Now on view at The Grand Hand: Wieben & Wood

Sarah Wieben, Building Bridges

Sarah Wieben – painting
James Borden, Bob Carls, Janel Jacobson, Jerry Kermode, Vernon Leibrant, Craig Lossing, Jay McDougall, Holly Tornheim and Kerry Vesper – contemporary wood
September 4 – October 6, 2009

For this exhibition, Minnesota landscape artist Sarah Wieben has created a series of new work inspired by the American Sublime painters of the 19th century, but reflecting the sense of political and cultural renewal taking place in our country today. Sarah’s A Destiny of Our Own Making is an exciting body of work – an artist’s view of the contemporary sense of a new American identity.

Sculptural, functional, turned, carved – we love wood art in all its forms. This show brings together some of the most outstanding wood artists from Minnesota and across the country.

Gallery Talk: Sunday, September 13, 2-4 PM
Noted Minnesota collectors Ruth & David Waterbury on acquiring wood art

Sarah Wieben on her new work:

In giving my current body of work the title “A Destiny of Our Own Making,” I am both quoting a great modern orator (President Obama heralding the passage of his Stimulus Package) and also making reference to Manifest Destiny, along with its visual component, The American Sublime. Which is not to say all American Sublime painters supported the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, because they did not, but they did very much address and respond to it, which is the potent point I’m getting at.

By today’s standards, the views of the American Sublime painters would strike one as benignly sentimental on one hand, to uncomfortably politically incorrect on the other, less benign hand. Their views belong to their time. What I admire about them, and what I am inspired by, is their level of involvement in the discourse of the day – that being, the formation of an American national identity. For the Sublime painters, who were very much influenced by and in communication with the writers, poets and philosophers of the day (Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau) the question of national identity was as new as the nation was young.

Today our nation has aged enough to be at a crossroads in our country’s history, and for us the question of our national identity is a renewed question. Who are we? Who are we not?

Having been born in the 1960s, I am a child of the Postmodern era. But as such, I have always felt estranged from Postmodernism, with its disillusionment and cynicism and its persistent dismantling of values – values that I happen to believe in. This used to worry me. What did it say about me as an artist to admit that I felt detached from the prevailing art movement of my time?

The victory of Barack Obama in November 2008 signaled to me that I had not been alone in my estrangement. Others too had languished and yearned as I did for political and cultural renewal. His victory was a harbinger that the country was in the process of a major paradigm shift. How else could one interpret the victory of a political candidate who built his campaign on the foundation of that most anti-Postmodern notion – Hope?

It has been said that a people cannot survive and prosper without a unified national mythology. I agree with this position with the added assertion that if a mythology exists by consensus, it ceases to be myth and becomes instead a reality.

If I am reading the signs correctly, and it is indeed time to reconsider the question of our national identity, then I feel compelled as an artist, and as a citizen, to participate in that discourse. The work on view for this show is the visual manifestation of how I see my fellow Americans – it is the beginning rather than the summation of my vision of who we are.

- Sarah Wieben
August 2009

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