrapbook. Many of the large works are casually presented to the viewer fixed with binder clips. Each image is layered with media: collaged photographs from her personal collection, images from magazines, transparent or thick paint, repetitive patterns of clothing and architecture, and charcoal.

Njideka Akunyili, I Refuse to be Invisible. 2010. Ink, charcoal, acrylic and xerox transfers on paper. From the website of Njideka Akunyili.

Njideka Akunyili, I Refuse to be Invisible. 2010. Ink, charcoal, acrylic and xerox transfers on paper. Courtesy of the  artist’s website.

I Refuse to be Invisible (2010) contains a xeroxed source photograph of the same painting, a little piece of the puzzle.  The larger picture, seen from a few paces back, depicts a couple dancing in a crowd. The woman’s skin is naturalistically rendered in oil paint, but her dancing partner’s is made of collaged images — the effect is ghostly. Small, xeroxed images fill the space of his person with hints of color and pattern, only to deny the viewer any details of his features and expression. The show may be called I Still Face You, but her figures are in fact subtly rendered or even facing away. We catch fragments of their lives, many fragments, but analyzed close-up, the images are overwhelming in number and increasingly abstract. Akunyili’s work reads like a palimpsest – a layering of various texts and signifiers of race, anatomy, and love– of her life with two colorful cultures.

Njideka Akunyili, Detail of I Refuse to be Invisible. 2010. Ink, charcoal, acrylic and xerox transfers on paper. From the website of Njideka Akunyili.

Njideka Akunyili, detail of I Refuse to be Invisible. 2010. Ink, charcoal, acrylic and xerox transfers on paper. Courtesy of the artist’s website.

Originally from Nigeria and now based in the United States, Akunyili reflects her bi-national identity and interest in heritage, memory, as well as the differences in ritual and culture between them, through these images-out-of-images. The work is dense and delicate. An online archive of her works does not do justice to the nuance evident seeing them in person. Like painterly strokes, her mixed media layerings are hard to decipher from a short distance. The viewer must take several steps away from the texture and generous swaths of paint in order to distinguish the figures engaging in intimate moments. The resulting images appear patterned with dots, plaid, squares, and circles.

Njideka Akunyili. Her Widening Gyre, 2011. Charcoal, acrylic, collage and xerox transfers on paper. From the website of Akunyili.

Njideka Akunyili. Her Widening Gyre, 2011. Charcoal, acrylic, collage and xerox transfers on paper. Courtesy of the artist’s website.

Describing the African-American collagist, Romare Bearden’s work, Akunyili offers, “they verge on visual cacophony but ultimately come together in harmony.” Akunyili’s work could be described in the same way; it takes time for the eye to decipher all of the elements, signifiers, and patterns of each work. Perhaps it is not completely necessary to do so, but the effort is rewarded with richness, and an incredibly personal tale of immigration, love, and everyday interaction.

Related exhibition information:

Njideka Akunyili: I Still Face You is on view at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis from May 11 through July 27. For gallery hours and details about the show: http://www.franklinartworks.org/

___________________________

Chloe Nelson is the program assistant for mnartists.org.

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

UPDATED 5/20/13: ArtPrize Pitch Night Cheatsheet

Minnesota artists: What would you do with $5,000, 400,000 people and an entire bridge to work with? This year, the Walker Art Center is teaming up with ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan to sweeten the pot for Minnesota artists interested in participating in the prestigious annual international art competition. If you think you might have some […]

ArtPrize 2012 - photo courtesy of Brian Kelly Photography and the Walker Art Center

ArtPrize 2012 – photo courtesy of Brian Kelly Photography and the Walker Art Center

Minnesota artists: What would you do with $5,000, 400,000 people and an entire bridge to work with? This year, the Walker Art Center is teaming up with ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan to sweeten the pot for Minnesota artists interested in participating in the prestigious annual international art competition. If you think you might have some compelling public art ideas to propose, get a leg up by attending tomorrow night’s ArtPrize info session in the Walker Art Center Lecture Room. In addition to some of the local panelists involved in the Minnesota contingent of this year’s competition, ArtPrize’s Director of Exhibitions, Kevin Buist, will be on hand to offer some background on ArtPrize and to answer questions from artists interested in getting involved.

What is ArtPrize and how does the competition work?

Every fall, two thousand artists from around the world come to Grand Rapids, Michigan to compete for half a million dollars in prizes – real money is at stake here. Participating artists’ installations fill the city — from museums and galleries to restaurants, banks, and city parks. During the two-and-a-half week ArtPrize exhibition, which annually draws some 400,000 visitors, members of the public will vote to determine which artist will win the big $200,000 prize. A panel of world-renowned jurors will also select a $100,000 Juried Grand Prize winner, as well as five $20,000 winners in various categories.

And this year, during the month of May, Minnesota artists are especially invited to create proposals for an installation on Grand Rapids’ Gillett Bridge, a highly trafficked pedestrian bridge in the center of the ArtPrize exhibition. After the month-long open submissions period has closed, at a “Pitch Night” event held at the Walker on May 30, five selected finalists will give a five-minute presentation using five slides a piece to make the case for their project proposals. A panel of five local artists and curators, along with members of the audience, will be able to ask questions of the artists following their presentations. At the end of the night, the five panelists will select a Minnesota artist from among the finalists who presented their pitches. That artist will receive a $5,000 grant to realize their proposal on the Gillett Bridge; the resulting work will also be in the running for awards given during the international ArtPrize 2013 competition and exhibition in September.

ArtPrize 2013, Grand Rapids, MI is an international art competition and exhibition that runs from September 18 through October 6 and awards more than $500,000 in prizes to artists selected through both public and juried vote.

ArtPrize 2013, Grand Rapids, MI is an international art competition and exhibition that runs from September 18 through October 6 and awards more than $500,000 in prizes to artists selected through both public and juried vote.

Dates and deadlines:

ArtPrize info session: Tuesday, April 30 at 7 pm in the Lecture Room (off the Bazinet Lobby) at the Walker Art Center

Open submissions period for the Walker/ArtPrize installation on Gillett Bridge: May 1 to May 22.

Any artist living in Minnesota who is 18 years of age or older is eligible to enter. Find the full call for artists on mnartists.org.

“Pitch Night: Take it to the Bridge” - Five finalists will each have five minutes to make a pitch before our local panel of experts and a live audience. One will be selected at the end of the evening to receive a $5000 prize with which to realize their proposal for public art project on Gillett Bridge during this year’s ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The 2013 “Pitch Night” panelists:

Chris Larson, a Minnesota-based multimedia artist and educator whose work has been shown all over the world

Ben Heywood, Executive Director of the Soap Factory

Sarah Peters, a Twin Cities-based artist, writer and arts programmer who currently works as the Director of Public Engagement for Northern Lights.mn (the collaborative arts agency behind the Northern Spark Festival)

Scott Stulen, mnartists.org Project Director

Sarah Schultz, Director of Education and Curator of Public Practice at the Walker Art Center.

Gillett Bridge in Grand Rapids, MI - in the heart of this year's ArtPrize exhibition and site of a specially selected installation by a Minnesota artist this year.

Gillett Bridge in Grand Rapids, MI is a venue at the heart of this year’s ArtPrize exhibition and set aside as a site for an installation by a Minnesota artist who will be awarded $5000 to realize a proposal selected through a competitive process on “Pitch Night,” May 30 at the Walker Art Center.

Tips from ArtPrize Director of Exhibitions, Kevin Buist:

What kind of work is most likely to get the ArtPrize panelists’ attention for this special installation on the bridge? 

The panel [evaluating submissions from Minnesota artists for this installation] will be looking for a proposal for one installation on the Gillett Bridge that is both compelling and feasible.

Some questions to consider: How will the artist(s) make use of this unique space? Thousands of people cross the bridge during the event, how will crowds affect the work? Is $5,000 enough to ship and install the work? If not, what’s the plan to cover additional costs?

When and for how long will the work be installed? How many works will be chosen in total for this Walker/ArtPrize partnership?

One proposal will be chosen on “Pitch Night” for the entire bridge. An exact installation date is not set, but it will likely be one to two weeks before ArtPrize begins on September 18. The work will need to be taken town within a week after the end of ArtPrize on October 6.

Why is ArtPrize partnering with the Walker this year? Why involve Minnesota artists in this Michigan-based competition? 

“Pitch Night” is a brand new initiative for 2013. It’s a way for artists from other cities to get funding to realize ambitious projects within ArtPrize. The partnership with Walker is the first iteration of this new initiative, but we hope to expand the program to include similar partnerships with other museums in other cities.

Minnesota artists should enter ArtPrize because it’s an international art competition. It takes place in Grand Rapids, but it’s fast becoming a global showcase for emerging artists. Last year ArtPrize featured artists from 39 states and 46 countries.

What’s in it for the artists who compete? Who have been some of the previous years’ winners (are there any names we’d recognize)?

Obviously, there’s a lot of money on the line — $560,000 split between 16 awards, ten determined by public vote and six of which are juried. Winning is great, but when we talk to artists, we find that the size and level of engagement of the ArtPrize audience is an even bigger reward. Over 400,000 people visited over two-and-a-half weeks last year, and the population of Grand Rapids is only 200,000. We also find that projects can be launched quickly and without the typical level of red tape that slows down a lot of public art initiatives. ArtPrize has been embraced by the community in a unique way, and the city looks forward to an infusion of fresh ideas from all over the world. It’s an environment for artists to experiment with temporary projects that benefit from a large, engaged audience.

A list of last year’s winners can be found here: http://www.artprize.org/visit/winners

ADDENDUM 5/20/13: More from Kevin Buist about the history and philosophy behind ArtPrize and this year’s partnership with the Walker

This fall, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan will be overrun by artists. For the fifth year, my colleagues and I will stage ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition.

More than 1,500 artists exhibiting their works at nearly 150 venues, all competing for $560,000 in awards which are distributed by public vote and professional jury. More than 400,000 visitors came to the 2012 exhibition, and even more are expected in 2013.

New for the 2013 event, ArtPrize has partnered with the Walker Art Center for a regional grant program. One artist from Minnesota will have a unique opportunity to receive a grant to help them realize an ambitious project for ArtPrize. We’re calling it “Pitch Night: Take it to the Bridge.” On May 30 at 7:00 pm in the Walker Cinema, five Minnesota artists will give each give a five minute presentation to the audience and a panel of five judges, explaining why their project should be given a $5,000 grant to create their project at ArtPrize 2013.

Why Minnesota? Why the Walker?

ArtPrize has long admired the Walker Art Center’s programming, specifically Open Field. The more we researched what they were doing and how they were thinking about the program and its relationship to the museum, the affinity between the two initiatives became clear. This quote from the introduction of Open Field: Conversations on the Commons, by Sarah Schultz and Sarah Peters, sums up the shared sensibility nicely: “Open Field is about building a more responsive and responsible museum that sets out to produce something of collective value with the public, rather than for them.”

We started ArtPrize in 2009 as a radically open experiment in how to create a city-wide contemporary art exhibition. ArtPrize doesn’t curate the show, and we don’t select the winners. In lieu of central programming, we’ve built ArtPrize.org to act almost like a dating website for artists and potential venues. Additionally, we gave the attendees, rather than the organizers, the power to decide who wins. The first year, there were ten prizes, all decided entirely by public vote, with $250,000 as the top prize. Starting the second year, we began to add juried awards into the mix.

Just last year, ArtPrize launched a $100,000 Juried Grand Prize, and five $20,000 juried prizes in various categories. These are awarded alongside $360,000 for the public vote top ten, including $200,000 for the top vote-getter.

We decided to design the event this way for several reasons:

  • Engagement with the arts is vital to creating meaningful interactions within communities. The trouble is that the arts are often overlooked by large swaths of the population. We make art impossible to ignore to give artists more ways to interrupt everyday life.
  • The competition needed to be fun, because we believe that people learn more and are more receptive to new ideas when they play.
  •  We believe that debate is good. Rather than program an exhibition in private and deliver it to the public, we’ve chosen to invite the public to be intimately involved in the production and assessment of the show. The results are delightfully messy. People all over town feverishly debate what’s good and what isn’t, or what should be considered art. The debates, and the tensions they reveal, are good outcomes.

This design has turned Grand Rapids into a community that values art and respects the opinions of all people, with the public and arts professionals coming together in an epic conversation.

–ArtPrize Director of Exhibitions, Kevin Buist

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. […]

estell_9

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 kristinaestell.com and blog kristinaestell.blogspot.com

Daft Punk: Need More RAM!

Click. Refresh. Click. Refresh. Click. Refresh. Is this it? Nope. It’s another fan made remix that Stereogum jumped on too fast. Second time today I fell for something like this. Oh, there it is! False alarm. Argggh! And that’s how I spent Tax Day 2013. I’m in full-on junkie mode searching for the full version […]

Daft-Punk

Click. Refresh. Click. Refresh. Click. Refresh.

Is this it?

googlereaderscreenshot

Nope. It’s another fan made remix that Stereogum jumped on too fast. Second time today I fell for something like this.

stereogumfail

Oh, there it is!

Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 7.10.49 AM

False alarm. Argggh!

And that’s how I spent Tax Day 2013. I’m in full-on junkie mode searching for the full version of the first single “Get Lucky” off the upcoming Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. Where did this all start?

Come back in time with me for a minute to suburban Coon Rapids, June 7, 1994. My high school days started around 6 am back then, so I was rarely a night owl. That evening was an exception. The new Stone Temple Pilots album, Purple, was coming out at midnight that Tuesday night, and I was determined to hear the new, much-hyped album from one of the leaders of the “alternative nation.” I remember I expected a long line at the strip mall music store, but happily got in and out without a wait — home again by 12:15 am. It wasn’t enough merely to get the disc early — I stayed up so I could hear it right away. Two listens later, I finally headed to bed, only to wake up soon after so I could dub the CD on to tape to play in my car on the way to school. Stone Temple Pilots debuted that week at #1 on the Billboard charts.

This is the first time I remember really itching with anticipation for the release of a new album, but it was surely not the last.

A year prior to that late night excursion, two French musicians grew tired of rock ‘n’ roll and started making electronic music. Months before the release of Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple, Daft Punk released their own first single, “The New Wave.” Three years later, they were the toast of the burgeoning international club music scene with their album Discovery. The duo, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, synthesized the best elements of house music, leaning heavily on the type of disco music heard in the ’70s and ’80s at the Loft and Paradise Garage. Over the last 15 years, Daft Punk has become legendary, not only for their music but for the striking imagery in their elaborate live shows, their wildly creative videos and movies. Combine all this with near radio-silence on the interview front and you have an element of real intrigue surrounding their latest project, too.

In the last 20 years, my personal music tastes have shifted. That Stone Temple Pilots CD is somewhere, I’m sure, but I’ll be damned if I remember the last time I considered listening to it. Daft Punk was something I first heard in college, but I didn’t get it. At the time, I was searching out the “real” punk and hardcore records from Southern California and Washington, D.C.; dance music felt outmoded to me then, like baggy pants and glow sticks. But over time, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty and repetitive simplicity that is the calling card of truly danceable music. When artists like Ted Leo started covering Daft Punk, their work started to make sense to me; I could hear in it some of that urgency for making the most of the “moment” that I love in rock music. Look at the history of house music, and you see it’s equally subversive.

The myth of Daft Punk has now grown to epic proportions. The long wait for new music from them has created a collective yearning you don’t often see anymore in today’s ADD culture. In January, Daft Punk announced they would be releasing a new album this year. I was giddy and so was the world of music. The hype has been crazy. Shortly after they announced the upcoming record, rumors about Daft Punk playing the spring Coachella music festival started popping up. A 15-second commercial aired during Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago giving a taste of the new single, and those 15 seconds were the talk of the music media for days afterward. DJs and fans did their best to capture the moment through extended remixes … of the 15-second teaser. Word hit that the duo would launch their new album at an agricultural fair in Australia eight hours outside of Sydney. Despite their absence from the lineup at Coachella, one of the biggest questions in advance of the festival last weekend was whether the “robots” might make a cameo. And on Friday, April 12, before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set, a one-minute, 42-second video featuring Daft Punk playing drums and bass, backing Pharrell Williams and Nile Rogers, showed on a big screen to the festival crowd.

That additional one minute and 27 seconds of previously unheard material subsequently took the internet by storm. Multiple versions of the Coachella video exist already, and the combined views of these videos on YouTube is staggering; the teaser linked above had well over a million views in the span of just three days. Full disclosure: I account for at least 50 of them.

Anticipation stoked to fever pitch by the video release, hopeful fans were sure Daft Punk would be joining fellow Frenchmen Phoenix for their Saturday late-evening set at the festival. Phoenix goes on to wild applause; the group finishes their set, and the lights go dark. R. Kelly appears. Phoenix closes the evening collaborating with R. Kelly to make a mash-up of both of their biggest hits, “1901” and “Ignition.” The collaboration was a rare treat in its own right, but if you watch video of the performance, you can hear both artists finishing the song to chants from the crowd for … DAFT PUNK.

So back to me, this Monday: rumor coming out of the weekend has it that the full version of the duo’s new single, “Get Lucky,” is going to be released. After suffering through another snowy mid-April weekend, I can feel myself becoming unreasonably excited at the prospect of a bright, shiny new Daft Punk tunes on the horizon; based on the obsessive chatter by fans and music media on the internet, I’m not alone. But the single doesn’t materialize. On Monday, what shows up instead is a new Daft Punk “Collaborators” video, this one an interview with Pharrell Williams. In fact, the contributors to this record are, themselves, notable — collectively responsible for creating infectious dance and pop music that spans the last 40 years.

I know all too well the amount of marketing effort that is put in to hype of an album, but the organic, grassroots fervor for this one gives me hope that it’s more than just clever PR. And after days of news stories about the Boston Marathon bombing, I’m happy to go along for the ride, grateful that there are still things being created in the world that give us all something we can so look forward to.
___________________________

Tom Loftus is founder and owner of the Modern Radio record label, a creative/music event planner, social media consultant, DJ, mini-golf enthusiast and a college career adviser. He has been deeply involved in the Twin Cities music community since the mid-1990s and has attended over 2000 shows across the world in basements, bars, ballrooms and beyond. While not immersed in the world of music, he loves word games, traveling, and his two cats adopted from Pizza Farm.

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 Watchdog.org’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: melissaloop.com 

Learn more about the artist’s project at: myheartisanomad.blogspot.com

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 […]

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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.

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