Art Sprawl

"an irregularly spread or scattered group or mass"

Conversation on “she who lives on the road to war” by Rosy Simas Danse

In this exchange between Alondra M. Garza and myself, we reflect on the project, she who lives on the road to war by Rosy Simas Danse. This project is on view at both the Weisman Art Museum and All My Relation Arts September 10, 2022 – December 17, 2022. See ticket information online.

Check out this reflection in zine format.

dance space with projection

Rosy Simas Danse, “she who lives on the road to war” (2022) at All My Relations Arts. Photo Credit: Alondra M. Garza

AG: How did you feel throughout the experience? Emotionally and/or physically.

EM: I felt contemplative throughout much of the performance because there was a lot to look at throughout the space as the performers moved in relation to each other and the objects in the space, such as leather hides and long leather laces. I was also curious to watch the interactions with the audience unfold, especially with the leather laces handed out around the room.

laces and hides

Rosy Simas Danse, “she who lives on the road to war” (2022) at Weisman Art Museum. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

AG: Was there a special moment or movement of the artists that caught your attention or immersed you in the experience?

EM: It caught my attention when I noticed one performer’s movement influencing another person’s movement and so on. Those physical echoes across the space felt directly connected to the themes that were named, such as gathering, resting, and grieving. I also thought the performers’ responses to the soundscape were well improvised, helping to tie together the visual and audio components with the movement elements.

dancers with props and projection

Rosy Simas Danse, “she who lives on the road to war” (2022) at All My Relations Arts. Photo Credit: Alondra M. Garza

AG: Did you understand the message of the performance? If so, what helped you understand? the body movements, the sound, or the video?

EM: I read the project description before arriving, so I had some of those conceptual themes in my head. I felt like the sound and video did a lot to support the transitions and phases of the movement throughout. The performers responded to the shifts in sound and video helping the experience feel like a cohesive whole, while preserving specific moments of interest throughout. The entire experience invited slow looking and attention to detail.

set pieces with projection

Rosy Simas Danse, “she who lives on the road to war” (2022) at Wiesman Art Museum. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

EM: This performance took place at multiple venues – where did you see the experience and how did that context and the arrangement of space affect you?

AG: I saw the performance at All My Relations Gallery. The space was arranged in a way that the dancers came out from the back and walked into a hallway to get to the main stage where the installation was. People could sit in the hallway area as well, and that is where I was sitting. I got to see the dancers next to me while they were walking into the space. That made me feel integrated as part of the performance since some of the projections were pointing at me as well. The people sitting in front of the stage area had to look back and see the dancers walking through that hallway, and they saw that they were next to me. I not only felt a part of it because of that but mainly because I feel at home at that gallery and can relate to the Indigenous message of the performance since I am part Indigenous of the Americas.  It was definitely more impactful to me to have seen it at that gallery as well, as I noticed some of the public were Indigenous as well and the staff there are Indigenous.

hanging set pieces

Rosy Simas Danse, “she who lives on the road to war” (2022) at Wiesman Art Museum. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

EM: I would also like to ask you about your understanding of the performance – what were the key elements for you and what was most impactful?

AG: Using the nature sounds, the sticks, and the leather that is all part of our ancestral land was beautiful. Those were the main tools used, as well as the body language. All these elements together had an impact on me, as to understand our connection to this land. The way that their bodies were interacting with each other also made me think of our connection to other indigenous and non-indigenous people and how nature connects us as well. Their body language indicated meditation, grief, love, and energy. After reading the statement about the performance, I thought it was great that they focused on how the dancers were connected to Rosy Simas’s studio in their own artistic ways, and that was something great to hear about at the after-talk that I stayed for. I thought it added to the richness of how we connect to one another outside of the performance.

Overall, this was a very thoughtful performance and an immersive experience where I felt so many emotions that transported me into nature and connection. Fantastic!

Disclosure: I know Alondra M. Garza from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD.

Conversation on “Smoke and Ground” at Public Functionary

In this exchange between Anika Schneider and myself, we reflect on the group exhibition, Smoke and Ground, curated by Adrienne Doyle at Public Functionary. This show was on view October 8 – November 6, 2022.

Artists included: Alexandra Beaumont, Avery Weiler, Leon Valencia Currie, Maiya Lea Hartman, Margaret Vergara, Satya Varghese Mac, Miku, Michael Khuth, Nailah Taman, Nicole Stiegart, nouf saleh, Patricio DeLara, Raye Cordes, Silent Fox, Sabrina Ford.

Check out this reflection in zine format.

hanging fabric dancers

ALEXANDRA BEAUMONT, “Dancing with Friends 1 – 3” (2022) Various textiles

EM: The details felt like a really key element that ties this group exhibition together, whether that was specific moments in paintings, mindful choices in object construction, or repeated items in collage/assemblage works, etc. what were some of the most striking details to you and why?

figure study on post it

PATRICIO DELARA, Figure study on post-it (2022)

AS: For me some of the most striking details were revealed in the shifts of scale between the pieces. Beaumont’s monumental figures danced next to Delara’s study of figures on a post it note, further reducing Delara’s figures within their pastel piece (on view next to the post it). This juxtaposition of a seemingly small detail of a post it note study used something of a very small scale, tacked like a note to the wall, to draw me in closely. Upon turning around and viewing Beaumont’s dancing figures, I had to first step back to take in the details, but then also step forward to understand the various textiles and stitches. This rhythm of stepping closely and stepping back was necessary to unlock the details within the exhibition. Other details that struck me through this process were saleh’s structural wood element and the hard objects embedded within Taman’s piece.

wooden sculpture with cyanotypes

nouf saleh “Goree, Ethiopia” (2022) Cyanotype, watercolor paper, cedar wood sculpture

EM: As the curatorial statement shares, memories and landscape are central to this exhibition, and I know memory has been a key part of your creative practice too. I wonder if there were specific pieces that resonated based on use of memory?

objects embedded in plastic

NAILAH TAMAN, “Taeta’s Tabletent” (2022) Ancestral cloth, cherished blanket, found objects, epoxy

AS: Taman’s Teata’s Tabletent and Varghese Mac’s A series of forms to keep our skin intact both especially resonated with me. Taman’s piece, for me, beautifully displays how objects hold memories and can be put away and not thought about but also a stagnant presence in our memories. Like my own work, Taman has recreated this handed down object to explore their own identity in connection to ancestral lineage. Varghese Mac’s piece mirrored how both personal and societal memory functions. Concrete, something initially flexible and changing, can solidify to serve a specific purpose. Our memories also transform and adapt to fit purposeful narratives to understand ourselves. Varghese Mac’s etched images on the concrete are subtle and eroded enough to feel like a deep cultural memory, seeming to suggest how solid concrete will one day crumble following the cycle of memory.

etched concrete image of a hand

SATYA VARGHESE MAC, “A series of forms to keep our skin intact” (2022) Light etched concrete, iron and titanium oxides, mustard seed oil

EM: Texture was an important formal component across several works, whether is the juicy piled painted borders of Maiya Lea Hartman’s painting, the hanging layered fiber work of Alexandra Beaumont, or the etched concrete of Satya Varghese Mac, among many others. Where did texture stand out? Or was there a different key formal element to you?

painting of pairs of sisters

MAIYA LEA HARTMAN, “Sisters 4 Life” (2022) Acrylic, oil, paper on wood pane

AS: Within the exhibition, texture stood out in the woven layered collage like elements of many of the pieces. This served to give the exhibition an overall texture. Many of the pieces seemed to be fitting parts together as a whole and this element served to bring all of the pieces in the exhibition together, whole. Ford’s The Beginning of it All, is a painting rich in surface pattern which brings a textural element into the painting. The painting canvas itself seemed raw and was forced into the frame, embracing wrinkles in the canvas adding an unexpected textural element. Khuth’s photographic collages, Small Ruptures, paired smoothness of skin and a silky blue backdrop with textural wrinkles of fabric and jewelry which emitted the feeling of warm metal on skin. This pairing in the collage reflected many of the textural variations of the exhibition.

a painting of a figure with a vase and snake

SABRINA FORD, “The Beginning of it All” (2022) Acrylic, oil pastel on canvas

collage of two figures

MICHAEL KHUTH, “Small Ruptures” (2022) Paper, tape

Disclosure: I know Anika Schneider from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD.

Conversation on “Teo Nguyễn: Giấc Mơ Hòa Bình” at Mia

In this exchange of questions between myself, Ellen Mueller, and Genie Hien Tran, we reflect on the exhibition, Teo Nguyễn: Giấc Mơ Hòa Bình [Việt Nam Peace Project]. This show is on view July 30, 2022 – June 18, 2023 in Galleries 262, 275, and 280 at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

landscape painting

Teo Nguyễn, “Phan Thị Kim Phúc” (2018) Acrylic on vellum, mounted to aluminum

EM: When and how to provide context seemed like a question the artist made careful decisions about. I wondered what you thought about what was and was not provided?

GHT: Talking about the paintings specifically, I think the majority of them don’t provide much of what their sources are, such as the original photographs and other researched materials. They only provide the artist’s perspectives. This to me is interesting. Growing up Vietnamese, I refer to the war as “The American War” and it is of course the opposite here. The difference is a matter of perspective, the point of view of who the speaker is. I believe that by stripping away context, the artist is revealing to us his point of view instead of what was provided to him. Nguyen is choosing to see what he would like to see; and in his words, it is worthiness, beauty, reconciliation, resistance and spiritualism. On the other hand, the artist purposefully chooses to reveal the source such as “The Terror of War” photograph for one of his paintings. By doing this, he’s emphasizing the story of the girl in the photo, Kim Phúc, who most often referred to as the Napalm girl. In the didactic, he gives space to show her hope, her fight and commitment to live. Through her story, I believe Nguyen finds the power of resistance.

Also, even though I understand that the paintings must have been of real places and regions in Vietnam, there are no indications of street name, town, village and land marker that would lead me to a specific location. Without such information, you as the audience are trusted to view the work solely through the artist’s point of view—through his colors, language, and brush strokes, etc. Even without reading the artist’s statement, one could sense peacefulness, and at the same time, sorrow and mourning through the paintings very effectively.

hanging plastic panels

Teo Nguyễn, “Agent Orange” (2022) archival aqueous pigment prints on transparent film; acrylic

EM: The scale shifts in this exhibition are significant, from tiny and large-scale photorealistic paintings, to the video work, to the huge installations hanging in the atrium or installed on the floor. I see similar scale shifts in your own practice, with tiny images and collaged moments arranged within much larger fields or picture planes. I wondered if you had any thoughts on the use of scale?

GHT: I know I mentioned this in the question I posed for you, but this exhibition makes me think a lot about the body. I think it has something to do with the constant overlaps of what is and isn’t seen, shown or provided. From the paintings which have war and human evidence deliberately removed to the floor paper installation of dead and missing Vietnamese people, this exhibition is empty of bodies. Contrasting that with the different scales of the work, which I feel require the viewers to compose their body differently depending on the piece: slouching down and peering into his mother’s intimate poetry, or tilting their heads back to look at the ceiling installation. I’m not sure entirely what this shift in movement means to me, but I find that it’s interesting to actively move yourself around and activate many senses in order to be immersed in an exhibition that is mostly of missing and lost bodies. I also think it almost goes back to the idea of forced perspective, of point of view. With the many different scales, the artist is making us ask questions of: Why is this scene at this scale? Where do I stand to experience the piece? What do I miss and gain from my way of seeing?

The scale shift in my own work is different in my opinion. I think Nguyen sees each of his paintings or pieces as a totality, while I think my images are part of one another. When I shift the scale of an image, it is because they either become more or less visible to me in the moment, and are completely dependent on its relationship with other images. However, sometimes I structure my images and their scales entirely based on technicality or spiritual reasons. If a scale or composition makes me feel good, I’ll work with that and won’t impose too much thinking behind it.

display case with book and photo

Poetry and photo in display case in Teo Nguyễn exhibition; photographer unknown for Portrait of Duang Anh Loi (1973), digital inkjet print

EM: Point of view, memory, and familial relationships are important to the conceptual underpinnings of these works, from the photojournalist’s perspective to the artist’s mother’s reflections. Did anything related to point of view stand out to you?

GHT: Feel like I touched on that a little with the other answers. There definitely is a strong undertone and influence of memory and familial relationship alongside his point of view. In the video and poetic piece, we see a much more personal take at the war and how it affected the artist’s familial relationship. These are one of the only few pieces in the show with presentations of a person, and both are of his mother (or echoes of her image, language, etc.). With both, we get this sense of loss and separation that are a lot more obvious and pungent. Accompanied with no dialogues, the song in the video piece reminded me of a lullaby a mom would sing to her young child. The melody also lingers with you when you are reading the artist’s mother’s writing due to the pieces being next to each other. To me, the memory of the artist’s mother and his familial relationships feel like a cornerstone, a grounded starting point in order for him to venture to other viewpoints.

landscape painting

Teo Nguyễn, “We Never Met, Yet Our Souls Embrace, Yêu Nhau Trong Phận Người ”  (2018) acrylic on vellum, mounted to aluminum

GHT: When approaching the topics of war and human trauma, the artist deliberately removes human depiction and historical evidence and yet, to me, it seems that the land somehow remembers the pain. How does the mere appearance of land and environment make you feel as the audience? What do you think of the idea of land storing memories and if you have anything more to add to that?

EM: The painted landscapes are beautiful on their own and the absence of the horrors of war make that beauty all the more poignant to me because it underlines the total unnecessary-ness of that violence. The space thrived before the war, and while the land will continue to hold memories of the violence via depressions and clearings in the brush, it will also slowly return to these pre-war states. I believe the time it takes to heal the land, letting plant and animal life do the slow work of mending, is a long-term reminder of the harm done.

many stacks of white paper

Teo Nguyễn, Remembering Other (2022) stacked white paper; transparent acrylic; site-specific installation

GHT: As you mentioned, the work ranges from 2-dimensional drawings to video work and ceiling installation. Though they might be different in format and scale, in each piece, there is an implication of the body—not only of the dead and wounded but also of the artist. I wonder if you thought of this as well and what are your thoughts on the hidden bodies behind the work?

EM: I observed a sense of hidden bodies most intensely with Remembering Other, which consisted of stacks of white paper in transparent acrylic boxes, physically illustrating the scale of loss of life on behalf of the Vietnamese people, both military and civilian casualties. There were also paintings that implied hidden bodies to me, but much more subtly via the compositional choices.

a landscape painting of a road

Teo Nguyễn, The Singing Stops in All the Trees, Hát Trên Những Xác Người (2016) acrylic on vellum, mounted to aluminum

GHT: Translation is used thoughtfully throughout the entire exhibition. However, from my understanding of the Vietnamese language, the translation is loosely connected and leaning more poetic rather than precise. (For example, The Singing Stopped in All the Trees isn’t exactly a one-to-one translation for the title Hát Trên Những Xác Người, which translated literally to To sing on top of bodies). Along with the artist’s mother’s poem display, language seems to wield as much power as visual in the exhibition, and I’m curious what you think about the role of language, translation, and written text when paired with visual art.

EM: First, I feel lucky to get your insight here as a speaker of Vietnamese. The difference in translations is stark, and illustrates just how much power the translator wields. Having both written material and visual art side by side in this case helps highlight how each medium has its own strengths in different ways. Sometimes the specificity of words seem more decisive and pointed, directing the viewer/reader to exactly what the artist/author wants us to observe. In contrast, at other times the image is most impactful because it shows us, rather than describing what we should pay attention to. Each viewer translates those images based on their personal context, whereas with the translated text, some conceptual choices are made for us.

Further discussion in the video below:

Disclosure: I know Genie Hien Tran as a past student when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD.

Questions on “Don’t Go Into the Light” by Frank James Meuschke at Rosalux

This is a short reflection on the exhibition, Don’t Go Into the Light by Frank James Meuschke running November 4-27, 2022 at Rosalux, 315 West 48th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419.

The format of this reflection is a single sentence or question per image. This content is also available as a printed zine.

a bright white light in a dark landscape

Frank James Meuschke, “Whitewater River” (2022) sublimation print on polyethylene terephthalate fabric, 51″x68″

Walking into the gallery, I’m struck by a sense of an unknowable quality, emphasized through deeply saturated colors and the softening of edges.

blurry yellow trees

Frank James Meuschke, “Whitewater Bluff” (2022) sublimation print on polyethylene terephthalate fabric, 51″x51″

Questions come to mind, such as, “Do I like the blurred boundaries more for accentuating the unknown or heightening beauty?”

blurry grass

Frank James Meuschke, “Touch the Sky Prairie” (2022) sublimation print on polyethylene terephthalate fabric, 51″x68″

I asked myself, “What do we not know?”

blurred elements from nature in yellow, green and brown

Frank James Meuschke, “Back Woods” (2022) sublimation print on polyethylene terephthalate fabric, 51″x68″

I also wondered, “What is it to view the world through the plastic we are addicted to?”

Disclosure: I know the artist from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD, where he served as a mentor.

Letters on “The Painting Show”

In this exchange of letters between myself, Ellen Mueller, and Anda Tanaka, we reflect on the exhibition, The Painting Show, curated by Emma Beatrez, Rachel Collier, Ryan Fontaine, and Kristin Van Loon. This show ran October 4 – 23, 2022 at Hair+Nails, 2222 1/2 E. 35th St. Minneapolis, MN 55407.

For all reflections on Art Sprawl, there is an accompanying  printed zine.

abstract felted painting with neons

Rachel Collier, “Life in whispers” (2022) wool on canvas, 62″x41″

written letter

two nude women on a bucking horse

Andrea Qual, “Buck” (2022) oil on canvas, 60″x40″

written letter

painting of two nude female figures under two suns

Lauren dela Roche, “Two Suns” (2022) fabric pen, oil paint pen, mineral spirit archival varnish spray with UVLS on canvas, 62″ x42″

written letter

abstracting painting with photos in a black frame

Joe Schaeffer, “Translation No. 11 (2022) ink, oil, acrylic, digital print on canvas, 60″x40”

written letter

person with bouquet on stool with cat

Matt Momchilov, “Man With Authentic Bouquet” (2022) oil on canvas, 60″x40″

written letter

a floating outhouse under a rainbow

Bruce Tapola, “Axis Mundi (Atom Smasher)” (2022) oil and acrylic on canvas, 60″x40″

written letter

a killer whale with seals and figures

Autumn Garrington, “Killer” (2022) oil on canvas, 60″x40″

written letter

If you would like to read the letters with screen-reading technology, please find them typed in this document for accessibility.

Disclosure: I know Anda Tanaka and Emma Beatrez as past students when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD. I’ve spent time talking to Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon as the gallery owners of Hair + Nails at several of their shows and events over the past few years.

 

Conversation on “पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” by Roshan Ganu at SooVAC

In this short conversation between Kelsey Bosch and Alonzo Pantoja, they reflect on the exhibition, पौर्णिमा : : Gazing Into the Full Moon Night, by Roshan Ganu. This show runs October 16 – November 12, 2022 at SooVAC, 2909 Bryant Avenue South #101, Minneapolis, MN 55408.

For all reviews, there is an accompanying  printed zine.

projections on walls

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Kelsey Bosch

AP: How do you orient your body to the space?

KB: When I arrived the imagery of the Arabian Sea flooded the room. I was swept in immediately, overtaken by water and all the light bouncing around the room from the projectors and mirrors; I thought about reflective and sparkly things, stars, and dreamscapes. As I began moving through the space I noticed the inclusion of my body in the imagery, an eclipsing body orbiting the projector. I am a moon myself. I considered attempting to find a path through the entire exhibition without creating an eclipse. However, taken by the imagery running across multiple planes in the gallery, I got caught up in the arrangement of the projectors. I began using my body as a locator of light.

Not being a performance artist, the experience of wandering through the exhibition felt performative, or perhaps ritualistic. First flowing through its entirety to take it all in, I later spent more time in each space experiencing the image and sound completely and took note of the consideration of the gallery architecture. I circled through three or four times, passing from earthly to lunar landscapes, the elongation and bending of imagery and the shortening of space. Space suddenly seemed much more malleable.

a tree sculpture, a mirror on the floor, and a gallery visitor

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

KB: What is the relationship between the lone tree and the rest of the exhibition?

AP: To me the lone tree is a gathering point as well as part of the story. It’s the only three-dimensional (in the round) work that is in the exhibition – aside from the mirrors. And this to me amplifies the 2D aspect of the work. It also is positioned in the middle of two galleries and so I see it as this point of rest for the “traveler.” The small scale of the tree allows for more intimate examination of it and again re-orienting us to our surroundings and ourselves. Roshan’s work is all connected in some way. The moon, the tides, the sounds, light, self, identity, home – all are present in the work that allows for multiple entry points to the work. The work is not singular or linear, but multifaceted, vast and yet structured by a layer of comfort and familiarity. Roshan’s work brings down barriers and strips away the hierarchies of art and design associated with the white wall. This truly allows for the viewers to feel involved, to feel a sense of agency.

a person standing in a projected image

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Kelsey Bosch

AP: How does time operate in relation to the show?

KB: Time operates cyclically through the looping imagery and sound, pairing with lunar cycles and orbits. But time does not operate without space, and there is an extreme collapsing of space. In the front of the gallery is imagery of the Arabian Sea, Shandtadurga Temple, an animation inspired by Un voyage dans la lune, suggesting that I am situated on earth. In the back of the gallery the lunar landscape is seen as though I am standing on the moon. So spacetime is collapsing or shortening. The tree and moon sculptures within the exhibition remain fixed and ageless, which stabilize that I am still to understand time on human scale. This reminded me of the uncanny relativity of time while traveling through space. Time is familiar and yet unknowable, its scale too unfathomably large for our senses.

Because of time’s unknowability, I wanted to let go of my understanding of the physical world; despite what I know of time, my experience here felt timeless.

a white neon circle on a brick wall

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), neon wall sculpture. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

KB: How did sound affect your experience of the show?

AP: Sound is a beautiful phenomenon. Personally, sound to me is connected to memory. While I recall that there is sound in the exhibition looking back at it I am having trouble pinpointing the exact sounds within the space. I think Roshan’s awareness of sound is special to her practice and her work. Roshan is a storyteller and the way that she selects words, pitches, tones embodies so many metaphors. That being said I personally resonated more with the echoes of the space and the rustling of bodies moving around and navigating the exhibition. There was a sense of interconnectedness that contributed to a collective experience, but also an individual one.

projection of the moon's surface

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Alonzo Pantoja

AP: Where do you stop to rest?

KB: I found myself resting in the lunar landscape, on my own trip to the moon. When I first entered that space it felt a little disorienting to see myself projected on the moon. This is likely the closest I will ever get to walking on that landscape so I spent a lot of time there…playing more so than resting.

close up of a projection

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

KB: Where did you find yourself lingering within the exhibition, and why that place?

AP: One of the immediate things that I connected with was the curtain that was at the beginning of the exhibition. It not only reminded me of home, but it also invites the audience to be part of the installation. Soon after you are welcomed by shadows, lights, echoes and movement. There are multiple gathering points within the gallery and Roshan does a poignant job of utilizing mirrors not only formally, but conceptually. I found myself gravitating to the mirrors – perhaps because of their familiarity or perhaps because of the way that the light reflected. I saw these mirrors as portals, entry points to the work, but also as a way to re-orientate myself to the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition I kept looking for the mirrors and trying to see where they were pointing to. Questions that came up: how did I appear? How did others appear? What else appears in the mirrors?

a person in a colorful garment

“पौर्णिमा : Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” (2022), projected video, dimensions variable. Photo Credit: Ellen Mueller

Kelsey Bosch is a media artist and interactive sound designer who teaches media art, filmmaking, and graphic design at St. Olaf College, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and St. Cloud State University.

Alonzo Pantoja is a queer, brown artist and educator – currently teaching at Augsburg University, Minneapolis College of Art and Design and the Textile Center. Instagram: @cilantro.cutie

Disclosure: I know Kelsey Bosch, Alonzo Pantoja, and Roshan Ganu from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD; all three are alumni of the program.

Conversation on “HERE BEFORE” by Mike Marks at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory

In this short conversation reflecting on the exhibition, HERE BEFORE – Woodcuts and Drawings by Mike Marks, Shirin Ghoraishi and Ellen Mueller pose questions for one another after viewing Mike Marks‘ work. This show runs September 16 – October 22, 2022 at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory, 775 Lake St E, Wayzata, MN 55391.

For all reviews, there is an accompanying  printed zine.

halftone close up

Fast Water Moving Still [detail] (2022) woodcut on paper, edition of 8

EM: What drew you to this exhibition?

SG: I’ve always been drawn to the concept of memory and space, preservation of an experience. The combination of printmaking and digital representations of nature is initially what I was drawn to. But beyond that as an audience I look for a personal connection and how I am immersed in a work of art.  What I search for in a work of art is to comfort me, challenge me or educate me. I find comfort in the fog and hazinees aesthetic of Mike Marks. The grayishness of his work conveys sinking in a faded memory that is emerging, soon to be remembered. The landscapes can be anywhere and anytime or for me I just made a connection to an invented memory from my imagination as a child daydreaming in a class.

a night sky

The Endless Glowing Hours (Green) (2022) woodcut on paper, edition of 10

SG: What was the first thing you noticed about his work?And do you know why you noticed that?

EM: The first thing I noticed were the repeated mark-making elements, almost like the artist was developing an alphabet for a visual language. I saw the perforations, the wood cut grids acting as a type of halftone pattern, the gestural graphite designating vegetation, and areas with powdered material.

rapids

Landshaper Rapids II (2022) woodcut on Kozo paper, edition of 10

EM: Were there any stand-out or favorite works in the exhibition for you? And if yes, which ones and why?

SG: Yes, My favourite is Land Shaper (Rapids II). It Stand-out to me  as a mystery that I had to step back and get away from to see the picture and for it to reveal itself. A form of engagement and a sense of control that I felt more with this artwork.

arrows on a gray background

Stream Drop [detail] (2022) graphite and perforations on paper

SG: What does his work make you think of?

EM: I spent a lot of time thinking about air or atmosphere or wind, and it was because of the perforation lines made of dots that either remained visibly white in fields of darkness, or caught dark pigment as they scattered across white negative spaces. While sometimes they created recognizable shapes (arrows, etc.), I was most intrigued by areas where the perforations simply provided texture, such as where there were repeated vertical marks made by the tool.

view of a river

River Glare [detail] (2022) graphite, colored pencil, and perforations on paper

EM: If you could ask the artist any question, what would it be and why?

SG: While making this body of work did he get any result he did not intend for, if so what was it?

icy landscape in gray

Icy Flow [detail] (2022) graphite, gouache, ink, and perforations on paper

SG: Thinking about the show, what do you remember after a week? Why do you think you remember what you did?

EM: A week later, the idea of landscape sticks with me the most, likely because I think a lot about landscape in general, and in connection to issues of climate change and habitat loss.

Disclosure: I know Shirin Ghoraishi from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD; she was a 2020 graduate.

Reflection on “Containment Strategies” by Sarah Kusa at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

This is a short reflection on the exhibition, Containment Strategies by Sarah Kusa running September 10-Oct 23, 2022 at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, Visual Arts Building, 2004 Randolph Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105, (Open Mon-Thu: 8am-8pm; Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat-Sun: Noon-6pm). The format of this reflection is seven sentences and images. In printed form, the text is arranged to form a grid reminiscent of the installation. Check out the printed zine.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Wavy irregular grids of feather-light insulating foam are assembled into pink cube forms.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Tricks of reflected light and shadow play out with some of the pink surfaces painted red, while others retained sporadic red printed type from the foam manufacturer.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

The lightness of these cages is further emphasized with multiple pieces pinned to the ceiling.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Barely perceptible pins hold these delicate structures together at the seams.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Close-looking reveals that these were all hand-cut.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Some of the most interesting looking occurs at the densest points, with several overlapping cubes providing a near-moire pattern as layer upon layer anxiously melts together.

pink foam gridded forms

Sarah Kusa, “Containment Strategies” (2022) installed at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery

Ideas of the individual versus the collective come to mind as these cubes are stacked and clustered, looking similar at first pass, but clearly all unique upon closer inspection.

Reflection on “Abject Permanence” by Allison Baker at Dreamsong

This is a short reflection on the exhibition, Abject Permanence by Allison Baker running Sept 10-Oct 22, 2022 at Dreamsong, 1237 4th St NE, Minneapolis MN 55413 (Open Wed-Sat 12-5pm). The format of this reflection is a single sentence per image. This content is also available as a printed zine.

mended cup with plant

Bookcase [detail] (2022) paper pulp, silicone, resin, foam, steel, mug, 53x30x24″

Because of its somewhat hidden placement, the grotesque neon glue, and crooked sharp seams, my favorite moment in the show was this  cup that seemed to be barely holding itself together after having had a hold drilled in it.

colorful boxy sculpture with glove and plant

Bookcase (2022) paper pulp, silicone, resin, foam, steel, mug, 53x30x24″

The cup was located near the bottom of Bookcase and required looking past the tempting tactility of the glove at eye-level, and kneeling down to see what that neon orange was about – barely peaked out from beneath leaves that seemed to be rendered with care.

four different cast gloves

Cast gloves from four different sculptures

These colorful work-gloves appeared in several of the sculptures, and sometimes as a stand-alone object, which felt fitting as a key element of the visual language the artist is playing with.

detail of blue abstract sculpture

Serpent (2022) epoxy resin, silicone, steel, 17 1/4x18x6 1/2″

Looking at the varied surfaces in the exhibition, this phrase from the written materials felt most resonant: “What we covet and possess absorbs and manifests anxiety.”

linear blue abstract sculpture

The Gate of the Rose (2022) Paper pulp, silicone, steel, 54x44x60″

The moments where the visual references were most open to interpretation drew me in, as in The Gate of the Rose [detail pictured here] or Cactus [pictured below from three different angles].

a cactus leave from three views

Cactus (2022) resin, 5x5x4 1/2″

I closely examined the translucent quality of many of the sculptural vegetation forms, which ranged from precise castings to more exaggerated cartoon-like forms.

half of a pomegranate

Rotten Fruit (2022) resin, 1 1/2x4x4″

I almost missed Rotten Fruit located in the back corner of the back room, and was glad the gallery sitter pointed it out to me because I enjoyed how it seemed to contrast the rest of the objects, with its lack of saturated colors and small scale, quietly amplifying the bulbous forms found elsewhere in the space.

three purple rock forms with green leaves sprouting

Rock Study #1-3 (2022) paper pulp, silicone, steel, 5 1/2×2 1/2×2 1/2″

While there were also collaged drawings and video work, the sculptures drew me in the most with their sheer color, scale, texture, and contrast.

Disclosure: I briefly met the artist at two different opening receptions in spring 2022 when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD, and invited her to serve as a mentor.

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