Winter exhibition offers a 'Holiday in the Sun'

What Would Omar Do?
What Would Omar Do?, 2009. Artist Andrea Stanislav wonders if Omar, of the HBO series "The Wire," is the new archetype for the modern American hero. Omar is both a man with strong morals, and a killer. Stanislav says she's fascinated by the character, who manages to embody so many conflicting ideas.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Stanislav

Walking into Chambers Gallery in downtown Minneapolis feels like walking into the center of a Christmas ornament. Andrea Stanislav has a thing for mirrors and light, and she uses them liberally in her work.

Her paintings, each inches thick, are made primarily from layers of Elmer's glue and glitter, finished off with a clear shellac.

Azure Sky
This multi-paneled painting by artist Andrea Stanislav is called "Alex DeLarge," named after the main character in the movie "A Clockwork Orange." The words are a quote from the character.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Stanislav

"It's very sort of high school and girlish in a way," said Stanislav. "But it's also about glam rock and optimism, and the future's bright and everything's absolutely beautiful and shiny."

Stanislav says she was inspired to create her glitter paintings by a story a friend told her. He's a diving instructor, and he said he sometimes takes students underwater on a clear night. When you look up, the water magnifies the night sky giving the impression that the stars are right in front of you.

But while Stanislav's paintings are beautiful and ethereal, gallery curator Jennifer Phelps says they offer more than just eye candy.

"You look at it and you go 'Oh, that's great,' then you look at it again and you think, 'Oh my God, what's going on behind that?' or it's taken you to another place. It's just not entirely laid out for you," said Phelps.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Stanislav created these horseheads to both lure in the viewer with their beauty, but also make them think about more disturbing concepts of waste, brutality, and a stripping of power.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Stanislav

Many of the paintings have phrases on them, taken from song lyrics or movies. Stanislav cites numerous influences on her work, including artists Andy Warhol and Marc Rothko, and movies "A Clockwork Orange," "Solaris" and "The Godfather."

One painting, filled with dark green glitter, quotes a song by the Ramones. The bottom of the frame reads "I wanna be sedated." Andrea Stanislav says she might also be quoting the person looking at the painting.

"You're looking at nothingness, the beauty of the glitter. So it's also about being sedated or seduced, and I think that's something that art can do," said Stanislav. "It's sort of a bait and switch."

Stanislav says she's exploring the dualities of utopia, and dystopia, sometimes contained within the same person. For instance, she painted a portrait of Omar, a character from the HBO series The Wire. He's African-American, gay, has strong personal ethics and is also a deadly killer.

Johnny Thunder
Johnny Anthony Genzale Jr., aka Johnny Thunders, Johnny Volume, 2009. Johnny Thunder was a member of the punk band the New York Dolls. Artist Andrea Stanislav says her images are both a reflection of the culture she grew up in, and also an exploration of a declining empire.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Stanislav

There are also sculptures of horses heads, and a decapitated dog, all studded in pretty rhinestones.

Critic Chris Atkins has been following Stanislav's work, and thinks she's one of the most interesting and dynamic artists working in the Twin Cities.

"Andrea's one of those artists who I feel is quite agile," said Atkins. "She's not just a painter, she's not just a sculptor, she's not just an installation artist. She works with video, sculpture, photograpy all very well."

Atkins says Stanislav's work draws viewers in like magpies to shiny objects, luring them in to contemplate uncomfortable and often conflicting ideas.

Andrea Stanislav says she hopes people who come to see the show will leave happier for having experienced all the brightness in her work, but will also leave with some questions that they'll continue to explore.

"Holiday in the Sun" opens tonight at Chambers Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.