Thursday Art Opening Receptions

Photo by J. Earl Miller

Thursday is the new Friday! I love having something fun to do to break up the week, even if it does make functioning at work on Fridays a little bit of a challenge. Oh well — life is short and that’s what coffee’s for, right?

I’ll be celebrating my friend Casey’s birthday tonight, drinking beer and getting a wicked suntan in the GA section of the Red Hawks stadium, but I’m going to try to squeeze in a couple opening receptions first.

I’m a sucker for these things. If you haven’t been to one, make this your year to try it. It’s a great way to check out artists you’re not familiar with. If the artist gives a little talk you might even learn something you (okay, I) feel vaguely stupid for not knowing. (“What exactly is a lithograph?”)

The crowds are always great too –  an interesting mix of other artists, downtown indie babies, business people, college professor types and a healthy assortment of randoms that just wander in when they see a bunch of people having a good time. And there’s pretty much always free food — anything from chips and crackers to passed appetizers to a cheese buffet that still factors in my dreams — which makes for a much more interesting date or night out with friends than splitting spinach artichoke dip for the five millionth time. And there’s usually booze too. My favorite little galleries have big jugs of wine that you pour yourself, which is a nice way to make it feel like a party instead of an event where you have to be on your best behavior. Because that’s definitely not how these things roll.

A confession: I hate smarty-pants art people. I really do. I’m fine with a discussion of the artistic elements that make a piece tick. I like talking about color and movement and the materials used and how and why that affects the viewer. I like touchy-feely things like how a piece makes us feel. But I really dislike the idea that someone can be omniscient about art or that it means the same thing to everyone.

We were in Spain last year and a docent leading a tour at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum drove me a little crazy, bossing people around about what this piece meant, what the artist intended it to say or how they needed to understand the entire history of art before they could say how a piece made them react. She yelled at people for looking at their own pace and for asking questions. She was basically saying that to appreciate art, you needed to listen to an “expert” and take detailed notes for the quiz later.

Context and history are important, I get that. But they’re not everything. I really believe that good composition and new ideas can reach people independently. I took my brother-in-law to an opening once. He’s a blue collar guy and he was dressed the part that day and felt really self-conscious about it. As we grabbed our beers, I told him it didn’t matter, but we could go if he wanted. We didn’t get any further than that, because he was totally transfixed by a huge painting overlaid with metal I couldn’t identify. I was wondering what it was, when he walked over and identified pretty much everything in it – chicken wire, rebar, perfectly spaced little dots that were actually nails buried up to their shiny heads. His perspective gave him a unique take on what he saw. And because he was there, everyone around him experienced that canvas differently. In about five seconds this had gone from a slightly baffling experience to something he was a part of. That’s what art is about, people!

I think one of this posts’ featured artists, Marjorie Schlossman, put it beautifully when she said, “I think getting very deeply into a painting screws you up.” Isn’t that fantastic?! Permission – from an artist! – to just chill and enjoy yourself. If you’re interested in learning more this wry and talented lady, you should also check out this excellent article by the equally wry and talented John Lamb, which contains more quotes from Ms. Schlossman than I’ve seen anywhere else, including the one listed above.

If you want to check out some art in the neighborhood, here are two great options. Even if you can’t make the opening receptions tonight, you still have plenty of time to see the shows. And if you’re excited about an upcoming show or you’d like to see me profile your work or your favorite artist, just leave the details in a comment below. Discussions about how you experience art are encouraged too. Enjoy!

J. Earl Miller: A Scenic Overlook, A 4000 Mile Journey on the Backroads of America
Opening Reception June 7, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Exhibit June 7 – 30
At DK Custom Framing @ Gallery 14, 14 Roberts Street in Fargo, ND

Marjorie Schlossman: Symphony of Color.
Opening Reception June 7, 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Exhibit June 7 – August 26
At The Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N in Fargo, ND


Alicia Underlee Nelson

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