In the past few years, the American Swedish Institute has presented several exhibitions by living Swedish artists including watercolorist Lars Lerin, celebrity chef and photographer Magnus Nilsson and photographer Magnus Wennman. Its current show, “Still Life: Karin Broos,” is the first North American exhibition by an important artist born in Uppsala, trained in Holland and living in Värmland, a county in west central Sweden. Broos works in oil and acrylic and is usually described as a photorealistic painter, though her paintings appear almost photo-hyper-realistic, as if seen through an Instagram filter. The colors are especially vibrant, the details super-sharp. Broos is very good with light and water, and light on water, and reflections on water.
The 55 paintings on display at ASI were created from 2011 to the present. Many are being shown in public for the first time. Most are of young women, often in or near water; some are of children. Like all exhibitions at ASI that don’t fit entirely within the Osher Gallery in the Nelson Cultural Center, “Still Life: Karin Broos” starts there, then moves into the Turnblad Mansion and spreads out through several rooms on three floors. It becomes more like an art collection in a grand private home than an exhibition. You don’t know what you’ll find when you turn a corner or climb a set of stairs.
Although many of Broos’ paintings seem peaceful and relaxed – small, ordinary moments caught in time – there’s melancholy in her work, and loneliness, and darkness. A series of hospital paintings trace back to when Broos underwent several surgeries for a detached retina; she had waited so long to be treated that she nearly lost her sight. There are many paintings of her daughter, filmmaker Sara Broos; the two have a complicated relationship. There’s one of a young boy clutching a stuffed cat and staring at a computer screen. We can’t see what he sees, but the look on his face is disturbing. Fear or dread?
When “Still Life” opened in mid-July, Broos was in Minneapolis and gave a few artist-led tours. Here’s a selection of her comments from one of those tours.
On painting children: “When my own children were small, I never painted children. I found it a little bit banal. I wasn’t interested in children in that way because I wanted faces where you could see tracks of life. But when I had grandchildren, I looked at children in another way, because then you can see how the genes come back. When you look in a mirror, you can see your own mother in the mirror.”
On water: “Water means a lot to me. I live in the countryside, in the forest, in nature. When I feel very low and down, it feels good to throw myself into cold water. At the same time, I’m very scared of water, because it is close to life and death. … My best friend was drowned. That is always in my mind.”
On her work: “It’s very much about contradictions. The first time you see it, you think it is very idealistic. But when you feel the most happy, you’re also close to the other way around. The more happy you feel, the more aware you are that happiness can change to something else.”
As part of its mission to engage with its diverse local community, ASI invited Minnesota artist Dakota Hoska (Oglala Lakhota) to share her reactions to Broos’ work for its Writers Residency Program. Hoska invited Colleen Casey (Bdewakanton Dakhota and European America), Maryam Marne Zafar (Lenape-African American-European American) and Marcie Rendon (Anishinabe) to add their own reflections. Their writings are printed on extended labels in the Turnblad Mansion.
“Still Life: Karin Broos” is on view at the American Swedish Institute through Oct. 29. Included with admission ($10/7/5). ASI is offering three “Cocktails and Canapes” evening tours led by longtime curator Curt Pederson on Aug. 22, Sept. 19 and Oct. 24; register here.
Now at the George Latimer Central Library: “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: A Photo Exhibit of Refugees and Their Stories.” What if you were forced to leave home, in fear for your life? From documentary artist James A. Bowey, this exhibition combines his portrait photography with the words of refugees in Minnesota. “One of the most difficult things a person ever does is to truly see another,” Bowey wrote in his artist statement. “But if we really look at someone and consider their story, we discover the shared humanity that links us all. That is the hope for this work: to find ourselves in each other.” In the Bremer Community Room. Note the hours: Mondays 4:30-7:30 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturdays 1:30-4:30 p.m. Free. Through Aug. 31. If you can’t make it to the show, here’s the website.
Tonight (Friday, Aug. 11) through Sunday on Harriet Island: Irish Fair. Three days of music and dance on five stages, plus food, social dancing and sheep herding. With the Tim Malloys, Brian Boru Pipe Band, Wee Banjo, The Belfast Cowboys, Eileen Ivers, Katie McMahon and more. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket. Friday 3-11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. FMI. Free admission.
Sunday at the Dakota: Irv Williams’ 98th Birthday. The Dakota is calling him “the oldest active jazz artist in the country.” There are other nonagenarians and near-nonagenarians out there, but Mr. Smooth might be the only one two years shy of 100. He still plays beautifully, with heart and soul. With Adi Yeshaya on piano, Steve Blons on guitar, Steve Pikal on bass, Gary Gauger on drums and special guests TBA. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15). Here’s a story Boyd Huppert did for KARE 11 for Williams’ 96th.
Monday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: National Theatre Live: “Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches.” The new staging of Tony Kushner’s blockbuster two-part play about the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s, during the Reagan administration. Directed by Marianne Elliott (“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “War Horse”), with Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, James McArdle and Russell Tovey. 7 p.m. Also Aug. 16 and 19 at 1 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20; $14 Tuesdays). Part 2: Perestroika screens Aug. 21 at 7 p.m., Aug. 23 and 26 at 1 p.m. FMI and tickets.
Monday and Tuesday at Crooners: Bob Rockwell Quartet Featuring David Hazeltine. Plus Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst. For two nights, the Artists’ Quarter, which closed on January 1, 2014, will be reborn in the Dunsmore Room at Crooners. Rockwell and former AQ owner Kenny Horst go way back. In Rockwell’s words: “Kenny met me when I was 19. We lived in the same building. Later, when I was 22, Kenny gave me my first jazz gig.” Rockwell has lived in Denmark since 1983. New York-based pianist Hazeltine is one of the greats. Add Peterson on bass, Horst on drums and it’s old home week. Two sets, both nights, at 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets (7 p.m show $25, 9 p.m. $15; 7 p.m. dinner show $50).
Tuesday at the Edina Barnes & Noble: Imbolo Mbue. Oprah’s latest Book Club author is a native of Cameroon who grew up loving books, came to the U.S. for college (Rutgers and Columbia), and was moved to start writing after reading Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” a 1996 Oprah’s Book Club pick. Mbue’s debut novel, “Behold the Dreamers,” was a 2016 New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book and won the PEN/Faulkner Award. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30).