The Weisman is open, easy and free! The work is thought-provoking

The Weisman Art Museum, located on the University of Minnesota campus, is open! It’s free! (Donations welcome.) You don’t have to book in advance! We didn’t have to wait in line! Yay!

The Weisman is the funky metallic building that overlooks the Mississippi River in Dinkytown. It’s a perfect place to walk to – and that’s just what Monica and I did yesterday. We walked on a sunny and crisp fall day to the gallery, walked right in and checked it out. There’s something very comforting about seeing the usual works, like Frank Gehry’s Fish. But really, it’s fun to see the new.

The featured exhibit is Harriet Bart: Abracadabra and Other Forms of Protection; she was a cofounding member of WARM (the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota, one of the first feminist art collectives in the United States) and of the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art in Minneapolis. Her work is in stark and dark hues. There’s something clean yet appealing busy in her work. Or not busy but complex and detailed. Seeing her work is like getting a chemistry set for Christmas – so many things to investigate!

Autobiography is a poem that takes shape as a series of test tubes lined up on the wall. One tube for each year of her life and filled with a different substance. They are geometric. They are all neutral tones. There are objects and music sheets and paper and sand. Clearly conceptual and so appealing to view. There’s a book of very scarce notes giving hints to each tube. It’s a poem in code.

Processional is a collection of 5 garments each representing a symbolic threshold of a woman’s life: The Innocent, The Siren, The Matriarch, The Mourner, The Ancestor. I may take issue with the categories because they only represent women as a vessel for reproduction but I like the look, the texture, the dark with pops of slight colors. And it makes me think; it makes me sad. But that’s good art.

The Pendulum is exactly what it sounds like – a large golden pendulum. As I said to the students guarding the room, there is no way I could be there for hours, like them, and not touch the art. It just begs to be swung. It is a nod to a simple but impressive mathematical tool raised to a new level through the gorgeous artistry.

There is also a an open-ended project by Vesna Kittleson called Young Americans. A collection of the faces of young people, ages 20-30. The artist is interested in young people’s fascination with self-definition, love and politics. I find the faces compelling.

Then there are just some random works that caught my eye:

First and foremost, the creepy rabbit with human hands half body hung on the wall by Kelly Connole. Friends will know that I have a fear of rabbits since they used to sneak into my old house. Some we found some running around; some we found later. And I say “some” I really mean three but it was a nightmare. So I love/hate the creepy rabbit. I have stalked the artist; she’s at Carleton and I will be looking for an opportunity to see more of her work. I love art that sets you on a scavenger hunt.

Icarus by James Conaway feels like just where America is today. We tried to fly too close to the sun and now we’re in trouble and we feel like this paint of Icarus looks. In pain, miserable and wondering how we can undo what has already been done.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena by Xavier Tavera is a portrait of an activist and performer. The hope is to get the viewer to find similarities and differences in people of different races and heritage. The facial expression, the mustache and the headdress do exactly that for me. It feels somehow incongruous. I have a preconceived notion of what someone in a native headdress will look like – based on going to powwows, seeing the Aztec dancers at many protests and street parties and working on a reservation – and that preconceived notation does not include a mustache. It’s a small thing but calling it out makes me check myself. A reminder that how I see things, it only that – how I see things.

The portrait from Bobby Rogers is amazing in its intensity. He focuses on black Muslim cultures. His other works are amazing too. They show a strength. And whether it comes from the model or the photographer or a combination of the two doesn’t matter, they are almost haunting.

Maybe the best thing about the Weisman, because it’s easy and free is that it’s OK to go for a short time because you can go again soon. And that’s my plan!


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