The Minnesota State Fair's annual art exhibition is back.
From a classic close-up painting of someone's beloved cow to a life-size bronze statue of Bob Dylan, 324 works were selected for the 111th edition of the show that welcomes artists from across the state.
Total works submitted numbered 2,207, much closer to pre-pandemic submission numbers.
Jim Clark, the fair's fine arts superintendent for the past 12 years, notices something new every time. This year it's the visitors' responses
"The other day, I had a fair guest in that said the work reminded him why we are alive — and that is not for the 8-5 grind — which I thought was pretty spectacular," he said.
Clark added there are "as many as 14,000 Minnesotans who self-identify as artists," and he hopes everyone would participate because it's free to enter.
Here are 10 pieces worth checking out if you're cruising through the Fine Arts Center between concerts, funnel cake, sweet corn and rides. (See the gallery at the top of the story. And if you're looking for seed art, go straight to the Agriculture Building.)
"The Grizzly" by Erik J. Fremstad, Victoria
This watercolor and archival ink on cold press painting isn't just a portrait of a grizzly bear's face. Written all over the bear's face in black ink are little facts and stories about bears. One of the most surprising is a drawing of "lunch counters," the once-popular early 1900s tourist attraction where people were invited to feed the bears, a practice that ended at the start of World War II.
"The Hand (After Heartfield)" by Russ White, Minneapolis
A hand reaches into the air, its fingers curved but not limp. The hand, writes White on his Instagram, "belongs to someone with a uterus," and the piece references the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade, and the way "we are witnessing the cruel hammer of white Christian fascism come down on our bodies like a gavel." White's piece also references the work of artist John Heartfield, who made antifascist imagery in the Nazi era, specifically a poster that Berliners saw in 1928 ahead of parliamentary elections. "The hand has five fingers," the poster read. "With these five grab the enemy!" Or, vote against Nazis.
"The Cookie Thief" by Jessica Huang, Eagan
Huang uses felt to craft a darling little rat wearing a top hat and vest while sitting in a cookie jar, surrounded by delicious-looking thumbprint and chocolate-dipped cookies. It looks like a scene out of "Ratatouille" but this, of course, is the Minnesota State Fair.
"Rainforest Cloud" by Shoshana Fink, Minneapolis
This dreamy photograph looks like it might have been taken in the forest outside of Harry Potter's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or somewhere in the Amazon rainforest or maybe just in a dream. Wherever it was shot matters less than what it does — takes you far away from wherever you are, if only for a moment.
"Sunny" by Bonnie Stanoch Tressler, Brandon, Minn.
No Minnesota State Fair art exhibition would be complete without a giant fish made entirely of mosaic. Its layers of orange, green, blue and maroon-tinted mosaic will catch your eye from the other side of the exhibition hall.
"Electronic Window Sign — Westboro Baptist Church — Topeka KS" by David Marksberg, Lakeville
Marksberg took photos of all 10 minutes' worth of the hateful signs of the church associated with the late Rev. Fred Phelps. Known by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America," the piece offers people a chance to contemplate the proliferation of hate.
"Waiting, Longing" by Beth Thompson, Minneapolis
Who hasn't left the room to find their beloved pooch sitting there, just waiting and looking sad and adorable? This piece will make you think there's a real dog locked in a glass case. Luckily, it is just art.
"Reunion" by Alexandra Beaumont, Minneapolis
While walking around the busy halls of the Fine Arts Center, it can feel overwhelming to contemplate all the faces one sees. Beaumont's piece "Reunion," a photo from 1962 printed onto silk, gently sways on a wall. She printed the photo of her family, taken in Kingston, Jamaica, onto silk and then removed the threads, making it look more like traditional madras, a lightweight cotton fabric. Although this is a still photo, the fabric blows around a bit, giving it a feeling of ancestral lightness.
"Target" by Christopher P. Rodman, Minneapolis
An instant frozen in time — a guy holding a loudspeaker at a protest that could be any protest anywhere. Rodman captures this decisive moment in a black and white gelatin silver print.
"Tomorrow" by Daniel Volenec, Eden Prairie
In this drawing, the viewer sees a woman in two parts — looking at the coffee cup, holding it and looking out the window — giving it a ghostly feel.
Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Center, 1265 N. Snelling Av., Falcon Heights. Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Labor Day. $15-$17; entrance to art exhibition is free. mnstatefair.org
Alicia Eler is the Star Tribune's visual art reporter and critic, and author of the book “The Selfie Generation. | Pronouns: she/they ”
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