Q and A 2013 Open Studio Fellowship Artist Mike Rathbun

Posted on 23 January 2014 | No responses

2013 Open Studio Fellowship Artist Mike Rathbun, OR has been involved with Franconia for nearly 20 years. In 1996, our inaugural year, he built one of the first sculptures installed at the park, a massive wooden wave-like structure titled N45º 22.822, W92º 41.087. As an artist-in-residence in 2002, Rathbun created the looming 40-foot tall sculpture titled, Heroic/Pathetic Irony. This summer he returned to the land of wide open sky to make the tallest sculpture in the park.


I’ll start by framing Mike’s work and practice with a paradox: it is equal parts humility and exaggeration, steeped in both impressive ambition and poignant admissions of frailty.

“The ideas I pursue are related to my ability and inability to function in the world,” says Mike. He cites George Brecht’s Two Excercises, as a major influence, and an apt description of his life as an artist:

“Consider an object. Call what is not the object ‘other’. Add to the object from the ‘other’ another object, to form a new object and a new ‘other’. Repeat until there is no more ‘other.’ Take a part from the object and add it to the ‘other,’ to form a new object and a new ‘other’. Repeat until there is no more object.”

Brecht’s quote truly captures the idea of practice, a repetitive, seemingly mundane process of trial and error. Eventually, the work pays off, and for every 100 back-to-the-drawing-board moments, something clicks, and there’s a single revelation. This is can be seen throughout Mike’s work, both in the way he devotes himself to making, and the truly impressive objects he produces.

With titles like “I’m Bad, I’m Good, I’m Bad…”, “Icarus”, and “The Situation He Found Himself In”, (shown in order below), one gets the sense that Mike’s work explores intensely personal, vulnerable moments in his own life. In a 2013 interview with the Vancouver Vector, Mike confirms this, saying, “I think, like everyone, I have things that tug at me, things that run through my mind constantly, memories that don’t seem important except for the fact that they present themselves over and over.”

           I’m Bad, I’m Good, I’m Bad…


          The Situation He Found Himself In

During the course of his performance, Icarus, Mike burned all of the sculptures in his studio. Icarus, as the myth goes, died tragically when he disobeyed his father’s instructions, flying too close to the sun where his wings melted. Mike seems to be commenting on his failed ambition, renouncing his ego, and yet again pledging an almost spiritual devotion to the artistic process. To publicly state that starting over would be better than duking it out with work that wasn’t worth another minute? That’s the ultimate back-to-the-drawing-board moment.

Even though Mike’s sculpture is inspired by his own heroic struggles, it never depicts an exact scene, but rather approximates a feeling or a state of mind. He admits that he’s not always sure what the sculptures mean, just that they mean something and needed to be made. In that way, it’s possible for a viewer to enter the work from his or her own point of view. Mike’s interest is in provoking an emotional response, and he achieves this with monumental sculptures that overwhelm space, dwarfing existing structures, and placing the viewer at the center of it all, looking up. He’s not exercising his ego by building the largest sculpture he can, but rather showing us what it felt like to be him, at one time or another.

I caught up with Mike recently and he shared insights into his latest work on exhibit at Franconia titled Parade, his artistic practice, and his experience here as a fellowship artist.

When you’re making sculpture, what is your creative process like? What path does your work take between the inkling of an idea and finished project?

I usually get an image in my head. It is sometimes related to something I am reading or a place I have been. But not always. I take the picture and work backward to figure out the steps it will take to get it done. I break it up into a series of steps and build it one piece at a time. The piece is fluid and changes to meet the need of the step. This usually has to do with things like; material availability, time help, the space available…

What inspired your project at Franconia this summer? How does it relate to your past work?

I have had some recent intense personal trials. I needed to work hard on something for a long time. I got a fortune cookie that said, “ Someone dreams of being you.” It made me cry. I found it again few months later, and realized it really said, “Someone dreams of being with you,” this did not make me cry.

Why did you propose your project to Franconia and what did the experience of working here offer you?

Franconia is a place that offers a great deal of freedom. Things like faith, space, willing hands are in abundant supply. I have been making sculpture at the park since just after grad school. It is always like going home. It has been an important and present part of my career.

What other residencies have you done, and how do those experiences compare to your time at Franconia?

I don’t know if what I have done before have been considered residencies. But, I will say that I believe that “Parade” is the most important work I have done and I could not have done it anywhere else.

Where did you study and whom did you study with? How have those experiences influenced your own work?

I have many important mentors. But, two come to mind. One was Stewart Luckman at Bethel University. He taught me to love obscurity. And the other is Guy Baldwin, at the University of MN, who taught me how to sail. These are two things I could not make it without.

Who (or what) are your greatest inspirations as an artist?

The ideas I pursue are related to my ability and inability to function in the world. I like George Brecht’s assignment Two Exercises. I have long considered it to describe my life as an artist. Or, anyone’s life who committed themselves to their work. My greatest inspirations are the things I love and the things I fear.

Bonus Question: What do you consider the most important work of art in the world?

The Capri Battery, Joseph Beuys

So there you have it. What a fitting way to end a discussion of Mike’s work. What do you when life gives you lemons? You use them to generate something.

Q and A with 2013 Open Studio Fellowship Artist Sanford Mirling

Posted on 17 December 2013 | No responses

2013 Open Studio Artist Sanford Mirling first came to Franconia Sculpture Park in 2003 as an Intern Artist, returning soon after as a Site Manager for several years. He received a BA from Bennington College and an MFA from SUNY Albany. He is the co-founder/ Director of Collar Works: art space in Troy, NY, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Middlebury College.

When he arrived at Franconia this summer, Sanford had plans to make a sculpture resembling a giant skateboard bowl, an above ground pool, and remarkably, a breast. It couldn’t be skated, swam, but as most visitors can attest, it is impossible not to ogle the nipple, or even jump up an poke it. In the end he titled his sculpture “Oobie boobie double loobie, ollies are hard, shred the gnar”.

In fact, much of Sanford’s work is based in contradiction, sexuality, and the desire for the unattainable or inaccessible. He crafts forms that reference an intimate moment, heightening tension through the recreation of male longing from a quickly deteriorating image or memory.

This is exemplified in his sculpture “Brandi, won’t you?” a work that won him an Outstanding Achievement in Sculpture Award, given by the International Sculpture Center. In “Brandi…,” supple, red vinyl and a contorted chair suggest the flesh and curvature of a woman’s body. The piece confronts the viewer unabashedly, forcing us to measure the material Sanford uses against form he creates, and interrogate our reaction to the piece as a whole. This often means going back in time, tracing our own memories and experiences, and recreating them as we attempt to understand them.

This tension found in the process of remembering is made plain in an artist statement Sanford wrote for a 2012 exhibition:

Functioning on multiple levels simultaneously, an artwork may be about a particular memory, while addressing the act of remembering; the need for that memory; a critique of the memory; and how that memory evolved through time. Purposely conflicted, the work is the physical manifestation of a psychological process trying to make sense of itself: fraught with anxiety, exotic and yet familiar, present while ephemeral.

In his sculptural installation “Don’t let go for the world”, a chain link fence curves in front of a projection of a dusky cityscape just after sunset. The video is shot from a “make-out” spot overlooking Troy, NY. A lace silhouette is cast from above, intermingling the scene with a hint of seduction. The cooly lit installation evokes the sense of an ending and loneliness. The title sharpens the scene- it’s borrowed from a song titled “Chain Link Fence,” which tells the story of a summer flirtation cut short.

Like so many other songs that recall fleeting, summer love, the scene is set in parks, cars, and fast food restaurants, and told from the perspective of an older narrator, one who looks back with longing: “Well she’s sitting right there on the chain link fence/ She’s down at the park with the rest of her friends/ And she looks so pretty but she’s only sixteen/ Didn’t know that when she smiled at me”. In the end, the song seems to be less about the particular girl, but rather about the cool desolation that descends once the flirtation and the warm weather are gone.

I had the chance to catch up with Sanford in the last week, and ask him some questions about “Oobie boobie…,” and his artistic practice.

When you’re making sculpture, what is your creative process like? What path does your work take between the inkling of an idea and finished project?

The process always starts with the form, usually as a sketch, a doodle really. From there I typical choose a material; steel, wood, foam, etc. and turn that original sketch into 3-dimensions. I am not much of a draftsman but I do understand how my hastily made two-dimensional lines should translate into form. I will often photograph the object in process and draw on the printout to realize the object in the round. I use the technical process of creating the form as an opportunity to allow my mind to question and answer, “why is this form worthy of being created?” and “what’s it about?” these question don’t always get answered directly, but more often provide clues as to what materials the piece is asking for. Sometimes, at this point, there are no answers and that is when I know it’s time to start over. But, when the form and materials start to jive there is usually a moment- the kind of moment you live for as an artist- where it all comes together and I’m like, “Oh, shit! Of course it was always going to be…”

What inspired your project at Franconia this summer? How does it relate to your past work?

An unexpected pregnancy of a recent ex-girlfriend. You can’t make art without having the powerful emotional events of everyday life seeping their way in. I struggled with the contradictory feelings of both wanting something and the realization that those desire were ridiculous. I think most of my work directly relates to contradiction, sex, and humor. Oobie boobie double loobie, ollies are hard shred the gnar is no exception, a skateboard bowl you can’t skate, an above-ground-pool you can’t swim in, and a giant boob with no sex appeal, but possessing a nipple that can’t go untouched. All of which being fictitious versions of themselves.

Why did you propose your project to Franconia and what did the experience of working here offer you?

Space, freedom and support. By support I mean access to equipment, but also money and expertise in acquiring materials or resolving some of the complex logistical issues that arise with the creation and display of large-scale public art. The chance to create an ambitious piece of art and have it displayed for the public is a tremendous gift. Not only that but, it is essential for any artist to leave the solitude of their studio from time to time and interact with fellow artists. It is these interactions and discussions that help work to evolve.

Where did you study and whom did you study with? How have those experiences influenced your own work?

I’ve had the great fortune of having some amazing mentors. At SUNY Albany, I worked with Ed Mayer and Adam Frelin, who provided me with an incredible balance of formal consideration and conceptualization that I try to continue to hold true to. The late Sir Anthony Caro, taught me the invaluable lesson of objectivity, particular pertaining to critically viewing my own work in process without the logistical concerns of production. But without question, my experiences at Bennington College with Jon Isherwood have been my greatest influence. Jon taught me how to see with my hands, be uninhibited, and work like a dog to make things that are meaningful to me as the first viewer of my work.

Who (or what) are your greatest inspirations as an artist?

Stupid question (make sure you say I thought this is a dumb question). Everything. Rodin, reality TV, Braque, Urs Fischer, Duchamp, Al Green, Nikola Tesla , neuroscience, porn, Radio Lab, Dub Step. Any new ways of seeing, thinking, questioning, anything that sucks you in and won’t let go.

Bonus Question: What do you consider the most important work of art in the world?

Another terrible question, who am I to judge. Clearly Duchamp’s urinal opened a door never to be closed by providing artist with permission to remove their hand. Cezanne, Picasso, and Braque offer new ways of understanding how we see. As corny as it sounds, and I am not one for corny, I think the most important work of art in the world right now is probably one I haven’t seen yet. One still in someone’s studio. Because I believe it’s an ever rising bar and one that, as artist, we are always aspiring to. Otherwise what’s the point? Right?

Thanks for your candidness, Sanford, and congratulations!

Q and A with 2013 FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artist Hong-An Truong

Posted on 25 November 2013 | No responses

FSP/ Jerome fellowship Artist Hong-An is based in Brooklyn, NY and completed her second large-scale sculpture “All that is Solid Melts Into Air (or, Making Ourselves at Home in this Modern World)” this summer at Franconia Sculpture Park. Truong received her BA from the University of Arizona and her MFA from the University of California Irvine, where she trained in photography and video.

Hong-An’s work often questions the presentation of historical narratives. Through the juxtaposition of different appropriated texts, sounds, images, objects, and archival materials, she reveals the often subjective nature of these narratives, widening and problematizing the frame through which we see and understand history.

This approach is exemplified in her sculptural and sonic installation “To Speak a Language” shown at Agape Enterprise in Brooklyn, NY, in 2012 and at Socrates Sculpture Park this summer. In this piece, Hong-An points to the ways in which language and ideology leave their indelible mark on the lives of the colonized. “To Speak…” takes its title from Franz Fanon’s writings on decolonialization, specifically from this excerpt, which Truong includes in writings about her installation:

“To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture… To speak is to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of civilization.”

The installation consists of two loudspeakers attached to electrical poles, tangled in wires, lying one on top of the other. From the loudspeakers many different voices are heard; a song sung by French Legion soldiers occupying Vietnam during the 1950s, Vietnamese Catholic chanting, and an American pop song popular in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. In their lifetime, these loudspeakers espoused the ideologies and languages of the French Colonial Empire, the American Military, and the Vietnamese communist government. The installation also includes a neon sign that reads “trở nên,” a Vietnamese word that can be translated to mean “becoming” or “to become”.

“To Speak a Language” is a good entry point for thinking about “All that is Solid Melts Into Air (or, Making Ourselves at Home in this Modern World)”. Again, the focal point of the piece is an object with a history, one in which several different languages, cultures, and power structures collide. Encountering “All that is Solid…” in the Franconia Sculpture Park is an uncanny experience, for the star of the show, the xích lô, a Vietnamese passenger vehicle, seems out of place. It stands on a stage-like structure, flanked by pieces of the shipping container that brought it to the Park. It’s as if the shipping container fell open upon arrival to reveal its cargo. The viewer is at once implicated in a kind of performance, the discoverer of a strange object detached from its context.

With help from an audio recording installed in the sculpture, the viewer is introduced to the complex existence of the xích lô. Hong-An tells a story that intertwines drivers and riders of the xích lô, and reflects on the charged colonial history in which the vehicle is enmeshed. She traces the origin of the word itself and describes the journey she made to find and purchase the vehicle.

This week, I was lucky enough to talk with Hong-An about about her artistic practice and process, her experience at Franconia Sculpture park this summer, and the evolution of her piece “All that is Solid…”

When you’re making sculpture, what is your creative process like? What path does your work take between the inkling of an idea and finished project?

I am not a trained sculptor and so I have a huge learning curve in terms of actually building and making the things I want to make. My formal training is in photography and video, and my process is research-based. So when I start thinking through a project, I read a lot and take notes and I start to sketch and formulate what I think I want it to look like. This process is actually when the project can change quite a bit. But because of the nature of my work, once I make certain decisions about the concept and framework and content, then it doesn’t change much from that point. So after I figure out that part, then I have to research and learn how to make it! So this project at Franconia is only the second time I’ve done a project in this manner, where I have created an object or fabricated something. Typically I work in multi-channel video installation and so the most I do is build a wall or a screen. So in these two cases where I’ve made sculptural installations – both of which now have been sound installations – I have had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to fabricate or build. The other part of my process is creating the sound, which is based on the research I conducted. Writing the script for this piece at Franconia went fairly quickly once I figured out the tone I wanted to hit, and then it was a matter or recording and editing, which can be a rather long process but I also love this part too, and there’s a lot that can change with the sound once I start editing.

What inspired your project at Franconia this summer?

A Vietnamese restaurant in Long Island City in New York, about a 15-minute bike ride from where I live, opened up a little over a year ago. The name of the restaurant is Cyclo, and on the sign for the restaurant is a little cartoonish drawing of a cyclo. When I saw this restaurant I was just thinking about the word cyclo and the way in which the word is delinked from the actual object of the cyclo in the context of American culture, which then kind of effaces the real economic, labor, and historical context of the cyclo and their drivers. The word cyclo is the English language word for the word in Vietnamese, which is xích lô. So even though they sound the same, it is a different word. When I did some research, I found that there are quite a few Asian or Vietnamese restaurants with the name Cyclo. So I was inspired to imagine what it would be like to bring a xich lo to the U.S. – what it would actually do to have the object here, and to put that in play in relationship to what we don’t know and what we think about when we think about the word cyclo.

Why did you propose your project to Franconia and what did the experience of working here offer you?

I had a couple of friends who had done a residency before at Franconia, so I came to learn about it through them. When I saw photos of the park and its landscape, I thought it would be the perfect anachronistic backdrop to my installation. That it would feel out of place was exactly the tone I was going for; I wanted to create a strange encounter with this kind of historical, kind of quasi anthropological / tourist narrative with this foreign object in the middle of the flat Midwestern landscape.

What other residencies have you done, and how do those experiences compare to your time at Franconia?

This past summer I also did a fellowship residency –at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York. We didn’t live there though so it was really different. And a long time ago I did a couple of photography specific residencies, one at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in upstate New York, and at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. They were both so different because it really was more like a retreat, where you had your own room and just worked on your own. There was some scheduled activities with other residents at CPW but other than that it was very solitary. The same with the Visual Studies Workshop. Franconia was really unique to me because of the communal living situation, and because it really felt like this community. It felt really immersive, really intense.

Where did you study and who did you study with? How have those experiences influenced your own work?

Before I went to graduate school I had an amazing mentor when I worked at this place called the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, which was the job I had after my undergrad studies. There I met and studied with Deborah Willis, who is an amazing photographer, scholar, and photo historian – she’s been at NYU Tisch School of the Arts for some time now – and she’s continued to be an amazing influence and inspiration to me. I did my MFA at the University of California at Irvine and I studied with amazing artists and scholars, including Simon Leung, Juli Carson, Bruce Yonemoto, Yvonne Rainer, and Yong Soon Min. I am drawn to the social and political aspects of art. And studying at UCI really gave me a strong theoretical and political foundation for my work.

Who (or what) are your greatest inspirations as an artist?

That’s a hard question. But I think I would have to say my parents. I’m inspired by history, by political and social events through which we come to understand the world and our place in it, and all of that is shaped by my own experiences and subject position. So that is really what drives me as an artist. Of course I am inspired by lots of amazing art and artists, but what sparks me is continually questioning the world and how we come to know it through our experiences.

Thanks Hong-An!

Check back soon for more interviews with our 2013 Fellowship Artists!

Q and A with 2013 FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artist Peter Martin Morales

Posted on 28 October 2013 | No responses

FSP/Jerome Fellow Peter Martin Morales from St. Paul, is working on his first fabricated-steel sculpture “Eggsail Saga” to install at Franconia Sculpture Park. The sculpture is composed of three distinct pieces; a boat, modeled after Viking ships, an enormous, antlered egg, and a large stone on which the first two sit. Like Alex Lindsay, the Fellowship artist featured in the most recent blog post, Peter has been in residence at the park this summer and fall, working along side other FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artists, Open Studio Artists, Hot Metal Artists and Intern Artists.

Peter was born in Guatemala, the son of two archeologists, and raised amidst tropical rainforests and Maya city ruins. His sculptures and public works shown in and around the Twin Cities, are evidence of his interest in storytelling and zoomorphic forms, influences born from his childhood in Guatemala, and furthered through a BA in Science, and an MA in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics. He also cites pop culture icons such as Mickey Mouse and the science fiction genre as sources of inspiration.

Morales is constantly tangling and untangling language and culture in his work, creating an idiolect, or a unique language patterned by a conflation of familiar forms, embellished or altered by his own imagination.

The following sculpture “Water of the Doodem Spirits” was commissioned by the city of Minneapolis to celebrate the abundance of clean drinking water in the city. It is located in the American Indian Cultural Corridor of Minneapolis, and references the Native and Meso-American stories of Turtle Island. Some versions of the story recall North America emerging out of the ocean like a turtle surfacing. The Raven in Morales’ sculpture is a reference to Ojibwe origin stories, and signifies a watchful eye, a guardian that makes sure the water spouting from the turtle’s mouth is used consciously.

Meanwhile “El Duende Transibereano” or the Transiberan Gnome evokes a different visual language entirely. The antlers of the gnome sharpen in to hatchets, animating a tool-like form. It recalls cold climates and Eurasian roots.

In a recent conversation, I was able to talk with Peter about his artistic process, his experiences at Franconia, his current project, and how this piece relates to his body of work.

Q: When you’re making sculpture, what is your creative process like? Do you draw first and then transition in to three dimensions? Do you jump right in?

PMM: I do all of the above. Sometimes its easier to draw, sometimes its easier to jump in and start making things. I use clay or foam to figure out stuff in small scale. I often like to do little trials. For “The Voyage” I made some drawings and then I created a small-scale maquette, I battled with several versions until I figured out how I was going to proceed. Once I started making the full scale ship I had a pretty good idea of how I was going to get the shapes I wanted. I still had to figure out how everything was going to be attached and all but I was able to pare down to essentials and not overwhelm the piece with all kinds of extraneous material. As far as the overall shape, there were some problem transition areas that I was totally aware of going into it and so I knew where I had to really push it and where I had to step back and let things come. I used a lot of templates. There are advantages and disadvantages to using templates. They allow you to work faster but they also hem you in. Most of the templates were made to scale but some of the initial work was done with templates that were scaled up. I would do that differently, I would not depend so blindly on the scaled up ones, I would use them as a point of departure but spend more time getting the lines that I needed at scale and not just go with whatever I derived from a smaller scale.

Q: What inspired your current project?

PMM: Viking boats have these dragon heads on them and I always like to make objects that are animated by reference to a fantastic creature of some sort. Also the boat is a vessel that can be used to convey and contain whatever. I thought it was fun to spend so much time on what is the frame for the central figure – the egg. The egg is not as complex, it is simple, contained —a vessel itself— but suggestive of possibilities. This is obviously a birth boat. The egg is antlered because it is coming into a world fraught with nuttiness and needs all the help it can muster. My partner and I are expecting a child sometime after the winter solstice, I guess that was on my mind.

Q: How does “Eggsail Saga” relate to the rest of your body of work?

PMM: There is the continued interest in animating objects, here the egg represents a pared version of a lot of works that I have done before and the boat is new opening up possibilities for new types of objects to animate and allowing me to further refine the story-making aspects of my work. Also, I had not worked in fabricated steel as a medium for sculpture and that was great.

Q: Who (or what) are your greatest inspirations as an artist?

PMM: Stories. I consider myself a storyteller manqué. I am still in the process of developing a language.

Q: Why did you propose your project to Franconia and what does this environment offer to your artistic practice?

PMM: Franconia offers opportunities to make large-scale sculptures that are not readily available in the area. I needed financial assistance to purchase materials and the freedom to make whatever I had to make. It would be hard to get this kind of support anywhere else. There were some other, logistical reasons too; I don’t have a welder and I’ve never made a fabricated steel sculpture before. I needed to bounce ideas off other artists and Franconia is the perfect spot to do this. There’s always a great mix of new and returning artists working, sharing ideas and learning. Franconia is my graduate school.

Bonus question: If you could save any sculpture in the history of the world from certain destruction, which one would you choose, and why?

PMM: Sargon the Second’s Five-legged Winged Bull Guys. Sargon was an Assyrian Emperor from sometime back in BCE times. I don’t necessarily agree with his politics (invade, conquer, disperse the tribes, burden the people with debt, have them do amazing sculptures for free to get out from under, etc) but these bulls are freaking awesome! Also, check out the lion cub (?) the other guy is holding.

Q & A with Alex Lindsay, 2013 FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artist

Posted on 21 October 2013 | No responses

Alex Lindsay, an FSP/ Jerome Fellowship Artist from Minnesota, is working on a kinetic multi-media artwork for exhibition at Franconia.  His working title for the project is, “Highway.”  As a Fellowship Artist, Alex has been in-residence at Franconia this year working in our outdoor studio alongside other Fellows and Interns from across the globe.

Alex first became involved with Franconia as an Intern Artist in 2008.  During his internship he produced an interactive sculpture, “Machine for Photographing the Narcissist.“  The project involved a fabricated steel structure with a mechanized wheel that powered a film camera.  A performer running inside the wheel causes the film camera to orbit around the steel wheel and take still images of the performer.  Below are images of a sketch for the project and the work after it was installed for exhibition at Franconia.


A look back at Alex’s work shows that he has a consistent interest in machines, but not machines as you or I may know them. For example, in a work entitled, “Gas Vacuum” (2009), Alex combines a motor and a vacuum to create a high-powered vacuum that confuses our view of domestic household objects. What is supposed to be a task for tidying up the house becomes reminiscent of a destructive outdoor machine meant for chopping, or blowing.

After his internship at Franconia in 2008, Alex was propelled to the graduate program at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where he earned his MFA in 2011.  In graduate school, Alex continued to explore kinetic and mechanized objects and installations.  This video is documentation of “Star” which was shown at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011: Star from Alexander Lindsay on Vimeo.

Last November, Alex had a solo show at Franconia in the City @ Casket, our NE Minneapolis gallery in the Casket Arts Community Complex.  The show, Everyday Objects of Ordinary Life, took over the gallery space by illuminating and activating familiar objects.  ”Le Mans Car and Tire” was the star of the show (image below) taking up nearly have the space.  The work is simultaneously nostalgic and ghostly, making use of a once mechanical object’s skeleton.

Q&A w/Alex:

Q: How did you develop “Highway”? What are your inspirations/motivations?  How does “Highway” relate to your body of work?

A: “Highway” investigates the development of the mid-20th century phenomenon of the American interstate highway system.  This system changed our patterns of mobility and environment forever and it still plays a critical role in the daily life of millions.  With “Highway,” my intent is to reinvent or create a new, non-conventional way of understanding the psychological and emotional significance of freeway travel in our society.

My primary conceptual interest lies in ordinary objects, sites and events and how such things, when investigated, reveal deeper layers of meaning embedded in particular experiences.  Readily recognizable, these things – airplane travel, plastic water bottles, and the Detroit car – are often all but invisible because of their common, ubiquitous presence in our 21st century cultural landscape.  In fact, their cultural meaning is potentially more complex or iconic than the actual object/experience itself.  My installations are intended to free these entities from pre-established hierarch and meaning, opening them up for new investigation and interpretation.

Continuing this artistic practice, “Highway” will focus on the freeway system in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  I will film various highways with a video camera and mirror system attached to a large box-structure that, in turn, will be mounted on a trailer that I will pull behind my truck.  My mixed media installations like “Highway” allow the viewer to construct new or alternative narratives.

Q: How is “Highway” different from your past work?

A: The thing that is the most different is that the work gets to be installed for such a long period of time at Franconia.  This allows me to add a feature to update the video periodically, change or alter the content and provide a new viewing experience for visitors.  I am able to revisit the work for the duration of its exhibition.  ”Highway” is site-specific to the landscape and environment at Franconia.  Other works that I’ve made are able to fit inside any white-box gallery, but this sculpture is meant to be here.

Q: This is your second time in-residence at Franconia, first as an Intern Artist in 2008, and now as a Fellowship Artist this year.  How have the experiences been similar?  Different?

A: The attitude and energy of the park, the ‘you can do anything’ atmosphere is here just as it was in 2008.  I’ve noticed that the park has become more organized and more frequently visited by the public since 5-years ago, which is exciting when I think about how many people will be exposed to my work.  Outside of the funding that fellows get, this place supports everybody, no matter where you are in your career.  As an Intern Artist I felt just as encouraged to develop a big and ambitious project as I am now as a professional working artist.

As an intern I had the idea in my head for more than a year in a half and the opportunity at Franconia allowed me to finally produce it.  Now in my career, my ideas don’t mull around in my head for so long so as I’m working on a project that’s still relatively new, idea-wise, I’m working through concept and technical considerations simultaneously which ties them together with a precision.   I’m more motivated to make a refined product now.  As an Intern Artist, I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that artwork is on exhibit for such a long time and how that has an impact on the artwork that you make.  Rather than approaching it with a “build it, install it, now I’m done” mentality, I’m approaching this work with more consideration and carefulness as to how the sculpture will age, transformation.

I have a number of friends and colleagues who are Franconia Alumni, and we all discuss how high quality the work is that we produced at Franconia.  Even now when I’m looking back at the work I made as an Intern, I consider that one of my most successful sculptures.  This place has a way of lighting fires and bringing out ambition in artists.

Q: How has/will working and exhibiting at Franconia impact your professional career?

A: Being the recipient of the FSP/Jerome Fellowship is an honor and helps to push me into categories of eligibility for other opportunities that will benefit my career in the future.  Working on “Highway” has been a learning experience for me and Franconia gives me the freedom to experiment and adapt along the way.

My brother was living in Eugene, OR for a long time.  He and his wife met a guy out there who recognized my brother’s last name from seeing my sculpture at Franconia the summer before.  That is the perfect example of what an incredible networking opportunity Franconia provides for artists.  This is person half-way across the country, primarily uninvolved in the art-world who knew my work.  Franconia is a gateway for all kinds of people being exposed to the arts and to the work of emerging artists, like myself.  That is an invaluable service that Franconia is providing artists.  Not only for artists, for the public, and for art.

For the project that he’s working on at Franconia during his fellowship, “Highway,” Alex created digitally-rendered sketches that illustrate the soon to be completed artwork.

“Highway” consists of three main elements: a fabricated steel track, the back-end of a box truck, and a projected video.  The back-end of the box truck will be mounted to a fabricated steel unit that is powered by a mechanized gear to move back and forth along the steel track at 1 rotation every 24-hours.  The back door of the box truck will open and close via a garage door opener triggered by a motion sensor.  Visitors to the sculpture will be invited to enter the box truck and view a projected video of highway scenes on a loop.  As visitors are watching the projection inside, the box truck will be moving along the track.  Below are images of the progression of Alex’s project.

To view more of Alex’s work, make sure to visit his website and come out to the park soon to see “Highway” after its installation.  Also, check in on the blog next week to see progress of another Fellowship Artist, Peter Morales, and his quirky, antlered Viking ship.

Gittin’ down to business

Posted on 12 October 2013 | No responses

Most of our events for this season are over, but things are still very busy around the park. We have 4 intern artists and 3 fellowship artists making work out on the pad. We’re getting ready for winter both by preserving veggies and gorging ourselves on pizza. Gotta stay warm somehow!

Becca is currently working on a 20-ft long frame equipped with meat hooks on which to hang a life size pegasus made out of muslin, resin, and cheesecloth. She says she was partially inspired by North Korea’s choice to make the Chollima, a magical horse similar to Pegasus, their national animal. Sounds eerie, grizzly, and beautiful.

Sierra is in the process of casting her iron molds. She’s also cast a small pregnant man from a clay model she made, and plans to throw him in to the mix for her final sculpture. She hopes to build a tall cylinder that encompasses the viewer made entirely from her cast irons.

Sutton is busy working on some curved, wooden, umbrella-like elements to add to his play-structure sculpture, that he hopes will compliment its rectilinear nature. These sections will be made of laminated sections of wood, lashed together almost like a basket. Here he is forming the individual sections on a 1/4 circle jig.

Tina is hard at work drilling holes in her glass bottle collection in order to wire them to chain link fence. She’s getting ready to move out to the park and work on site, where the bottles will perhaps take the form of text woven in to the fencing.

Jerome Fellowship artist Peter Morales has begun carving the stone on which his Eggonaboat will sit. Here he is giving me a demo of the different kinds of stone carving bits he uses.

In typical Peter fashion, he has now decided to make the egg’s antlers slightly bigger and curvier, perhaps branching off in to another point.

Jerome Fellowship artist and, get this, doctor of Neuroscience, Pablo Garcia Lopez has moved his disembodied head and foot outside, and is currently working on the accompanying disembodied chest. The body parts have sprouted tubing and foamy innards, and will eventually spurt water. In other news, Pablo and his wife Virginia make a mean paella. I had photographic evidence, but I ate that too.

Jerome Fellowship artist Alex Lindsay has since finished the trolley he is pictured with. His box truck will soon sit on top of it while it moves up and down its track on an I-beam. He plans to project different videos and images on the inside walls of the box truck, as well. Here’s a video of the many different moving parts of his sculpture here.

In addition to art-making, we’re also staying busy getting ready for the cold weather. We’ve brought our herbs inside to live on our newly made potted plant shelves, courtesy of Hugh Condrey Bryant. In general, we’re organizing our potted plants so things feel more lush, green, and tropical come winter.

I’m trying to get a hoop house up in the next week or so for winter greens, but we do have some new lettuces popping up right now!

We’ve also been preserving the surplus veggies we get from our farm work-share partners Tiny Planet and Foxtail Farm. We send them 2 intern artists every other week in exchange for a CSA share during the summer, and boy do they spoil us. We have enough kimchi to last us all winter!

I’ll close this blog post with a gif I recorded last night, which was pizza night. It’s an homage to one of the most ridiculous videos on you tube.

The 17th Annual Art and Artists Celebration: Rain, Iron, Music, and Glow Sticks

Posted on 29 September 2013 | No responses

All week we watched the weather, and all week we knew it would rain, but we knew that the 17th Annual Art and Artists Celebration had to happen, rain, shine, or blizzard.

Luckily, it didn’t blizzard! That’s how we stay positive around here ; ) Although it rained for a good portion of the day, our original schedule did not change very much. We had bands, an iron pour, music, fun, and an interpretive walking/dance performance involving glow sticks.

The first band, Perennial, showed up during the heaviest part of the storm, and although they weren’t able to do their full set as planned, band member Josh Younggren played a solo act, Superstructure, on our front porch.

The rave-like set boomed out across the park while other activities, like face painting, carried on. Jane Meyer, a volunteer and friend of the park, enjoys food from the food truck while participating in face painting.

Other volunteers, like Toni Rad, showed up in bright colors to contrast the dark weather outside.

The iron pour and iron artists used the fires of their furnace to keep warm.

Alison Anderson Holland led her first performance of the day at around 4, with T-Shirts saying, “Walk This Way.”

Other artists of a different medium showed up to paint.

As the night went on, the porch served as a great stage for musical performances, following the trend of Superstructure earlier.

Then things got weird, wouldn’t you say?

A neon glow illuminated the park for the rest of the night as Alison led her second performance out to Mike Rathbun’s “Parade.”

Rain date? Psh, who needs it?!

Come Celebrate Franconia’s 17th Year

Posted on 17 September 2013 | No responses

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cold, and Franconia is getting ready to celebrate another round of our biggest event of the year, the 17th Annual Art and Artists Celebration on Saturday, September 28.

So what will we be celebrating this year? “Art and artists” is kind of a broad category. Let’s start with the lineup of talented musicians, actors, and performers that will be performing here this year in the Earthen Amphitheater (featuring St. Croix Falls legend Bradley Foss as MC).

12:00 Perennial

This band of recent college grads hails from the Twin Cities, although the band members met in Appleton, WI. They will set the tone for the day with an ambient electronic set.

1:30 Cattail Moon Band

Formerly known as Cattail String Band and Dogtail Moon is an acoustic musical group of five very diverse seingers, songwriters, and musicians that promise an “acoustic revival” in their set.

3:00 Randy the Frog Guy

If you are from the St. Croix Falls area you have probably heard of Randy the Frog Guy before, but for those of you who haven’t, Randy Korb is the frog master of the region. His amphibian presentations feature live frogs and excited kids who learn about animal concepts such as habitats, hibernation, predator/prey, the life cycle, and body structures.

3:30 Scalded Hounds

Another local band that frequents the Dalles House in St. Croix Falls, Scalded Hounds are self-described as an electric hillbilly punk folk metal band. They play a mixture of their own songs and rockin’ covers.

5:00 Festival Theater Performance

We will probably all be exhausted after headbanging to Scalded Hounds’ set, so Festival Theater will offer a nice break with a performance featuring this summer’s members of the theater.

6:00 International Reggae All Stars

With band members hailing from Venezuela to Trinidad, and Ghana to Kingston Jamaica, the International REggae All Stars are truly a global band that play reggae, dancehall and all the Bob Marley classics, and bring peace, love and positive vibrations with them wherever they go.

8:00 The Undergroove

Another Minneapolis band, The Undergroove will provide us with fresh, funky grooves with a smooth alternative twist. If you desire tasty original music with the occasional obscure cover, The Undergroove will surely delight you.

But wait! Music isn’t the only thing we will be having this year. Throughout the day, we will be having more fun activities such as:

9:30 Yoga with Lexy Dally

11:00 Yoga with Lexy Dally

2:30 Guided tour of new sculptures

12:00-6:00 Creative writing workshop at the Poetry Studio

12:00-4:00 Iron Pour and Scratch Block Workshop on the Work Pad

10:00-6:00 Family activity tent: face painting, spin art, bubbles

11:00-4:00 Public Art St. Paul SPIDER art-making activities

4:45 Poetry reading: Dale Cox, Ed Emerson, and Franconia poets

5:00 Guided tour of new sculptures

PLUS Family activities with National Park Service staff, button-making with the St. Croix Falls Public Library, sculpture hunt, grafitti art demonstration, dance performances, and more!

The guided tours will be featuring new work from artists such as

Adam McGee-Abe, UK

Jay McDonald and Robyn Hasty, NYC

Kevin Dartt, NY

Julie Nagle, NYC

Hong-An Truong, NC

Anders Neinstaedt, MI

Saya Woolfalk, NYC

Freya Gabie, UK

Hilary Mussell, CAN

We hope to see you all there for the immense varieties of art, sculpture, food, music, and fun on Saturday, September 28. Until then, stay warm, and enjoy the changing colors of the leaves in the St. Croix River Valley.

New Intern Artists, skinning squirrels, and dead whoopie cushions

Posted on 11 September 2013 | No responses

One of the best things about Franconia Sculpture Park…

…is the ever-changing cast of characters that pass through our artist residency and intern artist fellowship programs. This week on the Franconia blog you’ll meet the four new fall interns. Sierra, Sutton, Rebecca, and Tina have been here about 3 weeks, and we’ve already celebrated two birthday, skinned a squirrels and snakes, purchased, overused and broken a whoopie cushion, had several dance parties, and are planning a Pirate Parade. We’ve also got a new Assistant Park Manager, Hugh Condrey Bryant, an intern from spring 2013, and a new Program Assistant, Claire Barber, (that’s me), an intern from summer 2012. In the coming months, I’ll be alternating blog posts with our lovely administrative intern Rachele Krivichi.

pfffffttttt…RIP whoopie

Rachel cheesin’ by the blacklight during her birthday dance party

Carissa, Hugh, and Sutton testing one of our vessels for the Pirate Parade.

Jason shows off his new snakeskin.

Squirrel and surgeons post-op.

The time I got stuck in a bathtub at Menards.

And now for the interns…

Sierra Rose Rasco comes to us from Plattsburgh, NY, just south of the Canadian boarder. She attended SUNY Plattsburgh, where she received a BFA Sculptin’ and Ceramics.

Park Manager Jason and Sierra listen up during critique.

Sutton Demlong hails from Tempe, AZ, where he attended Arizona State University and recieved his BFA in Sculpture as well.

Sutton works on a small inflatable maquette.

Tina Cooper was born and raised in Waterbury, CT and attended Bennington College where she recieved a BA in Sculpture and Set Design.

We took Tina on a waterfall adventure for her birthday!

Finally, Rebecca Hoffman was born in South Korea, but raised in the Twin Cities. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with BFA in Sculpture.

Becca getting foamy with Jerome Fellowship Artist Pablo Garcia Lopez’s sculpture.

To get to know our interns a little better, I asked them a few questions.

Q: What’s your favorite sculpture you’ve ever made? What was the most recent sculpture you made?
Sierra: The last sculpture I made was a cast concrete slab 5’x2’x6’’ with an iron cast of a baby doll, face down, trapped within the slab. My favorite piece I’ve made thus far is a steel fabricated laundry basket filled with raw eggs. The piece was created to represent the struggles women are still burdened with today.
Sutton: My most recent sculpture is an interactive, mechanical piece that represents the silliness of indecision. It is currently installed at Salem Art Works.
Tina: My last sculpture included an 8′ long plaster and burlap “display case” containing about 40 porcelain slip casted pill bottle hybrids. This is also my favorite sculpture.
Rebbeca: Full scale plastic bag parachute and my toolbox.

What’s your spirit tool?
Sierra: Screw gun.
Sutton: Combination square.
Tina: Table saw.
Rebecca: Box knife.

Most inspirational artist?
Sierra: Janine Antoni has been the most influential artist for me and my work. I respect her process and dedication she has when conveying an idea.
Sutton: Louise Bourgeois.
Tina: John Umphlett.
Rebecca: Yves Klein and my professors.

Favorite reading material while on the throne?
Sierra: …I check my email with my phone…
Sutton: Usually I just stare mindlessly at Facebook on my phone or read the news.
Tina: Newspaper.
Rebecca: The Sun Literary Magazine.

Favorite thing you’ve done since you arrived at the park?
Sierra: Being a teacher at Kids Make Sculpture.
Sutton: Swimming in the river.
Tina: Skinning a squirrel with Carissa.
Rebecca: Helping other artists and sit-down meals.

That’s all for now!

Meet the Fellowship Artists

Posted on 1 September 2013 | No responses

Have you visited the park recently and noticed the smell of hay wafting over the exhibit? Or have you noticed a strange trail of white foam leading from the public bathrooms to the house? These are the signs that our current fellowship artists are making new art. Read on to find out more about them (and solve the mystery of the trail of foam).

JAY ROTH (Here on behalf of SAYA WOOLFALK)

Jay is here making a piece for Saya Woolfalk. He is from Syracuse, NY. He says his experience at Franconia has been wonderful. He is learning a lot about how an artist residency should run properly. He has also learned a lot about cooking food. He says the most influential artists to him are Richard Hunt, Roxy Pane, and James Turrell. After Franconia he will be going to Gilbertsville, NY. His dream is to one day have a place similar to Franconia. The pic above is a pic of Saya’s almost completed piece. High five to Jay for being the executor of Saya’s piece. To read more about Saya’s work, click this link to read an interview Saya did in 2012 with the Montclair Art Museum.

PABLO LOPEZ (Here on behalf of himself-and foam)

Pablo is from Madrid, Spain, but has lived in New York for about five years. His experience at Franconia has been very positive. He has enjoyed engaging with the community of artists and interns and would like to give a special shout-out to the interns (like the foam-covered Rebecca, above) for all the help that they have given him (there will be a post on the interns next week!). Like Jay, Pablo has enjoyed our excellent selection of food, and has also enjoyed the natural environment in the St. Croix Valley. His art has been influenced by the musician John Zorn. After Franconia he will go back to New York to return to teaching at the School of Visual Arts.


Robyn and J are both from Brooklyn. They say that their experience at Franconia has been very tiring, but very good. They ALSO think that the food is very good (that is a picture of them eating our food). J says he is influenced by the Dogon people of Africa, while Robyn is influenced by Sally Mann. After Franconia, J and Robyn will part while Robyn goes to Nebraska to do a residency at Art Farm, and J goes to The McColl Center for Visual Arts in North Carolina to also complete a residency.

PETER MORALES (Who the heck is this guy?)

Peter wasn’t around to comment because he was busy watching Cat Videos at the Walker Art Center. Click this link to see an interview that Peter did in May for Minnesota Original.

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