All’s fair in art and cotton

Cotton weaves the artistic expressions of seven different artists together in The Artaversaries’ second annual exhibit, “The Common Thread.”

Robb Larson

The Artaversaries celebrate the union of seven artists brought together through a gallery’s fortuitous matchmaking. The marriage of their diverse artistic backgrounds culminates once a year in an exhibit based on the traditional materials of wedding anniversary gifts.

“The Common Thread,” which opens Friday, is the group’s second time showing together. Wedding anniversary tradition calls for second anniversary gifts to be made of cotton. In keeping with that theme, every piece in the show involves cotton in some way, whether as a material or as a concept.

A solo exhibition program at the Altered Esthetics gallery in Minneapolis brought together the members of the group. In addition to showing the artists’ work, Altered Esthetics also taught the artists the business skills they needed to succeed in the art world.

Kate Renee was interning at Altered Esthetics when some of the artists she mentored invited her to be part of a group that would continue working together.

Their exhibits correspond with the traditional gifts given on wedding anniversaries.

“It’s a way to have a commonality and create a show together,” Renee said. “We thought that we could show together to really push ourselves and support each other as artists.”

Artaversaries member Katie Parr created a sculpture out of cotton muslin to bring the mundane objects often glanced over in everyday life into the light.

“I was thinking of what I do on a day-to-day basis,” Parr said. “Most people don’t even think about or realize the domestic activities that we all take part in on a daily basis.”

Parr’s sculpture is almost omnipresent in the gallery space, forcing viewers to interact with it in the same way they’re forced to interact with everyday duties.

“It will be attached to the wall of the gallery and onto the floor,” Parr said. “You’ll be forced to physically interact with it with your body in space.”

Renee’s piece is also interactive, but invites voluntary participation instead of imposing a sculptural obstacle.

“I’m trying to create a dialogue about secrets,” Renee said. “I’m embroidering secrets on underwear, so I use the underwear as the most intimate part of yourself but the secrets are the most intimate part inside of you.”

The installation invites viewers to contribute by anonymously sharing their own secrets on cotton cloth squares, PostSecret-style.

“I’m hoping for people to really jump on board with the piece and lay it all out there,” Renee said.

Artaversaries member Mark Elton explores similarly evocative themes. He depicts the paradoxical isolation he feels around the holiday season through digitally created images printed on cotton T-shirts.

“The images I’ve created explore feeling secluded despite being surrounded by family, smiling yet feeling dead inside,” Elton said. “A lot of people feel the holidays are the happiest time of the year, but that’s not the case for everyone.”

Elton’s images are named after the titles of holiday songs, but they depict a much darker subject matter in order to communicate the malaise that some feel during the holidays. For example, his piece called “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” is a picture of a skull donning a festive holiday top hat.

Elton also incorporates online-only images that correspond with each piece to represent the happy façade that people with depression often hide behind.

“The images speak for themselves in a way by tying in the darker aspect of the holidays,” Elton said. “The theme of each piece is encoded to replicate the guarded form of communication that we have learned to utilize for the benefit of others or for our own privacy.”

Elton’s images and their online counterparts reflect the decoding that must take place for one to discover what’s really going on when they ask someone, “How’s it going?”

Like all brilliant ideas, The Artaversaries has a simple premise upon which a creative edifice is built. Tradition calls for the anniversary gift of a 90-year marriage to be made of granite. Should The Artaversaries reach that degree of maturity, their spirit of collaboration will surely be as timeless as their masonry.


What: The Common Thread

When: 5 p.m. Friday

Where: The Franklin Arts Center, 1001 Kingwood St., Brainerd

Cost: Free