Liz Miller sets the stage

MillerÂ’s distinctive installation art becomes a venue for performance

A detail from Liz Miller's installation at Public Functionary. Credit: Submitted image

NORTHEAST PARK — “‘Wonky origami,’ I sometimes call it,” Liz Miller said, pushing through a thicket of her cut-felt sculptures, which were strung like garland from the ceiling of Public Functionary’s gallery space.

It was at least partly a joke but probably as good a descriptor as any for Miller’s hard-to-classify art. She starts with two-dimensional materials like felt, cuts and curls them into filigreed three-dimensional shapes and arranges those sculptures in site-specific environments.

So, call it “wonky origami” or call it installation art; it’s a particular blend of disciplines that is distinctly hers. Over two upcoming weekends at Public Functionary, Miller’s newest piece will become the setting for a performance that similarly resists categorization.

“In Which ____ and Others Discover the End” is the title for this enigmatic collaboration between the three-member “performance collective” SuperGroup, playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski and the experimental rock band Brute Heart. From the sounds of it, the subject is life in the Anthropocene — the now popular term for the current era of a planet irrevocably changed by human activity — and their hopes and anxieties about the future will be communicated through a blend of music, modern dance and theater.

“In a way, I’ve had to get into their thinking process and they have to get into mine,” Miller said.

After Jendrzejewski invited her to join the project, Miller received a list of words and phrases to respond to, things about the brain and the body, climate change, technology and something like “ruminations on life and death,” she recalled, vaguely. She spent time listening to Brute Heart and watched SuperGroup in rehearsal.

“I was really excited about what they were doing, but I don’t have a background in modern dance,” she said. “I thought, ‘Am I really going to be able to do this?’”

As she designed the installation, Miller imagined the performers moving through and interacting with her piece. She said she “wanted to have something for them to wrestle with.”

The components of a Miller installation come together like a Lego set. She cuts out multiples of a few forms — shapes that here range from simple cogs to more elaborate abstract designs, some bristling with spiny protrusions — then links them together on site in combinations that repeat, with minor variations.

Miller said she’s drawn to “anything that has a combination of being really beautiful and having a sinister component,” and while the bright, contrasting colors of the materials she uses hint at the former, the shapes she cuts them into — inspired by everything from Medieval weaponry to models of neurons — tend toward the latter. Her installations are like a rose garden that way: profuse with blossoms and prickly with thorns.


In Which ____ and Others Discover the End

When: Through April 10. Performances March 27–29 and April 2–4. Tickets are free but available in limited quantities.

Where: Public Functionary,

Info: 238-9523, or



Sharing memories

FULTON — For his show up now at Gallery 360, local photographer Karl Herber combed through his personal archives with the help of gallery owner Merry Beck to come up with a sampling of images from throughout his career.

“The joke was this was the closest thing to a retrospective I’m likely to have,” Herber said.

He’s being perhaps a bit too humble. Beck said visitors have responded to images like “Soren’s Fork,” a photograph built around contrasting textures and a simple but strong composition: a fork resting on a napkin, the rectangular cloth creating a frame-within-a-frame.

Soren is Herber’s brother-in-law, a local jewelry maker who made the utensil. The frame is by Herber’s wife, Rya Priede, who also runs a custom framing business and frames all of her husband’s photographs.

The couple lives near the border of Kingfield and Tangletown with their daughter, Nora, who also gets involved in the show. Herber turned over the job of writing a brief artist’s statement his daughter and her classmates. Don’t miss it if you visit.

The oldest photos in the show date back to the early ’90s, when Herber was still in college. He spent a year in Salzburg, Austria, through a study abroad program, and during that trip he photographed a young man with a Morrissey pompadour resting his eyes on a train trip; it appears here in a diptych, contrasted with an image of twigs scattered on the ground.

“That was a pivotal year for me in terms of establishing myself as an artist and realizing, Oh, I can do this,” he said.

We share some of his memories. Recognize those eerie orange mammatus clouds gathering above Herber’s house? That’s the sky just before a violent June 2010 storm swept across South and Southwest Minneapolis, toppling trees.

Herber said digging through his archives with Beck was “like meeting old friends again.”


“Invitation Home …: Photographs by Karl Herber”

When: Through April 18

Where: Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St.

Info: 925-2400,