Art Hounds: The Big Lowdown, the State Fair, and Coda

Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair)

nicola demonteNicola Demonte, art therapist and artist, got a preview of the Minnesota State Fine Arts exhibition:

The show captures the imagination and boggles the eye as you navigate the juxtaposition of sculptures, mixed media, paintings and photography.

The first prize for sculpture was awarded to Tim Byrn’s “Fraxinus tenera,” a curious wooden sculpture of eyes connected together into some type of organic structure. One can sense the Native American symbolism in Robert Toensing’s “Spirit Vessel,” a cast bronze bird that is hallowed out to contain pottery shards and stone arrowheads.

For the abstract art lovers, Joseph Poppy’s acrylic painting “Shelter” draws the viewer into a color field reminiscent of the abstract expressionist Franz Kline. One is captivated and drawn into Stephen P Capiz’ “Frozen River,” an acrylic and pencil work that deconstructs and reassembles visual elements that form an amalgamation of organic shapes into a Minnesota winter landscape scene.

The themes of nostalgia, ephemera, youth, and aging are captured in many of the works, including Ilya Kravchik’s “Valentina,” a graphite/charcoal drawing of a an elderly woman that appears eerily translucent, or William Pringle Rodman’s evocative 1950s photograph of women relaxing in “Coffee Break, Pearson Candy Company, St. Paul.”

A mixed-media assemblage by Elizabeth Garvey brings together a 1930’s Royal Typewriter with shafts of wheat to represent the paper that would normally be inserted for typing. American popular culture meets postmodernism with a touch of DADA in Japheth Storlie’s “The Newton House,” a mixed media sculpture of a 1956 Zenith Television that contains a two-story house with a white picket fence inside. It is as if the viewer is traveling back to the post-World War II era to capture a glimpse of an emerging suburban landscape contained within a black and white TV set. Marcel Duchamp would be proud.

Just when you think you’ve found a favorite painting or wooden sculpture, keep looking. You are bound to be surprised, thrilled, and befuddled by the myriad of pieces that are eloquently curated in the Fine Arts Exhibition. Michelle Westermark’s “The Telephone Booth, Camera #9, Roll #1,” is a fascinating 12 panel arrangement of photographs scanned from 120 negatives, a not so subtle reminder of our need to preserve film in the age of iPhones and digital photography.

The Minnesota State Fair 102nd Fine Arts Exhibition can be seen at the Fine Arts Center Thursday August 22 to September 2. The Fine Arts building at the Minnesota State fair is at 1265 North Snelling Ave. N. in St. Paul.

Heather EverhartVisual artist and freelance arts administrator Heather Everhart is excited for The Big Lowdown:

Bedlam Theatre is bringing The Big Lowdown this week, August 23-25th. I’m excited for this event because it’s another experiment in using St. Paul’s Lowertown as a roaming venue – which, in my opinion, was a huge success during Northern Spark.

I’m happy to see the excitement and buzz building around downtown St. Paul as a viable home for local arts programming.

The Big Lowdown is a collaboration between Bedlam and Live Action Set. Bedlam Theatre has been around in a variety of formats for twenty years and has recently added its brand to St. Paul, opening a new performance space known as Bedlam Lowertown.

Live Action Set is an award-wining local theater performance company that creates original work for ensemble performances. Their work aims to  ”create visually poetic, wildly imaginative, and accessible performance experiences that harness the indefinable power of the human spirit.” Whew! Can’t beat that, right?

The evenings are designed to be an operative adventure of performance and environment. The programming begins in Union Depot, where patrons are sorted into groups and taken out for a guided roam through ten different venues of “activated landscapes” (including parks, alleyways, skyways, and underpasses) where short set pieces will take place. The experience appears to be all about connecting the viewer to the environment through the action of the plays. I recommend comfortable shoes, sunscreen, an open mind, and a curious spirit.

Rochester lighting designer and stage manager Zoe Malinchoc recommends Coda:

After walking through the weekly downtown Rochester Thursdays on First street fair, doing a little shopping, dining, and and checking out the bands on the Peace Plaza and the 3rd street stages, consider walking a little farther past the Creative Salon and down 4th to the Riverside Building on Broadway.

Coda: Music and Mixing with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale features performances by local musicians with ties to RSOC. Hearing classical musicians share their love for other genres in the summer evening twilight shouldn’t be missed.  Coda, which is located on the Riverside’s patio where the RSOC has its offices, is a bimonthly event following Thursdays on First and in the past has featured cocktail piano music by Andrew Staupe, Acoustic Chaos, the Smash and Grab Band, the Root River Jam and Cory Wong. Thursday evening, the guest musicians is TBD, so it is a mystery who will be serenading.

On some of the evenings I attended, a live painting under black light was in progress, friends and patrons caught up on summer vacation adventures, the lights of the city sparkled in the river, and cyclists on the bike path pulled over to check out the intimate gathering surrounding the musicians.  The RSOC has also recently announced its 2013-2014 season and the Coda event is a great place to discuss their upcoming concerts.

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