Site icon Robbie LaFleur

Goatskins for Grain; and Now, as a Work of Art

While up at the farm in northern Minnesota, I visited the North Dakota Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. What a great collection; the museum-going experience was the equal of any of my recent NYC gallery/museum visits.

Here’s an interesting textile piece.  Ethiopian-born artist Elias Sime‘s piece, “Three Selachas” (1985), is inspired by a change in traditional bags used for grain storage. For centuries farmers used goatskins, but in the twentieth century a switch was made to plastic bags.  Sime plays on this tradition and materials, embellishing stuffed goatskins with plastic embroidery.

The evocative body-like shapes drew me in and I enjoyed studying them from different angles.

From above, a live goat shape was perceptible.

Photographs by Juan Manuel Echavarria, from Bogota, Colombia, documented the graves of no-name corpses, most victims of drug war massacres. The images would be powerful as straightforward photographs, but were more remarkable as lenticulars–a word I hadn’t even known.  Lenticulars are those images that change, depending on the angle from which you view them.  To me, they are associated with cheesy pictures of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Using that technology to depict graves seemed appropriate, and a bit spooky. The either/or of seeing one image or another, depending on how you look at it, emphasized fleeting lives, or how the casualties of war can be quickly forgotten. Here are the two images of one of the pieces.

The photographs and mixed media works from other Latin American and African artists were equally strong.

One focus of the museum is to document the landscape of North Dakota and the local area. I loved photos of decaying and abandoned North Dakota farmhouses by Fargo artist John Solinger. They were accompanied by a plexiglass scale model of one of the houses, which had been put in an apiary.  The honeycomb-filled house, by Aganetha Dyke, is analogous to the crumbling houses turning into homes for bees, too.

My Friend Gail and I ate lunch in the museum cafe; fabulous food, such reasonable prices. Gail showed me how she uses her Apple watch to set up a selfie with your phone placed a distance away, and then we took photos of us in the booths, which were moved from a long-time downtown Grand Forks cafe, Sanders.

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