by Liberty Finch
Wandering through the current exhibit at Inside Out Gallery at the Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, it’s difficult to decide what’s most engaging about this show—the art on display, the stories about the artists or the adventures of the collector, Kate Pabst.
A Collector’s Story is an eclectic assortment of art from Pabst’s extensive personal stash, available now for viewing and for sale. Included are paintings, watercolors, silkscreens, wood cuts, photography and more, amassed from years of scavenging antique stores, flea markets and out-of-the-way shops worldwide.
“I don’t really seek out art, I seek out experiences,” says
Pabst, whose focus in life is clearly on the journey and not the destination.
“When I travel, I don’t really have a plan. I have a sort of intention
… and I meet the most fascinating, phenomenal people that way.”
addition to collecting art, Pabst is herself a visual artist, award-winning
designer, creative partner at Velvetpeel Inc. and member of the Rosalux art
collective. Indeed, trusting her intuition has led her on a serendipitous route
across the United States, Europe and Asia to a multitude of artistic treasures.
“Escalante Moth Utah” is a piece she acquired by chance after a
downpour during the Uptown Art Fair landed her under photographer David Korte’s
tent. The close-up of a fossilized moth amid dry, cracked earth literally made
an impression on Pabst, who connected with the spiritual aspect of the work
and convinced Korte to sell her the just-printed first image. The work is a
paradoxical rumination on life and death: the cracked and barren soil is alive
but appears dead; the stark-white fossilized moth, long dead, radiates life.
Some of the work in the show was produced by schooled artists, but much of it
is considered “outsider art.” In these latter works, created outside
of the fine art “system,” the artists lack training and indoctrination,
but not talent. Their work is unapologetic, accessible and free of pretension.
In many instances, Pabst does not know the artist, and only identifies the piece
by where it was acquired. The lack of information adds an element of mystery
to these works and engages the imagination. Moreover, the lack of synopses is
refreshing, freeing the viewer from predefined, scholarly critiques and allowing
unbiased personal interpretation.
When an artist is known, the information is included, and it’s here that
some of the biographical tidbits prove as interesting as the art itself. Floria
Yancey, for example, is a self-taught southern folk artist. Born in Geneva,
Ala., Yancey is the youngest of 18 children who, as a girl, lost one sibling
at childbirth and three others to accidental deaths. Her family sharecropped,
picked cotton and grew their own vegetables. Creating most of her work from
found objects, Yancey uses art as an outlet for expressing dreams, visions and
childhood memories. Vivid colors and deliberate brush strokes infuse her work
with an exuberant honesty. In addition to being an artist, Yancey is a retired
seamstress, ordained minister and owns a Southern Folk Art Gallery and Church
in Stewart County, Georgia.
Equally intriguing is the story behind the painted woodcut by Canadian artist
Robert Randall, entitled “Elizabeth Cotton.” Born in 1865 in Chapel
Hill, N.C., Cotton used to sneak a turn on her brother’s banjo and guitar.
When he refused to teach her how to play, Cotton developed her own method—a
two-finger picking style she played upside down and left handed. Working at
age 12 and married by 15, Cotton was well past 60 when she recorded her first
album for Folkway Records. She continued to record and perform at folk festivals
well into her 80s, and died in 1987.
More than a visual experience, “A Collector's Story” will send you
off on tangents that you’d least expect. It will tickle your intuition
and inspire spontaneity. Liberating, it’s art of the people, by the people
and for the people. ||
The mission of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing
Arts is to bring new life to the arts while challenging society’s view
of disability. A Collector’s Story is on display through June 30 at Inside
Out Gallery, 212 3rd Ave. N., Suite 140, Mpls. 612-339-5145 ext. 13. Hours are
Mon.–Sat. noon–4 p.m. and by appointment.