As the pandemic slows down, the weather warms up and people start venturing out to art events, south Minneapolis gallery Hair and Nails presents three must-see shows from Minneapolis artists.
Themes of borders, displacement and the effects of colonialism pervade the exhibitions, which offer introspective takes on layered subject matter.
In this installation on the basement level, Kelley Meister created an imagined space for surviving nuclear war. Blown-up photos of canned goods line the walls. Gray metal shelves are filled with colorful ceramics, made during community workshops focused on nuclear capitalism and other man-made disasters.
On the back wall, viewers can post a circular sticker onto a "fear scale" map, correlating their level of anxiety around such apocalyptic possibilities as nuclear war, racialized violence and mental/physical breakdown. Meister's work makes visible the invisible, and while many of the topics feel terrifying, the artist also wants people to feel connected and empowered through community engagement. The exhibit also includes three banners: a land acknowledgment, grief acknowledgment and fear acknowledgment, which make the space feel more communal.
Meister became interested in the possibility of nuclear warfare while growing up in the 1980s, when "a healthy fear was instilled in me of nuclear warfare because of the Cold War, and a lot of unsolved problems with all of the waste."
"My family lives in St. Louis and there's radiation from the Manhattan Project — a research and development project during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons — that's been leaking into people's water since the '50s. It's just ever-present, it's everywhere and it's invisible."
'But the Skin of the Earth Is Seamless'
In the main gallery, Kieran Myles-Andrés Tverbakk's solo exhibition is filled with visceral three-dimensional paintings and sculptures. Its title is a quote from Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa's book "Borderlands/La Frontera."
"In a lot of my work I am thinking about those middle spaces, those borderland spaces, being someone who is first-generation Mexican-Norwegian-American nonbinary," said Tverbakk.
The eight pieces here incorporate materials that conjure land and the body. In "madre," inspired by Louise Bourgeois' spiders (which Bourgeois thinks of as maternal figures), a bouquet of fake flowers rests under a dome of black, tentacle-like legs. The only floor piece, "madre" has a menacing sensibility.
In "bound," Tverbakk plays with materials and borders, wrapping in steel grating the red velour dress the artist was forced to wear as a child, and placing it in the middle of a shiny slab of black-painted reclaimed wood.
"La bandera," an assortment of singed leather pieces and a used chest binder, are connected with thin chains, and attached to a piece of wood. The piece, which means "flag" in Spanish, evokes both the land and the body, making one think about what a flag actually represents.
'The Shape of Thin Air'
In the gallery's backroom, Palestinian-American artist Lamia Abukhadra poetically unfurls deeper narratives in this subtly powerful exhibit. A 2018 BFA graduate of the University of Minnesota, Abukhadra arrived in Beirut for an artist residency just two weeks before Lebanon's October Revolution in 2019.
She has pondered how to create while everything around her is in upheaval — revolution, economic crisis, an ongoing electricity crisis. At the same time, the group she works with in Beirut, Exit Plans Collective, considers how artists can work outside the production-focused art market.
All these negotiations informed this body of work, which Abukhadra started thinking about while still in the United States.
The eight two-dimensional works on paper here stem from the artist's research into form — specifically, the "forms that people in my region and in the Arab region are creating, and how to have this break in meaning because of the presence of surpassing disaster."
Abukhadra seeks to subvert narratives that perpetuate settler colonial imagination and normalize ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
"Sunrise in Wadi el-Hummus" is a series of nine images of men rushing to barricade a door. The source material is a video shot during a 2019 raid by Israeli soldiers who were evicting Palestinians in Jerusalem.
"Twelve to sixteen bodies" is a triptych of drawings that draw correlations between the form of a group of men huddled against a door, a cluster of limestone and fragments of buildings. In the third drawing, the artist transforms the shape of the men's bodies into a cluster of limestone.
That transformation holds deep significance for the artist.
"In Palestine, limestone is used in traditional homebuilding but also is being quarried in the occupied West Bank and exported to Israel, and used to build illegal settlements," she said. "There's a duality there."
Abukhadra traces connections back to her home state of Minnesota in "A warning of the emptiness to come." A written text references Spirit Island, the rocky outcrop beneath St. Anthony Falls that was sacred to the Dakota but demolished to make way for a shipping lock; the artist has overlaid it with fragments of the American flag, a drawing of an orange construction safety cone, and bright orange fencing.
"Minnesota is a rich limestone colony," she said, "and St. Anthony Main, where I grew up, was built from the limestone."
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Hair & Nails
Where: 2222½ E. 35th St., Mpls.
Open: 1-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. or by appointment.