‘Art on the Plains’ puts adventurous spin on midwestern life

In the middle of a room, eight televisions and other electronics sit stacked on the steps of a ladder. A pair of lips fill each TV screen, mesmerizing the viewer. Seven feet away, a vintage rocking chair stares back at the TVs. When the rocking chair moves, different pairs of lips sing notes, producing chords based on the position of the rocking chair and causing viewers to laugh and exclaim in surprise.

This is art. In fact this piece, entitled “The Music Within My Head,” received first place honors in the Plains Art Museums new exhibit, “Art on the Plains: XI: A Regional Juried Exhibition.”

“It’s really different,” said Savanna Sauvageau, employee of Plains Art Museum visitor services. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Artist Jamie Burmeister of Grenta, Neb., was awarded first place out of 232 submissions. This year Hesse McGraw served as the juror for the exhibition. McGraw works as the chief curator of exhibition and projects at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Neb.

“[These artists] have rejected cynicism to celebrate the authentic absurdities of life in the Midwest,” McGraw wrote, referring to the exhibit.

The “Art on the Plains” exhibit, now in its eleventh year, features artists from North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska that present the newest trends of art in the region. This year, McGraw chose the art of 48 contemporary artists to be represented.

Throughout the museum, visitors can be on the lookout for Burmeister’s project involving four-inch ceramic figures called “vermin.” These figurines can be found inside the museum’s art galleries, hanging out in stairwells, congregating in the elevator and staring out the windows. Visitor Services encourages viewers to find as many as they can.

According to Burmeister’s website, http://vermin.me, he wanted to recognize that life forms such as bugs and mice do the same things as humans to survive. He hopes to install vermin in public places across the globe. Since 2010, vermin had been placed in 800 galleries and museums across the world, including 20 states and 19 countries.

Other interesting art pieces in the exhibit include “Ukiyo” by Mayumi Amada of Minneapolis. Translated from Japanese, Ukiyo means “Floating.” In the piece, plastic bottles shaped into blue flowers hang from monofilament fishing line.

The art piece “Woven Prism,” by Randy Walker of Minneapolis, hangs from the ceiling and creates hundreds of shapes with its intertwining steel and nylon. The colored strings seem to represent the interconnectedness of life and how it may seem beautifully complicated.

As a whole, this gallery defies common dull stereotypes of the Midwest and instead puts an adventurous spin on the life and culture found here.

“Art on the Plains” can be seen at the Great Plains Art Museum until May 20. Admission is free for students with a college ID.

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