Faculty art show bolsters support for new building

Juliette Crane

University students, faculty members and friends filled the Wyman Building in downtown Minneapolis, sipping complimentary white wine from small, plastic cups and enjoying shrimp and chicken wraps, as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the crowded warehouse space.
Braving the stuffy room, several hundred people joined 20 University faculty members to celebrate the first off-campus faculty art show in seven years. They also came to protest dismal state funding for a new University art building.
The jazz band could hardly be heard over the constant chatter. Art was abuzz, but the evening was about more than showing off; a political agenda was at hand.
Platters of red and black buttons circled the creativeIQ studio, coining the signature phrase “Ain’t got time to plead.” The protest phrase mocked Gov. Jesse Ventura’s autobiography, titled “Ain’t Got Time To Bleed.” Ventura refused the art-building funding in his recommendations to the Legislature.
Although the building is the University’s highest priority during this legislative session, the governor proposed no funding for it. However, a House Higher Education Finance Committee recommendation placed the art building third on its list of priorities for University projects.
A final decision will be made by the Legislature in late April.
The new facility would complete the West Bank Arts Quarter, an area connecting the visual arts with music, dance and theater.
Art department chairman Mark Pharis said the faculty show is helping nurture faculty-community relationships.
Combining the “visibility of a talented art faculty with the need for a new art building is drawing attention to the importance of completing the Arts Quarter,” he said.
The show also gives faculty members a chance to share ideas. Curated in “salon style,” Pharis said the artists worked together to decide where each piece would go in the gallery.
Paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints intermix with electronic art and installation work in the studio.
Robert Buitron, a University photography faculty member, uses humor in his photographs. His continuing series, displayed at the Wyman Building, examines Chicano identity in relation to American mass-cultural stereotypes.
One photo, titled “Bean Master,” portrays two Chicano men with one American. Decked out in cowboy hats, they refer to a Mexican cookbook for the bean recipe.
Printmaker Karl Bethke, who teaches print making in the art department, said he has been working on his series since 1979. Using as many stencils as necessary, sometimes between 30 and 100, these screen prints reflect his experiences as a tourist on a game reserve in South Africa.
Marjorie Franklin, a University electronic media assistant professor, has worked with digital art since 1985. Playing on a small television set, her dream-like video is similar to virtual reality; however, while visually stimulating, she said “the focus for the piece is on artificial-life research.”
Ruben Nusz, a University art major, said painting professor Clarence Morgan’s abstract, acrylic paintings appear to be fabric woven out of paint. “The kind of pattern you would like a shirt made out of,” he explained.
Art student Matt Copeland appreciated the “texture and process” involved in Morgan’s thick, layered pieces.
Sculpture student Melissa Frankman summed up the entire exhibition when she said the overall talent of the faculty members blew her away. Even after working with the professors every day, she said, “I never realized just how extremely talented they all are.”

Juliette Crane welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3238.