MNfusion: St. Paul Artist Launches Sensory Exhibit ‘I Am’ In Lowertown

Spring has arrived!

Life begins to reawaken, and we begin to take notice.

From the feel of new grass to the smell of fresh flowers, with the arrival of the new season comes a rejuvenation of our senses.

It’s fitting then, that the newest series to open at The Show Gallery in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood is a showcase featuring works of art that will stimulate all five senses.

Kristi Abbott’s “I Am” series opens on April 1.

The series is a look at Abbott’s artistic journey since arriving in the U.S. four years ago. It features eight portraits, entitled “I Am Art,” “I Am Woman,” “I Am Erotic,” “I Am Brave,” “I Am Imagination,” “I Am Love,” “I am Minnesotan,” and “I Am American.”

Using interactive maps, time-lapse videos and gastronomic dishes, Abbot’s latest series takes visitors on a complete journey through sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

Abbott, originally from Australia, became known after being chosen as the featured artist for the Edina Art Fair in 2015. From there, she went on to be featured in Duluth, create a popular Pop Icon series and was featured in a book about works of art inspired by Prince.

Her work, often portraits, uses papers as its main material, which often have hidden images printed on them.

To create the elements in this show, Abbott paired with local producer Sunshine, computer programmer Ananda Bates and a team of gastronomists.

“I Am” opens on Saturday, April 1 and runs through Sunday, April 2.

Before the show’s opening, WCCO spoke with Abbott about the series and her inspiration behind the elements involved in creating the show.

I have to say, I am very intrigued by the theme of your new series! Tell me, what lead you to use “I Am” as the theme of this show?

Abbott: I wanted to create a series that was meaningful and introspective, and one that would allow me to tell a great story. Since moving to the U.S. and focusing on art full time, I have had such an amazing journey that has brought me to a very real place [where] I feel remarkably centered in. Throughout the journey I have had some amazing experiences and gained some fascinating insights that I wanted to share with the rest of the world. While the pieces relate to my journey and life, I think everyone should be able to identify with the eight themes presented.

Speaking of those eight themes, how did you choose which adjectives to center your artwork around?

Abbott: While working on this series over the last year many adjectives and themes floated in and out of my mind, but the eight I selected felt the strongest both in concept and appeal. Each of the eight pieces explores a theme that has been pivotal to my journey as an artist. For example, “I Am Woman” explores what it means to be a woman, from struggles of equality in the work force to issues of fertility and sexuality. I wanted to focus on themes that were positive and uplifting, but also show the undertones of social, political and cultural tension that exist in each.

I can see how each of the eight themes chosen not only could relate to you personally, but could also speak to visitors and offer commentary on the world around us. On a slightly different note, tell me why you chose St. Paul as the location of the show.

Abbott: I live in Lowertown and have a great relationship with the studio managers, so it seemed like the perfect place to host the show. As I also started my career and life as an artist in Lowertown, [so] it felt like a great fit.

There are few better reasons that proximity! So, what sort of materials will you be using for your artwork in this gallery series?

Abbott: My artworks are primarily made from layers of paper. However, I often include a multitude of different globally sourced and hand cut materials, including fabrics, feathers and other found objects. I love to travel and often source my papers from boutique stores I find in different cities and countries. On many of the papers you will find hidden printed imagery that has been sourced from photographs, artworks, movies, books and countless other resources. To unify the series I have also added eight pendants, each one engraved with the title of the piece and reflecting the theme and aesthetic of the artwork.

Sounds like there are several elements happening just on one sheet of paper, let alone the entire piece! Speaking of, the series is said to stimulate all five senses. Can you share a bit about how that will be accomplished?

Abbott: I loved the idea of showcasing my art in an exhibit where people would be able to see, hear, touch and taste it. In order to make this happen, I collaborated with an interactive designer, a music producer and a culinary artist to ensure each piece uniquely engages us through all five senses. Touch will be stimulated through the highly textured artworks, taste/smell through the gastronomical pairings of food and beverages, sight through the interactive maps and time-lapse videos and sound through the custom soundtracks that have been written for each piece.

That sounds so fascinating! I’m very intrigued by this idea. But, tell me, why did you want to include things like music and food in the show? What do you think including those elements adds to the experience?

Abbott: As an experiential learner, I understand how important touch and interaction are for me to engage with and understand an idea or concept. Art is no different, especially when it has a story to tell. A great artwork can move and impact someone in amazing ways. I had already created story maps for my pieces. But when my partner, who is an interactive designer and UX developer, suggested taking it to a whole new level by making the maps interactive and having them link to resource material, I was like, “Hell yes! When can we get started?” Once we had that train rolling, it felt right to bring in other elements that would equally stimulate other senses. I believe that by adding food and music to support the art, people’s engagement and understanding will increase tenfold as they are able to experience the artwork on a much deeper level and through multiple stimulation points.

This show, obviously, features themes that are somewhat biographical to your life, as well as showcases your preferred materials and style. But, as a whole, how do you feel this collection showcases you as an artist?

Abbott: As an artist I believe it will showcase my technical ability with my medium, but hopefully also my skill as a storyteller.

Finally, what do you hope viewers will experience from the show?

Abbott: I hope people will be excited and intrigued. I would love them to come away with a new sense of fascination and/or interest, whether it be in art or in one of the themes that I present in the show. Each piece is meant to be an experience that provokes and triggers conversation and connection, with me (the artist) or perhaps the person standing next to them.  Each piece will immerse you with the different images, textures, sounds, videos and tastes, so you come out learning something from that piece or being able to relate to it from your own experiences. I think people may be surprised and intrigued by what they discover in the artworks within this series. I know I have learned a lot about myself as I’ve created them!

I Am” opens April 1. It runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 1 – 2. It is located in The Show Gallery at 346 N. Sibley Street in St. Paul. For more information, visit Kristi Abbott’s website online.

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