How South Asian art evolved under colonialism

The 1,000-year-old Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance) sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

By Tim Gihring

A couple years ago, Mia received 11 paintings from the series known as the Impey Album, a gift from the collection of Elizabeth and Willard Clark. Lady Mary Impey had moved from England to India in 1773, when Britain’s East India Company was cementing control of the Indian subcontinent through bureaucracy as well as the battlefield, and the company had appointed her husband the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Bengal. The Impeys — far from the front lines, in the relative calm of Kolkata — saw themselves as benevolent and just. …


Robin Wall Kimmerer on the animacy of nature, and how to care for it

By Diane Richard

When Robin Wall Kimmerer was being interviewed for college admission, in upstate New York where she grew up, she had a question herself: Why do lavender asters and goldenrod look so beautiful together?

Her question was met with the condescending advice that she pursue art school instead. But Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, took her interest in the science of complementary colors and ran with it — the scowl she wore on her college ID card advertises a skepticism of Eurocentric systems that she has turned into a remarkable career. …


The long, surprising history of language in art

Detail of Incantation for Six Voices by Scott Helmes; publisher: Hermetic Press, Minneapolis, 2001. Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

By Stephanie Mann

I have always been fascinated by language, how we use it not only to communicate but also to express ourselves, to illustrate complex ideas. More than just a function of society, language is an art form all its own, in literature, film, theater, and music. Indeed, it even has a surprisingly rich history in visual storytelling, as seen in the work of artists across the world. In Chinese literati culture, painting and verse went hand in hand. In Islamic culture, calligraphy of the Qur’an is an art in and of itself.

Here are some examples of literature…


Journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas on the power of storytelling

Jose Antonio Vargas

By Stephanie Mann

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and leading voice for the human rights of immigrants. He’s also an undocumented immigrant himself, which he revealed in 2011 in a groundbreaking essay for the New York Times Magazine. That same year, he founded Define American, a nonprofit that counters injustice and anti-immigration rhetoric by consulting on film and television projects and producing its own.

Mia recently hosted Vargas for a virtual talk, where he expanded on his story and asked us to consider the complexities of immigration — including the motivation for moving on in…


How ego and emulation created the world’s most famous artist

Back to back portraits of an old man wearing a fur cap: at right is Jan Lievens’ original (collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), at left is Rembrandt’s copy (collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art).

By Tim Gihring

In the 1620s, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Lievens were both in Leiden, the small town in the southern Netherlands where they had grown up. They were both teenagers, Rembrandt just 15 months older than Lievens. They had apprenticed with the same master painter. They shared models and possibly a studio. They even modeled for each other. They were friends and rivals — frenemies.

And for a long time, they copied each other. Lievens was inspired by Rembrandt, for example, to etch a series of imagined portraits of men in fanciful dress. Rembrandt, in turn, copied all…


Artists have historically helped us confront crises — can they do it now?

First Aid Kit #3, Joshua Huyser, 2019. Watercolor. Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Gift of funds from the Paul and Sheila Steiner Charitable Trust. © Joshua Huyser

By Gretchen Halverson

In the early 1900s, the sociologist Lewis Hine taught himself photography and began documenting the thousands of immigrants arriving every day in New York Harbor. Eventually, he turned his camera on the conditions of child workers, sometimes posing as a fire inspector or Bible salesman to get into factories. (This work is now featured in Mia’s Just Kids exhibition.) Over the next hundred years, other photographers would follow his lead in capturing the social impact of major turning points in history, from Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression to Margaret Bourke-White during World War II to Danny…


Art for traveling without leaving home

Rockaway Beach, N.Y., circa 1948. After Harry Glassgold; Publisher: Regional Art Editions, Detroit.

By Tim Gihring

If you’re staying close to home this summer, you’re not alone — and you’re not without options. Call it a vicarious vacation or an armchair adventure, or maybe this is how you prefer to travel, without the hassle of the real thing. From the collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, here are 10 places to escape to in your mind.


How Kehinde Wiley honored the forgotten “father of aviation”

Kehinde Wiley based his painting Father of Aviation II on a statue honoring Alberto Santos-Dumont.

By Tim Gihring

In 2009, the painter Kehinde Wiley flies to Brazil. He’s there to make some portraits, in his signature style: painting brown-bodied men in the heroic manner of old European portraits — like Napoleon on his horse. He’s the artist selected by former President Obama for his official portrait.

So he goes looking for some models. He’s looking in the favelas, the poor neighborhoods in the hills around Rio. And he finds a couple young men who agree to pose.


Kenneth Tam on pandemic life and the rise in anti-Asian racism

By Gabriel Ritter

The work of Kenneth Tam takes shape as video, sculpture, and photography that challenges our received ideas and societal norms regarding the male body as it relates to physical intimacy, sexuality, vulnerability, and private ritual. His practice involves the participation of strangers — often recruited through online message boards and forums such as Craigslist and Reddit — in situations orchestrated by the artist that range from tender to awkward to absurd. …


An archive of zines reveals the raw, uncensored voices of the punk, queer, and DIY countercultures

Top, from left: Hakim Bey et al., This Inheritance Must Be Refused, 1994 (2018.86.1109); Jane LeCroy, Treasure of Love, 2001 (2018.86.1136); Maggie Wrigley, SQUAT~TER, 2011 (2018.86.939); Sabrina Chapadijiev, Cliterature, 2004 (2018.86.195). Bottom, from left: Aaron Cometbus, Cometbus #55, 2013 (2018.86); rOBNOXIOUS, tHE fALL oF aMERICA, 1999 (2018.86.1027); Artist unidentified, A Night of Terror, date unknown (2018.86.1484); Dylan Graham, Heroine, 2003 (2018.86.1347); Andre Denee, Lights Very Village, 1994 (2018.86.1362); Amber Gayle, Transient Songs, 1995 (2018.86.1561).

By Ian Karp

In 1988, after a life of relocation, the punk artist, writer, teacher, activist, and squatter Fly Orr — known as Fly — landed on New York City’s Lower East Side. Soon after, she moved into an East Village squat (an illegally occupied building, usually neglected, vacant, or abandoned) and became involved with the community art space ABC No Rio, a center for performance and squatter arts and activism. There, Fly dove into countercultural scenes on the Lower East Side, surrounded by other musicians, artists, activists, and squatters.

In addition to her work as a comics illustrator, muralist…

Minneapolis Institute of Art

From Monet to Matisse, Asian to African, ancient to contemporary, Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is a world-renowned art museum that welcomes everyone.

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