The Minnesota State Fair grounds are abuzz again after last year's pandemic-induced cancellation. This year's juried show in the Fine Arts Building opens its doors Thursday with 321 artworks (winnowed from 2,462 entries) by artists from all over the state.

Photography dominates the show, with 110 pieces on display; prints are the lowest-ranking category, with only 13 works.

Expect to see more dogs than cows, and artists dealing with the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Minnetonka-based Patty Carmody Smith's clay sculpture "Sheltering in Place," of a woman-turned-tree, and Minneapolis-based artist Steve Ozone's still-life portrait of a blue PPE mask reflect the reality of the past 18 months. There are also photographs from crowds gathering in George Floyd Square, from protests and from the Derek Chauvin trial.

Here are a few pieces to catch when you cruise through the fair this year.

Suzanne E. Shaff's watercolor-on-paper piece "The Barber of Baracoa Waits for You" portrays a stern-faced barber sitting in a leather chair, holding a scissors in one hand. This piece gets points for its sheer realism, something that's not easy to achieve in watercolor.

Chaska-based Jean Haefele's "Keeping an Open Mind," an acrylic and collage on canvas, portrays a Black woman with white hair and a white woman with green hair and red glasses sitting in front of a colorful backdrop of birds, insects and a figurine with a black-and-white-striped neck. The world is rapidly changing around them, but they do as the title of this painting suggests.

Maple Grove-based Rachel M. Arntson's "A Leisurely Day in Venice" takes what would otherwise be a basic and boring Venice street scene, but does it entirely in mosaic with glass, smalti, metal chain and rocks. Points for its inclusion of a guy in the foreground wearing a black-and-white-striped shirt who nearly blends into the street!

Renowned international photographer Alec Soth, who also shoots for the New York Times, submitted "Niagara Falls," a surprisingly subtle photo of a crowd at the falls. While some mingle around or gaze out, the center is an Asian woman wearing a light blue dress taking a selfie with her back to the falls, and an older white woman wearing a teal green sweater and a concerned look. It captures a moment pierced by two who turned their backs to the falls but in entirely different ways.

St. Paul-based Susan Alm Jorgensen's "Broken Window" is simply that but against a pink, green and blue wall and with cracks and bars that give it the feel of an accidental abstract painting.

Rush City-based Gary Carlson's "Clarion Whisper," a found object assemblage sculpture with a mannequin head made of copper inside some sort of metal vase, looks like it was plucked out of the 1927 German expressionist science-fiction drama film "Metropolis."

Minneapolis-based Mark Smeby's "Paul" shows a curious angle of a Black man's torso and mouth but not his eyes, giving it an abstract yet gentle feel.

I felt intrigued by New Brighton-based Karin L. Martinson's "Good Ol' Nels," a portrait of an older white guy wearing a blue sweater, sitting at a table, looking away from the camera, surrounded by piles of clutter. We wonder who this person is and why he is in this place.

St. Paul-based Shanna Christine Allyn's portrait "Black" plays with the concept of the color racially, texturally and materially speaking. A Black woman wears a black cushion around her neck, with black pins poking out of it against a black, textured background.

Minneapolis artist Kyle Fokken's "Salt Pork" from the Piggy Bank series, is a mixed-media sculpture of a metal pig with a salt shaker sticking through it, positioned on top of five variously colored barrels. The sculpture alludes to the way money is the pinnacle of the oil pyramid, and reflects the barrels used in the oil refining process.

Alicia Eler • 612-673-4437