WHITTIER — After a summer of being towed by bicycle around Minneapolis, Michael Hoyt’s mobile drawing table was parked recently in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s main gallery.
Hoyt is one of five artists included in this year’s Jerome Fellowship Exhibition, and his corner of the gallery is covered in his brush and ink portraits of the diverse Minneapolitans he met and drew in Bryant Square, Loring, Powderhorn and half a dozen other city parks. They are straightforward and unpretentious, managing to say a lot with a few spontaneous brush lines and wash of diluted ink.
But Hoyt’s technique is less important than his process. At the core of “One Another,” his title for the project, is the act of engaging with strangers: sitting across a table from them, looking them in the face and committing the intimate act of portrait drawing.
While you notice the features of each individual, the shapes of lips and noses, the tattoos, the baseball caps and hijabs, it’s their eyes that leave a lasting impression; some point down or off to the side, some search the distance and some stare back, open and unafraid. The eyes reveal something about each encounter.
Hoyt’s work pairs nicely with that of photographer Amanda Hankerson, whose work is another collection of portraits of strangers. The difference is these strangers all share Hankerson’s rather rare last name.
One of them, Diane, contacted Hankerson via Facebook a few years ago to see if they might be related. Amanda is white while Diane, like most of the Hankersons, is black, and the story of the Hankerson name — and its connection to her English ancestors, the owners of a 17th-century South Carolina plantation — began then to come into focus.
Hankerson traveled to Florida, where many of the Hankersons live, and photographed them one-on-one in intimate settings — their bedrooms, living rooms and gardens — interspersing images of palm trees. The trees both tie the Hankersons to their lush, sub-tropical home state and serve as a metaphor for a family tree. The viewer is left wondering about the shape of that tree, about the name and legacy that bind these Hankersons.
“Vientos,” Spanish for winds, is a title shared by several of Susannah Bielak’s pieces for the Jerome show, including four performance videos. Arts writer Jay Gabler gives us a clue as to what Bielak is after here, noting in an essay for the show catalog that she described wind as “a force made visible by its impact on other things,” but these remain curious, open-ended pieces.
A woman stands with her face against an industrial fan, pressing her cheek up against the cage. In another video, a woman has two large sheets of paper — maybe watercolors — taped around her neck like a tunic, and the wind lifts them up and makes them dance and spin around her head.
Another type of invisible force is at work in a filmed performance on a frozen lake. Seven dancers lay in the snow, arrayed in a circle around a standing woman, and as she points at them their bodies jerk like they’ve been shocked with electricity.
Melissa Loop is one of two painters in this year’s Jerome class, and her large landscape, “The Sublimity Outweighs the Tragedy,” may be the show’s single most powerful statement. It’s a verdant, tropical scene of forested cliffs towering over a tiny horse and rider at a river’s edge.
Loop lets the paint from the sky drip down over the forest, and unnatural streaks of orange, pink and red ooze out of this and several smaller tropical landscapes. It’s some unnamed malignancy infecting these otherwise tranquil scenes.
Lauren Roche in another painter whose work upends a traditional genre. Roche’s dark and expressive portraits present women as powerful, half-feral creatures. They bare their teeth and leopard-spotted legs. They sometimes cradle inky black creatures, like a Madonna with a vicious child, or lean back while clasping a knee, a stiff pose straight out of Victorian erotica.
Then Roche injects moments of tenderness and vulnerability: two women linking hands around a bear cub, one with her head turned away. When Roche’s women cry, their red tears flow like blood.
There are waves of emotion in Roche’s work. It’s wild, wonderful painting.
2012/13 Jerome Emerging Artists Exhibition
When: Through Nov. 10
Where: Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. S.
Info: 874-3700, mcad.edu