2013 Artists of the Year

From dancers hijacking creative spaces to a comedian making a career comeback

That Kapil found a home for the shows at Mixed Blood isn't a surprise. She and the theater have had a long, fruitful relationship over the past two decades. Kapil has acted in, directed, and written shows for this Cedar-Riverside theater, and is the playwright-in-residence there. Her past work includes 2011's Agnes Under the Big Top and acting in the likes of Next to Normal and Learn to be Latina. Kapil's work has been seen throughout the country and earned plenty of accolades, but the sheer audacity of creating, presenting, and pulling off three high-quality brand-new works is what makes her a clear choice for a local artist of the year honor.

ARECA ROE

By Camille Lefevre

Here in the Twin Cities, we live at the edge of a geography with a mythic, desolate, and exhilarating potential that once inspired European pioneers to Go West. The wide-open spaces still romance us, but the abundant natural resources — the birds, fur-bearing mammals, rich black soil, and American Indians who called the Great Plains home — were summarily sacrificed in the name of progress. Areca Roe's photographic series "Oh Pioneer," exhibited at Gallery 122/Hang It this fall, brilliantly inverts that mythology with devastating humor and lamentation.

Roe's pictures are of dioramas she assembled, in which miniature people, trains, windmills, tents, bison, and trees stand among waterfalls, mountains, and monoliths covered in plush, fake fur. A eulogy for Manifest Destiny, "Oh Pioneer" speaks of what was lost — and continues to be lost —in its wake.

A 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota MFA program, and the recipient of a 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant, Roe also showed her "Habitat" series at SooVAC over the summer. Her luminous images of zoo animals (and sometimes their keepers) capture moments of poignant stillness that render both habitats and inhabitants more elusive than mere prison or prisoner. In short, we are rendered fallibly human by Roe's work.

HEID E. ERDICH

By Sheila Regan

The question isn't what Heid E. Erdrich has been up to lately, it's what she hasn't been up to. A poet, curator, playwright, and now filmmaker and cookbook author, Erdrich has been all over the place in 2013, making the most of the 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant she received last year.

As an award-winning author of four books of poetry, Erdrich employs rich imagery in her work with a clear, unencumbered style that is rhythmic and musical, reflecting on aspects of Native identity, family, desire, and nature.

This year, several of Erdrich's poem films, created in collaboration with other artists such as Elizabeth Day, Jonathan Thunder, and R. Vincent Moniz Jr., received multiple screenings all around the state and even Canada. One of the films, Pre-Occupy, won the Judges Award and Best of the Fest at this year's Co-Kisser Film Festival.

This fall, Erdrich co-directed and curated a multi-disciplinary exhibit and performance called "Artifact Traffic," produced by Pangea World Theater and presented at Intermedia Arts. Erdrich also juried "Untitled 10: SooVAC's 10th Annual Juried Exhibition" along with Jennifer Phelps.

Finally, just in time for Thanksgiving, the Minnesota Historical Society Press published Erdrich's new book, Original Local: Indigenous Food, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest. The cookbook features indigenous recipes and native ingredients — everything from berries to manoomin (wild rice) — and includes a lot of storytelling from her own life, as well as a lot of background information about food justice for the Native community.

CRAIG JOHNSON

By Ed Huyck

Craig Johnson has become the Twin Cities' go-to actor for playing Oscar Wilde. A couple of seasons ago, he played the famed author and wit at Park Square. This past season, Johnson starred as Wilde in Walking Shadow Theatre Company's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. The production as a whole was one of the best of the year, and it all centered on Johnson's nuanced, insightful, and moving performance as Wilde. Johnson, who has made Wilde a topic of study throughout his life, understands the man to the core, and it showed in his performance. Plenty of others noticed, and Johnson earned an Ivey Award this fall, though this performance was only the latest in a long career that has made Johnson a key performer and director in the local theater community.

The care and depth he brought to Wilde could be seen in his performance last summer at Girl Friday's Camino Real for another famous character — fictional, this time — as he brought the dreamer Don Quixote to life. His caring touch is evident whenever Johnson takes time to direct, be it for Theatre in the Round, Girl Friday, Torch Theatre, or any

B number of other companies in the area. Oh, and Johnson does all of this with a full-time day job working as the manager for the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. Color us impressed.

NEIL GAIMAN

By Tatiana Craine

If you used your hands to count the projects Neil Gaiman had this year, you'd need a couple extra arms...and with how much the author has accomplished in 2013, it's a wonder he hasn't actually sprouted more appendages himself.

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