By Jim Duncan
“The Randolph” by Lee Ann Conlan
Outside of literature, autobiographical art
is a hard sell. Louise Bourgeois managed to
insert her life story in sculpture by using
recognizable symbols (like spiders) of her inner
demons thus making the art more universal and
less opaque. It’s even tougher to tell your
life story in flat media such as painting and
printmaking. Still, two local artists defy the
Lee Ann Conlan used to paint large $12,000 canvasses,
with big, Boschian themes like evil and punishment.
She did quite well, selling out shows in the
first half of the last decade. Her latest exhibition
at Thee Eye reveals a swing in her choices of
media and subject matter.
“I went back to school to study graphic arts.
The new technologies are so amazing. You can
work in so many layers of images and words.
I’ve always wanted to do a visual book, so I
made this series (of digital collage prints),”
she explained of a slick $40, 70-page book of
prints that mostly sell for $30 to $60 each.
“It’s another time now economically. People
don’t need art like they need food and shelter.
It’s one of the first things they cut out of
their budget. I want my art to be in more homes,
so I became more accessible,” she said.
The dominant series (Souvenirs) in her new show
is painfully autobiographical, like a diary
of a lifetime of absorbed cruelties. “Actually,
it was all just one guy, (depicted here as “Little
Man” and “Dirte”). Fear becomes anger, and anger
has to end with humor if you want to get through
it all,” she explained.
Her titles explained a lot. “Nobody likes you.
They only pretend to like you because you hang
out with me.” “You’re fucking me and kissing
my tears.” “I’d like to grab you by the hair
and sell you to the devil.” “I was in shock
that you could hate me in a matter of days.
I already hated you.” One piece told how that
abusive relationship ended, depicting an SUV,
via Google Earth, in the parking lot of the
Lumberyard (strip club) with an inserted photo
of two infants left alone. Another (“The Randolph”)
placed a woman on the floor of a crack house.
“It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and
I woke up to discover that I was in Mexico and
that I was married,” she recalled.
Another series in the show told about another
bad relationship. For it, she sewed 80 feet
of “love letters” that were scribbled on all
kinds of paper, to her medical records (from
a fractured skull). She called this “Red Flags,”
to chastise herself for not sensing the danger
implied in the strange letters. This show runs
At Moberg Gallery, Frank Hansen recently explained
his penchant for autobiographical art.
“I believe my life is more interesting than
most. I am Frank. I am the definition of my
name. If you don’t like it, too bad.”
His current show “Growing Up Hansen” (through
July 7) tells stories about his “bad-assed drunk”
father — extracting teeth in the family kitchen;
using an ax on the clothes dryer; dragging the
family to yard sales “until we were surrounded
by junk;” and taking gunshots at airplanes flying
too close to the ground. There’s also a “hay
ride wrapped in infamy,” “pre-sexual sex dreams,”
the accidental (or not) burning of his grandma’s
farm,” and “a pet duck frozen in the snow.”
Robert Spellman’s recent one night exhibition
was held in a parking garage under an East Village
pub. His dazzlingly colored impressionist paintings
rocked the dark bowels of that venue… Pete Goche’s
“Water Hutch” is on exhibit through Aug. 5 at
the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. It was one
of just seven pieces selected from more than
500 international applications to the experimental