Photos provided by Tessa Beck, Nemeth Art Center
“I don’t know,” I cried without being heard, “I do not know. If nobody comes, then nobody comes. I’ve done nobody any harm, nobody’s done me any harm, but nobody will help me. A pack of nobodies. Yet that isn’t all true. Only, that nobody helps me – a pack of nobodies would be rather fine, on the other hand. I’d love to go on an excursion – why not? – with a pack of nobodies. Into the mountains, of course, where else? How these nobodies jostle each other, all these lifted arms linked together, these numberless feet treading so close! Of course they are all in dress suits. We go so gaily, the wind blows through us and the gaps in our company. Our throats swell and are free in the mountains! It’s a wonder that we don’t burst into song.”Excursion into the Mountains
by Franz Kafka, Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
For Nemeth Art Center‘s Gallery Director, Tessa Beck, the pressure for a good exhibit title is strong. She loves a good title, but it’s not like she keeps a collection of them in her back pocket. But like some of the best things in life, the title for the Nemeth Art Center’s 2020 exhibit came to her all of a sudden.
“One night I was reading a collection of Franz Kafka’s fiction work, and there’s a piece with a line in it that says: ‘of course, where else.’” she said. “It struck me as this fresh, beautiful idea of addressing ‘place’ in that way. And once I read that, I was like, ‘Ok there it is.'”
With little fanfare, Nemeth Art Center opened its group show, “of course, where else” at the start of July. Opting to ease into the opening in light of the current pandemic, the exhibit debuted to a small collection of passionate viewers. Spending extra time with each piece in the show, viewers were extra curious and extra careful in their personal analyses, which is perhaps a gift in the midst of the coronavirus’s presence.
Encompassing the entirety of the Nemeth Art Center’s stunning, historic gallery, this exhibit will run the length of their 2020 season, closing at the end of September. This group show features six artists, all living and working throughout the northern Midwest, but representing a wide range of media and subject matter.
These selected artists were Alonzo Pantoja (Minneapolis, Minn.), Amber Fletschock (Fargo, N.D.), David Ruhlman (Sauk Rapids, Minn.), Galilee Peaches (Minneapolis, Minn.), Lauren Roche (St Louis, Mo./ Mora, Minn.), and Meghan Duda (Fargo, N.D.). “I just wanted to put them together and see if the conversation would come forward. And if not, it was still going to be a power-packed show of artists whom I think are really doing incredible work,” said Beck.
This show’s inception began as a line-up of diverse artists, all with something different to say about the concept of sense of place. But as the show grew and shifted to become what it is now, a serendipitous common thread emerged. With the tumult of 2020 rearing its head, ideas of healing, resiliency, comfort and ritual came forward.
In curating this show, Beck asked herself what her dream regional show would look like. She envisioned the commonalities to be grounded in the idea of place and how that either directly or indirectly shows up in artists’ work. “With the concept of living and working in a place like the northern midwest, I feel like there has to be some kind of residue that comes out in the work for being in such a distinctive environment,” she said. She set out to find that residue and to see if a thesis emerged from it.
“The idea of home, of comfort and connectivity, ritual and healing…all those things were present in the work and those interactions were already happening, but I think we are more keen to those ideas now, after what we have experienced collectively. That idea of ‘place’ I think hits a little bit harder now,” said Beck. “I could never have predicted [the pandemic], but in a weird way, I feel much more attached to this curatorial expression than I would have before.” Perhaps this is what the beauty of art is. This is why we are drawn to art – it communicates things we haven’t thought and it shifts and changes in meaning, depending on the time, place and viewer.
Despite the vibrant colors in pieces from Alonzo Pantoja and Amber Fletschock, there’s a distinctive softness that comes with monochromatic works from Meghan Duda and Galilee Peaches. Lauren Roche’s work spans both monochromatic and vivid and David Ruhlman’s multi-medium works are textural and neutral in their palette. This array of colors and lack of color, texture and flatness, and tangibility and distance make your heart crunch, as Beck would say.
There’s a certain romance and sweetness to the role our home plays, as it hits so many facets of our well-being. The idea of starting and ending your days in a beautiful space is important. As we are all confined to the safety of our homes, many of us have found ourselves nesting– picking apart and putting together the artifacts that make up “home.” The idea of “home” or “place” is our literal landscape, what is outside our windows in the northern midwest, but also expands to the feeling a place stirs up, the bodily lens we look at it through and an interconnectedness of shared – or unshared – experiences.
Reflecting on how flexibility and creative intuition turned a great show into an even more impactful and relevant discussion, Beck mused, “I think things can come together if you are open to them.”
Because of course, how else?
Alonzo Pantoja is a queer, brown artist and educator. He recently earned his MFA in Fiber and Installation at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and in 2016, completed a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Born in Chicago, he now lives and works in Minneapolis, where he continues to work in fiber and installation.
How do we navigate spaces? How do we re-orient ourselves to physical and imaginary spaces? Broadly speaking, space is for gathering, but how do we gather? More specifically how do we navigate spaces as queer bodies? The queer body is adaptive when it comes to queerness and spaces. Navigation through a queer lens refers to the way we exist in queer spaces but fail in straight spaces.
The work is an embodiment of queerness and comfort – addressing orientation, impermanence as a way to interpret how we as queers navigate and shape spaces. My approach to developing work is by making handweavings as a point of reflection for the comfort and discomfort in my life as a queer body. As I work on the weavings, I think about how elements of the architecture can be in conversation with one another and making associations.
The weavings are rainbows. Rainbows to me symbolize so many things such as the queer community, hope, a journey, a spectrum to name a few. The rainbow in my work acknowledges queerness or an attempt to. The rainbow is stability, it keeps me grounded; its mere presence anchors a space for me.
Creating isolated ecosystems within whitespaces on paper, Amber Fletschock has become regionally known for her intricate collage work. The artist considers her work a pause amongst chaos on the brink of transforming. She completed a BA degree in painting from Moorhead State University, although she primarily now works in mixed media. Fletschock’s work can be found in both private and museum collections including the permanent collection at Plains Art Museum. Fletschock is represented by ecce gallery in Fargo, ND.
‘Looming’ was produced during this unusual time of quarantine. Much of this time feels like riding a wave of uncertainty and emotional turbulence. The strict act of cutting and repetition served as a practice of calm and contemplation. The jagged variegated surface is intentionally arranged inward radiating out. The fringed portion conveys a pressing ominous presence.
The work ‘Holding out for that teenage feeling‘ was also created during this period. The title is a line from a Neko Case song. The lyric and piece embodies hope, longing, reminiscing and place.
David Ruhlman works primarily in a 3 dimensional way, creating sculpture or installations. His work displays a distinctive richness or familiarity, perhaps thanks to the materials he chooses to work with. He is inquisitive about the potential of the arcane and mystical as a metaphor for studio practice, with themes of religious symbology or esotericism often emerging. The chance encounters he creates allow for endless possibilities that blur the line between the maker and an expected outcome. Ruhlman recently earned his MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design and now lives and works nearby St Cloud, Minn.
The work for the ‘of course, where else’ exhibit examines the materials, artifacts and beliefs that inhabit the healing process. My ambition is to employ healing properties, symbols and energies to invite the viewer to participate and contemplate their own bodies and their relation to the act of healing and the home.
The work in the exhibit that ties in with my examination of the home is the bird’s nest face mask. The work Home Health Covid-19 imitates a face mask that has become so prevalent at this time. It works as both an object of comfort and protection, but also foreign and no longer able to be inhabited.
Galilee Peaches is an interdisciplinary artist who studies touch and human intimacy. Her works follow the cycles of the every day, to see how space becomes layered through time. She studies how the dynamics between family members evolve and how a community responds to damage and disruption. The intention of her work is to remind one to return to the body and to be conscious of how we shape our intimate space. Peaches earned her BFA in Studio Art (with a drawing concentration) from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and now lives and works in Minneapolis.
I make images, objects, and poetry that focuses on human gestures as well as the impressions of a body on its environment over time. These pieces reflect on daily life, on the experience of touching and being touched. My paintings are abstract images that pulse and shift with light. In sculpture, I create my own artifacts. They reference ancient functional objects, and are made in materials such as paper, clay and plaster. I use film photography to document my pieces within my home, imagining them in use. I am interested in how the objects surrounding us help to form and create intimate space.
I make objects of daily use and consider the cycle of how we shape the object, how we are defined by its presence and limitations and then reflected back into it. These objects question the viewer, such as one that resembles both a window shutter and a washboard with two long thin legs. Erect, awkward and playful in its presence, it speaks to physical boundaries, privacy and repetitive invisible labor. In my time as a resident at the Grand Marais Artist Colony, I made a mold for a washbasin from cardboard and casted the form in plaster. In this method, I am able to copy the delicate surface variation of paper and make objects that seem to be weathered by time and use. Through film photography, I document these pieces in my home to create a history. The photographs are the dream of the life of the piece.
A self-taught artist, Lauren Roche creates unmistakeable intimate yet dark little worlds. Beck describes her work as “sensitive but is a really sobering way. Gut-wrenching but in a good way.” Roche currently lives and works in St Louis, Mo., and maintains a cabin in rural Minnesota, to which she and her partner return often. Roche is currently represented by Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis.
In my work, female nudes and animals interact in abstracted interior and exterior spaces. These figures bend and reach in gestures of empathetic connection, revealing solidarity between impassive yet vulnerable forms. My figures inhabit aural, dreamlike settings, which I create by using rough fields of color and gestural paint strokes. My visual influences come from classical Greek mythology, handmade embroideries, weavings, domestic interiors, music and my vivid dreamworld. I create paintings that examine balance and unease at once: female nudes engage in ritualistic acts, cats and dogs live harmoniously and wild animals appear tame and indoors. All creatures share the same stripes, spots and gestures but given these figures in their domesticated context, harm is still a looming threat. I am self-taught, and use paper, acrylic paint, and pen as a materials for physically exploring my thoughts and emotions, which become transformed into a visual narrative.
Meghan Duda creates atmospheric recordings of space and time with a collection of handmade pinhole cameras. Born in western Massachusetts and raised on the South Carolina coast, she finally settled in Fargo, North Dakota in 2007 and was struck by the vast prairie landscape. This shifted her work from architectural photography to more experimental, landscape works. Duda earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Virginia Tech in 2005, then achieved an MFA from the University of North Dakota in 2012. She currently lives in Fargo, ND, where she works as an Assistant Professor of Photography and Design at North Dakota State University.
Consider the camera a tool for perception. This is where I being my photographic practice. First I contemplate the subject matter, typically a landscape or space, and envision how the camera might perceive this chosen space. I then ask how I can operate or construct the tool to observe the space in an objective way.
I am particularly drawn to the pinhole camera as it breaks down the barriers between space and record, creating a pure projection of light and atmosphere, perspective and scale. The added element of time afforded by the pinhole results in an image that visualizes the presence of light and perspective parallel to experienced reality.
As I watch the silver reveal itself in the developer tray I feel as if stepping into a dream – transported to a mysterious, yet somehow familiar world. The views are imprinted on my mind, yet the final image is different from my experienced reality. They are simple atmospheric gradations of light that become place and no-place at the same time, challenging the relevance of vantage point and scale and demonstrating the affect of time on our perception of visible space.This inquiry into the fundamental elements of photography and the surprising aesthetic I discover through this investigation is the primary driver of my photographic pursuit.
Nemeth Art Center
The Nemeth Art Center is located in the Historic Hubbard County Courthouse in downtown Park Rapids, Minnesota. The art center’s mission is to provide exceptional art opportunities to the Park Rapids area community through exhibits, workshops, lectures, concerts and educational outreach.
Nemeth Art Center is a seasonal operation, usually running from the start of May to the end of September. The center has a focus on community programming with a strong emphasis on a curatorial side. In recent years, they have expanded their youth programming and educational programming, while still maintaining that emphasis on really strong contemporary art shows. What some would call a magical hidden gem, the Nemeth has earned high words of praise thanks to the quality of their shows, especially from a regional sense.