Artist Greg Gossel has a few more finishing touches to add before downtown Minneapolis’ latest mural is complete. Located on the side of the old National Camera Exchange building on Hennepin Avenue, the piece features comic-book characters and a bright pink convertible.
Central to the work is a green-tinted woman with hoop earrings and wide eyes. “TAKE A PICTURE, SWEETIE—” she says. “I AIN’T GOT TIME TO WASTE… BABY I’M A STAR!”
”It’s trying to celebrate the diversity of Hennepin Avenue and downtown in a fun, colorful way,” Gossel says. The artist often works in collage-style pop-art, using mixed-media and layering. “My focus is on gallery work,” he says, but he enjoys doing outdoor projects. With this mural, he’s working on a large scale. “It’s a challenge to find those opportunities at the right time and the right place.”
Gossel has created about a half dozen murals here in Minnesota and around the country. He’s done two pieces for Art Basel in Miami, a piece in Chicago, and a smaller installation in northeast Minneapolis while he was being filmed for Minnesota Original.
The new mural is funded through a Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. This is the third year the company has commissioned public art as part of the project, which this year is happening in 20 different cities. Juxtapoz Magazine partnered with the credit card company, and chose the artists for each city. While there was't an application process, Gossel says that the catch was that he had to find where the work would go.
When he heard about the opportunity, Gossel put out feelers in the Twin Cities community to find a large wall where he could do a mural. That’s when he connected to Joan Vorderbruggen, who runs the Made Here project through the Hennepin Theatre Trust, creating public art in downtown Minneapolis. “It kind of fit in with their cultural initiative downtown,” Gossel says. “They are wanting to get more public art down there.”
Erin Sayer, another local artist who has worked on many public murals both here in town and around the United States, knew she wanted to be a part of Gossel's project. She called up Vorderbruggen, and asked if Gossel needed assistance. It turns out he did need an extra hand. So Sayer, who also worked with Kobra on the Bob Dylan mural down the street, helped with some detail work on the piece.
“He’s big time,” Sayer says of Gossel.
The two had tried to work together once before a few years ago. “I tried getting him a wall in 2011,” Sayers says, “but he didn't want to take it because the people were sort of dictating what they wanted instead of letting him do what he wanted.”
Though American Express provided the funding, Gossel says he wasn't directed in terms of the mural’s content. “It’s mainly about bringing some culture and energy to a certain part of the city, to help promote small business growth,” Gossel says. While downtown might not be associated with small business as much as other neighborhoods, such as Whittier, where Gossel lives, the building was the home of National Camera Exchange, a longstanding small business. Though the space is vacant now, the project will hopefully promote housing another small business in the future.
Originally from Wisconsin, Gossel has been living in Minneapolis for 10 years, ever since he got a job here at a small design firm. Coming up, he has a set of commission work for the Vikings Stadium, and will be part of a group show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art next month.
The mural, which should be complete sometime this week, is at 930 Hennepin Ave.