ART REVIEW | “Spirit + Matter” exhibit at Augsburg College makes you feel the love


Does spirit matter? Is matter spirited? Whether or not you’ve pondered such questions, you might find your native inquisitiveness fed by a new exhibit at Augsburg College’s Gage Family Art Gallery, located on the first level of the Oren Gateway Center, 2211 Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis.

“Spirit + Matter” represents newly inspired work on and with paper by four artists:  Anna Boyer, Monica Edwards Larson, Wendy Fernstrum, and Regula Russelle. It is an intriguing and ethereal exhibit of prints, artist books, and sculptures that invites the visitor to explore “the relationship between matter and spirituality—matter a temporal container of spirit, spirit shaping matter.”

The sub-themes, each chosen by an artist, are: Ritual. Dwelling. Breath. The Paradox of One. And where does this lead them? Along beautifully diverse paths. Meandering through the gallery, one encounters the visually eloquent and the vernacular, the elegant, the commonplace—each piece, in it’s own unique way, evoking wonderment and awe, as each artist embraces and seeks to embody, artistically, a thread of the spiritual in human experience, as she has sensed it.

You will find: 
* fluttering sheets of delicately-translucent, handmade paper, evincing sharp lines, and subtle hues and shapes (Boyer)
* a mystifying, charming sculpture of paper, wire, and wood, as if ancient scrolls one longs to unroll and read, relics of a bygone era (Fernstrum)
* a book of photos, chronicling, daily, a segment of path along the Mississippi River (Edwards Larson)
* luminous bowls of handmade paper with embedded poetic language, and an invitation to touch, indeed, to hold it in your hands! (Russelle)

…and so much more that pleases the eye and teases the mind, heart, and soul.

These four artists have brought not only their immense talents to this work, but also their fine sensibilities, sensitivities, their hearts and souls, sharing with the world their joy and perplexity, their longing and passion, their values and life experience.

Beneath this exhibit lies a conviction that art can be a medium for the spiritual, and also that connections cultivated with kindred spirits bear fruit, for these women have been meeting for over a year to explore together the terrain of spirit and matter in art. Their gathering, fruitful in itself, as they all testify, also gave birth to this exhibit. As one artist said upon seeing the exhibit in final form, “I feel the love.”

Cascading from the ceiling as you enter the gallery is an accordion book. Augsburg students, wandering in, were captivated, reading the book as if a chant, “one is indivisible and all are one is indivisible….” No punctuation, no beginning, no end. A deep breath would be fitting right now. 

We’ve been called a wholeheartedly materialistic culture. And, among us, there’s plenty evidence of a high regard for material things. (Did you happen to join the throngs shopping the day after Thanksgiving?) Yet, there is certainly more to it than that. Who among us has not wrestled with the meaning and purpose of life, felt a sense of deeper connection, however fleeting—with the universe, nature, a loved one or stranger, with that inmost part of ourselves—even sensed a moment or two that were transformative, transcendent, inspiring attention, awe, gratitude?

Does matter matter? Of course. Is it all that matters? Visit “Spirit + Matter” to answer that question.

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”
William Blake


Exhibit visitors commented: “jaw dropping,” “beautiful, inspiring,” “amazing, insightful,” “provoking,” “a pilgrimage, just walking through,” “I love the hope in this exhibit,” “peaceful.”

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