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"Strange Girls" visits females on the fringes

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Step right up and see the freak show of visual art this Saturday when “Strange Girls Never Dies” opens at CO Exhibitions. The show's over 25 artists explore what it means to be female and on the fringes of society, a cohort formerly known under the umbrella of “strange girls,” which includes the overweight, the tattooed, and the bearded.

“I’ve always been a strange girl and surrounded myself with strange girls,” says the show’s curator, Rhys Jones. The concept for such an exhibit came to her in the summer of 2013 while attending the Coney Island Sideshow School. She was studying banner painting, and was required to create a character for her piece. The result was the so-called Mermistress from Hell, “a super goth, scary, creepy mermaid,” she says.

After completing the course, Jones returned home to the Twin Cities, and began exploring the theme of strange girls in her own artwork. While interning at screen printing and design studio Burlesque of North America, she pitched the idea to its gallery, CO Exhibitions.

Jones initially reached out to artist friends and contacts for submissions before expanding her search nationwide. The final roster consists of primarily female-identified artists from the Twin Cities area, with a handful of out-of-state artists and two male artists. “I chose them based on the themes in their work,” Jones says of the fellas. “I think they both add to the show really well. They were both really excited to be included.”

Approximately one-third of the exhibition’s artwork was created specifically for this show. The rest are pieces Jones saw and requested or that the artists selected from previously created work. “I left it kind of open for the artists,” she says. “I gave them the theme of the show and talked about what I liked in their art specifically and why I chose them for it.”

Because of CO Exhibition’s size, there's room to accommodate anywhere from one to eight pieces per artist. “It’s going to be jam-packed with art,” she says. “It’s not a small show by any means.” This will include illustrations, paintings, photographs, and prints, as well some pottery and sculpture. The theme of strange girls is either directly depicted in the work, or is a trait that the artists themselves identified with and that they felt influenced their art.

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Jones was heavily involved in planning opening-night festivities, quite the feat for a self-described hermit. “The running joke is that me planning a party is a joke,” she says. The reception promises to be its own kind of carnival. Along with the CO Exhibitions team, Jones booked a mobile metal forger, a tintype photograph booth, tarot readings, and tall bikes as amusements. Bruise Violet, Reverend Mary Allen & Her Percolators, Yoni Yum, and Crow Call are on the live music lineup.

Getting over her own introverted nature isn’t what surprised Jones most about the show: The biggest surprise, she says, was how many people identified with the theme, and the widespread recognition “that having a strange girl in your life makes it better.”

IF YOU GO:

Strange Girls Never Die

Saturday through December 4

CO Exhibitions

The opening reception runs from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, November 7