If visits to the Minnesota State Fair’s “Miracle of Birth Center” and meditation tent leave you wanting for more, grab some nordic waffles and head to the Fine Arts Building. This year for the 107th annual Fine Arts Exhibition, I found 10 pieces that you should be sure to see when you go visit. Here they are in no particular order whatsoever.

See it for: A chance to basically play “Where’s Waldo” at the State Fair

“Midway, Minnesota State Fair” by James Boyd Brent (Minneapolis)

In this hyperdetailed depiction of a manic state fair scene, Brent has created a delight for the eyes. Can you find a stuffed teddy bear that has fallen to the ground? A lit ferris wheel? The ever pervasive funnel cake stand? Mermaids who apparently are just hanging out on land? This scene has them all, like the state fair.

See it for: Innovative use of material

“Van Gogh with Gray Felt Hat” by Toni Dachis, Minneapolis

Dachis recreates a classic self-portrait of Van Gogh, red beard and all, using entirely art magazines. It is maximum kitsch. Dachis, who received a BFA in graphic design from MCAD, has been making papercuts for awhile, using mere slices of glossy paper to portray pop culture icons, including Prince, Warhol and Monroe.

See it for: Capturing the essence of winter

“Winter Solitude” by Nadia Alenov (St. Paul)

There are few places where winter is colder than here in Minnesota. Alenov’s 30” x 45” photography and encaustic painting captures the solitude of an ice fisherman's house located somewhere on one of the 10,000+ lakes. The sense of isolation is heightened by the in-roads into the snow, which give viewers the sense that someone has traversed the icy lake's surface. But we do not see any people present.

See it for: A funny engagement with a popular art historical painting

“Surrender to Certainty (Apologies to Rene Magritte)” by Dean Trisko (Minneapolis) 

In contrast to the many representational and abstract paintings at the state fair, this humorous oil on canvas painting caught my eye because it is trying to express something humorous. Trisko pokes fun at the famous painting “The Treachery of Images: Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (1928-29) by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte by making his own rendition in a similar style. Here, a piece of silver pipe has the words “Perhaps it is a pipe” written out and taped to the canvas. More points for playing on the fact that there are many types of pipes. 

See it for: A sharp attention to detail

“Woodland Caribou” by Sarah Ann Nelson (St. Paul) 

Nelson’s highly detailed pen-and-marker drawings of caribou in various poses shows a deft attention to detail. What was curious to me, however, is that some were fully filled in and shaded, while others were more of just outlines, giving them an eerie, ephemeral sensibility, and a reminder of nature’s fragility.

See it for: Its wild use of assemblage

“Pignation” by Attila Ray Dabasi (North St. Paul) 

Dabasi's incredibly busy assemblage artwork combines a collection of pearls, fake jewels, silver spoons embroidered with gems, and much more on a 2.5 foot tall oval-shaped piece of metal. On top of that, the artist mounts a golden plaque, with a little plastic balcony where two small porcelain pigs stand. One of them has its meat classifications written out across the body – pork loin, shoulder butt, etc. – while the other pig wears a blue-and-red hat, and winks at the viewer. It has a giant grin across its fat face. Little American flags are embedded throughout the sculpture, suggesting the more subtle political critique of this country’s greed.

See it for: Its trickery!

“Verso” by Michael D. Wodnick (St. Paul)

In this send up of trompe l’oiel paintings, which create the optical illusion of a three-dimensional work, Wodnick paints the back of an old painting entitled “Verso.” We can only wonder what the back of this painting actually looks like, beyond the trick.

See it for: Its literalness

“MN Farmer’s Market” by Kim Pettengill (Plymouth)

With summer approaching an end, one of my biggest regrets is that I did not go to the farmer’s market every week. Pettengill’s celebration of farming life made me smile. It was also just cheesy enough to be #MinnesotaWow.

See it for: Traditional Ojibwe beading techniques

“Ajijaak” by Francisca C. El Zeenny (Lakeville)

El Zeenny is an educator with the American Indian Education Program. Her pouch utilizes traditional Ojibwe beadwork on a small leather purse.

See it for: Wonderful composition and bright colors

“Choi Hung Estate, April 1, 2018. 5:33 pm.” by Eric Mueller (Minneapolis)

Mueller photographs one of Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estates, whose name translates to “Rainbow Estate.” This name makes sense because it's the most colorful.

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