John Klukas and Michael Cina: A Gilgamesh-inspired collaboration at Public Functionary

Opening this weekend at Public Functionary is a collaboratively created exhibit from New York-based photographer John Klukas and local painter/graphic designer Michael Cina. "She Who Saw the Deep" draws inspiration from the ancient text Epic of Gilgamesh. Featuring model Tonya Dakin in a series mixed-media works, the exhibit juxtaposes dark, thematic material with exploding fluorescent colors and movement.


While Cina and Klukas have collaborated in the past on electronic music album covers, this project is something they've never done before. Beginning with a set of photographs by Klukas, Cina would respond with a painting, digitally merging the images together. The two artists sent these images back and forth, each tinkering with the work. They would then mount the work on paper, where Cina made the final touches with paint. Each piece went through anywhere between five to 20 iterations before both artists were satisfied. This process that took over a year. 

Klukas says the original idea for the images came from a dream he had about cycles of light and darkness. Drawing inspiration from the ancient story where Gilgamesh loses his friend and partner only to emerge into the light of the garden, Klukas worked with model Tonya Dakin, who was covered in paint for the original photographs. Klukas says his process with Dakin was similar to method acting, where he shared as little as possible with her about the story. "I push and direct them to go through whatever needs to be experienced,"  he says of working with models.

While the exhibit utilizes story elements, there's no linear structure to how the pieces are arranged. Still, you can definitely see how different works might fit into different parts of the Gilgamesh story. Some pieces have very little color at all, while others radiate with bright colors. In addition to the works on paper, there are two sculptural pieces made from life casts of Dakin's head. 

Dakin's striking looks provides the anchor to these works, which at times verge into abstraction. The collaborative process merging photography, painting, and digital art creates a layered, almost watery look, but it's Dakin's portrayal that fuels these pieces with a powerful force. 

At the gallery, pieces will be available for purchase, with the largest prints containing finishing touches by Cina on each limited edition. In addition, smaller prints are available in sets of 30 in a glossy format without final embellishments. 


"She Who Saw The Deep"

Through July 11

There will be an opening reception Saturday, June 7 from 7 p.m. to midnight

Public Functionary

1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Gallery hours are noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays, 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m.  Saturdays