When the pies in the sky collide

‘Segrelicious’ is Chicago Avenue’s (and local art’s) newest cr

Becky Lang

The word “Segrelicious” was born when Sean Smuda, creator of The Shoebox Art Gallery, was chatting with curators of Obsidian Arts, a neighboring gallery. “It is so delicious when people are forced to combine, but also when they are forced to be separated,” he mused. The unlikely combination of deliciousness and segregation birthed the concept of “Segrelicious,” a tasty exploitation of the old lines between one thing and another.

Segrelicious

WHEN: Through October 25, 2007
WHERE: Shoebox Gallery, Robert’s Shoes, 2946 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
Tickets: Free and open to the public
Contact: (612) 825-3833

Smuda had originally been commenting on the increasingly vivid and diverse dynamic of their corner of south Minneapolis, but the term quickly found meaning in the art they presented, which had also been “segregated” into different types of media. The two galleries decided to collaborate in a project determined to explore artistic and cultural boundaries.

The process went like this: Two local artists were hooked up, by e-mail or other means, exposed to one another’s work, and then had to make a piece inspired by it. And since many artists in that area haven’t yet met each other, it made it all the more delicious when they were confounded by one another’s work.

One piece is a collage of Barbies from all over the world, a “rainbow” of Barbies, if you will. Their skin colors are not as different as their eye shadows. Some are princesses, some are ice skaters, but they all have roughly the same facial features.

The piece was inspired by a video sitting in the Shoebox window. It is a loop that plays over and over again, of two different digital men doing the same thing: delivering a hook punch. One is an NBA player; one is a shirtless Viking with a tummy pouch. It’s called “Why I hate sports.”

The exhibit is tucked into the display window that makes up The Shoebox Gallery, and into the display room of Obsidian Arts, a gallery signified only by a colorful sign in their second-story window that says “Art.” Both are connected by Robert’s Shoes, but their missions differ. Obsidian Arts is dedicated to exploring black culture through art, and The Shoebox aims to expose art to more people in a new way. The concept of “Segrelicious,” happened to be a vertex between the two.

Stopping by the galleries has an element of danger, as The Shoebox has been the background of not only of a drug bust, but also many days of treacherous Minnesota weather. Once, its glass window held only a humble piece of paper that said, “No opening tonight. Too cold. Sorry.”

Those kinds of bumps in the road don’t bother Smuda, who runs the gallery in his spare time, for no incentive other than to mix art a bit farther into the streets of Minneapolis.

“I wanted to get a dialogue going that would fit the individuals instead of heavy-handed politics. It’s a hustling, bustling place; there is street-level interaction and a certain kind of thing you don’t get anywhere else,” he explains of its creation.

Past openings of The Shoebox have been known to serve key lime pie slices or feature guys in astronaut suits. The gallery draws in a variable crowd, made up of as many local passersby as visiting art fiends.

“The people are generally good natured, if drunk,” Smuda commented, adding, “but it’s mostly just people riding by on their bicycles, carrying groceries.”

“Segrelicious” is a nod to the crowds that view it, for Minneapolis itself is an example of “smushed” segregation. It’s a city where you can walk down the street, catching wafts of pad Thai at one storefront and wafts of tandoori chicken on the next.

Exploring this dynamic, the gallery suggests art doesn’t need to be separated by the materials that create it. Ideas too can be unintentionally “smushed” together to create an infinite number of possibilities. Just look at the “newly arrived” section of any bookstore or CD shop and you’ll see that placing “300 Ways to Cook Eggs” next to “A Biography of Prince” creates a new dynamic altogether. In trying to communicate the likeness of two different things, a new kind of inspiration is created. Thus, both separatedness and togetherness are an essential part of urban life and art.

According to Roderick, a friendly guide at the Obsidian art gallery, “Segrelicious” facilitates just that: “an expedition that pushes artists together unwillingly.”