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Gallery Visit, Rowan's Group. Ashley Kreidler

Tom Arndt’s Minnesota exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was composed of a collection of photographs taken from the mid 1960’s to present. The collection shows contemporary American life with mid-western flavor. There are a plethora of different photographs, ranging from farm auctions to snapshots taken in front of Sex World in Minneapolis. Tom’s work is highly acclaimed for his ability to show Minnesota life for it’s intriguingly simple attributes and qualities. The collection also highlights the isolation and destitute conditions of Minnesota winters and rural areas. The black and white photographs portray a strong sense of loneliness trapped inside of single moment of mid-western life.
Although there is a powerful feeling of isolation within the photographs, this is contrasted by vivacious scenes of the Winter Carnival in St. Paul, parades from small towns in southern Minnesota, and the Cinco De Mayo Festival in the Twin Cities. These photos work to draw a distinction from the harshness of the land to the energized spirit of the people who occupy this area. More specifically, the juxtaposition of the isolated, desperate scenes and the lively gatherings of the Midwesterners give a strong essence of the spirit of Midwestern culture. Another artist who uses the dichotomy of perceived persona and actual character is Suzanne Opton. Her photographs capture the fragility of soldiers, which contrasts the supposed warrior-like status many people associate with people of war. Her billboard work works to create a new personality for soldiers.
A specific piece that illustrates this concept is the photograph titled “Winter Carnival, St. Paul” from the 1980’s. This piece shows the harshness of the climate while highlighting the persistence of Minnesota people to celebrate their homeland. The photo shows a large group of Minnesotans standing huddled together, standing with their freezing fingers stuffed into their pockets. The title suggests festivity and celebration, while the people’s posture seems the opposite. There is, however, a strong contrast of the subjects’ composure and their happy, smiling faces. Therefore, the photograph’s title, the people’s poses and the look on their faces alludes to the contentment that Midwesterns’ have to the desolate winters and their stubborn insistence to celebrate what most people would move away from.
Tom Arndt’s collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts successfully illustrates Minnesota’s culture and way of life. The work not only shows contemporary Midwestern Americans, but works to create contrast between how people perceive the Midwest landscape and the people who occupy this area.