We’re lucky here in the Twin Cities because, to put it simply, there are a ton of art galleries here. And because of the variety of art available, much of it is affordable for almost everyone. Even better, because we’re saturated with art, the odds are greater for being exposed to something truly mind-blowing. One such awe-inspiring gallery is the Soo Visual Arts Center in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Soo Visual Arts Center, a nonprofit art space, has been around since 2001 and is still honoring their mission to connect the community with “fresh, under-represented and provocative art.”

The gallery space is roomy, but it isn’t huge, which means the exhibitions there tend to have a dozen or so pieces at most. Taking a look at the art theoretically shouldn’t take too long, but with their track record of curating interesting shows, it’s easy to linger in front of pieces, and then linger some more.

From the start, SooVAC was exhibiting exciting shows. The gallery’s inaugural show, entitled “Do It” ultimately involved thirty international artists as well as local community members, artists, and museum personnel. It was based on the idea of interpretation, and a do-it-yourself aesthetic was brought to the show. Artists provided written instructions for other artists to then interpret and create a piece. From the webpage for the exhibition, “they considered instructions for their installations as analogous to musical scores which, like an opera or symphony, go through countless realizations as others interpret them…The resulting works—always different, always unique, always local…”

soovac emilybennetbeck SooVAC Serves Up Provocative Art

Emily Bennett Beck, Recent Bride Bride #1 (credit: Coco Mault)

Since that inaugural 2001 season, SooVAC has exhibited over five dozen shows. A couple of recent shows of note include SooVAC’s “8th Annual Juried Exhibition” and “You Had Me At Goodbye.”

Their recent juried exhibition featured a few different artists, including Steven Long, Erin Hernsberger, and Emily Bennett Beck. From the gallery’s website, the theme of this show was to “investigate hidden tensions, the attraction of revulsion, the physical self and universal communication when language is constantly being abstracted and specialized.”

Beck’s large paintings commanded attention from the gallery’s back wall. She has perfectly captured on canvass crazed teenage infatuations and even the mania women can get swept up in involving marriage. In her piece Recent Bride #1, she has painted a closeup image of a perfectly attractive woman, but who has a frightening look in her eyes. It’s the look in her eyes that reveals everything else about her is a touch crazy as well. Her hair is done, but it’s perhaps a touch too poofy, and clearly something has gone wrong with her lipstick.

soovac erinhernsberger pig SooVAC Serves Up Provocative Art

Erin Hernsberger, Pig Embryo and Cottage Cheese (credit: Coco Mault)

Long’s and Hernsberger’s pieces were located opposite each other in the gallery’s hallway. At first glance, Long’s photographs, though intriguing, aren’t very appetizing. Hernsberger’s pieces, on the other hand, are beautiful, tidy, and simple. And they look much more palatable than Long’s flattened images of food he arranged onto his scanner. His image of a pancake from a local restaurant, for instance, looks as though it had already been eaten, to put it politely. But once we find out what’s really going on in the two artist’s photo series, the pancake looks a bit more appetizing. It’s because Hernsberger’s pieces are a touch deceiving — her images are in fact not a fresh onion, for example, but a cow testicle. And that shiny shape set atop a dollop of cottage cheese? That’s a fetal pig.

soovac erinhernsberger honeycomb SooVAC Serves Up Provocative Art

Erin Hernsberger, Honeycomb Stomach and Cow Testicle (credit: Coco Mault)

Another show of note was one entitled “You Had Me At Goodbye: Paintings by Robert McCann.” This was truly a show with apocalyptic visions, but with a dose of humor. McCann’s active imagination combined with his highly detailed images on giant canvasses had visitors circulating more than a couple of times. With each new look, more details would reveal themselves. And, just like when a television gets pixelated during bad reception, McCann would cover bits of his canvasses with smears of color, which made it seem like something had disturbed the canvass. It’s a great technique for adding even more chaos to his images. In one painting, the Hulk has just thrown a small car as a crowd gathers in front of a suburban mini mall. Someone in the distance is clueless, strolling along with their baby as if nothing strange is going on. But who is that stuck behind the Hulk? It’s Forrest Gump, and it looks like he is trying to calm down the big green monster. In the background a car bursts into flames. McCann includes many recognizable characters in his paintings, but it’s the unreal situations he paints them into that will keep people staring.

Find out about upcoming SooVAC events on their website.

Soo Visual Arts Center
2638 Lyndale Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN
Hours: Wed-Fri 11-7 pm; Sat – Sun 10 – 6 pm (noon after an opening)


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