Two artists go deep into each others worlds in Public Functionary show

It’s not easy for an artist to put his or her work out into the world for public comment, and even criticism.

So imagine the vulnerability of giving your work over to someone else and letting them mess with it, erase things, and add their own ideas and images.

That’s just what painter Michael Cina and photographer John Klukas did with each other’s work for several months, and the results are now on display at Public Functionary in Minneapolis in an exhibition titled “She Who Saw The Deep.”


“We had been working on and off on record covers,” said Klukas, “and Mike hit on the idea for collaborating. I started sending him different photographs that he would merge with paintings.”

The collaboration had several false starts — either Cina couldn’t relate to the photographs, or Klukas didn’t like the painting Cina added. But finally they clicked over a series of black and white images of a female model. Fittingly the original images featured her drenched in paint.


“I’m painting over his awesome photography,” said Cina, “that’s a big hurdle, but since we’d been working together for a while that made him more comfortable. We had established working relationships. There was no set outcome, it was just experimentation.”

With Klukas (a St. Paul native) in New York, and Cina in Minneapolis, they spent hours on the phone each day. They each uploaded digital versions of their work, and then played with the results. When they finally had an image they were happy with, they would print the results, and Cina would add the final touches in paint.


“We kept pushing each other forward and the results are in the work,” said Klukas. “Mike was able to add a layer into the work, something I couldn’t bring out with my photography. He was bringing out an understanding of the work that I didn’t have. ”

As the final images emerged, so did a storyline… of a female Gilgamesh.

“We chose to focus on a journey through darkness – emerging into light,” said Klukas. “Gilgamesh travels through this tunnel in the mountain, suffering despair, and emerges into this garden of Eden. He embarks on the journey because he wants to save his dead friend, but what he learns along the way changes his understanding.”


Public Functionary calls the pieces “digitally handcrafted,” an apt descriptor for such painstakingly worked images.

“She Who Saw The Deep” runs through July 11.

(All images courtesy of the gallery.)