This blog exists to inspire people to seek out all the great art that lives in and around the Minneapolis skyway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When I say Armory, I mean it's been too long...

 The largest Works Public Administration (WPA) property in the State of Minnesota, the Armory is an amazing building despite its present level of decrepitude. Built in 1935, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, forcing Hennepin County to change their plan to demolish the landmark in order to build a new jail. So the once-glorious moderne style event center remains, presently housing an underwhelming parking operation. What was once the site of National Guard equipment, training, the Minnesota Lakers, a Prince music video and tons of other special occasions, occupies a lonely stretch of Sixth Street that stares at the backside of the Thrivent Financial building.

The sculptured lettering and forms above the entrances are thick, yet well-done and I can't resist the eagles up top. Brave the puddle at the entrance, the peeling paint and the spray painted X's and stop in the place that has hosted everything from Hadassah's Funtennial to The Dead Kennedys and give it some respect.
Besides, there are two murals inside the Armory's trophy room that bear witness to the unkindness of the intervening years. Lucia Wiley's History of the National Guard and Elsa Jemne's Early Minnesota were part of the Federal Art Program (FAP), which was founded by the WPA to document American life. This building was truly a local endeavor, made of brick from Twin Cities Brick, limestone from Mankato, granite from St. Cloud and metalwork by Minneapolis-Moline and Gilette-Herzog (according to

James Lilek's tour of the building, is a great start to finding out more about this storied structure. Or take a stroll during business hours and pretend your car is parked inside to take a gander. Get up close to the buttery-hued exterior and imagine all those hometown men who once worked to create it.

P.S. Sorry that I have been remiss in posting. It was extremely hot when I took these pics of the Minneapolis Armory. Nonetheless, it felt good to be back in action, even on a 100 degree day. The dirty water I stepped in at the entrance of the Armory was disgusting and cooling all at the same time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Six-tenths of the Burnett Gallery's "Fresh"-est answer three questions

Angela Strassheim - Breaking Up

Opening Saturday, March 12, from 6-9 p.m., "Fresh" displays an assemblage of new works by an array of former solo exhibitors returning to the Burnet Gallery. On the eve of the show, which celebrates the venue's first five years, it seemed appropriate (judicious?) to try to communicate with all of the ten artists featured.

In an attempt to be minorly objective, I asked the same three questions of them all plus an optional fourth about how their work has evolved since their initial Burnet outing. The six who answered my homogenous queries are presented here, in no particular order, for your reading pleasure with a few photos of the work, as well. Glean what you can here and then stop by the gallery for the real deal.

 The Questions:
1. When and why did you being to call yourself an artist?
2. How does Minnesota play a part in your work?
3. Who or what is influencing you right now?
*4. How do you see your work having changed or evolved since your original Burnet Gallery show?

Andréa Stanislav - Purple Andy, 2010
1. When I was 24 and I had my first NYC solo show.
2. My subject matter is not related to Minnesota.
3. Eve Democracy...

1. I still have a hard time telling people that I am an artist.
2. I tend to get more work done in the darkest months of the year. The sun can be a distraction.
3. I have been taking weekend road trips down south. I love the way people organize their lives on their front lawns. Everything is visible.

Megan Rye - Pig 37

1. I started taking art lessons when I was five — it is the only thing I have done my entire life. I have always felt like an artist.
2. I am from MN and my whole family is here. Minnesota has been incredibly supportive of my work. I have received institutional support from the Bush, McKnight and Jerome Foundations, as well as the MN State Arts Board. In MN, I rely on my artist friends, am grateful for the art collectors that make what I do possible, and am really excited to be able to exhibit in places like Chambers Hotel and the MIA. 
3. I just watched a documentary on Alice Neel, watching her move her brush across the canvas took my breath away. It was like watching Federer play tennis — a natural.
4. My solo exhibit in 2008 at the Burnet Gallery was an amazing experience. Since my work is a reflection on the Iraq War, it was truly gratifying to find a place for the project to exist while our country was involved in this ongoing conflict. So often an artist's work is never shown, or traditionally hasn't been shown during their lifetime. To have the work installed in the heart of Hennepin Ave, and speak to the city in real time, was incredibly meaningful to me.
 1. I think in high school, I was making a commitment to considering myself an artist. Although I grew up surrounded by the art of my mother. As a child I think she would try to keep me out of her hair by requiring me to practice specific brush strokes over and over again. From that time there was always a need to express oneself through production.
2. Minnesota's landscape seeps into my work, at times consciously -- at other times unconsciously. I am walking every day and absorbing the changing seasons, but I am struck by the starkness of the winter lines. Minnesota quiet cold winters offer a time for introspective production. Lately I find a fire's flame a constant background as I make my work. The fire and the work almost become meditative.
3. How can one not be influenced by what is happening with the folks in the Middle East? It is truly amazing how these uprisings are happening. Information spread through Twitter and Facebook — these invisible networks yield so much power to the individual to organize and become a peerless force. Also I am enjoying some readings on the Age of Romanticism and going back further to some Jacobean plays. 

1. 1987. I discovered then, that was who I was.
2. I live here.
3. Gravity, the Stones, my stomach and Hari Sreenivasan.

Angela Strassheim - Self portrait

1. In 2000. It had to do with taxes and insurance and I had to call myself something and artist was most fitting as I had just left a forensic photography full-time position and I was freelance. I never called myself photographer because I have always seen myself as using whatever tools and or expressing art in my facets even though I am mostly known for photography. I think of myself as an artist that uses photography for expression.
2. I grew up in Minnesota. My family moved to Minnetonka when I was 16. After high school I went to a community college for several years and then spent four years at MCAD. Ten years later after my forensic career and graduate school I returned to teach at MCAD for three years. Minneapolis is where I call home even though my parents moved away when I was in undergrad. Minnesota is the place where my friends and colleagues are my family and I will always feel deeply connected to Minneapolis.
3. Judaism and Yeshiva studies.
4. My work took a huge turn in 2008 when I began photographing original origins of domestic homicide. I researched on-line, at libraries, and with neighbors at the end of 2008 when the rise in these crimes due to the economic stress escalated and I traveled all over the U.S. engaging with new residents of the homes and apartments that these crimes had taken place. I let go of photographing people for awhile and starting working in b&w. A solo exhibition of this work opens on March 17th at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Don't miss the equally "fresh" work of Matthew Bakkom, Allen Brewer, Janet Lobberecht and S. Catrin Magnusson, who are also a part of this art extravaganza.

"Fresh" @ the Burnet Gallery - 901 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
Opening: Saturday, March 12, 2011, 6-9 p.m.
Gallery Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closing: May 1, 2011
Free and open to the public

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top 5 Skyway Art Picks in Honor of the Mention

Well, of course I haven't been skulking around the skyway as much as I'd like to lately, but I'm flattered that Leif Petterson gave SOL a mention in his article about staying in the skyway for two weeks. To that end, I want to give a rundown of my Top 5 Art Picks in the "Habitrail."

1. Macchia Forms by Dale Chihuly - Capella Tower

2. The Reformation Window by Conrad Pickel - Thrivent Financial Building

3. Curvilinear 1 and Curvilinear 2 by Deanna Sirlin - U.S. Bancorp Building

4. Home of the Silver Butter Knife Steak Painting/Sign - Murray's

5. 510 Marquette Building - would love more info on this one....

Check back soon. I'll be featuring some photography and there's a new Chambers show coming in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview: Betsy Byers talks bodies in space and memories of night swimming up north

Betsy Byers's work is oil on canvas.

Betsy Byers' show entitled, "Elsewhere" is now open at the Burnet Gallery in Le Meridian Chambers Hotel and the reception for the artist is this Friday, Jan. 21. The pieces are mostly large, with two sets of smaller groupings and many blue tones that suggest depth and the experience of water, sky and earth. She speaks of "bodies in space" and seeing the works in person helped me to understand that inspiration -- the paintings definitely evoke a sense of being between landings or firm footings. When she told me that she has memories of night swimming up north, I could see and feel what she was talking about.

In addition to meeting me for a little preview, Byers kindly answered a few of my burning questions. While all of this makes for a good peek and read, it should simply be a teaser before your visit to the gallery. For my money (and it's free), this show best fits the Burnet space of all the ones I've seen. And don't forget to do a drive/walk by to see the two pieces facing Hennepin Avenue, as well.

Here are her answers and the show's details -- and she'll be at the opening on Friday if you want to meet her and quiz her yourself.

As you walk in, this is what stares back at you.
Skyway of Love: There's very much the feeling of objects in space in your pieces -- almost as if there are pathways that drop off. Is there a sense of transitory nests there?

Betsy Byers: I am intrigued that you described the work as "transitory nests"... I think that is a wonderful way to describe spaces I am interested in painting. My work is concerned with how the body remembers and explores place. I purposely played with both transparency and opacity because I wanted the viewer to experience expansive voids/pathways, as well as visual structures that anchored them in space. Thinking of these anchors as "nests," is a lovely comparison, as I want the opaque forms to feel safe and reassuring.

SOL: Many of your works have blue as a major component. Is it representative of water and sky and other natural spaces?

BB: The blue in my work is representative of both water and sky. The value and saturation of the blue helps to describe time and light in my paintings. 

SOL: Were you born and raised in Minnesota? How do you feel your art is inspired by Minnesota -- is it the natural environment, the people, the light...?

BB: I was born and raised in Minnesota, just south of the Twin Cities. However, growing up, I spent most of my summers at our family cabin and my grandma's farm up north. The experiences of my youth influenced my aesthetic and also serve as a point of inspiration for the majority of the places I dwell in while I am painting.

In particular, the work in "Elsewhere" draws imagery and color choices from my experiences night swimming at my cabin in Northern Minnesota as a child. My mom would wake us up in the middle of the night and we would tiptoe down to the lake, out onto the worn wood of the dock and quietly slide into the cool blackness of the water. The memories of moving through the expansive darkness and gazing up at the innumerable stars continue to remain with me. While swimming, I could not distinguish where my skin ended and the water began. The world changed for me in those moments. Those memories have drawn me deeper into trying to understand the relationship between space and place, and how they in turn affect our own formation of self.

SOL: How do you come up with the titles of your pieces? Do you know the name when you start or does it come to you during or after the paintings are finished?
BB: It depends on the work, but I usually title the pieces after they are finished. My paintings tend to change slightly (sometimes radically) from my initial intention while I am working on them. I like to honor the possibilities that the paint offers while in process. In rare instances I title the work beforehand. In the current show, "Descend II" is one work I knew the title of from the beginning. For this piece, I was working to describe the sensation of moving down the series of steps to the lake. 

SOL: I know you are working in oils. Can you tell us a little bit about the medium and why you are using it for these works?

BB: With oil, I am able to work both directly and indirectly. I prefer utilizing a combination of both methods. Direct painting offers me an immediacy of mark. Working indirectly, by adding other media to the paint, I can slowly build transparent layers. In other words, oil is versatile and malleable since it stays wet for so long. It takes my work at least 4 weeks to dry. If the oil paint is substantially thick in can take a few months to dry. 

SOL: And is there anything you want us to know?

BB: I hope you come and experience the work in "Elsewhere." I find that in spending time with visual art, learning always takes place. Art has the ability to communicate in different ways than words, and to me, that is a very powerful thing. 


The Details:
Le Meridian Chambers Minneapolis
901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Opening: Friday, Jan. 21, 6-9 p.m. (free to the public)
Show: Jan. 14, 2010 - Mar. 6, 2011,
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

In the right window

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clinton Rost: Barnes & Thornburg LLP, then Gallery 360 (law office to art gallery?)

Will You Be Here For a Minute? - 2010, oil on canvas

Clinton Rost has a show at Gallery 360 this weekend, so I thought I'd search out his work. And, while the opening is way down on West 50th Street, I found he had some art hidden in the land of the skyway as well. There is, however, a bit of a hitch on this one. You've got to be tenacious to see them -- or in need of legal counsel.

Pixels and Print - 2010, oil on canvas

Three of Rost's oil paintings hang at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, a law firm in the Capella Building. His contribution to the lawyers' downstairs conference room is part of a program with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) called The Art of Teamwork. In fact, the offices are full of amazing works of art -- and they've even purchased two pieces as a result of this partnership.

Queue of Two - 2010, oil on canvas

These are close ups of his paintings -- oils with bold brush strokes that use the texture of the paint as part of the composition. They are of folks in public, although he seems to make clear that they are immersed in their own private spheres within that public space.

Check out Rost's show at Gallery 360. Here are the details:

What: Spy House - Paintings by Clinton Rost
Where: Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St., Minneapolis
Opening: Sat., Jan. 15, 2011, 7-10 p.m.
Run of Show: Jan. 15 - Feb. 28, 2011