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Rochester Art Center's latest exhibition is to 'scale'

"Human Scale," featuring almost 30 artists, opens Friday, July 9.

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Kieran Myles-Andrés Tverbakk's sculpture “Madre De Todos” at the Rochester Art Center's "Human Scale" exhibition, with Isa Gagarin's “Tumaiguini” in the background. (Photo courtesy Hair + Nails.)

The spider-like figure towers over a human. Its legs, made of jagged branches, support a tangled nest of twine. It's frightening, yet vulnerable, evoking something battered, but still standing.

Minneapolis-based artist Kieran Myles-Andrés Tverbakk spent over 100 hours constructing the figure, which they call “Madre De Todos.”

“Madre De Todos” is one of the first pieces you see when you enter the gallery where the Rochester Art Center is hosting its latest exhibition, “Human Scale,” which opens Friday, July 9.

Guest curators Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon, owners of Minneapolis art gallery Hair + Nails, have assembled works by almost 30 artists, many with Minnesota connections, to explore what it means to be human.

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The show engages with universal themes of human scale in terms of size, perspective, identity and representation. For example, Tverbakk’s “Madre De Todos” explores humans’ relationship with the environment and ideas of motherhood. It also examines “in-between” identities, which they often work with as a transgender and mixed-race artist.

The show also connects with current events, Fontaine said, such as the treatment of child immigrants at the border and racial reckonings since the death of George Floyd.

“It's important to us that this feels of the moment, that it feels like a show that would happen in 2021,” he said.

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The installation "Escaped to the Country" by Emmett Ramstad, foreground, and "Still Water Clay Mound" by Jonathan Herrera Soto, background, are part of the "Human Scale" exhibit curated by Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon. (Contributed photo from Hair + Nails)

“Human Scale” represents the beginning of the Rochester Art Center’s efforts to move to a guest-curator model, said Pamela Hugdahl, the center's executive director. The switch, which is meant to diversify the exhibition schedule and bring in new perspectives, emerged from an examination of operations during the pandemic, Hugdahl said.

Fontaine's and Van Loon’s show is the latest installment in what could be a banner year for the art center. Barring two closures, it has operated throughout the pandemic, producing hybrid events, selling take-home art kits, and continuing to host shows.

“We have more exhibitions up right now than we've ever had,” Hugdahl said.

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The “Human Scale” exhibition includes works in a variety of mediums, from short films to sculptures like "Madre De Todos," to paintings like Maiya Lea Hartman's realistic self-portraits, which incorporate real and artificial hair.

Other pieces include Cameron Downey's monumental "Altar," a towering structure of colorful stuffed animals based on roadside memorials, which pairs well with the super-saturated colors of Rachel Collier's painting "Reason and Accountability," an intentional choice by the curators.

"A lot of the works we feel are in conversation with each other, even though they're by different artists," Fontaine said.

Fontaine described the show as “crowded” in order to achieve an immersive experience.

“We wanted it to feel like you're within this other world that's created by all these artists,” he said.

If you go

What: "Human Scale" exhibition, guest curated by Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon

When: Opening reception at 6 p.m. Friday, July 9; exhibition runs through Oct. 24.

Where: Rochester Art Center, 30 Civic Center Drive

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Admission: $5 for adults; free for ages 21 and under.

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