2013 Artists of the Year

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

A Minnesota native who earned his MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Unnasch is an adjunct professor of sculpture at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and directs the Standard Issue Metal Casting Workshop in southeastern Minnesota every year. His public art commissions include installations, mosaics, and sculpture throughout Minnesota. His clever aesthetic is popping up everywhere. Look for it.

CHRISTOPHER STRAUB

By Tatiana Craine

If you're a fan of Project Runway, chances are you probably know Christopher Straub. He competed on the show back in 2009, and though he didn't win, he certainly took back some bragging rights and killer technique from his time on the program. These days, the homegrown designer is a regular fixture at fashion and arts events around the metro, most notably at Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion week.

Straub's work balances on the edge between playful and chic. In his first collection of the year, he ramped things up with a sugar-coated fantasy that combined tightly silhouetted dresses with a mid-century feel and — of all things — gummy bear-printed fabric and bear-shaped bomber hats. During Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion week this fall, he debuted a more casual collection that featured a splash of seapunk and a dash of street-wear chic that wowed on the catwalk.

While most local designers can safely say they work on paper first, then fabric, Straub stuck with paper for the whole affair at a holiday event at the Mall of America's Papyrus location this season. Putting his creative talents to the test, he created a collection and a series of wigs made of ornately cut and tailored paper with some of the skills he honed on Project Runway. But that's not the first time he's wielded his knack for design and execution under weird circumstances — he once made a dress out of cabbage on Rachel Ray's show.

With all of this fully fledged local designer's talent, imagination, and heart, we can't wait to see what's up next season.

PUBLIC FUNCTIONARY

By Camille LeFevre

In January, a much anticipated — and ballyhooed — new art gallery opened in northeast Minneapolis. Public Functionary was heralded as a new model for exhibition, patronage, and community.

In April, the gallery opened with the auspiciously titled "Victory," an exhibition of work by Chicago-based Puerto Rican artist Dzine (a.k.a. Carlos Rolon). Blingy and baroque, the show was a kustom-kulture-infused spectacle of mirrored surfaces, glittering trophies, and spangled and costume-jewelry-encrusted installations that ushered in a new era of fabulousness to the arts scene.

In May, New York magazine's curmudgeonly and highly entertaining art critic, Jerry Saltz, talked with Dzine at Public Functionary in the first of what will hopefully become regular forums. New York artist Sougwen Chung's first solo exhibition, "Chiaro/Oscuro," inspired late-night visitors' performative investigations of ethereal installations. Los Angeles artist Patrick Martinez's "Buy Now Cry Later" examined mainstream consumerism using neon, the medium with which enticements are often proclaimed.

Not bad for its first year. Has PF, so far, lived up to its hype? If the branding, openings, dance parties, and other inventive lures to the shows are any indication: yes. And, as Public Functionary's curator, Tricia Khutoretsky has injected a refreshingly idiosyncratic aesthetic into the local scene that celebrates artists, and work, just below our radar, where the vernacular, conceptual, digital, and traditions high and low meet at a new nexus of creativity. As the beneficiaries of Public Functionary's bold foray, we say: Carry on!

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