‘Mending’ traveling art exhibit features works dealing with anxiety of pandemic, death of George Floyd

The theme ties together work dealing with the anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic, the death of Floyd and even brokenness from personal tragedies.
On September 20, 2020

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originally posted August 3, 2020 in TwinCities.com by 
Some of this stuff wasn’t even supposed to be art.

But now it’s part of the “Mending” exhibit to appear in Stillwater, Afton and Lake Elmo in coming weeks.

“What I love about this show is that it’s about brokenness, mending and a call to action,” said Heather Rutledge, director of ArtReach St. Croix, sponsor of the mobile exhibit.

The theme ties together work dealing with the anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic, the death of Floyd and even brokenness from personal tragedies.


mending traveling exhibit

Visitors examine art works in the mobile exhibit “Mending,” as curator William Franklin, right, looks on in Stillwater on Thursday, July 30, 2020. The opening night celebration of the show was Thursday, at the ArtReach St. Croix headquarters in Stillwater. ( Bob Shaw / Pioneer Press)

Called “Mending,” the exhibit is contained in a small trailer. The show opened in August in Stillwater, and it travelled to locations in Afton and Lake Elmo in September.

Guest curator William Franklin said “Mending” is not the first coronavirus art exhibit in the world. That would be in Barcelona, Spain — the Covid Art Museum. But it could be a first in the U.S.

To assemble the show, he sought objects from 25 artists which — even unintentionally — relate to psychic damage suffered today. As a result, “Mending” is a show of art, almost-art, and stuff that never should have been art.

At the opening night party in Stillwater, art teacher Lauren Bina shrugged when she was congratulated by visitors. Her entry was created by accident — yet it is the image chosen for the show’s brochures.

Bina said she was washing her favorite jadeite bowl, given to her as a wedding present. She dropped it on the kitchen floor, smashing it.

She impulsively took a photo of the lime-green shards for Instagram. Curator Franklin spotted it, then asked her to join his show. “I said, “This is not meant to be art. It’s just a picture,” said Bina.

But looking at it in the exhibit now, she said, reminds her of irreconcilable loss.


Michael McColl, a high school art teacher in Fosston, Minn., brought a souvenir from Greece — a plaster and marble work representing the skull of the Greek goddess of health.

McColl explained that he recently divorced his wife of 21 years — painfully. When she moved out, she took the skull, shattered it, and mailed the pieces back to him.

In the trailer, the skull represents the brokenness of something he loved, and the brokenness of someone he loved. “To me it says, ‘I am through with you and everything about you,”’ said McColl.

Chloe Russell called her work, “You’re Okay, You’re Okay,” which is how she would comfort a crying child.

It started as art that she didn’t like — a small painting of dark flowers. “We don’t need pretty pictures. Not now,” said Russell. “That doesn’t do anyone a service.”

She put a cartoonish face right on top of it, frowning. Despite the reassurances of the “You’re Okay” title, she said. “We still don’t know if we are OK.”

The exhibit includes photos, an imitation of a security camera, a pair of worn blue jeans.


Some works seem nonsensical, until explained by the artist’s comments on the wall.

One is a spatula taped to a broomstick.

It is titled “I Will Protect My Children.” It was made, said artist Jennifer Frisbie, by a terrified mother at the height of the riots, as a defensive weapon.

Another work is a set of three cinder blocks — nothing to look at, until artist Xavier Tavera explains they were taken from the foundation of a burned-out building after the riots.

“It is the remains of an uprising,” he said.

Tavera pointed out finger-marks on the soot coating the blocks.

“It’s like a blackboard, a blank slate,” he said. “What is the future we want?”

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