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Found Objects and the Nature of Things

In 2007, the inaugural year of the Form + Content co-op gallery, members Jay Isenberg and Lynda Monick-Isenberg designed Dialogue on the Wall, an exhibition seeking to recreate the environment at the border between Israel and Palestine. They built a 10-foot-high concrete wall to split the room, with chain-link ceilings and video-installations and performance art on either side. This gallery is […]

Karen Wirth, Found. Photo courtesy of the artist and Form + Content Gallery.

Karen Wirth, Found. Photo courtesy of the artist and Form + Content Gallery.

In 2007, the inaugural year of the Form + Content co-op gallery, members Jay Isenberg and Lynda Monick-Isenberg designed Dialogue on the Wall, an exhibition seeking to recreate the environment at the border between Israel and Palestine. They built a 10-foot-high concrete wall to split the room, with chain-link ceilings and video-installations and performance art on either side.

This gallery is a chameleon, ready to shift to the will of each of the 13 member artists’ distinct vision. Jil Evans merges abstract expressionism with references to the baroque styles of Dutch vanitas paintings. Kenneth Steinbach scrimshaws maps on ivory piano keys, and Howard Oransky makes sculptures of stone and glass with monoprints on transparent fabric. In 2009, Jay Isenberg led an exhibition tackling the housing crisis with contributions by architects, capitalists, landscape painters, photographers, scientists and educators.

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For the current exhibition, Found Objects, Monick-Isenberg has invited Garth Rockcastle and Karen Wirth into the mix for a cohesive presentation of artworks that live at the intersection of culture and nature. Weaving industrial material into the fabric of organic forms, Rockcastle snuggles bundles of wire and steel wool into a bird’s nest. Alongside a lizard sculpted from soda can shrapnel, he places a kitschy wooden snake beneath a real snake’s shed skin. Rockcastle’s work recalls the romanticism of early 20th-century conservation efforts against industrial interventions into the organic cycles of the natural world.

Karen Wirth literally constructs language with obscure objects. She spells “The Measure of Time” with the repurposed curves and angles of scales, rulers, and protractors. An arrangement of strange, sometimes unidentifiable tools becomes “Thingamajig/bob;” sticks, antlers, and knives articulate “The Nature of Things.” There’s peace in the symmetry of form and content in Wirth’s art.

Monick-Isenberg’s Lamentations series (see above) heightens the exhibition’s sense of reverent wonder. She makes paper a mirror to nature by drawing beautiful life-scaled copies of forlorn flora and fauna: a dead crow and a downed woodpecker, frayed rope and fractured teeth, the leaf of an Indonesian fig tree and a solemn, unopened egg. Two of her drawings include a narrow rectangle of torn fabric, a traditional Jewish marker of the bereaved; Monick-Isenberg, a convert to the faith, has named her series in memory of the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem.

Garth Rockcastle, Hybrid Nest. Installation view, photo courtesy of the author.

Garth Rockcastle, Hybrid Nest, (installation view), photo courtesy of the author.

Taken together, Rockcastle, Wirth, and Monick-Isenberg have designed a space for welcoming, coherent conversation about the construction of culture at the expense of nature. Found Objects resonates as both funerary and celebratory. This is art presented as a gift, as a token of why we should care.

Related exhibition details:

Found Objects is on view at Form + Content gallery through August 3. For more information, gallery hours, and additional details about the contributing artists: http://www.formandcontent.org/index.htm

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Nathan Young graduated from Macalester College and will attend the University of Chicago  to study the intersections of art and economics. He owns one work of art. Find him on Twitter: @nrp_y

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.)

The Stories Behind What’s Printed on the Fabric of Your Life

Anything that prompts me to see the everyday world in a new way, I love. Usually, photographs that capture the unexpected beauty in the mundane are an immediate draw: the fresh lime-green vine tendril twisting around a fence; a building abstraction in which line, plane and color are juxtaposed anew; piles of detritus that take […]

Print courtesy of the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Print courtesy of the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Anything that prompts me to see the everyday world in a new way, I love. Usually, photographs that capture the unexpected beauty in the mundane are an immediate draw: the fresh lime-green vine tendril twisting around a fence; a building abstraction in which line, plane and color are juxtaposed anew; piles of detritus that take on a pattern or jumbled color palette on closer inspection.

Lately, a textile exhibition at the Goldstein Museum of Design has opened my eyes: Printed Textiles, Pattern Stories. In this show, curated by Jean McElvain and Kathleen Campbell, fashion, storytelling and cloth meet to shed new light on what we wear and why. Most of us aren’t prone to donning pattern or prints, am I right? When in doubt, wear black. Or white. The Seekins method. The more adventurous do go in for stripes, plaids, paisleys—sometimes all at once. (Bravo!)

Those bold souls aside, I’ll bet most of our wardrobes are print and pattern deficient. Moreover, when we do find something we like, and will wear, or will put on the wall or on top of the bed, who knows who actually designed it? We’re all familiar with William Morris and Marimekko. But in most cases, the print designer, and the methods by which the print was produced, are left to obscurity.

Printed Textiles, Pattern Stories aims to enlighten. The exhibition is divided into sections that succinctly explain such techniques as block printing, etching, roller printing, screen printing and digital printing. Custom and hand-crafted work vs. industrial mass production is discussed. In the show, the use of printed textiles goes beyond couture and everyday dresses to include such archival items as commemorative tea towels (the Brits love this stuff), handkerchiefs portraying historical events, and a hilarious kitchen cloth printed with the nine-day diet (every day begins with grapefruit and black coffee).

Want to know when the plain white t-shirt gave way to printed slogans? What a repeat is? What the Works Progress Administration has to do with textile production? Printed Textiles, Pattern Stories will show you. Just as each length of printed fabric or “yardage” hanging on the wall has stories to tell about its design, production and use, so do these textiles inspire the viewer to notice pattern and prints—whether worn by passersby, or in rugs, upholstery, art or nature—with a fresh perspective.

Printed Textiles, Pattern Stories is on view at the Goldstein Museum of Design on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus through August 25. For more: http://goldstein.design.umn.edu/exhibitions/.

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Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

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.)

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/

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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.)

The Built/Natural Flux of the Urban/Environment Seen Through Stephanie Rogers’ Lens

During a recent event at The Third Place Gallery, photographer Stephanie L. Rogers was asked why she needed two hours to take a picture, shooting with film no less. “Because I spend two hours walking around trying to find something interesting,” she said with a laugh. What she found interesting and has displayed in the […]

Stephanie L. Rogers, Ragweed. From the Urban/Environment installation, part of Arts on Chicago. Courtesy of the artist.

Stephanie L. Rogers, Ragweed. From the Urban/Environment installation, part of Arts on Chicago. Courtesy of the artist.

During a recent event at The Third Place Gallery, photographer Stephanie L. Rogers was asked why she needed two hours to take a picture, shooting with film no less. “Because I spend two hours walking around trying to find something interesting,” she said with a laugh. What she found interesting and has displayed in the gallery, and put on poles or placards installed along Chicago Avenue and adjacent side streets between 32nd and 42nd, are photos of a duck eating a Cheeto in a parking lot, a vine twisted around a wire, a half-eaten melon propped up against a fence, a weed growing from a crack in the sidewalk.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rogers and Urban/Environment

Finished sign at 4052 Park Avenue installed in a front lawn as part of Stephanie L. Rogers’ Urban/Environment project. Installation photo by Ben Hovland.

Titled Urban/Environment, a project of Arts on Chicago, Rogers’ photography “explores urban ecology along Chicago Avenue, focusing on natural beauty in unexpected places, the fragility of life, and the tension between man-made structures and living organisms,” as the website explains. What she’s accomplished—as a young photographer whose aesthetic infuses her work with freshness, detail, wonder and a charming naivete—is inspiring viewers to pay close, or at least closer, attention to how nature asserts itself in some of the most inhospitable places of the city.

Zucchini with chicken wire. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

Zucchini with chicken wire. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

Rogers selected 37 photos (two additional images were taken by students at the Urban Arts Academy) for the project. The images are displayed on signs that can be found in storefront windows, on metal posts in private yards, or zip-tied to fences. On each sign, along with the image, is didactic information that contextualizes simply, and sometimes with humor, the effects of pictured juxtaposition of nature and the human-made. The duck image, for instance, offered Jacob Richards and Megan Buchanan, the bio-geographers who worked with Rogers on the text, the opportunity to explain how animals adapt to our trash and why that’s not a good thing.

Courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

Duck sign courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

The descriptive text purposely mimics interpretive state park signage. And, like the placards along self-guided nature trails, Urban/Environment seeks to educate and enlighten—and from time to time, cajole. So, while the project entices even the jaded eye, photographic and otherwise, to pay renewed attention to the subtlest of the natural world’s forceful instincts—a sorrel plant whose blooms grows against a window to draw in the most plentiful light; tiny new buds growing through the leafy detritus of the past year—I’m reminded of books by Gary Nabhan and Stephen Trimble decrying the lack of nature, and natural play, in children’s lives.

Melon and Virginia Creeper. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

Melon and Virginia Creeper. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rogers.

Perhaps the greatest gift Urban/Environment gives to city dwellers, especially children and families living near and along Chicago Avenue, is the opportunity to walk through the neighborhood with fresh eyes, an open heart and a hungry intellect. Because the text is in English, Spanish and Somali, because the images often capture nature at the micro scale, and because together text and photo interpret the intersection of science, city and the natural world, the project has the potential to change young lives.

“[W]ildness—even in its simplest forms—can nourish a lasting attachment to the earth, and, in turn, nurture self-esteem,” writes Nabhan in The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places.

Or, as Walt Whitman wrote:

There was a child went forth every day.

And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

Related information:

Urban/Environment maps for self-guided tours are at The Third Place Gallery. Rogers herself will also lead walking tours on June 30, July 13 and July 27.

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Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

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.)

Rock the Garden 2013: Two Minnesota Greats at their Best

Your average outdoor music festivals has little appeal for those of us who attend live music events on a regular basis. A ton of people cram together in a confined space for an extended period of time, and a lot of the time they’re doing so for reasons which have nothing to do with hearing […]

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Rock The Garden crowd. Photo courtesy of David Jarnstrom

Your average outdoor music festivals has little appeal for those of us who attend live music events on a regular basis. A ton of people cram together in a confined space for an extended period of time, and a lot of the time they’re doing so for reasons which have nothing to do with hearing the music. Sure, some have turned out to see bands they know and love, but plenty of others see a music fest as an excuse to party in public and channel that archetypal festival punk — yeah, that guy – we’ve all seen in countless incarnations online.

I’ve been to scores of concerts over the last 18 years, and at this point I know what to expect when I go to an outdoor festival — very little.

I say this to explain why, even though Rock The Garden is now in its 11th iteration, this past Saturday was my first venture to the popular annual collaboration between the Walker Art Center and Minnesota Public Radio’s “new music” station, The Current. In addition to my aforementioned reasons for skipping outdoor festivals, the artists playing Rock The Garden in the last few years either didn’t appeal to me and/or regularly play other venues that offer better atmosphere in which to actually hear them. But hey — I’m getting deep into the second half of my 30s. The line-up was pretty good this time around, and I figured: If I’m ever going to check out this other great Minnesota get-together, this year’s as good a time as any.

The gates opened at 3, but between a forecast calling for heavy rain and first billing for Dan Deacon, I was in no rush to get there. I’ve seen Deacon a few times and while I can appreciate his ability to engage the audience, I find his music incredibly forgettable. It sounds like glitchy pop/dance music for people who don’t really like electronic music. That said, Deacon’s ability to move an audience really came in handy, as inclement weather soon forced the audience indoors. He put on a huge dance party in the Walker’s underground parking garage and by all accounts played a really memorable set.

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Low Drone. Photo courtesy of David Jarnstrom

When Duluth’s Low was announced on the bill for Rock the Garden, to be honest, I was worried the venue would turn out to be all wrong for them. Ten albums and 20 years into their careers, Low is an institution. (Seriously, if you live in Minnesota and haven’t seen or heard them yet, what the hell are you doing?) This band has crafted a library of subtly beautiful pop songs; you listen, and the music leaves you feeling hopeless and triumphant in equal measure. But the music requires careful attention as it builds to those transcendent moments. Two of the best shows I’ve seen in my life were Low performances at Orchestra Hall, in part because the space provided a perfect canvas for Low’s spacious pop creations. Similarly subdued concert spaces have also served them well. You need a stretch of calm for your ear to hear the moment when Alan Sparkhawk drowns out the room with his hypnotic guitar playing and Parker joins him, subtly drumming, then coming in with that angelic voice in perfect unison, their sounds swelling together.

Just give these a listen: “Witches,” “When I Go Deaf,” “Dragonfly,” “Silver Rider,” “Amethyst,” “Shame,” “Sunflowers,” “Two-Step,” “Lion-Lamb,” “Time is the Diamond“…You get the point. It’s worth paying a little attention to catch the subtleties of what they do best. And what they do best is, I think, pretty awesome: This is a band that deserves to be in the same category as the Beach Boys, My Bloody Valentine and Neil Young. Reservations aside, Low’s recent output tends more toward straight-ahead shoegazer pop, and I figured that would be a better fit than their usual stuff for the rock festival atmosphere.

The thing is: What they provided on Saturday was something completely different. After the rain passed, as the festival crowd came back outside to set their blankets down on the Walker’s soaking open field, Low pummeled them with an extended 27-minute drone version of their song “Do You Know How To Waltz?

The guy in front of me stood with his hand up and thumb facing down as Low crafted a hypnotically beautiful piece that matched the changing weather patterns . One crowd member went as far to create a twitter account, @FU_Low, unsurprisingly and primarily to say:

Fuck you @lowtheband such assholes u made me make an account to give you a big fuck you!!!!!

Low’s Alan Sparhawk ended the set with three barely-audible words: “Drone, not drones.” The band even retweeted the disgruntled comment quoted above. In an event sponsored by one of the premier modern art museums in the world, Low took the opportunity to challenge their audience and to engage them in a much needed public discourse about music and the state of the world, even if they didn’t intend quite that. Sparhawk was quoted in an interview with the Star-Tribune as saying that they just “decided to try to do something beautiful.”

You know what? They absolutely did. As I sit here writing, one night later, I can’t wait to see Low play again after that. I want to support artists brave enough to buck expectations, who play music with something to bold to say. The world is full of watered-down bands who say far too little of consequence when given such a platform.

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Bob Mould and Jon Wurster: Two rock geniuses. Photo courtesy of David Jarnstrom

Like Low, you should also know Bob Mould if you’re a consumer of quality music. The Minnesota-bred Mould has created ungodly loud, catchy guitar-driven pop/rock under his own name and with the bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar for over 30 years now, and he shows no signs of stopping. Incidentally, his performance at First Avenue this past September featured a perfect mix of career highlights and was one of my all-time favorite shows of 2012. In fact, it was his presence on the billing, the chance to hear him again with his current support, that clinched my decision to finally buy that ticket to Rock the Garden this year.

And Mould didn’t disappoint. He started out with Side A of the Sugar’s unstoppable Copper Blue album, then moved at a breakneck pace through his new solo material. After that, he blazing on to play sunny-day appropriate Husker Du jams “Celebrated Summer” and “Charted Trips,” finishing the whole set off with his infectious alternative hit “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.” Mould paused just long enough between songs to introduce Narducy and Wurster, his incredible rhythm section, and to comment on the newly passed gay marriage law. About that, he declared simply that gay marriage “is good for the economy” and then went right back to work making my ears bleed, moving around the stage like a man half his age.

Going in to Rock the Garden this year, I went with the idea that I wouldn’t stay any longer than necessary: I’d go, check out the scene and then get out while the gettin’ was good. So, I took in the sights, had some ice cream and spent a fair amount of time avoiding the many picnic blankets that covered the Open Field. But about two or three songs into the Silversun Pickups’ set, I headed for the gates. Their warmed over Smashing Pumpkins-meets-’90s Brit pop does nothing for me, and I wasn’t particularly keen to see Metric after the bits and pieces of their playing I’d heard prior to the festival.

I didn’t like everything on stage, but I left with a positive feeling about my Rock the Garden experience, nonetheless. I mean, the main attraction of an event like this is the chance  to enjoy a grab bag of live music performances outdoors with a group of “like-minded” individuals. Sadly, this year, some of my fellow festival-goers didn’t look at it that way. A number of them went online to snark in various comments sections to broadcast their displeasure, admonishing both Low and the Current for failing to deliver the expected product. They wrote: “This was not music or art.”

So, let me offer this final word: I hope the Walker and the Current continue to embrace what Low brought to this festival. I hope they ignore those with such very narrow notions of what constitutes “real” music and art. Institutions like these, that pride themselves on being at the forefront of both music and art, shouldn’t be intimidated by a little blowback. There are scores of crowdpleasing festivals which are cancelled all the time. I don’t expect to like every band at a festival or every piece of art in a museum — no one should. The things outside our comfort zone create a space for conversation and dialogue. And you can’t deny: there’s been a lot of dialogue since the festival. In the span of 48 hours post-Rock the Garden I’ve participated in and read numerous conversations about Low’s set. I wish more art got us talking like this afterward. And I hope future Rock the Garden iterations again engage in both crowdpleasing moments and serious discourse. Why shouldn’t we want both?

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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.

A Look at the 2012/13 McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship Exhibition: Jim Denomie, Chris Larson, Ruben Nusz and Natasha Pestich

What would you do with $25,000? That’s how much each recipient of the McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship gets—unrestricted. The goal of the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists program, administered by Minneapolis College of Art Design, “is to identify talented Minnesota visual artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit and who are at a […]

Ruben Nusz, Like an eye that sees, but cannot see itself, 2013, Image courtesy Weinstein Gallery

Ruben Nusz, Like an eye that sees, but cannot see itself, 2013, Image courtesy Weinstein Gallery

What would you do with $25,000? That’s how much each recipient of the McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship gets—unrestricted. The goal of the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists program, administered by Minneapolis College of Art Design, “is to identify talented Minnesota visual artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit and who are at a career stage that is beyond emerging.”

In addition to the cash award, the fellows have their work published. This year, McKnight funded a downloadable e-book and pdf of interviews with Brooklyn Rail’s Phong Bui. Location Books, a project of Scott Nedrelow and one of the current fellows, Ruben Nusz, is also publishing the 2012/13 Visual Artists fellows work later this year.

Chris Larson, Insecure Architecture, Mixed Media, 2013

Chris Larson, Insecure Architecture, Mixed Media, 2013

The most public and evaluative aspect of the fellowship is the group exhibition at the MCAD Gallery, which opened last Friday evening for this year’s group: Nusz, Natasha Pestich, Jim Denomie and Chris Larson. It’s an unspoken, or spoken in hushed tones, assumption that we attend this opening to see what they’ve been doing with their windfall.

Larson’s real display occurred the weekend before, during Northern Spark, when he now-infamously constructed, then set fire to, a replica of the St. Paul house architect Marcel Breuer designed for liturgical consultant Frank Kacmarcik. Breuer and Kacmarcik collaborated on the celebrated Abbey Church and concrete bell banner at St. John’s University. In the MCAD exhibition, like afterimages of the cardboard replica just prior to burning, are Larson’s black-and-white photos of its interior: shadowy, mysterious, almost visually impenetrable pictures of the unfurnished rooms’ stark angles and forbidding empty spaces.

Jim Denomie, The Creative Oven, 2013, Image courtesy of the artist.

Jim Denomie, The Creative Oven, 2013, Image courtesy of the artist and MCAD.

Pestich’s conceptual project—a fictional archive of a make-believe art-school incident—combined humor and institutional critique in a collection of images, posters (each one with clearly articulated and different style of graphic design) and artifacts. The narrative behind the conceit? A group of students had built themselves into their site-specific installation, with no opening for escape. Unlike Poe’s victim in The Cask of Amontillado, they were rescued—and a portion of the cement-block wall is exhibited as “proof” of their escapade.

With all of the exhibitions—past and present—investigating artists’ concepts and examinations of “the real” (i.e., Lifelike at Walker Art Center, More Real? at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Reviewing the Real at Weisman Art Museum) comparison is unavoidable. While Pestich exhibits one “chapter” of a larger project at MCAD, that slice doesn’t hint at the depth, relevance, imagination and interconnections present in a work like Zoe Beloff’s Dreamland: The Coney Island Psychoanalytic Society and Its Circle at the MIA.

Denomie surpasses his previous masterwork of social satire and cultural complexity, “Attack on Fort Snelling Bar and Grill,” with his fantastical The Creative Oven. The enormous work—in scale, imagery and social relevance—contains a Who’s Who of art historical figures (from Botticelli’s Venus to Picasso and Dali to Minneapolis’ own Scott Seekins), pop culture references (Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman), and Native American iconography with a twist (a warrior on horseback atop a butte-like nipple, a reclining Adam-like antelope with an impressive six-pack receiving God’s finger a la Michelangelo).

Natasha Pestich, Installation view of Fulfillment is Such a White-Collar Thing, 2012, Image courtesy of the artist

Natasha Pestich, Installation view of Fulfillment is Such a White-Collar Thing, 2012, Image courtesy of the artist

His work is always fascinating, funny, revelatory, and politically relevant: The new NRA: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil is a triptych rendered in Denomie’s signature hallucinatory colors, and wild brisk and flat brushstrokes. But as a colleague pointed out, “You always know what you’re going to get with Jim.”

Nusz, on the other hand, is always immersed in a new intellectual undertaking. His “indirect abstractions,” a series of paintings called Like a sword that cuts, but cannot cut itself; like an eye that sees but cannot see itself, were the freshest, if most oblique, works in the show. Using photographic color correction cards to investigate intuition and algorithms, and figure/ground relationships, he positioned his canvases—which resembled a children’s color-block game on an iPad—on yellow, orange, red and kelly green painted walls.

And that, in part, is what $100,000 in fellowships produces this time around.

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Related exhibition details:

2012/13 McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship exhibition is on view at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design gallery from June 14 through July 14. Featured artists: Ruben Nusz, Chris Larson, Natasha Pestich, Jim Denomie. (Illustrations above by Phong Bui, pictured L to R: Chris Larson, Jim Denomie, Natasha Pestich, Ruben Nusz)

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Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

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.)

Crispin Glover’s Latest Flick: Are You Really Sure It Is Fine?

At an early June event in Duluth, Kat Mandeville walked out of a screening of Crispin Glover’s latest film, It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! Outraged as much by the fact of the film’s screening as she was its provocative content, she wrote a letter in response and sent it around to me at mnartists.org, the […]

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Still from It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE!, 2007. Directed by Crispin Glover, written by and starring Steven C. Stewart. Courtesy of www.crispinglover.com

At an early June event in Duluth, Kat Mandeville walked out of a screening of Crispin Glover’s latest film, It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! Outraged as much by the fact of the film’s screening as she was its provocative content, she wrote a letter in response and sent it around to me at mnartists.org, the daily newspaper, a Duluth-area arts website.

The movie was part of a headline event at the Duluth/Superior Film Festival, an exercise in masturbatory weirdness that included “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slideshow,” featuring a one-hour dramatic narration-plus-slideshow projection conducted by the man himself, showcasing eight different re-purposed books he’s painstakingly annotated and illustrated with various flights of grotesque fantasy. By all accounts, Glover waxed on (cryptically, often incomprehensibly) for a while about the project and projected some pictures. Then they screened his new movie, a semi-autobiographical flick written by and starring Steven C. Stewart (a screenwriter who has severe cerebral palsy), directed by Glover in 2007. (This is the second in Glover’s “It” trilogy, which began with the twisted and surreal 2005 film, What Is It?)

It is Fine… is billed as a “psycho-sexual tale about a man with severe cerebral palsy and a fetish for girls with long hair. Part horror film, part exploitation picture, and part documentary of a man who cannot express his sexuality in the way he desires (due to his physical condition), this fantastical and often humorous tale is told completely from Stewart’s actual point of view – that of someone who has lived for years watching people do things he will never be able to do.” The character at the film’s center may be seriously disabled, but he’s by no means incapacitated. Indeed, he is a ladykiller in every sense of the word: the film follows episodes of his seduction and subsequent savaging of the various (silver screen–ready) women he encounters.

Violation, subjugation, torture – the film revels in sexual violence, degradation, and pain. Its subject matter is gleefully indecent, expressly made to transgress the bounds of appropriateness, intended as an assault on both viewers’ sensibilities and the Hollywood establishment. In interviews about his films, Glover presents himself as a fearless truth-teller, showing us what the corporate studio process wouldn’t dare. He says he’s putting taboo content front and center, thereby forcing us to contend with the full measure of our shared ugliness and hypocrisy; that he’s just showing us real human experience, unvarnished by wishful thinking or pretty dissembling, as seen through the lens of those typically invisible to popular culture (e.g. people with developmental and physical disabilities). The screenwriter/lead actor died shortly after making the film, but Glover’s quoted as saying he was similarly motivated, that Stewart “wanted to show that handicapped people are human, sexual and can be horrible.”

“Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slideshow” is currently touring the country. In addition to the Duluth film festival, this month Glover stopped in Minneapolis’ Heights Theatre; he’s soon making stops in Museum of Arts and Design and IFC in New York City; Littleton, Colorado; Kansas, City, Missouri.

Engage or Boycott?

Back to our letter-writer: So, Kat Mandeville, not quite sure what she was in for, turned out to see Glover’s event in Duluth’s Zinema. She gleaned from the prefatory remarks what was in store and walked out before the screening began. In emails we’ve exchanged since then, Mandeville has indicated she felt she’d be colluding in the exploitation, part of the problem, if she’d stayed to attend the movie and talk-back that followed — even if she watched in protest and spoke up to challenge the film and audience afterward. Finding entertainment in work that exalts “rape culture” in this way, she says, including public screenings in institutionally upright venues and treating those works as merely provocative, amounts to a kind of “cannibalism.” We’re feeding off pain and hate and violence perpetrated against our sisters, wives, daughters and mothers, she argues. The problem’s a pervasive one, harmful even when it’s dressed up as “art” and presented as a provocative amusement – and when we stay to watch, we’re not just voyeurs on real pain, we’re dishonest about our part in perpetuating it.

Her published response to the Duluth iteration of “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slideshow” and screening, in full:

In the wake of the screening of Crispin Glover’s film, It is Fine! Everything is Fine, as part of the Duluth/Superior Film Festival last weekend — a film that romanticizes a man’s explicit sexual fantasies of the rape and torture of women — I have questions for progressive Duluthians who were there and for our community as a whole.

Does one man’s pain with cerebral palsy and his being trapped in the prison of his own body eclipse the pain of female identity trapped in the misogynist-sadist fantasy of a romanticized snuff film? Is this an implicit argument the film is making? In the end, isn’t the handicapped man’s subjective experience of sexuality not so different from the increasing demand for glamorized rape and torture of women shown in social media: that of women as soulless mannequins used for sexual exploitation and the destruction of women for pleasure?

Men who were in the audience: how often can you watch rape and torture of women before it alters the way you think about women? The way you look at them? The way you fantasize about them? The way you touch them?

Women in the audience: who among you has experienced sexualized hate crimes or know a woman who has? And did you think of yourself and of these women during the film?

Fathers of daughters in the audience: how do you justify to your daughter supporting a film that fantasizes the same kind of rape and exploitation she has a one-in-three chance of experiencing herself?

And why was none of this discussed at the talk-back after the film? Yes, Glover only screens the film where he can answer questions in person, but how effective is that if the audience is too star-struck and approval-seeking to ask controversial questions?

If Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King were female, what would they think of Glover’s film and the progressive members of Duluth who lined up to support it? Or of the connection between films like Glover’s and the Steubenville high school rape case, in which boys dragged around an intoxicated, unconscious peer, stripped her and sexually assaulted her for the viewing pleasure of social media? Is our nation so desensitized to rape and torture that half of us are unclear how we should react? Would Malcolm X and Dr. King see Duluth celebrating a film like Glover’s as a community engaged in cannibalism? Would they be outraged?

Then why aren’t we?

In the talk-back, Glover remarked that films using propaganda upset him. Why was it not pointed out that 70 minutes of torture and rape romanticized in his film was, indeed, propaganda? Was it so obvious it could be dismissed with the commonly used sentiment of, “Yes, exploiting women is wrong; now move over a little, you’re blocking my view of it”? Or was it because propaganda works and our esteem for women has sunk so low that when it’s depicted on the big screen we don’t see women oppressed by hatred; we see a singular man oppressed by pain?

Do we realize how similar this is to the unconscious hate-propaganda used throughout history to perpetuate hatred of Jews, blacks, and homosexuals? That oppression and exploitation of women is among the most epic struggles, and that progress is sabotaged when a community that should know better takes part in the entertainment of rape and torture? Do we realize how normalized rape and torture has become that we can watch 70 minutes of it being romanticized without impulse to object or critique?

And where was I, you ask? Upon hearing the film’s description, I walked out before it started. Later I listened to an account of the talk-back. And as it turns out, one doesn’t have to wallow through an entire film to discern what it’s about and critique what it’s doing. Looking over the audience as we took our seats in the theater before Glover’s film, I had a feeling of dread I would be the only one to speak-up about the dehumanizing of women, and if I left, I knew no one would start that dialogue. To be sitting in a theater of artists and musicians (among others) who consider themselves elevated; feminist; radical; speakers of the oppressed, and realize none of them are going to challenge the pseudo-celebrity was a sick feeling indeed. To find out later I was entirely right, was even worse.

But despite leaving, I’m still guilty, like those who attended and didn’t speak up. I’m guilty of tolerating what shouldn’t be tolerated. I should’ve said something in the theater before I left, something like, “What are we celebrating by watching a film like this? What does this mean about the culture we’re willing to become?” Instead I simply left. And for that I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of Duluth and the naïveté that filled the Zinema seats last Saturday night. And I’m ashamed of the hypocrisy that applauded afterward.

What will it take for the average person (let alone the well-educated person) to realize it isn’t enough to like women or to love them? We must fight against the hatred directly, or change will not be possible. And to do this, we all must learn to recognize our culture’s unconscious hatred of women. Glover’s film was an opportunity to do so — an opportunity that was squandered.

My commentary and your responses can give us another chance to have the conversation. Duluth, how do you answer?

Kat Mandeville of Duluth graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with an undergraduate degree in theater. She has worked in television and film in Los Angeles, where she witnessed the exploitation of women firsthand. In the summers she studies philosophy and psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.

This commentary was first published in the Opinion section of the Duluth News Tribune, 6/8/13 and reprinted on Perfect Duluth Day, 6/9/13. It is reproduced here with permission. Incidentally, there is a lively ongoing conversation in the comments section of PDD — worth a read if you’re interested.

It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE!, 74 minutes run time, 35mm color, 2007.

It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE!, 74 minutes run time, 35mm color, 2007.

So, What Do You Think?

When does work cross the line from provocation to obscenity? What’s your reaction to this and other “offensive” art, and organizations which house and promote it? If work offends you, what’s the best course of action: engagement or boycott? If you’d choose the former, what sort of community conversation can/should come out of displays of work that consciously offends the audience? At what point does titillation become outright exploitation? Is it okay to find such entertaining? What about other “offensive” art: Mapplethorpe, Piss Christ, John Ahearn’s South Bronx sculptures, misogynistic hip hop? At what point does outrage-in-action have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and meaningful public discourse about thorny issues and controversial themes?

Have any of you seen Glover’s films? What did you think of them – and the response of the audience around you?

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.

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Chocolate, History Flow (2003). Image courtesy of hint.fm

Data is not (just) numbers.

Visualization typically happens with numbers; quantitative truths are achieved by objectivity. Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg of hint.fm 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 accurat.it

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.”

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Pop-can Tabs, Upcycled Textiles and the Future of “Sustainable Fashion”

Sustainability and fashion aren’t two words usually paired in the same sentence. The fashion industry is based on systemic obsolescence. And as the recent tragedy at a Bangladesh clothing-manufacturing facility cruelly demonstrated, fashion’s trickle-down effect—new season = new colors, styles, fits, fabrics, etc.—among mainstream retailers is to produce more for less, often at the cost […]

Redefining, Redesigning Fashion: Designs for Sustainability, installation view, courtesy of the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Redefining, Redesigning Fashion: Designs for Sustainability, installation view courtesy of the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Sustainability and fashion aren’t two words usually paired in the same sentence. The fashion industry is based on systemic obsolescence. And as the recent tragedy at a Bangladesh clothing-manufacturing facility cruelly demonstrated, fashion’s trickle-down effect—new season = new colors, styles, fits, fabrics, etc.—among mainstream retailers is to produce more for less, often at the cost of human life.

The rise of vintage and other resale clothing shops is a boon to the eco-friendly and price-conscious among us who still like to buy something “new” now and then. As for off-loading the unused, ill fitting or worn out items from our closets, numerous charities will take the stuff off your hands. So, other than purchasing used clothing and donating to Goodwill, what else comes to mind when sustainable becomes an adjective attached to fashion? Dresses made out of beverage-container labels, soda can pull-top tabs and other detritus? Gowns made of recycled or upcycled tablecloths? Tops and shorts from vintage fabric?

Anny Li-Fen Chang, Eco Pop Dress, collar detail. Photo courtesy of Goldstein Museum of Design.

Anny Li-Fen Chang, Eco Pop Dress, collar detail. Photo courtesy of Goldstein Museum of Design.

Examples of each, unsurprisingly, are part of the Goldstein Museum of Design’s current exhibition, Redefining, Redesigning Fashion: Designs for Sustainability on view until May 26 and available online here. By the way, the delightful, high-collared A-line pop-can tab dress, designed by Anny Li-Fen Chang, a faculty member at the University of North Texas, was inspired by Vasily Kandinsky’s 1926 painting Several Circles, and is comprised of 2,500 spray-painted tabs—and would be truly fun to wear.

So would Rosetta LaFleur’s (a faculty member at the University of Delaware) floor-length gown constructed, in part, from salvaged upholstery-fabric yarn woven into a halter top. In artistic beauty and inspired construction, M. Jo Kallal’s (also from U of DE) zero-fabric-waste suit is breathtaking. Hand-constructed with needle felting, the suit was patterned on a “Hokusai-like ‘wave’ similar to those depicted in Japanese waterfalls cut from folded paper,” she says.

Rosetta LaFleur, Amalgamated Anemones,  detail. Photo courtesy of Goldstein Museum of Design.

Rosetta LaFleur, Amalgamated Anemones, detail. Photo courtesy of Goldstein Museum of Design.

The exhibition, juried from 200 submissions, includes 46 pieces from 30 designers from the US, Australia, Europe and Asia. In the exhibition are works created through up-cycling, repurposing or the reclamation of clothing, materials or products. There are garments with multiple purposes or looks—dresses, for example, with skirts that can be raised (cocktail party) or lowered (evening gown). Other designers converted heirloom or memorable garments or household textiles into shorts, tops or accessories.

SherrySandenWill_4 SherrySandenWill_1_cropped

The late, great Alexander McQueen’s influence (dresses of shells, flowers) is clear in a knee-length dress by Sherry Sanden Will, a student at the University of Minnesota, festooned with ¼” thick slices of wood collected from dead branches. Martin Flores (a student at Michigan State University) may have been channeling a posher punk Mad Max in his zero-waste jacket. Another student from the U of M, Lauren Kacher, took medical scrubs in distinctly day-glow, sci-fi direction.

The exhibition also includes a lovely dress of traditional, biodegradable, organic Korean linen, and an up-cycled and over-dyed 1963 jacket from Bjorkman. The best quote, however, comes from Colleen Moretz (a faculty members at Immaculata University) about her multi-purpose wedding gown constructed from three damask tablecloths rummaged from friends’ closets: “The biggest challenge in using these repurposed table linens is working around the stains.” She found a way and the result is sumptuously old-world.

Redefining, Redesigning Fashion: Designs for Sustainability is up through May 26, 2013 at the Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota – St. Paul campus.

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Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

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.)

A Public Functionary Victory

Sloshing in from an unseasonably wintry spring night, revelers gathered amidst the rich fabrics and assorted tableaux of gaudy and embellished items that Chicago-based artist Dzine has brought together for Public Functionary‘s first-ever exhibition. The opening of this non-profit gallery and social space has been much anticipated, and the opening was heralded through the night with pulsating […]

Sloshing in from an unseasonably wintry spring night, revelers gathered amidst the rich fabrics and assorted tableaux of gaudy and embellished items that Chicago-based artist Dzine has brought together for Public Functionary‘s first-ever exhibition. The opening of this non-profit gallery and social space has been much anticipated, and the opening was heralded through the night with pulsating music, bomba drums, and a steady stream of attendees.

Dzine, Club Gallistico. From the website of Public Functionary.

Dzine, Club Gallistico. From the website of Public Functionary.

Dzine’s show is aptly called Victory: seeing it, you feel as if you are walking through a personal awards-meets-dressing-room. Trophies abound! There are dozens of them along the far wall of the gallery that, upon close inspection, have clearly been reappropriated in the style of kustom kulture: they are decorative works swathed in a variety of bright velvets, fringe and brass knuckles. The artist, né Carlos Rolon, started as a teenaged graffiti artist and has gained popularity for bringing a celebratory Puerto Rican aesthetic into the art world via both installations and flamboyant nail art—a taste of his personal heritage at a large and small scale.

Detail from Dzine's "Victory." Photo by the author.

Detail from Dzine’s Victory. Photo by the author.

At the heart of the exhibition, a low-hanging chandelier, Untitled (Around the Way Girl I), drips with fake gold hoop earrings, mirrored surfaces and crystals. Like Andy Messerschmidt’s sheep chandelier in the Walker’s “oculus,” Dzine’s fixture functions as a sculpture but also draws the viewer into its warm and illuminated space. Dzine’s centerpiece is a beautiful distraction from the rest of the exhibition, an inviting place for people to congregate; small groups could be found throughout opening night staring into the work’s low lights like a fire in the hearth. The 2D works along the walls need to be experienced close-up, and every surface of Public Functionary is built up like a wall of a kitschy gingerbread house. Unlike their edible counterparts, these artworks are just eye candy, but still tantalizingly just-within-reach. The textures of the walls and paintings include: sequins, gilding, gold chains, and all sorts of other costume jewelry. I felt like a magpie ensnared by all the shiny things on view, drawn nearer and nearer to each sequined painting, wall and sculpture to investigate.

Detail from Dzine's "Victory." Photo by the author.

Detail from Dzine’s Victory. Photo by the author.

Situated in a relatively small exhibition space, Victory lives large. The installation celebrates the delights of surface and texture, but goes deeper too, confronting the viewer with signifiers of success. That said, literature for the show takes pains to invite all manner of viewers in, reassuring them that Dzine’s “work is not difficult to understand.” There are no individual wall labels, and there are many details to explore – it’s an invitation to stay a while and bask in the bright colors.  Victory by Dzine is on view through May 31st at Public Functionary in Minneapolis.

For more: http://publicfunctionary.org/.

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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.)

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