by Juleana Enright
From the respected and revered Frida Kahlo, Calamity Jane and Julia Child to bad-asses Tank Girl, Dana Scully and Barbarella, ladies of reality and fantasy have been blowing our minds since the dawn of time. This weekend, Light Grey Art Lab – Whittier’s innovative new art gallery – pays homage to a few of their favorite broads with a collaborative exhibit, GIRLS: Fact + Fiction, which includes work from over 100 artists both locally and across the world.
Alongside the exhibit, Light Grey and the artists are offering an illustrated art book featuring portraits from the show. For a mere $25, it’s quite the steal, not to mention recently listed at one of the best holiday gifts under $50 by Vita.mn.
I caught up with Light Grey owner Lindsay Nohl to chat about their latest exhibit, pieces she’s most excited about and what’s in store for the gallery in 2013.
l’étoile: For the exhibition, the art lab will be separated in two rooms, one celebrating the fictional ladies and the other displaying familiar ladies of factuality. Are there any representations you’re especially excited by?
Nohl: I think the biggest surprise was the really nice mix of styles. For example, representational (but still expressive) portraiture sits right alongside graphic, stylized works. One piece I’m really excited about is “Erykah Badu” by Freddy Carrasco. That piece is painterly, expressive, raw and vibrant. I just love the way he painted her lips. Her pose is alert, powerful. She’s such a stunning woman and his piece is a great celebration of who she is.
It’s fun to see a piece like Freddy’s near Naomi Elliot’s “Mabel Stark,” the tiger tamer from the 1920s Ringling Brothers/ Barnum and Bailey Circus. The piece is very graphic, clean and a lot of fun. It’s clever and quiet. I read a book about Mabel a year or two after college and I was absolutely smitten with her. To see her pop back into my life through the show was such an awesome surprise. I love the way Naomi Elliot treats her in the work. It’s one of my favorites, for sure.
l’étoile: One of the things that sets Light Grey apart from other galleries is that viewers can take away comprehensive image-heavy art books filled with spreads relating to a current or past exhibit. At the Tarot, Mystics and the Occult exhibition, a companion tarot deck (78 cards by 78 artists) was released featuring a 32-page guidebook with artwork from the show. With GIRLS, you’re offering an 80-page, beautifully illustrated art book revealing all 109 portraits from the exhibit. What can you share about the book and how can our readers can snag a copy?
Nohl: I’m so happy we decided to put the book together. This was just one of those projects (like the Light Grey tarot project) that really deserved to be seen as a collection. Each piece is strong on its own, but when you see the group, it’s definitely a statement about how many diverse women have played a part in our lives. It’s the diversity of the people, the time periods, the stories, their backgrounds, and the way they’ve inspired the artists. The funny thing about it is that with the book you’re able to sit down and read about the subjects, but as you look at the subject-to-artist pairing, you really can see a little bit more into the soul of the artists. You get to know them through the ladies they love. A lot of research goes into an artists work – and this is no exception. It’s definitely a content-filled show, in many ways. The book and full-sized giclée prints of all the work in the exhibition are available online in our e-shop and at the gallery through January 4th.
l’étoile: This exhibit marks Light Grey’s end-of-the-year show, what were some of the gallery’s highlights in 2012?
Nohl: Well, being that Light Grey is still a very new facet in the Minneapolis gallery scene, we’re super grateful for everyone who’s turned out to support the shows and the events we’ve held. We opened our doors in mid-March of this year and just kept going at top speed ever since. The Pokemon: Battle Royale exhibition was our second show, ever, with an incredible group show of 151 artists. In June, Meg Hunt, an incredible illustrator and amazing person, visited us for a life-changing weekend workshop called Illustration Bootcamp where she talked shop, coached, demonstrated her process and motivated a group of 18 amazing illustrators. She helped us kick-start out workshop and lecture facet. Without a doubt, a huge highlight of the year has been from working with all of the artists. They are so enthusiastic and supportive of our crazy ideas. They’re also all fantastic people! Our guest curators have been amazing, too – Alyssa Nassner, Bryan Ische, Llew Mejia and Bill Rebholz, Teagan White, Tuesday Bassen, Adam Hoppus and Chris Schons – all of these people stepped up and made really cool things happen this year. We had the pleasure of working with local creatives Andres Guzman, Nancy Carlson and many more guest instructors through our workshops. And on a very personal level I’ve really enjoyed putting together the Expletive Show, the Tarot, Mystics and the Occult show, and, now, the GIRLS show with the help of Jenny Bookler, Chris Hajny and Francesca Buchko. Those guys have been there through the whole thing and totally continue to pull it all together to make Light Grey’s events, workshops and exhibitions happen.
l’étoile: What do you have planned for the approaching year?
We’re looking forward to RESOLVE to MAKE 2013 with Kali Ciesemier – a two day intensive creative workshop in January. We’ve got a whole list of amazing projects coming up including the Message in a Bottle exhibition, which is all about codes, cypers, secrets and hidden elements in work, and Hot Party, a show curated by Jenny Bookler (our gallery manager) that captures the essence of the word “party,” plus a ton of new workshops, lectures, audio recordings and get-togethers around our show topics. Soon, I’ll also be able to share some of the stealthy projects that Chris Hajny, Francesca Buchko, Jenny Bookler and I have been planning for further down the line. But for now we’ve got a lot leading up to our one year anniversary in mid-March, when we’ll turn a year old. I think we’ll definitely be planning a party to celebrate!
The “GIRLS: Fact + Fiction” opening reception is Friday, December 7th from 7-10 pm at Light Grey Art Lab, 118 E 26th St, Suite #101, in Minneapolis. For more information, peep the Facebook invite here and the Light Grey site here, and stay tuned to their blog for the latest on art happenings and upcoming exhibits.