‘WonderWomen’: a must-see at the U

Courtesy of the Katharine E. Nash Gallery
“WonderWomen” is the first must-see exhibition of the year.

“The Habsburgs” won’t arrive at the MIA until February, so we’re calling “WonderWomen” the first must-see exhibition of the year. Opening today at the U’s Katherine E. Nash Gallery, co-sponsored by the Film Society and MCAD, it’s a large group show of work by more than 40 women artists who were inspired by or influenced by comics, animation and/or pop culture.

Paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, photos, sculptures, mixed-media pieces, knitted toys, cartoons, animations, graphic novels, videos, wallpaper and shower curtains explore, as you might expect, a wide variety of topics and issues: gender, identity, race, relationships, power, politics, money, control, emotions, discrimination and beyond. Some works are historical, some are contemporary.

Participating artists include Alison Bechdel, creator of the “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip; internationally known artists Barbara Kruger and Lynn Hershman Leeson; editorial cartoonist Stephanie McMillan; Jackie Ormes, the first African-American woman cartoonist; award-winning historian and writer Trina Robbins; political cartoonist Jen Sorensen; and The Waitresses, a collaborative performance art group. Performance artist Cheri Gaulke’s “Peep Totter Fly” includes several pairs of red high heels in many sizes. You’re invited to find your size and wear a pair while walking around the gallery. You, too, men.

What’s it all about? Gallery director and exhibition co-curator Howard Oransky shared some of his thinking about the show and its intent.

“Women have been appearing in comics, animations and pop culture for quite a while, but most of the stories are coming from the imaginations of men. I wanted to organize an exhibition that would show the experiences of women artists, and their points of view, expressed through these genres … When we use the term ‘art world,’ we think of the artists we read about in the art magazines and see in the museums. Still now, in 2015, they are generally male and usually white. This continues to be a huge problem. In the department of art at the University of Minnesota, over 70 percent of the students are women. …

“I wanted to play around with the notions of what is art, what is craft, what is popular art, and what is high art. I get so tired of people focusing on categories rather than content. I’m not worried if someone makes comics or illustrations … There’s a lot to learn about people’s values, our collective values, how we treat each other and how we exist in the world through popular culture. This show takes a fresh look at some of the things we take for granted.”

“WonderWomen” continues through Saturday, Feb. 14, when it closes with a public reception (7-9 p.m.) and fashion show (9-10 p.m.). Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. This Saturday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m., the gallery will host a panel discussion with participating artists Carolina Borja, Barbara Porwit and Jenny Schmid.

As part of the exhibition, the Film Society is screening animated works by women filmmakers starting tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 21) and ending Monday, Feb. 9. “Nash Gallery Shorts” is a collection of short films curated by the Nash Gallery. “The Works of Suzan Pitt” includes four short films by Pitt, whose surreal, psychological films and paintings have won prizes worldwide. Pitt teaches at the Experimental Animation program at Cal Arts. “Rocks in My Pockets” by Latvian-born artist and filmmaker Signe Baumane is based on true events involving five women in her family, including herself, and their battles with depression and suicide. Do genetics determine who we are? Can we outsmart our own DNA? At the St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. FMI and tickets. Showtimes are staggered; scroll over the times (in red) to see which films are showing when. 

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A new NEA report on the arts,When Going Gets Tough,” notes that “individuals who look for adventure and excitement, and like taking risks, are also significantly more likely to attend the arts.” Unless you’re into free-climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, few things are riskier than going to a standup comedy show. Beyond the basic it-might-be-awesome, it-might-be-a-stinker looms the possibility that you might be in it. Unless you like that sort of thing, don’t sit up front.

Brave New Workshop will bring standup comedy to its ETC Event Space starting this Thursday, Jan. 22. The “Promiscuous Hostility Standup Showcase” (named for BNW founder Dudley Riggs’ motto “Promiscuous Hostility, Positive Neutrality,” which means everything is fair game for skewering and the theater doesn’t play favorites) will feature Minneapolis comedian Chris Maddock (City Pages’ Best Standup, 2014) and other local talent: Mike Lester, Marial Elizabeth, Turner Barrowman, Shannan Paul, Courtney McClean, and Andy Wegleitner. Watch for it every fourth Thursday through May. 824 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis, 8 p.m., $5 cash at the door.

At an Mn Artists event at the Walker last Saturday, “Everywhere Is Local Online,” a panel of experts – Minnesota Playlist’s Alan Berks, communication and media practitioner Julia Nekessa Opoti, U of M art professor Christina Schmid, and the Current’s Andrea Swensson, moderated by Mn Artists’ editor Susanna Schouweiler – discussed what “regional” arts journalism means today, when we’re all a click away. Naturally, one of the topics was whether we should toss “the Midwest” when thinking/talking about ourselves and embrace “the North.” (You can read here about how that got started.)

At first, we were skeptical. Is this just another spin? But now we’re totally for it. “North” feels right. Robust, clear-eyed and purposeful. We are the North! Hear us roar! “Midwest” is mushy, blurry and blah. Video director/producer Kevin Obsatz has joined in with “Cinema of the North,” newly published on Playlist, which spells out why and how to make movies rich in stories, characters and relationships, that look and sound like us. It’s a good read and a rallying cry.

The picks

Today and tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 20) at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis: “The Search for General Tso.” Who was General Tso, and why do we eat his chicken? How did it become America’s comfort food? Director Ian Cheney (“King Corn”) travels from Shanghai to New York to the American Midwest to find answers in this entertaining film about food, immigration, racism, xenophobia, entrepreneurialism, invention, adaptation and assimilation. FMI, trailer and tickets ($5 Tuesdays, $6/$8.50 other days).

Tonight at Studio Z in St. Paul: Zeitgeist: Lowertown Listening Session: Stockhausen’s ‘Mikrophonie.’ ” The new music chamber ensemble launches a monthly happy-hour series with the first of four events featuring music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, the focus of their 5th annual Early Music Festival in April. Tonight’s session is a performance and informal discussion of “Mikrophonie,” a 1960s electro-acoustic work for large amplified gong and six players. With food and beverages available from Golden’s Deli. 5:30 p.m. social hour, 6 p.m. music. FMI and tickets ($10). 

Tomorrow at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis: Minneapolis Art Lending Library January 2015 Lending Hours. Browse the Lending Library’s collection of over 70 original works of art – prints, paintings, drawings, photos, ceramics, sculptures, and more – plus art history books and artists’ monographs. Choose one to take home for two months, for free. (A $5 donation per artwork is suggested.) Be sure to bring a valid photo ID. 5-8 p.m.

Thursday at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis: Jazz in the Target Atrium: David Berkman with the Atrium Jazz Ensemble. Jeremy Walker’s new series at Orchestra Hall continues with the highly respected jazz pianist (and composer, author, educator and bandleader) David Berkman. It’s a rare chance to see this New York-based artist here in the North (OK, that still sounds kind of weird, but give it time). Here he is with his own trio at Kitano in New York in 2011. Berkman will perform with Brandon Wozniak (saxophones), Anthony Cox (bass) and JT Bates (drums). 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

The weekend

Sunday, Jan. 25 at the Saint Paul Hotel: Leigh Kamman Celebration. The much-loved jazz radio host, who died in October at age 92, will be feted in the best possible way: with live performances by many of our top jazz musicians. See the complete performance schedule at KBEM’s website. 4 p.m. until whenever in the Grand Ballroom. Suggested donation $20. 

Save the date

Feb. 14 at Icehouse in Minneapolis: Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson: “Bad for Each Other: A Bent Valentine.” Weary of the usual V-day gigs and mediocre dinners out? Vocalist Hixson and her pianist husband offer what she calls “an alternative: a cynical and snarky celebration of a syrupy Hallmark holiday.” They’ll draw from the Great American Songbook, in which they are expert, but not from the usual pages. “Sometimes people think the Great American Songbook is kind of stuffy,” Hixson says. “It’s not. Think Cole Porter’s ‘Love for Sale.’ Or ‘Miss Otis Regrets.’ ” (In that one, Miss Otis can’t make a lunch date because … well, we won’t spoil the surprise.) Don’t worry, there will be moments of beauty and romance, plus stories about the songs; Hixson is a scholar as well as a singer. “We are definitely not going to be one-faceted,” she said. “Another thing we like to do is take some of the most hackneyed love songs, the ones that are done to death and diluted, and restore them to their former pristine glory.” Like “My Funny Valentine,” for example. You can also expect good food and good service. But don’t wait too long to make that reservation. 6:30-9:30 p.m. 

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