The lives of American girls (and other art shows worth your time)

Inna Valin, "American Girl"

Inna Valin, "American Girl"

In art, as in life, beauty often comes with ugliness, and peace comes through strife. The opposites of negative and positive are swirled together, offering complexities that artists use to see the world. Ponder these antithesis in exhibitions opening this weekend, where things aren’t always what they seem, and where we look toward the good amid pain.

John Schuerman

John Schuerman

The Human Anamoly

Where it’s at: Gordon Parks Gallery, 645 7th St. E., St. Paul.

What it’s about: When Instinct Gallery closed a year ago for the second time, the Twin Cities lost one of the most interesting art spaces in town. Luckily, its curator, John Schuerman, isn’t down for the count. This week, he shows his own work in “The Human Anomaly.” The exhibition features drawings on human nature seen through the lens of natural elements and mathematical patterns. Flower petals, roots, clouds, and other living things are diagrammed using a technological method, merging science and nature.

Why you should go: Through his work, Schuerman finds the beauty of order through something impossibly disordered. Organic materials are seemingly arbitrary in their nature, but in these works, the artist searches for patterns and organization, investigating our need for things to make sense -- even when they don’t.

When: The opening reception is from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The exhibition runs through February 22.

Michael Craig Martin

Michael Craig Martin

Let's Go! 

Where it’s at: Burnet Gallery, 775 Lake St., E., Wayzata.

What it’s about: There are some huge names featured at the “Let’s Go!” exhibition at Burnet Gallery: Ai Weiwei, Jeff Coons, Richard Prince, Joan Miró, Jim Hodges -- just to name a few. There are also plenty of local artists in the mix, including Sonja Peterson, Julie Buffalohead, and Lauren Roche. What’s the deal? Well, you may remember the slick Burnet Gallery on Hennepin Avenue that closed a few years ago. The same people behind that space have set up shop in the ‘burbs.

Why you should go: The concept for Burnet Gallery and Advisory is simple. Whether you have a couple hundred dollars to spend or a lot more, owner Ralph Burnet and director Jennifer Phelps want to help you figure out what is right for you. So whether you are a first time buyer or an experienced collector, the focus is on connecting you with the art that speaks to you.

When: The opening reception is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The exhibition runs through April 7.

John Matsunaga

John Matsunaga

Nidoto Nai Yoni

Where it’s at: East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Grienbrier St., St. Paul.

What it’s about: Minneapolis photographer John Matsunaga shares his breathtaking photographs of the physical remnants of 10 American concentration camps used to intern Japanese Americans during World War II. Evoking themes of memory, forgetting, and a connection to history, Matsunaga’s works call on viewers to face America’s history of racism.

Why you should go: It was less than a 100 years ago that the United States thought it reasonable to imprison U.S. citizens simply because they happened to be of Japanese origin. That dark moment in our country’s history -- one of many -- is something to remember, especially in our current xenophobic environment. See Matsunaga’s poignant works in this exhibit that will hopefully fuel your fire to fight back against hate.

When: The opening reception runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday. The exhibition runs through February 24.

American Girl

Where it’s at: Mpls Photo Center, 2400 N. Second St., Minneapolis.

What it’s about: Fine art photographer Inna Valin takes a stark look at American girls growing up in the midwest. Taking a documentary approach that also includes the artist’s own experiences, Valin ruminates on what it means to come of age as a young woman today.

Why you should go: Taking a look at a diverse range of families, Valin pushes against cliche to find the inner world of young people growing into women. Pushing through themes of poverty, homelessness, and as well as ritual and transcendence, Valin offers a piercing look at society through the eyes of a wide swath of American girls in different circumstances.

When: The opening reception is 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.