Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Every good songwriter must be honest with themselves — or be a master of complete self-deception. Whether Frankie Lee writes his world-weary alt-country songs because he knows how to sing 'em, or the other way around, he's found a calling. On Middle West, Lee fills his mouth with the perfect words to fill out portraits of sorrow, loneliness, blurry memories, and on "Country," the country. "City life just brings me down, all I do is drive around," he argues, with an ache that is palpable for anyone who's felt their life dripping out of them while waiting for an I-94 ramp to start moving. On "East Side Blues," he wrestles with the distances we create for ourselves or have created for us. Lee's songs are about almost nothing. And yet, at the same time, they're also about almost everything.
The Walker Art Center is always up to something. In addition to its excellent permanent collection — which features work from Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Frank Gaard — each year the museum hosts a variety of amazing exhibitions. Recent offerings have included a mid-career retrospective of Jim Hodges's work, whimsical giant sculptures by Claes Oldenburg, and pieces by notable Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. The museum knows how to throw a party, too, as it continues to host the super-popular Internet Cat Film Festival as well as Rock the Garden, which has expanded to multiple evenings. Its recurring events, such as Walker After Hours and Free Thursday Nights, are always a smashing good time, and on the first Thursday of every month, guests can enjoy $5 small plates and drink specials prepared by guest chefs-in-residence at the museum's cafe, Gather.
You might not know his name, but his Spoonbridge and Cherry is one of the most iconic landmarks in the Twin Cities. The works featured in "Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties" were equally fanciful renderings of everyday items: squishy ice-cream cones, deflating toilets, and huggable French fries. The exhibition, which focused on pieces and projects from the 1960s and '70s, was whimsical, thought-provoking, and alive. There were the intentionally simple figures of "The Street," huge pieces that make up "The Home," and subversive mouse ears and masks. Many of Oldenburg's early projects involved performance art and gallery shows in nontraditional pop-up spaces, which is something that he and many Twin Cities artists today have in common.
Since opening in April 2013, Public Functionary has hosted a delightful variety of art shows, parties, and social gatherings. The northeast Minneapolis space opened with a show from Dzine, an exhibition loaded with sparkling chandeliers, golden roosters, and sports trophies. Shows since then have included the neon food photography of Patrick Martinez, the calmly beautiful paper-and-light installations of Sougwen Chung, and a Halloween-themed jack-o'-lantern event. The space is pretty fab in between exhibition seasons as well. Most recently it hosted a series, titled Prelude, that showcased local visual artists, performers, and musicians in experimental pop-up events that were part art show, part cabaret, part experiential exploration.
Brittney Sabo's work has the uncanny effect of being strikingly familiar yet difficult to break down into its component parts. You might be able to pinpoint an influence or two — Disney characters gone jagged-edged, or the wispy lines of shoujo manga given an eerie weight — but there's also a gut-level feel to her comics and illustration work that scans like something more elusively resonant. It could be her work's brushes with paranormal subject matter: Her contributions to Altered Esthetics' Rock Ink Roll collection included both a supernatural vinyl LP seance on the cover and a pop-song ghost story inside; her webcomic All Night features spirits and creatures both threatening and benevolent; and her freelance illustration work regularly takes on the cast of the unreal and mysterious. As a penciller, inker, colorist, and writer, she's an auteur — and her work is visually charismatic in every respect.
There are plenty of local designers who bring their talent and hard work to the runway every season, but this year there was a standout at the fall iteration of MNfashion's the Shows. The Spring/Summer 2014 Lindsey Hopkins Collection simultaneously felt like the most high fashion and yet ready-to-wear (confidence, ladies!) line of the year. Working with the brightest white fabrics and the boldest florals, Hopkins crafted a collection that had a south-of-the-border flair while still being universally wearable, even in this sometimes-arctic tundra. The models took to the catwalk with bubblegum-pink and cotton candy locks, sprayed in place to perfection as they showed off Hopkins's handiwork. Mixing sheer whites with structured photoprints, flowers, and cutouts, Hopkins also used Christian iconography — Our Lady of Guadalupe — and placed the image front and center on daring pieces that verged on the subversive. This is the latest in the Georgia-raised designer's string of fashion hits since coming to the Twin Cities, and we hope she keeps it up.