Quiet, calm and sophisticated, the Rourke Art Museum exists as a tiny backdrop to the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. Despite that, it’s no less interesting. Hidden in this museum exist tiny gems, waiting to be mined: a mixture of African art, postmodernism and Americana. The Rourke Art Museum, located on 521 Main Avenue in Moorhead is open from 1-5 p.m. every day from Wednesday to Sunday. It is a short walk for most on-campus Concordia students. Contained inside is the Beck Gallery and the Duane Keith Mickelson Memorial Gallery.
After walking to the top floor and navigating through the multitude of black and white photography by Mike Lien, you’ll find the the Mickelson Gallery. It holds a smattering of assorted pieces that don’t feel like they should work together, and yet they do. The first part of the gallery contains an assortment of bird statues. Along one wall is a group of duck statues that look eerily similar to lawn flamingos, though their colors a bit more muted than hot pink. On the other wall sit two bald eagles, one reimagined as a B-2 stealth bomber and another flying on a white background with a cross section of its heart showing red white and blue pinstripes. Exhibiting both the wilderness and American spirit, the two contrasting themes feel out of place and not in a way that worked for my tastes. I found the pieces to be more interesting on their own rather than together.
Moving on, the next room is a smattering of postmodernist art. I quite liked the pieces here. They were interesting enough on their own, and many of them had quirks that were fun to explore. In one corner was a fractalized sculpture of Aphrodite done by Don Myhre. On a wall hung a watercolor painting of an eye, the edges bleeding into the canvas as if the author had left it unfinished. The piece is eerie; even across the room you can feel its piercing gaze crawling down your back. A monstrous sculpture made of branches and metal is carefully built to look like a deer bending down to graze; despite its physical appearance, the serene and gentle aura it generates is nothing like the materials of its origin. Every single piece seems as if they wish to bend reality just a little, begging the viewer to ask if they were trapped in some sort of inception based dream. For moments the outside world seems very far away and the only reality is the art that exists in front of you.
While I only wrote of the The Mickelson Memorial Gallery, the Beck Gallery of woodcuts was another rabbit hole that I spent much of my time in. The gallery is a collection of woodcuts of Charles Beck, a Concordia graduate. Collected by his acquaintance and fan, Timothy Murphy, they show depictions of the Minnesota countryside in very simple colors and brushstrokes similar to French impressionism. Overall I had a very fun experience in the Rourke Art Museum. Its small size betrays the care put into its construction. Every corner is jam-packed with different pieces. Some of the best pieces I saw were tucked into corners where few visitors seemed to had walked. The winding passages give the impression the building is larger than it is and the curator is always happy to answer questions. Despite the small collection, I highly recommend a trip to the Rourke Art Museum, even if for nothing more than to breathe in the atmosphere.