Harmony reigns in the remarkable woven-metal sculptures of Mary Giles at the Textile Center and the gossamer light sculptures of Jantje Visscher at Instinct Gallery, both in Minneapolis. The two sites are showcasing other artists, too — all from Minnesota — in noteworthy summer exhibitions.
On a census form Mary Giles might call herself a “basket maker” or a “weaver” as those are the basic skills on which she built an international reputation that is now being celebrated in a 30-year retrospective at the Textile Center.
Giles’ sculptures have been shown in museums throughout the United States and abroad, from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to institutions in Detroit, Houston, Boston, San Francisco and London. In 2001 she represented the United States at the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland, and in 2013 she was named “Master of Fiber Arts” by the Smithsonian’s prestigious Renwick Alliance in Washington, D.C.
A St. Paul native who taught art in St. Louis and the Twin Cities, Giles now lives on the St. Croix River near Stillwater. Her early sculptures suggest strange sea creatures scuttling over the ocean floor on tentacles of waxed linen and silk, plump bird-like baskets covered with thousands of tiny feathers, or shallow bowls and columns bristling with porcupine needles.
Inspired by ancient American Indian petroglyphs and drawings, she wove little baskets and cylinders in which stick-figure men are incorporated into the rims or bowls of baskets that stand upright on the figure’s legs. Later sculptures consist of simplified human forms standing feet-on-shoulder like stylized acrobats.
Most recently she’s done wonders with St. Croix rocks and fauna, creating minimalist sculptures that simultaneously suggest the river’s sun-warmed limestone cliffs, its shoreline boulders, and the shaggy beavers that swim in its swift currents.
“Silver Cliff” (2012) is typical. Made of waxed linen thread, tinned copper and fine iron wire, it consists of four humps — up to 2 feet tall and wide — that nestle together like a cleaved boulder. Hundreds of silvery tags shingle the interior surfaces of the “boulders,” while their exteriors bristle with sleek rust-and-steel fibers that gleam like a beaver’s sleek pelt. While the larger humps convey the monumental grandeur of the river’s bluffs, the smaller pieces nose each other like inquisitive beasts. Minimalist in design, they’re elegantly evocative.
A second show, “Radical Basketry Invitational,” features inventive designs by 14 Minnesotans who further stretch the notion of what a “basket” might be. In her “Rolled (Bronze),” for instance, Tracy Krumm suspends a delicate basket of crocheted wire from a massive hook of forged steel. Only her splendid artistry weds these incongruous forms with such consummate grace. Other pieces range from birch-bark containers to iridescent monofilament baskets and a set of “broken” hearts.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thu. through Aug. 22; free; 3000 University Av. SE., Mpls.; 612-436-0464; www.textilecentermn.org.
Under the droll title “New Works by So-and-So,” Instinct has mounted a handsome display of fresh art by seven of its regular talents.
Among them are bold, tragicomic self-portraits by Nancy Robinson, whose search for love remains sadly unfulfilled; magnificent wall sculptures of bleached-and-painted animal (mostly cow) bones assembled by Judy Onofrio; delicate rice-paper hangings on which Lynn Speaker has burned (with gunpowder) ephemeral landscapes of ferns, lilypads, stones and shadows; a slow motion garden video by Ben Moren, and several decorative bronze-and-stone sculptures — plus one strikingly beaten, gouged and shot-up steel slab — by David Aschenbrener.
Elizabeth Garvey has installed a group of fragile objects inspired by tales of Selkies, mythological creatures that can live as seals in the ocean but as humans on land, their souls always torn by longing for their alternative form and other world. Her evocative Selkie mementos include a cube of sea salt, polished rocks in a boat-shaped wire basket, dried and ground-up rose petals, and an elfin ballet slipper made of dried seaweed.
The show’s pièce de résistance, however, is Jante Visscher’s light sculpture. It consists of a loop of Mylar about a foot wide and perhaps 18 inches long that she has incised with curved lines, taped together, and draped over a little shelf. Illuminated by a remote spotlight, the loop responds to the slightest movement of air which causes it to bounce shimmering lines, dancing arcs and wedges of light onto the wall. The Mylar loop itself can fool the eye and brain into imagining it is a cube of water or a crystalline box of light hovering on the wall. Pure magic.
Noon-5 p.m. Tue.-Wed. & Fri.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Thu. through Sept. 12; free; 940 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.; 612-208-0696; www.instinctmpls.com.