Jim Dryden interplays intimacy and politics in 'Love|Hate' at Form + Content

Wayne Groff and Jim Dryden

Wayne Groff and Jim Dryden

When artist Jim Dryden was three years old, he served as the ring bearer for his aunt's wedding. That day he met Wayne Groff, the brother of the bride, and the person who would eventually be his lifelong love. The two re-met 20 years later in piano bar and realized, after getting to know each other, that they were from the same town, and had indeed attended the same wedding. 

The couple have since been together for 30 years. At Form + Content Gallery's latest show, you'll get a glimpse of the powerful bond the two share through the art that Dryden has created. 

In the past, Dryden's work has typically been more abstract than the art in his most current show, which carries with it thematic and narrative elements. He was inspired in part by the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Minnesota voters this November which would define marriage as between a man and a woman. He began volunteering for Minnesotans United for All Families, an advocacy group that aims to stop the amendment, where he learned that one of the most powerful tools that those against the amendment can employ is to share personal stories of gay couples who want to be married.

The paintings in the show are certainly abstract, but they also contain images within the pieces and meaning deciphered in the titles of memories that build up between two people sharing their lives together. There's one painting, titled Wedding, about the day the couple first met many years ago. There's images of angst, such as Pool Party, described as "a classic mid-century, modern mid-life crisis." There's bliss in The Koi Pond- Our own version of Thoreau's retreat. There are mundane moments, such as The Gym- Playing Boggle® on my iPad while running on the elliptical machines. And there are profound ones, like where Dryden describes Groff's mother calling and saying, "I never gave you guys your sewing machine. Do you want one?" 

These wonderful titles illustrate the complexity, richness, and normality of a loving relationship. Dryden's richly colored canvasses, which he says he creates by scraping the paint with a credit card, feature colors and patterns that are simple, elegant, and carry with them just a hint of symbolism, which transform the abstractions into stories.

Perhaps the most powerful element of the show is a series of small tokens that Dryden has created for his partner over the years. On one wall of the exhibit is a kind of shrine that displays a collection of cards from birthdays, anniversaries, and other such occasions that are silly and quaint and sentimental. They show a relationship that is full of humor, friendship, and deep connection. 

There couldn't be a more powerful argument in favor of gay marriage than this exhibit. It is intensely personal, and because of that, it is compellingly political. With his artwork, Dryden has revealed vulnerability and affection, and in so doing makes the case for the laws to change. 



Form + Content

210 Second St. N., Minneapolis

The gallery is open noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday