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The Minnesota Museum of American Art objectifies the ’70s

The Minnesota Museum of American Art, Story City and artist Mary Bergs use the public to represent the ’70s through objects.

Artist Mary Bergs loves the discarded. Most of her work comes from junk shops and thrift stores.

“I’m interested in objects that have lost their purpose or usefulness,” she said.

She’ll have an opportunity to express her interest at The Minnesota Museum of American Art this month. Bergs is creating a new piece of work for “The Studio Sessions: Minnesota Artists in the 1970s.”

The exhibit, running through Oct. 20, contains a series of photographs devoted to documenting the past of the local art scene. University of Minnesota professor Victor Bloomfield spent the early 1970s snapping candid photos of artists and curators in their natural habitats.

Images of multiple artists inside their studios and around the Twin Cities sit next to a representative work from their career.

Bergs will install more artifacts from the decade in addition to Bloomberg’s cultural time capsule. The catch is that she only gets to choose one of the objects she uses. MMAA wanted to involve the community, so they brought Bergs and Story City together to help create the installation.

“Show and Tell: Object-ifying the 1970s” centers on a group of objects from a pool of submissions. Anyone can submit something that represents the ’70s to them. If chosen, they’ll get to explain their object’s significance at the opening.

 Bergs hopes the selections will work together smoothly.

“I know the submissions so far are really challenging … there’s a fire log, an old figurine, a poster about disappeared persons from Chile in the ’70s … I t’ll be interesting,” Bergs said.

MMAA curator Christina Chang said the show is an attempt to allow the public to share their impressions of the past.

“I think our understanding of the ’70s continues to change as it’s reinterpreted,” she said.

Chang said attaching personal anecdotes and history to the submissions gives them power.

“I think in some ways, you can’t separate objects from their stories,” she said.

Bergs said she’ll keep this in mind as she builds her installation. It’s important to her that she allows the submissions to speak for themselves.

“I think the challenge for me as an artist is that sometimes you can have an idea that’s a really good idea and you let that override what’s going on visually,” she said. “These objects are what make the installation beautiful.”

Whether it’s cleaning supplies or a pair of roller skates, Chang said objects show time’s fluidity. The ’70s may be long gone, but we still experience the consequences of actions from the decade.

“What I’m hoping for is for people to open up through these stories and think about history as a living thing,” she said.


What: “Show and Tell: Object-ifying the 1970s”
When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday
Where: Minnesota Museum of American Art Project Space, 332 N Roberts Street, St. Paul
Cost: Free


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