Unique display coming to LRSC

Staff reports

The North Dakota Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Lake Region State College, Devils Lake Public Schools, Lake Region Student Senate and Art Department, and the Community College Foundation of Devils Lake, is pleased to announce the opening of Fantastic, the Museum’s newest touring Rural Arts exhibition.

The exhibition will open at the LRSC Theater Playhouse on Jan. 14, and will be on display until Jan. 31. There will be a public reception on Friday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 pm.

The North Dakota Museum of Art is the official State Art Museum. As it is located in Grand Forks, it can be difficult for schools to plan day-trips to the Museum. Due to the great distances some schools face, the Museum started touring exhibitions to towns throughout North Dakota through its Rural Arts Initiative program, which started in 2003.

Fantastic is the Museum’s sixth traveling Rural Arts exhibition. The exhibition brings together the work of a dozen artists from the United States, Canada, England, Iceland, and Argentina who delve into the implausible, incredible, and improbable. It is as though the artists provide the viewer with the characters and the setting, but require that the viewer supply the narrative.

Many works echo earlier paintings. Argentinean artist Rez borrows from Leonardo da Vinci and Diego Velázquez; for example, the beautiful woman holding an ermine in da Vinci’s 1490 painting now holds a pig’s head in Rez’s 2009 photographic version. Milwaukee-born David Becker seems steeped in Hieronymus Bosch. Grand Forks’ Brian Paulsen keeps company with Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and Franz Kline (1910-1962).

Some paintings, however, have no historical precedent; they are simply the stuff of dreams and imagining. Gay, colorful, and downright weird, the exhibition poses as a collection of old masterpieces but is, in truth, a rollicking excursion into fun.

Diego Velázquez’ monumental Las Meninas (Ladies in Waiting) was completed in 1656 and is considered by many art historians to be the best painting in the Western world but it is also one of the most puzzling. Velázquez was famous for his technical skills as a painter. In addition, this work is noteworthy for yet another reason. Its message suggests authentic democratic principles, making it a very modern work—far ahead of its time politically.

David Becker has earned a reputation as one of the finest printmakers in the world for a series of technically-dazzling etchings made between 1968 and 1993. His narratives are puzzling and disturbing. Although we can identify figures and objects in his composition, the meaning and relationships remain ambiguous.

Icelandic artist Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson’s painting Seal and Straw is a spoof on the environmentalist movement. There are so many environmental protection laws in Iceland that seals are no longer allowed to enter the water. Instead they must drink through a straw from their perch on an iceberg.

Jamie Baldridge’s photograph Dainty Phyletic depicts an elegant woman wearing her umbrella as a skirt while standing in the rain. According to dictionaries, “Phyletic” pertains to race or species. Might this woman belong to a new species?

Michael Madzo cuts pictures out of art books and then sews them back together into collages that take on new meanings. These are works of art that seem kin to fairy tales, myths, and legends, to those oral and written cautionary tales that have been passed down and lived beyond their own time.  Now they are ours, to be re-invented and re-imagined as we wish, through our most contemporary eyes and understanding.