St. Paul, Minn. (Oct. 7, 2015) — Seitu Jones, Oskar Ly, Maria Cristina Tavera, and Dyani White Hawk Polk were invited to join Minnesota Museum of American Art Executive Director Kristin Makholm to curate an exhibition that considers the complex question of, “what is American art?”
American Art: It’s Complicated will present over 30 works from the MMAA’s collection, national galleries, and local public and private collections that question the definition of “American art” as related to nationality, identity, and geography, from Nov. 3, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016 in the MMAA Project Space, 141 E. 4th Street, St. Paul 55101.
Each curator approached the exhibition with their own refined set of optics. They thought carefully about the complexities of American art as they see them, then selected works that provide creative form for some of these ideas.
Seitu Jones will present a capsule show of work on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society by sculptor Maurice Carlton. Carlton was known for rummaging through the trashcans and dumpsters of the old Rondo neighborhood looking for found objects to transform into work that served as political commentary and African diaspora.
The works selected by Maria Cristina Tavera call into question two assumptions: first, that “American” is limited to a landmass of united peoples; and second, that artists form collective national identities. Kristin Makholm’s lens on the subject can be viewed through works from the MMAA’s permanent collection. Her selections open up cracks in the concept of who belongs and by whose hands, eyes, and minds those ideas of inclusion are manifest.
While Jones, Tavera, and Makholm took a critical approach to the question, the remaining curators approached the questions more abstractly. Works selected by Oskar Ly are an invitation for audiences to engage in discussion around thelong-standing social exchanges that live beyond the walls of a gallery in distinct communities and collective experiences.
Dyani White Hawk Polk’s selections promote dialogue about the innumerable possibilities of what could represent “American art.” She hopes that every person that visits this exhibition feels the same weight of impossibility in presenting an exhibition that represents every facet of the American experience, including the artistic expressions that result from these experiences.
American Art: It’s Complicated is an exhibition with many new and familiar voices, from the not so distant past to the present, each of which speaks to some the complexities of what is called “American art.” “Looking at the exhibition as a whole,” says Christopher Atkins, MMAA Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs, “I can tell you the guest curators have compiled a fascinating selection of work in all media that sets historical conceptions of landscape, citizenship, and national narratives against contemporary realities. And they have done so in a way that adds to rather than dismantles the canon of American art.”
American Art: It’s Complicated
November 3, 2015 – January 3, 2016
Opening Reception, Thursday, November 5, 2015
Members’ Only Preview: 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Members will enjoy a hosted reception and special introduction to the exhibition from MMAA Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs, Christopher Atkins. Refreshments courtesy of Revival Wine, Beer, and Spirits.
Public Reception: 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Seitu Jones is a visual artist with interests in environmental sustainability, food production, and food justice who has exhibited and created large-scale public artwork nationally and extensively within Minnesota. Jones has received recognition for community and artistic leadership from the McKnight and Bush Foundations, Minnesota State Arts Board, and a Sally Award for Vision from Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and a Senior Fellow in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.
Oskar Ly is a Hmong French-American living in Saint Paul. She is a fashion designer, hair and makeup artist, singer and songwriter, and much of what she does is to foster and promote Hmong arts and talent in the Saint Paul area. Ly also works with Shades of Yellow, the only Hmong LGBT organization in the country.
Kristin Makholm became Executive Director at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in 2009. A Milwaukee native, she comes to the museum as a respected curator, art historian, and teacher, having received her BA from Northwestern University and her MA and PhD. from the University of Minnesota. She has held curatorial positions at the Milwaukee Art Museum and Saint Louis Art Museum. Her most recent publication, Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison, received a coveted Minnesota Book Award in 2014.
Maria Cristina Tavera’s dual citizenship and bilingual/bicultural upbringing between Mexico and Minnesota has greatly influenced her professional experience, writing, curatorial, and visual art practice. Tavera has a Master’s degree in Public Affairs-Leadership in the Arts from the Humphrey School of Public Policy and Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and has received fellowships from the Archibald Bush Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME): Promoters of Culture.
Dyani White Hawk Polk completed a BFA in 2008 from the Institute of American Indian Arts and earned her MFA in studio arts in 2011 from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Most recently, White Hawk Polk received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and prior to that was a recipient of a McKnight Visual Arts Fellowship andSouthwestern Association for Indian Arts awards Discovery Fellowship.
About the Minnesota Museum of American Art
Minnesota Museum of American Art inspires people to discover themselves and their communities through American art, and strives to be a national model for a responsive and relevant art museum that is integral to a vibrant city and state. MMAA focuses on American art from the 19th century to the present with special emphasis on the work of Minnesota artists, which is well represented in the museum’s superb collection of over 4,000 works of art. With its Project Space in the Historic Pioneer Endicott Building on the edge of St. Paul’s burgeoning Lowertown neighborhood, the museum has a platform for presenting innovative and engaging programs that connect the museum with the community. MMAA’s current exhibition, Paul Shambroom: Lost, ends Sunday October 18.