Art the eye can touch at Prøve Collective

The Materialistic Intentions show at Prøve Collective opened tonight. Prøve is at a critical juncture. In the short months since I first walked through their doors, they have moved from being a quirky use of an empty storefront (the empty storefront that used to house Robin Goodfellow’s Comics and Games) to becoming a Duluth art institution. They have moved from being a collective that thrived on the energy of a small number of young artists to the center of a statewide, arguably international community of artists.

And that success comes at a moment of change. The Collective is partnering with the Duluth Superior Film Festival, growing in new and interesting ways. The Collective is holding more and longer hours each month — becoming less the site of a happening and more a site for the ongoing experience of art. And in what may the the greatest change, key members of the Collective are continuing their art training in locations far away from the Northland, while new members are stepping into their roles already, prepared to sustain the awesomeness.

The Collective, in other words, is poised to become a permanent fixture on the Duluth art scene.

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

The Collective at Prøve got there through hard work and refined taste, clearly evident in Materialistic Intentions.

Visitors were welcomed by “Ours is As Well,” a kind of tarp-doily reflection on the fragility of life.

It defined the experience of the space for the show: this show is about the haptic experience of art. Though Prøve remains a gallery of fine art (littered with signs that ask us not to touch), those signs are a tease. The works in Materialistic Intentions touch us, very intentionally, through the eye.

So Mayumi Amada’s “Teddy Bear FURever,” an aluminum teddy bear, begs to be touched — begs us, through the eye, to experience the cool touch of the aluminum where we want the warmth of synthetic fur.

Amada’s “Bouquets from Grandmas” does similar work — these tiny works invite us to perceive the flowers not by the color, not by the shape, but by the ways that the fragile egg-carton petals beg us to touch them — to experience their rose-petal fragility with the touch of our eyes.

Bouquets from Grandmas

Amada is the first of several international artists to exhibit at Prøve, one who has previously exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We are lucky to be able to experience her work in Duluth. We are lucky that Prøve have built an arts community attractive to an international array of artists.

That includes Kevin Bierbaum, a German-born, now South Dakotan artist who converts text itself into texture — takes dictionary entries and converts them into canvas, into foreground and background, into deep field and highlight — into a haptic space, in “Untitled.”


But Prove remains a home for the regional artist; Karen Searle’s wire works — knit creations in wire — made my skin crawl. Gentle, delicate, but as unlike fabric as anything I have ever seen.


Beautiful to see, but at some level, grating to the touch that can only be experienced by the eye. A contrast that kept me staring.

These works mesmerize — they make you consider the tension and the consonance between the materials of art and the work of art in new ways. The Collective has outdone itself, curatorially.

I’ve never been more excited to live in Duluth than to live in the Duluth that these artists have, in a real sense, created. I look forward to dropping in during the film festival. In the meantime, you should drop in and see these works.



about 12 years ago

I, too, found Materialistic Intentions to be an excellent show and wrote a review at Ennyman's Territory.


about 12 years ago

Thank you for the great comment on the show and artworks. "Touching through the eye." I love this idea. Thank you again for the creative words. This kind of positive article encourages artists a lot.

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