(The following is excerpted from the exhibition catalog for See Acts of Audacious Daring: The Circus World of Judy Onofrio, opening September 25. Copies of the catalog are available at the Plains Art Museum store. – ed.)
With See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio, Plains Art Museum initiates the ongoing exhibition series Mothers of Invention.
This series will periodically present solo exhibitions of important artists from our region who belong to a generation of women who contributed to opening up the art world since the 1970s. These women came of age artistically in the 1960s and 1970s and now are in their sixties, seventies, and even eighties. They are part of a national and international movement of women who insisted on being taken seriously as artists and courageously endeavored to break into what had been predominantly male terrain. They made art, formed collectives, started galleries, taught at art schools, and gave each other critical and moral support to dismantle the barriers that had existed against women in the visual arts. They changed the art world profoundly, altering ideas about the canon of art history and the meaning of terms such as “masterpiece,” “artist,” “gaze,” and “body,” as well as expanding what could be considered acceptable art materials, subjects, imagery, and boundaries between art forms. Their impact has spread throughout art and culture and is not confined to their own or other women’s work. Indeed, this generation deserves the accolade Mothers of Invention.
Many are, in fact, mothers, a position formerly perceived as an impediment to a woman’s potential as a creative artist. Motherhood was conventional and pulled back toward traditional expectations for females; art was considered a male domain, where creative minds and spirits were unbound by domestic responsibilities or the constraints of child rearing. While most artists featured in Mothers of Invention are mothers (as is our first artist in the series, Judy Onofrio), maternity is not necessarily the subject of their art, even though it is a significant element of their lives.
Onofrio and others were interested in inventing their lives in ways that contradicted societal expectations. Amid the constrictions of the early twentieth century, Sigmund Freud had declared that “biology is destiny”: women created babies while men created art and culture. Much about Freud’s ideas and research has since been discredited or called into question.
Mothers of Invention proves that women can be mothers and artists, nurturing and creative; these terms are not mutually exclusive. Our series points primarily to the fact that these artists have been influential on all of us–as viewers, as art lovers, as artists of all genres and genders. They have given birth, in other words, to the expanded art world that we live in today and sometimes take for granted.
Plains Art Museum is proud to recognize this generation of women artists at an advanced stage of their careers. Our goal is to acquaint new audiences with their work and to remind those who may have seen their earlier art that they are still active, still vital, still experimenting. Not conceived as retrospectives of an artist’s work, the exhibitions in Mothers of Invention will be singularly shaped by the approach of the curator of each project, who will collaborate closely with the artist. These women and their art deserve continuing critical and popular attention and ongoing visibility, which solo exhibitions and catalogue publications can ensure. The Mothers of Invention series thus strives to prevent the erasure of these women from the art historical record, something that has happened repeatedly over the centuries and requires diligent art historians to recover, as we have appreciated recently with rediscovered artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi from seventeenth-century Italy, expanded research on the nineteenth-century American Mary Cassatt, and, closer to home, new documentation on twentieth-century Minnesota artists Wanda Gág and Clara Mairs.
It is fitting to launch Mothers of Invention with the big, bold work of Judy Onofrio, specifically her sculptures that explore the enthusiasm and metaphorical potential of circus acrobats, magicians, and animal trainers.
Onofrio is an iconoclast, breaking rules of the art world right and left, championing outsiders and claiming territory for self-education, women’s expressions, and the value of folk art and common objects. Based in Rochester, Minnesota, and now in her early seventies, Onofrio performs her own “acts of audacious daring” in her work and career. An ardent and largely self-educated student of life, material culture, and art, Onofrio has forged a dynamic career, with dozens of solo and group exhibitions and one of the highest honors for an artist based in Minnesota–the McKnight Distinguished Artist, awarded in 2005.
Judy Onofrio’s art expresses a generous spirit that reaches out to viewers. She embraces a populism of image and material that offers a good deal of pleasure and makes her work particularly enjoyable to broad audiences.
Today, her over-the-top inventive use of materials and labor-intensive methods resonate with younger artists who have discovered the rich associations of folk arts and crafts.9 At the same time that she revels in materials, Onofrio offers philosophical wisdom in physical form. Shouldn’t we all attempt acts of audacious daring, like the acrobat in the sculpture of that title? Isn’t that what life is for–living to the utmost? Who among us doesn’t feel like we have jumped through a ring of fire, or would like to pull off a magic trick, real or metaphorical? Sometimes life calls for such boldness. In Onofrio’s oeuvre, extraordinary figures stand in for all of us facing the many challenges of life. May we be brave enough to approach our own challenges with the confidence and aplomb of Onofrio’s characters.View Event
This past Sunday, we had a rollicking opening reception for our new exhibition See Acts of Audacious Daring: The Circus World of Judy Onofrio. Hundreds showed up to see this incredible exhibition for the first time, eat circus food, and enjoy a magic show, balloon animals, and face painting. Our staff and volunteers got decked out in clown costumes, plus a stilt walker and acrobats entertained the crowd. It probably goes without saying, but it was a lot of fun.
Big thanks to Dave “The Bulldog” Arntson at Milestones Photography for the photos. Click the thumbnails for a larger picture and more information.View Event
It’s almost that time again … time for the annual FMVA Studio Crawl, coming to a neighborhood near you this Saturday and Sunday, October 1 and 2 from noon to 6 p.m.
As partners of the Studio Crawl, each year we get the opportunity to host a preview exhibition of work by participating artists. The preview showcases the artistic talents at work here in the F-M area, but it also has a more basic purpose: to give everyone the opportunity to map out their Studio Crawl experience by seeing work up close and personal. Before heading out for the crawl this Saturday or Sunday, swing by the Museum to pick up a Studio Crawl map and get a nutshell glimpse of the whole shebang (maps are also available here, at fmva.us.) We’re also holding a meet-and-greet with our new curator, Megan Johnston, on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. – noon during Kid Quest, so it’s also a good opportunity to say hello and welcome Megan to our arts community.
To give you a preview of the preview, below are a few images of work from the Studio Crawl Preview exhibition to whet your appetite. We’ll see you out and about on the Crawl this weekend!View Event
As we prepare to welcome the new exhibition, See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio September 25, there’s been excitement in the air at the Museum. With the opening reception complete with circus performers, peanuts, popcorn, and a pet show, not to mention the chance to see Judy Onofrio’s imaginative mixed media sculptures right here in Fargo, who can blame us? In fact, there’s even an opportunity to travel to the artist’s studio/home lovingly named “Judyland” in Rochester, Minn for a personal tour. So this leaves us wondering, what’s the woman behind the art like? If you’ve seen any promotions for her exhibition, you may be expecting extravagant colors, textures and lots of sparkle, but you may be surprised to know that her other recent works feature unorthodox materials (like animal bones) as the main material.
A dedicated and passionate artist, Onofrio said in an interview with KSMQ, “I’ve always had sort of a ‘collage mentality’ of putting things together, I’ve always collected.” This trait runs in her family. Her father, who was a three-star admiral, brought home exotic souvenirs from his international travels,and her great-aunt Trude was an artist and childhood role model to Onofrio who collected beads, jewels, trinkets, and other materials to use in her art. A lifelong artist, “I’ve basically been doing art since my feet hit Earth,” Onofrio surrounds herself in her craft and has explored many different themes where her imagination can soar.
If you want to hear more from Onofrio, join us for an Artist Talk at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25 followed by the opening of See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio from 2 – 5 p.m. Admission is free to members, and $10 for nonmembers.View Event
Health and wellness might not seem like the usual topics of conversation to come from an art museum, but consider this. As preventable health issues like obesity become a national concern, it’s important for all of us to tackle them through whatever avenues we have at our disposal. The conversations surrounding a healthier life don’t all have to happen at your dinner table, your gym, or your doctor’s office. They can also happen at your friendly neighborhood museum and, through recent events like the Ramp Jam and the Bike Jamboree, we’ve been showing that art and the creative life don’t have to be independent from fun physical activity.
We’re proud, then, to present a set of programs this fall that are in line with “Let’s Move!,” an initiative announced last year by First Lady Michelle Obama to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation. Let’s Move! recognizes, too, that the responsibilities of a healthier life don’t fall on just one or two sectors of our society:
Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies. – letsmove.gov
We agree, and we hope you’ll consider taking part in these great upcoming activities to get (or keep) the ball rolling on a healthier lifestyle for you and your family:
In addition to these activities, we’re also happy to offer high-quality, nutritious lunches in Cafe Muse through our friends at Mosaic Foods, where you’ll find plenty of healthy and delicious menu items to keep your healthy lifestyle on track.View Event
Does your pet do a cool trick or look great in a costume? Let your pet strut their stuff and you could win some great prizes!
Here’s whatcha do:
Upload a photo or video of your pet’s talent or fresh look online (Imgur and YouTube are good tools to use).
Email the link, along with the subject line “Pet Contest”, to firstname.lastname@example.org to enter the contest.
Share your entry by posting it on our Facebook page or by tagging us in a tweet (optional).
We’ll survey the entries and choose two winners, one for Best Dressed and one for Most Talented.
Then, swing by our Three Ring Circus on Sunday, September 25 for the opening reception of See Acts of Audacious Daring! The Circus World of Judy Onofrio and be part of a pet parade in the afternoon. An audience favorite award will be given away to one of the parade participants. And, the winners of the online contest will be announced, although you need not be present to win those prizes. All winners will receive a $50 gift certificate.
Deadline for online entries is Friday, September 23 at 4 p.m. If you have questions, ask in the comments, email email@example.com, or call 701.232.3821 ext. 121. Go, wonder pets, hooray!View Event