Believe it or not, food and livestock aren’t the only reasons to go to the Minnesota State Fair. The biggest attraction at the fair is really the Fine Arts show. In fact, the reason the Fine Arts building is located where it is—out of the way, far from the animals and midway—is its enormous popularity. If they put it anywhere else, the crush of humanity would be overwhelming.
I braved the opening day crowds to conduct my annual judging of the fair’s Fine Arts exhibition. As always, I ignored the official judging results, which are based on such irrelevant criteria as technical skill, creativity, ambition, and execution. My judging is based on how well the art reflects the “Minnesota Spirit.”
And, as always, I awarded extra points to art featuring animals and farm machinery.
That said, here are this year’s winners of the totally unofficial Mpls.St.Paul Magazine 2015 Minnesota State Fair Fine Art Awards:
Gold Award: So Long
Sara Katherine Suppan, Minneapolis | Oil on Canvas
Judge’s Note: Ms. Suppan has captured the essence of life in Minnesota. Without radiators, most of us would die in our homes by January and they wouldn’t find our corpses until the spring thaw. Sadly, the title clearly references someone whose radiator did not work, which is a reminder to us all to check our household heating systems regularly.
Silver Award: Driving Through Glencoe
Patty Voje, St. Paul | Oil on Gessobord
Judge’s Note: Ms. Voje could have chosen to paint an entire cow, but instead she made the dramatic choice to focus the viewer’s attention on its nose—the cutest, squishiest part of the cow. Excellent depth around the nostrils makes it feel as if the cow is about to kiss the viewer—something true Minnesotans do not mind.
Bronze Award: Dairy Queen
David Holmes | Minnetonka, Oil on Panel
Judge’s Note: This is a painting, not a photo, which means there is something slightly creepy about this Dairy Queen. Is it the numbers on the kids’ jerseys? The mad power-walkers exiting on the left? No, as it turns out, the scariest part of this painting is the price tag—$18,500—which could buy Mr. Holmes either 10,000 Dilly Bars or an actual Dairy Queen Franchise.
Ate (Father in the Lakota Language)
Dakota Hoska, Minneapolis | Oil on Canvas
Judge’s Note: I don’t know what the Lakota word for “lose” is, but anyone who has watched a Twins game this season recognizes the look on this poor fellow’s face.
My Brother Bob
David Mayo Olmstead, Plymouth
Oil on Panel
Judge’s Note: Unlike that poor Lakota fellow, Bob looks like a more seasoned Twins fan, one who knows in his heart that the season is over, but who remains eternally optimistic about the team’s prospects next year.
Reed Dean White, North Mankato | Oil on Canvas
Judge’s Note: Nothing is worse than having parents who try to save a buck by picking up a girl’s bike at a garage sale and giving it to their son for his birthday. This kid’s parents should be ashamed. Nevertheless, the artist received extra points from me for putting a tractor in the background. Well done.
Sunday Morning Roofer
Ernest R. Gillman, Cottage Grove | Pencil on Paper
Judge’s Note: Nobody does roof repairs on Sunday. And it’s clear that this poor fellow would rather be in the pews at that little church down the road. The only possible explanation is that a storm is coming, so on this Sunday morning our hero must trade his hymnal for a nail gun.
Irena L-G, Minneapolis | Acrylic on Board
Judge’s Note: Spockles is the winner of this year’s highly coveted “Sad Cat” award. Why he is sad, we do not know. But just look at him. That’s one sad cat.
Sandwich Pickle Jar
Cynthia H. Waltho, Ham Lake| Oil on Canvas
Judge’s Note: This would be a classic homage to the age-old practice of home pickling if it weren’t for the telltale edge of a blue label on the side of the jar, indicating that these are nothing but store-bought Vlasic pickles. Nice try, Ms. Waltho. Maybe next year you’ll think twice about what kind of jar you choose to paint.
Time to Buy More Eggs
Brenda M. Ryan, St. Paul | Porcelain Clay
Judge’s Note: In a rare concurrence of opinion, the winner of this year’s Ceramics/Glass category is also my pick for the fair’s best sculpture. We’ve all been there: you’re down to one egg, and the recipe calls for two. The pain referenced here doesn’t just apply to Minnesotans, though—it’s universal.