Art beat // The human animal

WHITTIER — The two most recent entries in the gallery visitors’ book included these phrases: “incredibly disturbing” and “beautifully disturbing.”

Both were raves over an exhibition of Roxanne Jackson’s inquiry into the intersection of human nature and nature-nature, “We Believe in Some thing,” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Jackson’s sculpture and multimedia work was installed in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program Galleries, which were transformed by dark paint and low lighting into two eerie, cavernous spaces.

The gloom served to isolate the individual pieces in Jackson’s collection of unsettling works, a strange menagerie of humans, animals and hybrids. In Jackson’s world, they’re all roaming the same jungle.

Hair, or fur — the distinguishing characteristic of us mammals — is an element in many of Jackson’s sculptures. Whether human or animal or something in between, they are often no more than a head, like a macabre collection of big game trophies.

The exhibition’s title piece includes two human heads mounted side-by-side on a wall, each draped in a long, black wig. On one, the hair is parted to show a sliver of face and the fearsome, canine muzzle forcing its way out of the mouth.

It’s a graphic depiction of the barely stifled animal nature lurking inside the modern human.

Another standout piece is a white buffalo head with golden horns and a swollen, lolling tongue that evokes imagery from both the Old Testament and Native American mythology.

Some of Jackson’s pieces are more playful, like a pair that resemble old B-movie monsters. A fanged, vampiric face is wrapped in a hoodie, and a wolf-man is covered in short, brown fur.

A white fur rug serves as a screen for a projected video piece, a collage of images that looks to have been culled from nature documentaries and horror movies.

Jackson devotes one of two galleries entirely to mirror-image sculptures of two white, lifeless calves. They sit under the only light in the gallery, legs and heads splayed awkwardly. Here, as elsewhere, she executes the grotesque quite beautifully.


Go see it
“We Believe in Some thing” runs through Nov. 1 in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program Galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S. 642-2487. www.artsmia.org

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Different perspectives

A group of photographers and models, some with little to no experience, have gathered regularly at Stevens Square Center for the Arts (SSCA) since January, learning together how to work both sides of the camera.

The daylong, free form events were the idea of Cris Halverson, who also organized “Photo Op,” an exhibition of the work produced during those sessions.

“What I wanted to do with this show was to take the different photographers’ views —same time, same place, same model, same everything — and just show the ways it could be interpreted differently,” Halverson said.

The monthly sessions included about nine photographers and 15 models who ranged from “9-year-old girls to 50-year-old guys,” he said.

“Photo Op” mostly will include work by Halverson and an artist known as Chris Crisis.


Go see it
“Photo Op” runs through Sept. 30 at Stevens Square Center for the Arts, 1905 3rd Ave. S. 879-0200. stevensarts.org

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Japanophilia

The otaku out there probably already know this, but the 2009 Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits workshop opens Sept. 25.

If you’re not even sure what otaku means, you may not want to plunk down the $100 registration fee for the annual anime and manga conference hosted by the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). If you are one of those rabid fans of Japanese comics and animation, this may be the highlight of your year.

Founded in 2001 by MCAD professors Frenchy Lunning and Barbara Schulz, a comic book industry veteran, the annual academic conference-slash-fan convention has garnered a global following and spun-off an academic annual, Mechademia, a forum for the serious exploration of Japanese pop culture published by University of Minnesota Press.


Go see it
“Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits: Culture and Creation in Manga and Anime” is Sept. 25–27 at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. To register, contact the MCAD Continuing Studies Office at 874-3765. mcad.edu