Thursday, November 24, 2011

The ReInventors thru January 29, 2012

Maiden Rock, WI - Swan Song Contemporary Arts presents The ReInventors featuring new sculptural works by Jan Elftmann, Dean Lucker, Jim Proctor and David Wyrick. The exhibition will be on view at Swan Song Gallery (W3557 Main Street Maiden Rock, Wisconsin) Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30-5:00 through January 29 and by appointment. For more information, contact Swan Song gallery director Cynde Randall at 612-250-9222 or

The ReInventors presents a fantastic array of material based sculptures by four exceptional artists who locate their artistic inquiry in real space and time. Jan Elftmann, Dean Lucker, Jim Proctor and David Wyrick are known for distinctly different bodies of work but share a profound commitment to transformative practice, re-inventing, re-purposing and/or hybridizing the objects and ideas of their occupation. Their new exhibition at Swan Song Contemporary Arts offers up art that is whimsical, mysterious, obsessive, transcendent and foreboding.

Jan Elftmann is known for her inspirational leadership in America’s Art Car movement and her extraordinary embellishment of automobiles, such the truck that she covered with 10,000 corks. She has been an obsessive collector for decades, amassing vast stores of tiny, sparkly objects that she re-cycles into fantastic works of assemblage. For the ReInventors, Elftmann presents two groups of sculpture: in her uniquely designed “tube art paintings” she captures a dizzying array of multiple objects, presenting a playful and painterly meditation on color and pattern. In her most recent free-standing works, Elftmann encrusts cement animal lawn ornaments with literally hundreds of objects, massing each surface with pop culture debris of similar palette. In “White Hose”, “Yellow Dog” “Purple Rooster” Elftmann calls attention to what is already here, expressing an eco-imperative with flourish. As a contemporary alchemist, Elftmann turns the mundane into the precious, giving us a significant chance to remember and to reconsider what was earlier made and caste away.

As a self-proclaimed object builder Dean Lucker has been most influenced by 15th and 16th century Northern European wood carving traditions. For years he has been recognized for carved and automated sculptures featuring the poetic interaction of a Lucker-like man with other natural beings like trees, flowers and the moon. The dynamic exchange that occurred in these sculptures often yielded a fortune or message about memory or loss. In his new series of “log men” (men who are logs/logs who are men) Lucker collapses the exchange by carving fully integrated trans-species beings that remain completely still. Strangely timeless and in a clear state of decline, Lucker’s log people seem perplexed about their new purpose in a world without hierarchy. Despite their confusion Lucker’s log people appear to have evolved beyond what is human. “We are as common as those things around us” says Lucker. Perhaps the spiritual oneness of the log people is one key to remembering our planetary identity on Earth.

Artist Jim Proctor acknowledges nature as his primary source and guide, crediting the world of plants for everything that he knows about making sculpture. “I am conscious that I am a symmetrical being and I feel a real affinity for the materials that I work with”, says Proctor. He is known for his work to remove invasive species and for diminutive sculptures made entirely from acorns, winged seeds, burrs, stems and fibers—all materials collected, deconstructed and recombined by the artist. Proctor’s new hybrids are surprising real, challenging our understanding and knowledge about native and non-native species. Installed in exquisite shadow boxes of Proctor’s design, his sculptures recall the zeal for collecting scientific specimens in centuries gone by. But Proctor’s intention is not to horde freakish specimens but rather to witness and honor aesthetic intelligence of nature’s design. “It is important that we can see the world around us and increasingly urgent that humans can identify and appreciate the other species on our planet” says the artist.

As a material based sculptor, David Wyrick navigates a wide range of territories from geology, modernist formalism, post-modern critique and the time honored crafts such as cabinet making and stone carving. Compressing knowledge and skill from all of these fields, Wyrick typically selects some aspect of function as a launching point for each work that he creates. In his latest series “hole diggers” Wyrick appropriates and de-purposes rusty garden shovels by whittling and re-turning their handles. Through his structural and decorative intervention, Wyrick releases the shovel from its labor, simultaneously re-commissioning it as a totemic or iconic power object. In this, Wyrick moves beyond any simple statement of irony, holding a new space for the humble work done by shovels of all time. In a mysterious stand-alone untitled work Wyrick presents a granite boulder impaled with an ornately turned cane of wood. Wyrick refers lightly to Steve Martin but one can not help but to recall the sword in the stone. Like Arthur, Wyrick seems to make the impossible come true.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Love YOUR Dog new work by Brian Frink

Maiden Rock, WI - Swan Song Contemporary Arts presents “I Love YOUR Dog” featuring new paintings and drawings of companion animals and flowers by artist Brian Frink. Opening with a reception for the artist on Saturday, October 15 from 4:00 to 6:00 P.M., the exhibition will be on view at Swan Song Gallery (W3557 Main Street Maiden Rock, Wisconsin) through November 20 during public hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10-5:00 and by appointment. For more information, contact Swan Song gallery director Cynde Randall at 612-250-9222 or

Brian Frink’s most recent paintings and drawings—on view in “I Love YOUR Dog”—make a radical departure from his long-time signature style. For nearly three decades Frink was known for creating large-scale biomorphic abstractions that bridged modernist and post-modernist ideas about making paintings. His blown out, gestural compositions were grounded in the tenants of abstract expressionism, while his playful iconographic style made an irreverent critique of the same. Like many artists of his time, Frink felt compelled to view the past through a lens of irony.

All of this changed quite suddenly and unexpectedly in 2009, when Frink’s daughter implored him to make a portrait of her father-in-law’s dog, Sadie. As a “serious” contemporary artist Frink resisted the idea but ultimately conceded her request, never knowing that by undertaking the task he would reinvent himself as an artist. Working from a photograph, Frink applied nuanced contiguous passages of paint to illuminate the form that had occupied the spirit his in-law’s beloved pet. Through this process Frink found that he became quite weightless and everything that he had previously believed about making art floated away. His epiphany was quite simply this: he loved making this painting. At first he thought that he wouldn’t tell anybody. Then, that he schemed to continue making pet portraits in secret. Ultimately he had to face the fact that his consciousness as an artist had shifted.

Since early 2009, Frink has focused exclusively on painting empathetic portraits of companion animals and lyrical drawings of flowers and plants. “I Love YOUR Dog” testifies to his meditation on sentient beings and the relationships that they sustain. Through this work Frink is most concerned with engagement and the possibilities that exist when separation is vanquished. Indeed his soulful paintings challenge the cynicism of contemporary culture, releasing Frink from the theoretical constraints of post-modern art. We love there creatures and they love us. Frinks cat’s and dogs look us straight in the eye as if to hold us accountable for our stewardship. And what about the rest? If we submit to the trans-species gaze these potential surrogates remind us of our symbiosis with all other species—something that, in truth, holds life together on the planet Earth.


Brian Frink earned his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has exhibited his work extensively and is represented in numerous private and public collections. Frink has received many grants and awards acknowledging the excellence of his work from foundations and governments agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation. Frink is the founder of two facebook artist engagement groups: Rural America Contemporary Art and I Love YOUR Cat, I Love YOUR Dog and serves as a Professor painting and drawing Minnesota State University, Mankato. He and his wife Wilber are the renovators and creative proprietors of rural Mankato’s Poor Farm, a gallery and studio complex presenting an ongoing schedule of exhibitions and cultural events (see ).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spirit Animal New Work by Don Gahr Opening August 20

Maiden Rock- Swan Song Contemporary Arts presents “Animal Spirit” featuring new and recent works by Wisconsin sculptor/painter Don Gahr. Opening with a reception for the artist on Saturday, August 20 from 4:00 to 6:00  P.M., the exhibition will be on view at Swan Song Gallery (W3557 Main Street Maiden Rock, Wisconsin) through October 2 during public hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10-5:00 and by appointment. For more information, contact Swan Song gallery director Cynde Randall at 612-250-9222 or

“Animal Spirit” presents a wonderful array of colorful carved and painted animal sculptures by visionary Wisconsin artist, Don Gahr who has, for more than three decades, delighted young and old audiences alike. His exhibition at Swan Song features the artist’s most recent cast of characters including a leaping lizard, a big blue whale, a running horse, a leaping deer, a stalking fox, school of salmon, a black swan, a begging deer, and elegant birds among myriad  others.

Through his process Gahr captures what is quintessentially “fox” or “bird” in found pieces of wood—carving and painting each to reveal a unique poise, humor or grace. Gahr fuses three artistic sensibilities—the playfulness of folk art, the essential rigor of modernism, and the spiritual intention of aboriginal quest—to manifest his signature style. Both childlike and sophisticated Gahr’s work reveals an eclectic range of artistic influences including modernist sculpture, 20th century painting, magic realism, Etruscan sculpture, the mapping of Australian dreamtime and the spirited works of Eskimo, Native American, African and Oceanic traditions.

Through his new work Gahr helps us to see that magic happens when we see the world with innocent perception. “You can never make anything weirder than nature,” says Gahr. Appreciating the freedom that this affords him, Gahr encourages us to have fun with his exhibit and invites us to witness our own wonderment of the universe.
Don Gahr studied painting and sculpture at the University of Minnesota, The Portland Museum Arts School, the Minneapolis College of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and the University of Washington in Seattle. Gahr has exhibited extensively and is represented in numerous private and public collections. He lives and works in Springbrook, Wisconsin.

Monday, October 4, 2010