FULTON — It takes a particular kind of person to open up his house to strangers, to pick up a ringing phone and say to the unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line, Sure, come on over. Enjoy the backyard. Take your time looking around my garage.
Pete Driessen, apparently, is that kind of person. Last year, after winning a $5,000 Metropolitan Arts Council grant, Driessen transformed his York Avenue bungalow’s tuck-under garage into a white-box gallery, scheduled a season of exhibitions, set up a website and invited the world to visit TuckUnder Projects.
He estimated maybe 350 people turned up to explore the gallery or poke around his backyard, where artist-in-residence Sarah Wolbert turned a raspberry patch into a summer-long art project. When neighbors or friends or complete strangers would stop by in the evening, look around for a few minutes or an hour, chat with Driessen, maybe have a beer and then take off, it felt “kind of like having friends over for the Super Bowl,” he said.
“It was great,” Driessen enthused. “It was a big experiment and really fascinating.”
Driessen is a painter who also makes and displays model ships cobbled together from wood scraps and other odds and ends, and the cute but strangely ominous miniature fleets make his studio in the Casket Arts building a memorable stop during Art-A-Whirl. He said the roving herds of the annual open studio tour in Northeast prepared him to give up a little privacy at home.
A new season of TuckUnder Projects opened May 23 with abstract paintings by Minneapolis painter and printmaker Jeremy Szopinski hanging in the garage and the (literal) seeds of another artist residency planted in the yard. This year, Marlaine Cox and Karen Kasel, who collaborate as low tech/high joy, are growing sunflowers in Driessen’s yard and also fabricating metal scopes that will be used to monitor the garden’s progress.
When he started TuckUnder Projects, Driessen considered his garage’s fire door the line of demarcation between the public and private spaces of his home, but inevitably some visitors would inquire about a bathroom, and Driessen would tell them to head through the door and into his basement. The new Leaky Sink Gallery turns this situation to Driessen’s advantage, making of the basement half-bath a third exhibition space. First up in the bathroom gallery is Noah Harmon, whose cartoony paintings display a wry and slightly twisted sense of humor.
With new exhibitions scheduled to rotate into both gallery spaces roughly once a month through the fall, TuckUnder Projects has gotten more ambitious this year despite the lack of any outside funding source.
“This year I don’t have any grant money, so it’s all run seat-of-the-pants out of my own pocketbook,” he said.
That means Driessen can’t offer even the modest stipends paid to artists last year, at least not yet. Keep your eyes peeled for a Kickstarter campaign.
“The Thousandfold Principle” and “Noah Harmon/Have Fun!” run through June 23 at TuckUnder Projects, 5120 York Ave. S. 719-7377. tuckunder.org
A game of telephone
WHITTIER — Over in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Allen Brewer is playing a brainy version of the old game of telephone, one that maintains a sense of fun even while posing serious questions about how we see and experience art.
Brewer, who has been visiting the museum since he was a child, recently invited other museumgoers to submit written descriptions of favorite works from the MIA collection. He then took these subjective accounts, sifted them for the most concrete descriptors —such as color words or notes on shape or texture — and produced entirely new works of art.
Brewer dubbed this project “Verbatim,” and it’s strange and wonderful seeing what comes out the other end of his process. As with any game of telephone, bits of the message are distorted or lost.
Nick Cave’s exuberant “Soundsuit” sculpture emerges relatively unscathed, like a low-fi copy of the original, while “Lucretia,” Rembrant’s poignant painting of a Roman noblewoman’s suicide, is reduced to a grid of painted squares on canvas. One square is white like her tunic, another stained blood red.
In the next-door gallery is “Posture is Everything,” a room-sized installation by Kristina Estell. Simple, stark but surprisingly evocative, the work consists of several large sheets of glacier-blue silicone draped over easel-like wooden supports, the legs left exposed like a bit of calf below a skirt hem.
In her essay for the exhibition guide, the poet Mariko Nagai suggests the sky has fallen on a forest, but you might see mountains. Or is it children playing ghost under hospital bed-blue sheets? Either way it’s mysterious and a bit spooky.
“Posture is Everything” and “Verbatim” run through June 30 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S. 870-3000. artsmia.org