Friday, March 29, 2013

Plaque Attack at the American Swedish Institute

Opening Saturday, March 30 at the American Swedish Institute: an exhibition of 1,200 birchwood plaques from Sweden. You've seen these once-ubiquitous little objects in antique stores, your grandparents' home or cabin, maybe on the occasional outhouse door during a camping trip. But 1,200 in the same place at the same time? It's mind-boggling yet strangely seductive.

Look at them and you almost have to love them. See them in such large quantities and you focus in, drawn to one or two favorites. Stand back and you're amazed at the wash of blue and green. Each plaque was made by hand, by someone who cared enough to make it. Each was hung on a someone's wall for a reason -- maybe because This is my town or I visited this place or I dream of going here someday or I like this scene or story. They seem kitschy and commercial, but they're also very personal.

The exhibition encourages you to ask "Is this art?" and even "What is art?" Both are important and interesting questions, but you can also just soak up the scene. It's a sunny, optimistic, slightly twisted show. In the end, it's like too much sugar on your scone, but what a tasty scone.

We saw the exhibition on Wednesday, March 27, while it was still being installed. These photos are the tip of the birchy iceberg.

Photos by John Whiting.

Related: On MinnPost:  Opens Saturday at the American Swedish Institute: "#NameThisExhibit: 1200 Birchwood Plaques."

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