Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Minnesota State Fair, Part 2

Two important parts of any trip to the Minnesota State Fair are viewing the crop art and the fine art show. Both are a respite from the sun and the crowds (although there are plenty of people viewing them). But they feel quite different from most other parts of the Fair.

Crop Art

Crop art is exactly what it sounds like -- images created by gluing seeds or other plant matter to a rigid board. It's really taken off in Minnesota in the last 20 years. elenabella has already covered some of this year's works, but I wanted to show a few more of the ones I enjoyed.

Minnesota's State Fair crop art is known for several things: the work of the late Lillian Colton, reproductions of classic product labels, and politics.

Cartoonish figure in beans and lentils
I liked the energy of this entry (although I forgot to note the name of the artist... sorry!). (Update: David Steinlicht helped me out by identifying the artist as Sandra Fjerkenstad-Budel.)

Pink heart with title in center, surrounded by cartoon balloons and pictures all in tiny seeds
Here's one from the political genre, by Laura Melnick. It was one of three that featured Minnesota' own Michelle Bachmann. Titled "Michele's Precious Moments," it juxtaposes quotes from Bachmann with appropriate pictures in the style of the Precious Moments figurines, such as this one:

Close up of bride and groom with quote, The Lord said 'Be submissive to your husband.'

Another influential crop artist, David Steinlicht, gave us a waitress named Flo:

Dark-haired waitress named Flo
I love the gridded background, contrasting with the organic shapes of her hair and face.

Circular red and green Nut Goodie package in beans
If you're not from Minnesota, you may not know about Nut Goodie candy, but it still has a classic package, enthusiastically reproduced here by Faith Farrell.

Man with two women flanking him, halo around his head
Alan Carpenter put himself into a meticulous portrait with Nancy, Laura, a parrot and a monkey.

The green Creature with arms raised
Elizabeth Schreiber did a great job evoking the texture of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Tan cartoon cat with sharp fangs, labeled Bad Seed Kitty
Funny and well executed, by Linda Wing.

Images of Michelle Bachmann, Rush  Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as sideshow attractions
Theresa Anderson created a triptych of Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. It's hard to read in my photo, but it says:

  • Madame Michele's Zany Predictions
  • World's Biggest Ego, World's Thinnest Skin
  • AnnaConda, Snake Woman

Anderson's seed submission was nicely tied in to her triptych, using a series of tickets as a frame. The tickets contain names such as Mark Sanford and Michelle Malkin.

Fine Art Show

The Star Tribune's art critic, Mary Abbe, found fault with the overall tenor of this year's show. " comes across as a paean to Midwestern sincerity," she wrote. "Which serves to remind the cynic that sincerity is overrated."

I'd say all the Fine Art Shows I can remember were generally in that vein, replete with flowers, kids and wild life. But there are always spikes of interesting work in there. Here are a few I liked.

Downtown Minneapolis in yellows, tans, greens and browns
A collage of the Minneapolis skyline by Raju P. Lamichhane...

Close up showing the image is made of newsprint with words appreciated in close up.

Orange and green dyed fabrics that look like an aerial photo
Beautiful texture and color in this fabric work, titled "Nature Takes a Turn II," by Debra Maertens: Google Earth meets crazy quilt.

Oversized money that says NONE instead of ONE, seen through clear plastic pills
"Bitter Pills" by John Ilg. I spent some time studying this one to see how it was done.

Watercolor of a colorful, multi-roomed tree house
David Prochniak's water color "Jake's Dream House" wasn't remarkable so much for his technique as for the concept and details of the house. Although I hope, for the sake of the trees, it's just a fantasy!

Stain glass mosaic of a dark-feathered chicken
"Harriet" by Barbara Benson Keith.

Ceramic sculpture of a dog made of bones, similar to Nightmare Before Christmas
"Bone Doggy" by Mark Davison.

White plaster sculpture of a man's head, looking downward
"Fault" by Jason Jasperson.

Three stylized African-American men in suit coats and ties, looking upward
"Guardedly Optimistic" by Kate Christopher.

White wall with five works on it, all featuring human nudes
One thing that drives me crazy about the fine art show is how the art is arranged.

It's grouped by the judges' idea of what each picture's subject matter is. So, for instance, the wall above combines images that include a nude figure (all the nudes that fit, I guess).

But it's undermining to the art to see it this way -- one wall had four images in which crows were important. But by grouping them together, it distracts from any one image, making the viewer think about the artificial construct of what the images have in common, rather than the images themselves.

I realize there's a big challenge to organizing and presenting a large number of works in a small space. There is no common theme to work with, as there usually is in museum shows. But it feels naive, even childish, to group the pieces as the organizers do. Though I'm not sure if it's the organizers who are naive, or if it's an assumption they're making about the nature of the show's audience.

Dress on a dummy
At the end of the show, and separate from it, were a number of fabric and garment pieces by students from the University of Minnesota's School of Design. I particularly liked this Dagger Dress by Ashley Wokash.

Fabric close up, daggers visible, rounded collar
Wokash designed the fabric, based on a single drawing of a dagger, silk-screened it, and also designed the dress. It's an interesting use of an angular weapon, transformed into a decorative pattern, then used on a dress with curving lines.


Ms Sparrow said...

Thank you for all the pictures! I really enjoyed them.

David Steinlicht said...


It's always fun to see what someone else does at the Fair. Thanks for taking us along on the trip.

That top crop art piece is by Sandra Fjerkenstad-Budel. You will enjoy the article on Sandy's work.

"Flo" is the lady from the Progressive insurance commercials. People tell me they love her or hate her -- I just thought she looked kinda sassy.


Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks for the ID on Sandy's art, David!

I guess the fact that I had no idea who Flo is indicates how much television I've been watching lately.

Loved the "small world" crop art story in today's PiPress, and your role in it!