We cannot always explain why a certain artist or work of art moves us: Capturing the ineffable is the province of great art to begin with. But sometimes it's enough to recognize who or what stirs something within us, and in doing so, we point to the collective experience of art, a sense that "there is something there." Though we appreciate musician Ali Jaafar's succinctly professed interest in "natural sounds made by humans in real places," we know that the work our local artists produce is so much more than the sum of its parts. From dancers hijacking creative spaces to a comedian making a career comeback, our list of artists just scratches the surface of the Twin Cities arts scene, but it's a look at who and what moved us this year.
Chances are, if you've been to any arts events in the metro, you've seen the petite artist Emma Berg and her jet-black bangs floating around. Maybe you've caught her eye for art as the in-house curator at the ultra-trendy HAUS Salon, where she chooses works of art to scatter on the white-washed walls that'll challenge and awe even the most bored salon-goer. Or you might have seen her brainchild, the visual arts calendar mplsart.com, a collection of the must-see, must-do art and gallery events in the Twin Cities. Berg is ubiquitous in the Twin Cities, celebrating the local arts scene with passion — whether it's showcasing her own art or championing others' through curation.
The fashion designer's latest collection, Yin-Yang, premiered in full for one night only at an event benefiting the Friends of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, demonstrating her knack for pairing dissimilar textures to fantastic effect. Hard silhouettes and soft fabrics, stitched structure and weightless flow, bright colors and muted hues — these elements permeate Berg's collections, as if she challenges herself to make dynamic creations out of such disparate parts. It's not difficult to see why she was hand-picked and commissioned to create a gift for Lady Gaga a couple of years ago. Berg doesn't shy away from provocation.
At the end of her Spring/Summer 2013 line last year, Berg made more than a sartorial statement, bringing politics onto the runway. The collection drew inspiration and symbolism from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and ended with two male models kissing while a female model wore a "Vote No" tee. Berg earned an ovation for her apparel and her unspoken manifesto, which were validated with this year's legalization of gay marriage. While Berg's artistic vision borders on haute surreal, she's grounded in her dedication to being truly unique.
The collaborative dance team of Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder, known as HIJACK, celebrated its 20th anniversary by taking on Walker Art Center. In "Hijack at 20: redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye," this duo respectfully paid tribute to the Walker as a bastion of modern/post-modern art.
Wilder and Van Loon joined forces and moved to Minneapolis in 1993, where they formed HIJACK in response to the occasional boring dance concert they encountered. They had fantasies about leaping onstage with a boom box and hijacking the performance, something these gracious and generous-spirited women would never do. Instead they have continued to develop a brand of radical movement theater that layers familiar images from art and popular culture, creating collages that are both finely calibrated and wildly inventive.
Through their rambunctious compositions, these women ask serious questions about the nature of aesthetics and performance, and the way the imagination works to find connections between disparate elements. They share a mission to highlight the kind of edgy art they and their colleagues create. As managing artistic director of the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, Van Loon has helped to transform this small cabaret into a hot spot for the local avant garde, as well as visiting new wave artists. Long may they continue their buoyant art-making.
By Ed Huyck
Presenting one new show at a theater is a big thrill for any playwright. Presenting three in a single day? That's tremendous. Aditi Brennan Kapil showcased a trio of premieres this fall at Mixed Blood Theatre. The works, under the umbrella title Displaced Hindu Gods, found Kapil digging deep into her Indian heritage (she is of Indian-Bulgarian descent, and grew up in Stockholm), while still finding time to explore other obsessions — from comic books to standup comedy — for a singular theatrical experience.
"There are so many things that are in my head about that side of my heritage. There is a whole lot of colonial history and contemporary South Asian youth culture in the United States," she said last fall before the shows opened. The resulting trio of plays was a particularly stunning personal achievement. Brahman/i looked at gender and cultural identity by way of an extended standup routine. The Chronicles of Kalki merged the final avatar of Vishnu with a coming-of-age tale and a superhero with a secret identity. Shiv, the most personal of the three, delved into the playwright's relationship with her poet father.