Art beat // Dressing real-life action figures

THE WEDGE — “I grew up mostly in this weird subculture of Minnesota,” said Erin Currie, recalling when, as a child, she performed Danish folk dances at heritage fairs and worked at the Renaissance Festival with her parents.

Currie was surrounded by specialists in Old World crafts, like her mother, who practiced the Norwegian decorative painting form known as rosemaling. In that environment, fairy tales — particularly the older, darker, unreformed versions — may have had more resonance for her than for other children.

“The creepy side of old folklore was really prevalent in my upbringing,” she said.

Currie’s handmade toys, sold at places like local design outlet ROBOTlove and the online at, have their creepy side, too. Her sweet-scary Cursters include horned, long-limbed warriors, fuzzy yetis and little monkey-like creatures with wide, toothy grins.

Having sewed together scores of the plush and vinyl collectibles in the past five years, Currie was ready for another challenge. Beginning this summer, she scaled up her designs to produce her own clothing line.

“The body — what is that? Nothing but a huge stuffed animal, right?” she said.

Her collection debuts at Curster’s Dollmighty Fashion Show Dec. 12 at Soo Visual Arts Center. Many of the pieces, including a hat embellished with a sea anemone burst, showcase Currie’s meticulous needlework.

Pictures of a few of the pieces showed a ruffled ballerina dress, knee-high boots in hot pink plaid, ornate helmet-shaped hats and odder pieces such as the hand-embroidered “satin armor” worn on the shoulders like football pads.

Like the Curster toy line, Currie’s clothing designs are a mix of seeming opposites. Currie said she was inspired by the mythical masculinity of lumberjacks and Vikings, but with a feminine spin.

“It’s very pink and girlie at the same time,” she said.

Considering Currie’s background in toy making, maybe it isn’t surprising she makes outfits for real-life action figures.

Who would wear these clothes? Currie jokingly suggested “a ballerina who’s ready for war.”

While there may be few women able to pull off that look, more could probably mix one or two items into their wardrobe, she suggested.

Depending on how the clothing line is received, it has the potential to expand Currie’s audience. While her toys are prized in the subculture of designer toy collectors, as she explained, “The toy audience is mostly a bunch of dudes.”

Go see it

Curster’s Dollmighty Fashion Show is 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at Soo Visual Arts Center, 2640 Lyndale Ave. S. Tickets are $8 in advance ($5 for members) or $10 at the door. 871-2263.


Art in the buff

A plywood wall set up in the window of Art of This Gallery blocks the view of Bruce Tapola’s installation there, except for a circle cut out of the middle.

The circle could be taken as a peephole. As implied by the title of Tapola’s installation, “Au Naturel,” there are hints of nudity in the collection of paintings, sculpture and mixed media work, but they are few, and the work is not overtly sexual.

Maybe a porthole would be a better description of the cutout. The largest of several hanging sculptures could be a deep-sea anglerfish floating in the center of the room, dangling a page of text like bait.

Tapola, an associate professor of art at St. Cloud State University who teaches painting and drawing, pieced together the hanging sculpture with dowels, twigs stripped of their bark, string, glue and toothpicks. So carefully assembled, it looks light but strong, like a tent frame.

Another hanging sculpture is bits of string outlining a chandelier shape. Each string is labeled with a number, as if the piece is wearing the instructions for its step-by-step assembly.

The intersecting strings are echoed by the mesh of black lines in a nearby painting. The circle pops up again, too, in a small piece missing from a plaster tile and in the holes poked through clippings from old magazines.

Tapola’s installation resists easy interpretation, but his visual rhyming can send a viewer caroming around the room. He makes dynamic use of the Art of This space.

Go see it
“Au Naturel — New Work by Bruce Tapola” runs through Dec. 6 at Art of This Gallery, 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. 721-4105.