SooVAC artists explore place and texture

<i>Cure</i> by Jennifer Nevitt

Cure by Jennifer Nevitt

Two shows at Soo Visual Arts Center, featuring four artists, are worth the trip to the gallery. In "Tentantless Pause," Theresa Anderson and Jennifer Nevitt show their unique relationship to their materials, while in "Located" Nate Burbeck and Aaron Dysart focus on place and our relationship with nature for some subtly subversive work.


With a list of materials that include a nylon stocking, a gardening book, a discarded trophy, and pillow stuffing, Theresa Anderson's sculptural creations are a sight to behold. Surprising and interesting forms are made from her hodge-podge of materials, creating works that blend narrative with whimsy. 

This narrative can be found in the materials themselves. For instance, Laid/Back, an angular, contorted piece that has elements of sharp lines as well as blobby substance, paints a picture of procrastination and innovation born from domesticity. The materials she uses -- including "remnants of discarded VHS tapes from hours of television viewing," hat pins, a broom handle, and cement -- give rise to a masterpiece of anxiety mixed with complacency. It's a startling and bizarre work. 

Her other pieces -- whether a monument composed of a ladder and black-and-white striped vinyl, or a creature made of feathers, paint, pillow stuffing -- draw you in with their vivid use of color and sharp use of space while cleverly coaxing you to make sense of the artist's madness. You may not always understand it, but you'll have fun creating your own story. 

Jennifer Nevitt's work, while not as bombastic as Anderson's, similarly explores materials in interesting ways. The paper in her pieces is key, as there is an almost sculptural element to which she uses oil, watercolor, graphite, and occasionally coffee. One work, Cure, at first doesn't appear to have anything on it at all, though she did use coffee and ink, making it look worn in its particular placement on the floor. Another piece, Rest at Curve, is placed in a way that the paper itself becomes a sculptural form. 

<i>Race Car Driver with Better Utensils</i> by Theresa Anderson

Race Car Driver with Better Utensils by Theresa Anderson

On the other side of the gallery, Nate Burbeck's paintings of suburban and rural landscapes expand before your eyes. At first, all you see is the grass and sky, but there's also an eeriness about them. Whether it's a giant pile of dirt in the middle of a lawn, an ominous circle in the middle of a field, or a mysterious woman standing before billowing smoke amid tall grass, the pieces hint at some sinister force behind the picturesque landscapes. 

Burbeck captures the beauty of these places, using color saturation to make mundane locations seem more exciting, but he does so to such a degree that the work becomes just a bit too pretty. It's as though there is something wrong with what we are observing. In one painting, he arranges the work around a utility line, backlit by the sunset, which also lends a pinkish light to the side of the water tower and clouds that rise heavenly upward. Meanwhile, three figures linger in the field, seemingly waiting for something to happen. 

Aaron Dysart also manipulates a sense of place in his sculptural work, enhancing natural forms with human-made materials. Two boulder shapes, which are actually made of fiberglass, for instance, get blinged out with bright and shiny colors, while he adds leaf shapes made of asphalt onto a large wooden stick. Like Burbeck, Dysart over-improves nature, making it purposefully unnatural looking, providing commentary on contemporary society's relationship with nature: We are so used to the natural world being manipulated that we have lost touch with it. 


"Tentantless Pause" and "Located"

Soo Visual Art Center

2638 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Through July 19