Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Gingerbread Wonderland At Norway House - Virtually, Because 2020.

Oh, 2020. You've really been something else. This holiday season will be like none other ever, and we're all having to get creative to keep it special and magical. One of the beloved newer traditions in Minneapolis is the Gingerbread Wonderland show held each year at Norway House, and this year's production was truly outstanding ... until it had to close down for another Covid lockdown. I feel really bad that there are so many wonderful gingerbread creations that are now stuck inside with no one to appreciate them, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites here in an attempt to spread some Christmas cheer ... starting with the sheer marvel by Maggie Karschnia MVP most crowd pleaser in the bunch before the doors had to be shut - Holidays at Hogwar's! WHAT?!?! That's pepperkake?! Incredible, truly. 

There are so many gingerbread houses in the gallery that it smells like gingerbread is currently baking, but it's just the sheer volume of cake in there! 

The blue facade of Norway House greets you as the first gingerbread house, and it only gets better from there. 

It's kind of hard to shoot photos in the gallery because it's dark and there's black light going on, which makes it all rather enchanting in person, but tough to capture. This delightful carousel by Renee and Kirsten Poppenhagen (great name!) was very impressive because it really rotated. Pretty awesome. 

I can't believe I STILL haven't been to Norway, being 100% Norwegian, but here we are. The Munch Museum has always been on my sights to see in Oslo, and the Norway House has it depicted in gingerbread. Takk! 

Even the very traditional gingerbread homes were impressive, and made you want to actually live inside of them. Like this one ... 

Bakers tend to create places that are either Norwegian or local Minnesota places is they're not doing the traditional gingerbread vibe, and it's always fun to see someone's interpretation of a local landmark. The Witch's Hat by Paula Gilbertson was one such cool one, and I learned that it had been designed by a Norwegian architect, Fredrick William Cappelen. Who knew? 

There's no place like Gnome, and those popular little guys populate the adorable house done by Pati Kachel from my own Mom's Daughters of Norway Pauline Fjelde Lodge #51 in Minneapolis! Great job, Pati! Skol! 

The downtown Minneapolis Milwaukee Road train depot is there in gingerbread, looking an awful lot like the real place - only maybe better. 

Mindekirken, the Norwegian American Lutheran Church located across the parking lot from Norway House is there, looking all ready for Christmas Eve (and who's service we will very much miss attending in person this year!). It even has edible stained glass windows!

Another local favorite is represented at Gingerbread Wonderland with a little replica of Bogart's Donuts! I don't know if they offer ginger donuts in real life, but they do at this location! Cute. 

A Minneapolis Mercado by Sharon Born reflects both a big part of the ethnicity of the Franklin neighborhood of Norway House, and also the uprising here this Summer after the murder of George Floyd by Minnepolis Police. Maybe not the first thing you think of when thinking gingerbread houses, but you know what? We can NEVER FORGET. SAY HIS NAME!!!

One of my very favorites was the beautiful depiction of the All My Relations Gallery right up the street from Norway House. Bright and colorful, and it really looks just like the fantastic cultural center. LOVE.

Minnesota is there in its entirety in a flat creation by Shannon Schaaf and Etta Fuhrman showing the entire state, even the Spam Museum! People were definitely getting creative this year, and no two entries are alike.  

I love an A-frame, and this was another house by Liz Mullen and The "Chowgirls Team" that I would actually like to live in. Yay for the Chalet! 

When we were kids my Mom would have us play "Little Red School House" on long road trips - really just a game of who could be the most quiet for the longest. It wasn't that fun, but it did give me a little kick of nostalgia to see this little red gingerbread Skole

An EverGreen House - with skylights! 

A fanciful Peppermint House! 

An adorable Barn! 

Another Barn with a cool silhouette barn dancing couple!

A beautiful Snowy House! 

A folky Clocktower by Shaynah Whitmore (age 14)! 

A Norwegian waffle tower by Nordic Waffles! 

A red sauna done by one of my best friend in the world's daughters, Inga Wilhoit! 

I think my absolute favorite was the gingerbread version of the Edvard Grieg house, Troldhaugen, in Bergen, Norway. It's an exact replica of the famous Norwegian composer's home, but the great thing about it is that the creator, Jay'd Hagberg, put a little miniature piano on the roof! 

I heard a little girl say that her favorite one was the "one with the piano on the roof", and you could see in her eyes that it had made an impression. I would not be surprised to hear that she grew up to have a piano on her own roof - and now I want one too. What a treat for everyone! Especially if it was Grieg. 

Everyone was having a grand - and very safe and very distanced - time taking in Gingerbread Wonderland as one of the very few things we could do this super weird holiday season, and then it all shut down on November 20th, and it doesn't look like it will reopen during the run of the show. It's a real shame, among many shames this year, but I hope you will enjoy these photographs, and maybe do the virtual tour via Norway House's website. It costs $5 to view, but this event is THE major fundraiser for Norway House each year, and it would be great to help them out. I made my own first ever gingerbread house this year, having been inspired by all of these greats ... but this is the only place you'll see it unless you come over to my Mom's, which you can't because she's at risk, so here you go - The Love Shack! 


I've been out of my mind crazy busy, and apologize for so long between stories, but I just know that this next year HAS to be better for us all, and that there will be so many great new stories to tell that it's all I'll have time for. Right? So ... enjoy this holiday season as much as you possibly can. Be inspired. Get creative. Know that there is still beauty and fun and magic in this world, and it's all right there if you really look for it. I send love and my Merriest Christmas wishes to one and all around the world! 


Monday, November 2, 2020

Foot In The Door 5 at MIA - AKA My Mom's Museum Debut!

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! 


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Designs For Different Futures at The Walker Art Center - Anything Is Possible

My two favorite social distancing activities are nature and art, and luckily, there are ample opportunities to partake in both here in The Twin Cities, where I have been riding out the pandemic. The Walker Art Center has put up a new exhibition called Designs For Different Futures, that is an especially great show for these times, as we have to figure out new solutions for going forward in this world. Have. To.

The artists at The Walker are full of good design ideas, so many that I dared to start having a little bit of hope for the future again. There was a disembodied female voice from future narrating things in the background, lending it all a bit of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe. In fact, the first piece we saw even looked like a little spaceship (there were little projections inside).

In these Covid times, it makes a lot of sense to have a graphic on the floor instructing one how to assess the risk of a handshake. Comical, but also deadly serious - especially when there's a jackass president who lies about the risks. K, moving on ... 

I was very excited to see the Svalbard Global Seed Vault model on display, as I've been following this project since its inception in 2008. Designed by Architect, Peter W. Soderman, the Svalbard Seed Vault houses seeds from around the world deep in a massive, futuristic space deep within a fjord. 

The vault is like a giant seed library, with countries sending inn their native seeds in the event that a natural or man-made disaster would render a crop extinct ... they've now got backup here in Norway. (Of course, they thought it was invincible, but the vault has already been breached due to the ongoing Climage Crisis. Please CARE!!!) It's all pretty smart. Pretty cool.

One of the things I LOVED, but that you can't really see is the Future Library, 2014-2114 by Katie Paterson. Norway has a lot of cool things going on, because Paterson's library is there too. She planted 1,000 spruce saplings outside of Oslo. In 100 years, they will be felled to make paper to print books that are being written for the library, one per year by 100 different authors ... and most of us will not be around to read them (Frankly, I'll be surprised if anyone is around due to the Climate Crisis that we're really doing nothing of consequence about, very sadly). The first new book is by Margaret Atwood, of The Handmaid's Tale fame, sending her manuscript off into the future. I'm madly in love with this idea ... and trying to figure out how to read any of them!


Perspire, 2018 by Alice Potts shows ballet slippers soaked in human sweat that has crystallized and been dyed with red cabbage. Crazy. This is an attempt to show how in the future our accessories and clothing will be highly personalized ... or something like that. It looked cool. 

Looking even cooler was my favorite part of this exhibit, which was a series of dresses made from either 3D Printing or seaweed ... all materials that will definitely be in play going forward in our world, as our current fashion practices are simply not sustainable. My very favorite piece in the entire show (that opens this story above) was the show-stopping Syntopia Finale Dress, 2018 by Iris van Herpen. Vogue described van Herpen as "Fashion's chief scientist and perhaps also its leading futurist," and that surely shows in this jaw-dropping creation. It says that she based the pattern for the laser-cute stainless steel and black silk dress on the soundwaves of birds in flight, and that's all I had to hear. LOVE IT WITH MY WHOLE HEART. And want to wear it so bad. To something. Anything. Cheers to you, Iris van Herpen! 

Also spectacular, though much more earthy, is the Kombukamui Dress, 2018 by Julie Lohmann - made from seaweed and rattan! She liked how seaweed gets big and leathery when wet, and a totally different character when it dries ... and sees seaweed as a ton of design possibilities for the future. 

There was a really cool piece called In Plain Sight, 2018 that tracked the use of electricity around the world ... and how inequality around the globe affects peoples' access to it. The number one thing people need more of today is empathy. All the bad things happening now would be so much better if people could only find their empathy. This screen really drove that home to me yet again. 

There was an enormous bulbous sphere in that same room called Another Generosity, 2018 that changed colors and kind of seemed to breathe. It's filled with water and air (the main - highly endangered - elements of life on Earth, that reacts to tiny changes in its environment - much like our real Earth does, and why we need to be so  much more gentle with it. Please. 

I can't remember what this went with or who did it, but I agree with pretty much every statement within:


There was a Republic of Estonia e-Residency Kit, 2014 by the Republic of Estonia. In 2014, the little country introduced the concept of e-Residency, offering anyone the opportunity to be an e-resident. It doesn't grant tax residency or citizenship, but it does let you conduct business and use their public services, etc. Borders fall away (all man-made anyway, so I don't really believe in them), enabling a free flow of ideas and resources. Pretty cool. 

Similarly, Infinite Passports, 2014-2017 by Giuditta Vendrame and Fiona du Mesnildot proposes a system where members could exchange passports temporarily, as well as their geopolitical status. This would allow people to migrate about freely without permission from any government. I'm down with that.


The Handmaid's Tale red gown featured prominently in the middle of the gallery suggested an eerie future - especially if this joke of a Supreme Court nominee gets confirmed. It's about design for the future ... but I don't want any part of that kind of future - and it's up to all of us to prevent it. I feel sick just thinking about it  ... 

There was an area devoted to accessibility in the future, featuring the PhoeniX Exoskeleton, 2011-2017 by Homayoon Kazerooni. It's designed to give people with mobility disabilities and spinal cord injuries the ability to walk on their own. Activist Ace Ratcliff was quoted about it, saying, "A utopia is not a world where disability is a problem that's been solved; rather, it's an inevitable expression of genetic variance, and disabled humans are not just welcomed, but fully included." Now ... that's a great statement, but the irony was that my Mom and I got stuck in the tiny closet of a handicapped lift that brings you to this level, for like 15 long minutes, as the staff scrambled to get us out. It was broken, and we couldn't get out, so had to go back up to get out there (Thank God). Mom was therefore unable to access this level of the museum and was never able to see these works that were really interesting for her, having lost her leg and being disabled herself. I'm thinking the Walker should maybe invite her back for free now ... because she didn't get to see this cool prosthetic leg of the future! 

Stance, 2016 by Leslie Speer, Anthony Ta, Brendan Ngo, and Darren Manuel was made from saddle leather, fiberglass, skateboard deck (!), maple veneer, and silicon. It can be adapted to the growth of its user over time (COOL - because we just came from another leg fitting for Mom and it's a major hassle!). It uses regional materials, so its parts can be customized and assembled locally for less than $40! That would also be cool as Mom's new one will be upwards of $1,800 - that insurance will not pay. UNBELIEVABLE still how bad our country's healthcare system is, It really is, and must be reformed. Moving on ... 


... to Stranger Visions, 2012-2013 by Heather Dewey-Hagborg. This work addresses genetic surveillance and the ethics of accessing another person's genetic information without their knowledge. Dewey-Hagborg collected chewed up chewing gum from around New York City, and worked with a lab to extract the DNA. In a process called "Phenotyping", she took their genetic information to make portraits of what the person who chewed the gum most likely looked like. TRIPPY. It was very Game Of Thrones Man with No Face-y. 

There was so much to see, and you'll want to see it, as I've included very little of the entire show here. There are other great exhibits happening at The Walker now as well, like Don't Let This Be Easy, celebrating the work of women artists and feminism (The Walker does a great job of being socially timely). All of the works were great, but I was really struck by this file cabinet with shirts in it, saying things like, "One of the ways people hurt me is ...". Please just trust me that you want to see this whole room for yourself. 

You have to love the Selection from Don't Look Back, 1999 by Fiona Banner from the permanent collection. Banner has screenprinted transcripts from the classic Bob Dylan documentary, and it's great as a whole ... 

... and then fun to zoom in on to remember that part of the movie and how cool it was. Is. Again, there is SO much to see and our time was running out, so I urge you to go and explore for yourselves, as it's a really good social distancing activity, as we crossed paths with very few other people in the galleries. 

Racing by a few walls from the permanent collection, I was delighted to see a piece (I Got A Job To Do, 2003) from our Venice, California friend (and Cali Loco!) Llyn Foulkes! That made my heart happy, as I've been missing Venice SO much, and it's nice to see a little part of it even here in the North. 

There is also an exhibit of Jasper Johns prints from 1960-2018. Our favorite from An Art Of Changes was his Flags, 1965. It had one of those optical illusion games, where you stare at the white dot on the flag for 15 seconds and then look at the plain gray panel and you can still see the flag there in your tripping out retinas. 

That coolness was a great finale for our wonderful day at The Walker. It gave us a lot to think about as we go forward in this world, and it was a little reassuring that there are such smart, creative, talented people hard at work around the globe making designs for all of the different future possibilities we may face.

I've said it many times before, but art that makes you stop and think about ways to make our current world better is the very best kind. And this show is full of that. Please go, please think, and please enjoy! 

Walker Art Center 

Designs For Different Futures

September 12, 2020 - April 11, 2021