Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Can't Touch This (But You Can Touch That)

The weather is officially feeling chilly in the Twin Cities Area, and it felt particularly cold last week in Minneapolis's grimier, less colorful, and overall dirtier twin, St. Paul. Luckily I had one warm and indoor task in mind when I visited the city, and that was to visit this museum: The Minnesota Museum of American Art. Truthfully, I wasn't too excited about visiting a museum, because I've been a bit bored by them. But I had never been there, and the current exhibit, "Repetition and Ritual: New Sculpture in Fiber," boasted a colorful cover photo that I thought warranted a trip over to St. Paul. Please don't think I'm bashing St. Paul. It's a fascinating old city with crumbling industrial relics and an emotionally-charged skyline view, but it feels a lot more like a big city to me than Minneapolis, and therefore I'm never as excited to spend a large amount of time there. Also, the last time I visited St. Paul I drove the wrong way down a one-way street. Woops!

St. Paul

This time I managed to find MMAA without any directional mishaps, and even found some street parking within comfortable walking distance. The museum itself was housed in the downstairs of the Pioneer Building in St. Paul, which I'm assuming holds mostly offices. It didn't exactly look a museum; it had more of a gallery feel to it. I had the place to myself as I wandered around the exhibit, which was showcasing about 12 artists who worked in fiber. Fiber in any form is amazing (YARN!!!), but these three pieces were particularly awesome:

Emily Barletta, Untitled (Brain), 2008

Emily Barletta, Untitled (Spleen), 2008
Materials for both pieces: Crocheted yarn and clay

Meredith Re' Grimsley, Lovely Bind, 2008
Materials: Watercolor, muslin, fuse-able interfacing,
hand-and-machine embroidered thread, and gel medium

If you can't see very well the above piece was attached to the wall, not hanging. 

I enjoyed many of the pieces in this exhibition, but there was a small detail that I enjoyed even more than the delicate fiber work surrounding me. Written on every other name plate was a gentle reminder to not touch the artwork.

"PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE PRETTY RIBBONS."

These charming reminders matched the lighthearted nature of the exhibit and the delicate material that was used in many of the pieces. In addition to these reminders, the back corner of the gallery showcased a curious structure that clearly was not a part of the show.


Upon closer inspection, I found that it was an interactive piece meant to engage the audience with the content of the exhibit.

"To understand the repetitive and labor-intensive nature of the works
in the show, help us complete this paper sculpture."

Ooh, fun! The tiny slips of paper were meant to be rolled and inserted into the chicken wire structure one by one so that participants could mimic the painstaking process it takes to complete fiber sculptures.  I was gleefully excited to participate, and, as I'm writing this am semi-compelled to revisit the museum to see how far along the sculpture is (I'm nerdy). This was exciting to me is because I have been reading the book The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon, and this was the first time I had really gotten to see some participatory strategies at work since starting the book. The exhibit may have looked traditional to many other people but I could clearly see how the folks at MMAA were trying to take a pretty standard exhibit one step further by allowing spectators to become participants. No, I wasn't allowed to the touch the art, but I was allowed to touch the fun wire thingy in the back, and could understand the pieces on a deeper level without reading long and laborious paragraphs. 

Definitely pay a visit to "Repetition and Ritual." It will be up until January. Pay attention to any one-way streets and you'll have a great day. 

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