They come from all corners of Minnesota, ranging from Sunday painters to professional artists.
These are the artists of the Minnesota State Fair’s 108th annual fine arts exhibition, featuring 334 winning entries selected from a total of 2,727 submissions.
“For many visitors to the fair, this is their only chance all year to see art,” said Jim Clark, superintendent for the exhibition.
Clark hopes to see work that is great, not necessarily artwork that is about Minnesota. This year, he saw less overtly political work, more depictions of women, fewer animals and a lot of imagery of American Indians.
The show is something of a visual overload, so that’s why we’ve put together this guide to 10 artworks from the exhibition, in no particular order, that you should be sure to check out.
‘Mindlessly Waiting for Customer Service’
See it for … the painful relatability
How many times have you been at a store or on the phone, waiting for an agent to help you with something menial? Minneapolis artist Joanne Thompson feels your pain, which is why she’s arranged an army of nude, headless mannequins in a department store room, their hands either on their hips or hanging, waiting and likely annoyed. The black-and-white photo is quite comical, perhaps the first in a series of “peeved” moments.
See it for … an empathetic contemplativeness
It’s not often that an artist captures a Texas longhorn deep in contemplation against the morning sunrise. Or maybe I don’t get out to the ranch often enough. St. Paul artist Patty Voje’s realistic painting of a white and brown bovine with strong curved horns is as deep in thought as a French existentialist writer. This may seem odd, but the animal kingdom is a mysterious empire.
‘It Was Bound to Happen’
See it for … the mysterious message
Seven red devil-like masks, each with striped horns and O-shaped circles for mouths, are arranged on the front of a gold-painted board as if they’re dancing. Minneapolis artist Chris Nystrom’s title leaves one wondering what exactly was “bound to happen” — that a playful, fool-like character appeared? — and it’s this mystery that brings me back to this weird assemblage artwork, searching for some answer.
‘Day of the Dead, Antigua, Guatemala’
See it for … the decisive moment
Women and men clad in all-black attire walk about on brick roads deep in the Guatemalan city of Antigua, known for its Spanish and Baroque-inspired architecture. Smoke from their lantern-like pots drifts into the air. In this photo, the living celebrate the dead, paying homage to those who have passed on and continue on their spiritual quests. Minneapolis photographer Buck Holzemer captures this mystical sense of time and place in a single image.
See it for … a masterful reinvention of the pig
Three piggies stand on top of (and in) each other in this ceramic sculpture by Marjorie Pitz of St. Paul. Each pig lacks a back, which transforms the animal into more of a bowl to eat out of than a beast to consume. The arrangement is reminiscent of a matryoshka — if the Russian dolls were sliced in half.
‘A Witch. A Curse. A Needle and Thread’
See it for … an inherent spookiness
This witchy suitcase isn’t going through airport security anytime soon. Minneapolis artist Karla Rydrych’s sculpture is an open suitcase, full of blouses, flowers embroidered onto cloth, and white gloves. Take a closer look at the apparel and you’ll see random words such as “bottom,” “sequin” and “greens” sewn into them. Are the clothes cursed, or is this just an outfit that Bette Midler’s character in the 1993 movie “Hocus Pocus” is destined to wear? (Just sing to yourself: “I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine.”)
See it for … a change of perspective
This monotype/screen printing collage by Josh Bindewald of Minneapolis looks like an architecture’s CAD map on acid. A yellow-tiled floor juts into the middle of the plane in front of blue and red blocks of color. Black squiggly lines abound. Anything could happen if you’re drifting along, which is why it’s worth stopping by this piece to see where your eye lands and how far it travels.
See it for … the way it captures an unusual moment
Self-described visual nomad/street photographer Karl Dedolph of Bloomington wanders the world capturing slices of time in major cities. One of his stops was London, where he happened upon the lunch ladies, three women who have paused to eat sandwiches on the street outside a shop. Two are baffled that he is snapping their picture.
See it for … its powerful politics
A young girl with a cute Afro and a serious look on her face lounges on a wooden bench. She is made of clay, and holes are drilled into her body. She’s not hollow, but she’s also not fulfilled. The title of this piece, by Ann Meany of St. Paul, refers to the possibility of fiscal compensation to the descendants of former slaves. Will it happen? The girl is a symbol of it — she’s waiting, confident but annoyed.
See it for … unabashed oddity
Calling someone or something “foxy” isn’t usually a literal thing, but in this case it is. This sculpture, by Karen Brown of Minneapolis, depicts a woman with a fox face and sharp teeth, pink and black hair and fox slippers on her feet. She chills on a puzzle-piece mat made for kids, and she is not playin’.
State Fair Fine Art Exhibition: Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. through Sept. 2. Where: Fine Arts Center, Cosgrove St. and Randall Av., State Fairgrounds.