I could not be more thrilled to announce the opening of my Mom's first museum showing in the Foot In The Door 5 exhibit held every ten years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art! The idea is that once a decade, MIA opens its doors to artists from the area, with the only criteria being that their work must fit within one square foot. This year's extravaganza of paintings, photography, drawings, prints, mixed media, sculpture, and textiles has to be held virtually due to Covid, which is a big drag, but super cool nonetheless that my Mom is in her first museum show at age 80!
To know Marilyn Gronner is to love her, and no one knows her or loves her better than me. This is because yes, she's my Mom, but also because I have seen her work so hard and sacrifice her entire life - always with grace, always with an eye toward helping others, and always with a smile on her face. She was a music and art double major at Augsburg College (our whole family's alma mater), and was (is!) a beautiful painter and musician (trumpet, piano, and pipe organ!). She met my Dad, got married, had three kids, and figured she'd raise us and work on her art and that would be her perfectly happy life.
The world doesn't always work out for you like you think it's going to, sadly. My Dad died of cancer at 33, and left Mom alone with three kids to raise. Painting and music were pushed to the back burners, as Mom focused her full attention on us, doing any and all creative jobs she could to keep us fed, clothed in what all the other kids were wearing, and with a happy enough childhood to not really notice it was different from most of our friends' families. But best believe that our graceful swan of a Mother was scrambling her legs hard and fast under the surface to make sure we all stayed afloat. And we always have.
Years passed, I moved away, always encouraging Mom to pick up her paints again, but never really seeing it happen. Last year I came back home to help Mom after she tragically lost one of her scrambling legs due to a vicious infection. She moved into an assisted living facility, where we thought she could finally return to her passion for painting. That didn't happen, because their big activities were like Bingo and junk like that, and Mom was miserable in there. That was not going to be the rest of her life on my watch.
We got Mom out of the awful home just in time, about a month before the world began to lock down for Covid, and we would not have even been able to visit her! Once home, I was going to make sure that Mom's life was happy and creative again, and we went out and got her some tiny canvases to get to work on, thinking that the smaller sizes would be less intimidating for her to complete. I had never even heard of the Foot In The Door exhibits at MIA in the past, and then I saw an announcement for it in City Pages one day (RIP, City Pages!). The art had to be fit within one square foot, and here Mom was working in exactly that size and smaller!
I secretly submitted my favorite of Mom's new pieces, Peace of Wood Lake, because Wood Lake means so much to me, she had painted it as as gift to me for springing her from the dreadful prison of a nursing home, and because I thought it was the best of her recent work. I waited about a month, and then received the happy news that Mom's work had been accepted, and she would be in her first museum show at 80 years old! I literally jumped up and down all over the house when I heard, and Mom just laughed at me, not really getting the big deal of it, but happy to see me so happy for her.
I could not be prouder of this lady, truly. Her attitude on life has always been so positive ... but this is the woman who told the doctors that she'd like to walk into her surgery to remove her leg on her own two feet one last time - and she did. The strength that took (and the pain she must have felt!) has been an inspiration not just to her kids, who adore her unconditionally, but to people the world over. This is the woman who did not want to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair watching daytime t.v. - she wanted to return to her creative life, and be better than she ever had been before. She has a new enthusiasm for her work, which had been dormant for decades, and this has been rewarded by having her first new piece of art accepted into a show at an internationally renowned museum, that also happens to be one of my favorites anywhere (especially this last year with their groundbreaking show like Hearts Of Our People and When Home Won't Let You Stay, plus Ai Wei Wei's awesome installation last winter!). My Mom is in MIA!!! How extra cool is that?!?!
Please attend Foot In The Door 5 online, and don't forget to click on the little heart next to my Mom's work as one that you love, as we continue to encourage her to keep it all up! I wish we could really see it on the walls of the actual museum ... but we're going to aim for Foot In The Door 6 for that! Thank you to all involved for giving my Mom the recognition and encouragement she has earned through her lifetime, and for giving her the opportunity to show her work. This proves that you are never too old to be doing something you love, and that doors will always open to you when you follow your heart and your deepest passions. She would also like you to know that she's accepting commissions! That's right.
Congratulations on your Museum debut, dear Mom! Wow.
Foot In The Door 5 is virtually on display now through January 10, 2021 HERE!