Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Team Spirit and Hat Trick -- Two Exciting Exhibitions Open This Week at the Duluth Art Institute

"A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." ~Humphrey Bogart

120 baseball covers (detail)
As every fan of baseball knows, April is when it all begins anew. As the great Hall of Famer Honus Wagner put it, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." There's nothing quite like the opening of a new season. Your team has yet to lose a game and you have an abundance of hope in your heart that this is your year.

So it seems only appropriate that this week the Duluth Art Institute is hosting a baseball themed exhibition titled Team Spirit featuring a collaboration with Jen Dietrich and Robb Quisling. Quisling is an artist, art teacher (Hermantown school district) and former student of Dietrich who teaches at UMD. (It's actually about a variety of team sports, but with spring in the air it was necessary to start with baseball.)

Even though I played the game in my youth and have followed the sport all my life, the exhibit brought out facts that even I didn't know. One piece is a construction made of 18 leather ballgloves. Yes, I did know each team has nine players and 18 is the total of two teams of nine. But did you know that each game uses 120 baseballs? Dietrich and Quisling have one piece that features the leather covers of 120 balls. They have also concocted the smells of baseball. Were you aware of the process that's involved in preparing those balls for each game? And there's more.

Dietrich grew up as a "tomboy" and that "spirit" remains embedded in her DNA. You can see my review of her last show here. She even married a football player.

In my "sneak preview of the upcoming show I had a chance to talk about the relationship between the artists. Quisling noted that he "wasn't good at understanding conceptual art." Dietrich helped bring his comprehension into a higher level of clarity.

Their collaboration aims at bringing out nuances and layers of meaning in this sport and others. For Quisling sports are about companionship. Another part of the Morrison Gallery will feature rock climbing as well, another activity which involves achievement in collaboration with others. Dietrich brings yet another layer to the game... the smells. I myself always think of the leather, There's also sweat. And for the fan there are those hot dogs.

One portion of the exhibit will address the current issue of concussions in football, an issue that has come under the spotlight of journalist scrutiny the past several years, especially after Junior Seau's 2012 suicide. This is an especially interesting and thought-provoking set of pieces with some clever juxtapositions.

The Steffl Gallery will play host to a celebration of hockey and art titled "Hat Trick." If you know hockey, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in a game, an impressive feat at any level of the game. And the works on display here as impressive. Tim Cortes is a nationally recognized sports artist and his finely honed photo-realistic drawings in colored pencil are remarkably striking. I had to ask, "Are these photos?" "No," I was informed.

Not a photo. It's colored pencils. 
According to the DAI description of the show, Cortes’ work has been displayed at the US Hockey Hall of Fame and at jersey retirement ceremonies for NHL and NFL pros. It can be found in the private collections of sports heroes like Troy Aikman, Dale Earnhardt, Wayne Gretzky, and Shaquille O’Neal; and his murals can be seen at Target Field’s “Champions’ Club” lounge. The artist currently lives in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood with his wife and children, and coaches youth hockey and baseball. Paired with Cortes’ work will be a variety of paintings and sculptures that celebrate hockey including work by Robert Pokorney, Sue Pavlatos, Josh Nelson and Roger Nieboer. An art-making piece that the audience can engage in, designed by DAI Executive & Artistic Director Anne Dugan, will also be part of the experience.

The opening reception for both shows is this Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Depot. It's not to be missed. On the other hand, this is Jen Dietrich's last show before leaving to move to Colorado. She will most certainly be missed.

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On Friday, April 15, the Duluth Art Institute will host two grant program informational sessions by the Minnesota State Arts Board in the Ruth Maney Room of the Duluth Depot (506 W Michigan St). Session one, a general information session, will go from 12 – 1 PM and will consist of two Arts Board program officers giving a brief overview of all Arts Board grant programs. Session two will take place from 1:30 – 2:30 PM and will provide an overview of Minnesota’s program and public art commissioning process. These are free and open to the public, although registration is encouraged. For more info, please see the attached news release.

On Saturday, April 16, from 11 AM – 2 PM, the DAI will host a Free Family Day at the DAI Lincoln Center for Arts Education (2229 W 2nd St). At these events, children can experience fun, hands-on arts activities. Family outings can be expensive, but this program is accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and income levels. All the projects and supplies are provided free. This session will feature Earth Day-themed projects and is sponsored by Whole Food Co-op and the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Have you been noticing?

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