Art Hounds recommend magical, challenging theater and art

Two actresses under a linen cloth embrace.
Two actresses under a linen cloth embrace in a promotional image for the play "Aquilarres," a political fantasy set during the Spanish Inquisition.
Photo by Shane Morgan

Actress Eva Gemlo is excited about the return of live theater that is weird, challenging and magical.

She describes the world premiere of the play “Aquelarres” this way: “It's like [director] Guillermo del Toro meets [Spanish poet Federico Garcia] Lorca meets [Broadway musical] ‘Hadestown,’ and it's all inspired by the works of Spanish painter [Francisco Jose] de Goya [y Lucientes]. The political fantasy is set during the Spanish Inquisition, and it follows a possible saint, a pair of nuns and a coven of witches who unwittingly collaborate to overthrow their local government.”

The play was written by Joel F. Wilshire and directed by Madeline Wall of the Birth Play Project. 

“You will walk away going, oh my God, that was beautiful. Why am I crying?” says Gemlo. The play will be performed outdoors at the Edgecumbe Presbyterian Church in St. Paul through Aug. 15. 

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University of Minnesota art history professor Jane Blocker recommends a dystopian, even apocalyptical, contemporary art show opening Saturday, called “Everyone Has a Right to Their Own Dystopinion.”

The show contains the paintings, sculptures, collages and prints of a dozen artists, curated by Erik Farseth. The artists grapple with the stuff of science fiction novels and contemporary news: global pandemic, environmental disaster, political polarization and technology’s effects on our lives. 

An oil painting by artist John Sauer
"Number 6" by John Sauer. Meduim: Oil on panel.
Courtesy Image

“I think seeing art and knowing that there are other people out there who are contemplating the weirdness of this time, in material, real physical ways,” says Blocker “is really, maybe not joyful, but at least reassuring that you're not by yourself. You're not alone.”

The exhibition at Artspace Jackson Flats in Minneapolis will have a free opening night reception Saturday from 7-11 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 14.

A woodcut artwork in black and white
Hallucination by Mai Tran, 2020. Medium: Woodcut.
Courtesy of Mai Tran

When Sophia Hoiseth graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato during the pandemic and got her own apartment, she looked for local art for her walls. She chose prints by fellow Mankato graduate Mai Tran.

Originally from Saigon, Vietnam, and now living in Mankato, Tran blends the two cultures in her relief printmaking in a way that Hoiseth — a transplant from Qatar — says feels like home. 

“I think when you look at Mai’s work,” says Hoiseth, “you can really see the intentional strokes of lines that were chosen to be carved out of woodblock and lines that were chosen to be left behind. And that makes for a really powerful contrast between the dark and light.”

Find Tran’s printmaking and photography here

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment‘s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.