What does a utopia look like? A claytopia? How do we construct it? The more Western civilization crafts their ideal world, the more we understand the tragic domino effect that results from our modifications. Janet Macpherson and Magdolene Dykstra’s collaborative installation investigates a dystopian landscape where plant and animal life have been mutated to the brink of sustainability. Can these altered life-forms survive? Should they? In such uneasy times, art plays a crucial role in highlighting the nuances of our reality in ways that trigger more empathy than the daily news cycle. This Land Like a Mirror uses traditional techniques slip casting and press molding in service of an experimental installation composed entirely of unfired clay. This impermanent installation will ultimately vanish, returning to its original ingredients. By high
lighting the fragility of this fantastical realm, this collaborative installation encourages us to examine our relationship to the world we continue to build and destroy.
Magdolene and Janet have joined their distinct approaches for this exhibition. Macpherson (Emerging Artist 2018) addresses the hierarchical beliefs around nature in which we categorize, consume and attempt to control the natural world. Her hybrid animals reflect on the unsettling manipulation of human and animal bodies. Using molds cast from found toy animals and religious statues, Macpherson uses slip-casting to collage animals together in a way that recalls genetic modification and mutation.
These objects reveal a discomforting reality that explores the tension between freedom and constraint, pleasure and pain, care and hindrance. The wrapped animals explore ideas of repression, confinement and torture. Our familiarity with clay figurines renders these works especially accessible and elicits tender concern for them. This strange slip-cast menagerie functions as a metaphor for our own complicated existence: fragile in our persistence.
Dykstra’s raw clay installations explore the landscape of an alternate reality, finding lineage in the Romantic artists of the 19th century who pursued the sublime in grand landscapes. Historically, the sublime has been associated with great things in nature – torrential storms, cavernous depths, frightening heights, and infinitely barren deserts. The sublime experience is born in a sense of amazement and is often linked to fear of something beyond our understanding or control. As opposed to the thrilling mountaintop experience, Dykstra’s forms reference the amazing intricacy of microbiology, featuring an abundance of unfamiliar life.
In further contrast to Romantic art which neatly contained their landscapes, Dykstra’s imagined worlds push beyond the boundaries provided for them invading our tense reality. These unfamiliar landscapes offer a window of escape, where we explore our relationship to an alternate world which bears similarities to our own.
The installation at Truckstop Gallery is the result of months of experimentation, evaluation and editing. To create this installation, Magdolene and Janet met once a month starting in August. The first several studio sessions were a time of exploration, where the artists worked together to discover how their very different approaches to clay could merge together. As they continued to generate the work, they continued to engage in critical discussions on how the project was progressing. While Magdolene works predominantly in unfired clay, this is a departure for Janet who usually fires her porcelain hybrids. The empathy evoked by Janet’s creatures is heightened by their fragility.
In their collaborative installation, Macpherson and Dykstra present an ecosystem caught in a tenuous balance. The installation in a circular format has no beginning or end. Some animals seem to be adapting and hybridizing with the mutating landscape, while others are overcome. It is left up to the viewer to determine whether or not there is hope for this scene. At times Dykstra’s raw clay landscape supports and shelters MacPherson’s slip-cast porcelain animals; however, occasions where the terrain threatens the hybrid beasts complicate our understanding of how this ecosystem functions. Reveling in mystery, this installation does not give up hope altogether, nor does it present clear solutions. Rather, it exercises our compassion while training us to entertain the fluidity of the unknown.
Perhaps the humility we experience in wandering through this foreign terrain and confronting its vulnerable creatures will enable us to approach our world with an awareness of the delicate interplay between utopia and dystopia.
This Land Like a Mirror Turns You Inward will be on view at Truckstop Gallery (20 Grove St. on Nicollet Island) Wednesday (10am–5pm), Thursday and Friday (12–9:30pm). The opening reception is on Friday, March 29 from 5-9pm. Truckstop Gallery is the first stop on the Northeast Wednesday Daytime Shuttle. The gallery is a 15 drive from the Convention Center. You can also take Bus 11 Northbound.
Beginning with the question What’s Your story?, The Mother of All Confessions is one of several works included in Project Space this year is. It is an open confessional booth for discussions that investigate issues surrounding art, maternity, and parenting. This piece will be presented on Wednesday 3/27 and Thursday 3/28 of the NCECA conference in Minneapolis. All are invited to share stories and contribute to an ongoing and developing conversation about maternity, parenting, and art.
Launched in 2014 after surveying, interviewing and documenting a cross section of artists who are also mothers, the website Both Artist and Mother examines how children, or the circumstances of their lives as they include them, changed and impacted the work these artists make and/or how they make it. Material gathered for the web based project Both Artist and Mother, particularly during interviews with artist/mothers, piqued the interests of project collaborators Kate Fisher and Erin Furimsky to delve deeper. The Both Artist and Mother site includes interviews, written and audio, with artist/mothers of all ages, accompanied by photos. Averaging 10,000 visitors annually, Fisher is overwhelmed by the outpouring of interest and the number of artist/mothers reaching out. Since founding the site, Fisher increasingly looks for ways to subversively and overtly discuss what it is to be an artist/mother. The bottom line is a desire to see the Both Artist and Mother project expand beyond a website, exhibitions, and interviews. What if it could also become a physical and interactive work of art?
This interactive artwork takes the form of a modular “confessional” booth. Participants will engage in dialogues about the stereotypes, popular beliefs/misconceptions, struggles, and the future of mothers and artist/mothers. Engaging conference participants in conversations about art and maternity is a meaningful way to expand artist/mother visibility. While this project originated from the maternal viewpoint, the project space will enable exploration on perspectives from: the artists’ child, adoptive mother’s, non-biological mothers, grandmothers, children caring for aging parents, future parents, etc. The confessional structure encourages two beings to occupy a shared space; much like the way maternity requires that women share their spaces, both internally and externally.
The sound booth will generate an audio recording of the participants as they act as confessor or confessee. This community dialogue will become an edited audio work that will be featured on the website Both Artist and Mother. The type of mom in the booth (Ex: Mom of young kids, grandma, mom who her child) will rotate and encourage connectivity and diversity in the conversations. Conference goers are encouraged to drop in and engage in conversations about being “both”.
Additionally, children are welcome to participate in the conversation too. On the exterior of the booth there will be a station for kids to visually explore the questions, “What does a mom do? What does and artist do?” With parental consent, the drawings generated by child participants will be catalogued and featured on the Both Artist and Mother site’s engagement page.
The hope of this project is to engage all generations in an exploration of this subject in an effort to promote a greater understanding of maternity and art.
Many years ago, Steve Hilton, (then NCECA’s Programs Director) had the idea for NCECA to offer a special session directed at first time attendees. And he “nominated” me to present it. It was pretty popular, so I continued to present that session for the next three years I think. But in that time, I realized that it would be MOST helpful if new folks could get the information BEFORE the conference. So then, i created a video of my complete presentation and posted it in advance of the conference. Old versions from previous conferences are still floating around out there, but I’m excited to announce that I have just completed the 2019 Claytopia-specific video, and you can watch it right here. If you find you still have questions after viewing, please post them here so that I can answer them for everyone. Or if your question is more specific, feel free to email me directly at email@example.com. I try really hard to respond to any/all emails within a day.
As is the case with all NCECA conferences there are so many great exhibitions to see. With shows both in and outside the host city it is always difficult to decide what where to go. When it comes to NCECA in Minneapolis consider heading to the suburbs to check out an exhibition. There are a number of excellent show venues nestled in the vibrant burbs that are sure to inspire.
One trip that is well worth your time is a drive out west to Wayzata and Minnetonka. Approximately a twenty-five minute drive from the convention center The Minnetonka Center for the Arts will host two shows in their spacious gallery. Renovated in 2002, this nonprofit serves their creative community in a spacious, architecturally attractive building situated near the coast of beautiful Lake Minnetonka. As well Bob Bowman, their Exhibits Director and Retail Manager, has curated a showcase of sculptural and functional ceramics on view in a unique and unexpected venue.
What to see?
The first show is curated by Peter Held, the exhibition Lost & Found will highlight a selection of work by Chris Gustin and Don Reitz. The show will also include “Lost Works”, five posthumous collaborations between the artists.
Exhibitions on view March 11–April 4
Reception: Thursday, March 28, 6:00–9:30pm
Exhibitions on view March 11–April 4
Lost & Found: Reitz + Gustin Collaborations
If that is not enough to entice you to take a scenic lakeside drive, within the same space you will also be able to take in the show Warren MacKenzie + John Reeve: Kindred Spirits, curated by LaiSun Keane, Lucy Lacoste and Nora Vaillant. Highlighting two legendary proponents of the Mingei aesthetic, this exhibit features works by lifelong friends Warren MacKenzie and John Reeve.
Exhibitions on view March 11–April 4
Reception: Thursday, March 28, 6:00–9:30pm
Exhibitions on view March 11–April 4
Warren MacKenzie + John Reeve: Kindred Spirits
Finally, merging retail therapy and an art experiences, Minnetonka Center for the Arts has also curated a self guided tour of Minnesota ceramic artists’ work in the Ridgedale Mall. Yes, in the mall! Visitors to the show Clay. Here. Now. can grab a map at the entrance and lead themselves through a tour of work by 30 artists.
On view March 15–April 19
Where to eat?
If you are hungry, Wayzata is a growing upscale foodie hotbed. There are many options sure to fit your budget and food preferences. Here are a few options to get you started:
Bellecour – Incredible bakery, named for Place Bellecour, the bustling town center in Lyon, France and attached to a full service restaurant, their pastries, soups and sandwiches are sure to please.
Baja Haus – A california inspired oasis with and endless summer beach vibe this joint is perfect for the taco-loving, tequila and mezcal aficionado.
Wayzata Brew Works – felling thirsty? This brewery has great brews and views of Lake Minnetonka from both the interior and outdoor patio.
Birch’s on the Lake – From private dining, supper club, to bar this brewery meets supper club has a menu and many options sure to suit your eating and drinking needs.
Crisp & Green – With a selection of signature salads, bowls, and smoothies, this budget friendly health conscious option is a great way to catch a bite out west.
What is time? It cannot be seen, heard, smelled, or touched. It eludes all our senses, yet we experience it every day. Time is ubiquitous. To most, time is just a clock on the wall. A constant cycle of 24 hours resetting and repeating over and over again in a continuous loop with seemingly no end. My art gives form to these ideas in creative ways using both art and quantum mechanics physics. Each cube is a product of time called a ‘moment’ and installed together as sculpture, constitutes an ‘event’. Going beyond a clock on the wall, I seek to make time, a seemingly invisible event, take form. I also seek to challenge people on how they view their own time and to make them consciously aware of not only time but their presence in it as well. Like time itself, my work and these forms have no end in sight.
If one was to describe Utopia, each time and place would be as unique as the next. Many of us dream of a utopian environment, but occasionally forget to stop and look at the journey it takes to get there. It sometimes feels as if people are far too often consumed by technology and are unaware of what is happening around them. Constantly trying to capture what’s happening in front of them on a tiny screen so they can remember it later, rather than just being in the moment and seeing the event through their eyes. During this installation, I invite everyone to come create a moment of time (tiny cube), which then becomes a memory, to document their own idea of an utopian time and place. Whether they create just one or stay and create many is up to them. Participants are invited to leave behind their moments in time and add it to the installation. Together, all the tiny cubes create a shared space of ideas and moments in time. This space becomes a shared Utopia of moments in time and memories of those who were there before. Over the three-day period, this installation will continue to grow and change form as people continue to add cubes to the grid. It is my hope that enough people join this project and we are able to fill the entire 10’x20’ of space given with this project. Thank you to Laguna Clay Company for generously donating the clay and sponsoring me for this project.
After this project is finished, I plan to save all the tiny cubes that have been created and reuse them in future installations to continue this work. The Projects Space project will first travel to Cerbera Gallery in Kansas City, MO where it will be part of my first solo installation for two months. Visitors to the gallery will be invited to create their own moments of time and leave them behind.
Artists who came to clay from diverse corners of experience through non-traditional avenues.
Voices from Elsewhere, presented by the Homewood Studios Gallery, is an exhibition that features makers who entered the field of ceramics later in life and whose work draws upon their previous careers and life experiences. These ceramicists came to clay through avenues other than the higher education track. One maker worked as nurse in Africa and creates installations highlighting the loss of wildlife she experienced while living there. Another worked for the FDA and applies her science background to her ceramic works. There is also an architect, a graphic designer, a middle school teacher and more. NCECA participants, many who also came to clay after earlier careers in other fields, will be inspired by the quality and diversity of work by their colleagues.
Homewood Studios, is located at 2400 Plymouth Avenue, Minneapolis, 55411, an easy ten minute drive from the Convention Center and downtown Minneapolis. Grab a Lyft or Uber, if you don’t have a car handy.
Directions are on our website www.homewoodstudios.com/map.html or call george at 612 587-0230.
#19B, 19H, 19Y all run every ten minutes from 7th and Marquette to the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis. Get off there and walk
two blocks west on Plymouth to our gallery.
#7 runs every thirty minutes from the corner of 3rd and Hennepin right to our door.
Note: The Thor Construction building’s Robert Copland Gallery, also offering an NCECA show, is located at the corner of Penn and Plymouth. Two shows for one stop!
Exhibition Reception with presentations by the artists will be:
Friday, March 29th 5-9 pm
Gallery hours are: Tuesday–Sunday 10 am—5 pm
Friday 10 am—9 pm