“Here We Are Nice” at The Soap Factory: Creepy, cool, colorful, contemporary

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Here We Are Nice opened at The Soap Factory Saturday night; it includes art from 25 artists who volunteer at The Soap Factory. The theme of the show is explained on the website…

A handwritten sign on the side of the road proved an unlikely impetus for The Soap Factory’s 2014 Volunteer Biennial. Spotted in its haphazard black scrawl, the sign read “ARE YOU EVEN NICE?”. This anonymous inquiry challenged not only the ubiquitous core of our Minnesota Nice aspirations, but brought us face to face with one of the most overused four-letter words of our common vocabulary. …

And to answer that inquisitive piece of graffiti, we may not be able to vouch for the beneficence beyond our walls, but within the galleries of this local art space, given the many years of hard work and tireless volunteer efforts witnessed within The Soap Factory, it’s safe for us to at least offer this title as a kind of manifesto: HERE WE ARE NICE.

It’s a great theme for a gallery known for very out there exhibits (Haunted Basement to Venus Demars’ Queer’s Book of Journey) because it strengthens the connection to Minnesota and mainstream. Here We Are Nice was the crossroads for the out there in everyone and little Minnesota maintstream in everyone.

 

Let’s start with the out there—or at least exactly what I expected when I wanted in the door—a triptych from Donna Meyer of grotesque clowns, or maybe superheroes. They are creepy but cool with overdone, melting makeup. The eyes are amazing; they project a disdain that makes you wonder if you’re looking at the victim or the perpetrator of some awful act.

Antony Lakey produced a mixed media piece that at first looks like a mural of melee of some sort—but wait and you’ll see the artist working on the work. My 10 year old associate suspected that the crowd was rioting because they were waiting for the video of the artist to come finish the work. I liked the picture before the video; I loved it once I saw the added dimension.

Heavy on the nice spectrum, Carolina Borja did a series on carnations; I haven’t done it justice capturing only one of the four, but they were bright and clever and especially welcome on a cold December night.

My associate’s favorite work was the ornate reworked garbage bin with the detailed design eliminated from within. I’m not sure how it was created—some sort of hand held hole popping device but the effect is gorgeous. The pattern reminded me of those Norwegian sweaters and of course the effected is doubled with the reflected light in the room. It could be the centerpiece in any room.

Brandon Alvarado did a piece called Silver Lining, Mylar balloons spelling out “Maybe your wrong.” The snarky English major in me loved it. Was the grammatical mistake intentional? Is it a commentary on those of us who see typos everywhere – except in our own writing? So curious! If I were having a dinner party, I would be tempted to put this in the corner – just to learn a little bit about the attendees based on their comments.

Clearly I’m just touching on the art that struck us most on the opening night. The thing I like about contemporary art is that on another day, things might strike us differently and so it’s worth a return trip—and the show is open until December 21.