“Lord build me a sculpture”

Local artists Chad Rutter and Amy Toscani open up about their new exhibits at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Minnesota artist Amy Toscani arranges her sculptures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on Tuesday in preparation for Thursdays opening of the exhibition.

Image by Patricia Grover

Minnesota artist Amy Toscani arranges her sculptures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on Tuesday in preparation for Thursday’s opening of the exhibition.

Amy Toscani doesn’t take herself too seriously, and that’s why the local artist decided to commission some chainsaw art for her upcoming exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

One year ago, she and fellow Minnesota artist Chad Rutter found out they would be producing work to be displayed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Though they had never met and their work is thematically different, their proposals were hand-selected from a highly competitive pool by the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program to each produce a brand new exhibit.

“The Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program is an interesting model because it’s based solely on the merit of that one application,” Rutter said. “It’s given opportunities to a lot of artists who wouldn’t get the opportunity otherwise.”

Chad Rutter’s first solo museum show, “Floodplain,” is an exploration of how humans interact with landscapes using references to natural disasters and construction.

“The show itself is about both physical and philosophical events and processes that force change,” Rutter said. “So I decided to name it ‘Floodplain’ because a floodplain is a natural feature that is both the evidence and promise of change.”

The backbone of Rutter’s installation is “Pond,” a programmed highway message board with excerpts from “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. This piece exemplifies Rutter’s interest in cultural geography.

Toscani analyzes landscapes in a different capacity. The MAEP gallery adjacent to Rutter’s houses “CHASTUSHKI,”  seven sculptures that Toscani describes as folk art you might find in a yard in Middle America. Toscani used what she found at thrift stores as the pieces’ material.

“CHASTUSHKI” has a humorous, playful aesthetic, much like the artist herself.

“’Chastushki’ doesn’t really mean anything. It means something like ‘little lyric’ in Russian. It’s just ridiculous and absurd,” Toscani said. “It’s actually better not knowing what it means. Although I think the association with tchotchke is fitting.”

Toscani talked excitedly about two pieces in particular, mostly because they incorporated chainsaw art, which Toscani recently fell in love with.

“I commissioned this guy to make a bear out of wood using a chainsaw to use in ‘Sugar Bear’ and now I’m going to have to start doing some chainsaw art,” Toscani said. “It’s so violent. It’s kind of fun.”

One of Toscani’s pieces titled “Lord build me a cabin” features deconstructed landscape pictures placed around a sign that says “Lord build me a cabin.” The whole array rests on a log.

 “The name ‘Lord build me a cabin’ is a line from a religious song and I thought that was a hilarious name for a song,” Toscani said. “Maybe I should’ve named my piece ‘Lord build me a sculpture.’”


What: “Floodplain” and “CHASTUSHKI”
When: Opening reception Thursday, April 17, 7-9 p.m. Exhibit runs April 18-June 29, 2014.
Where: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Cost: Free