An old friend’s work on display

I happened to drive by the Shoebox Gallery Tuesday morning, and in passing my eye landed on the window-filling installation there of Jenny Jenkins’ typology of announcement signs lacking announcements. I knew, from Jenny’s emails, that the show was being dismantled soon, and I hadn’t taken the time to look at it.

The venue is unusual; two adjoining display windows on the corner of Lake and Chicago in Minneapolis. Local impresario and visual artist Sean Smuda curates the space on what must only be described as a shoestring budget (my kids are groaning now). Sean lives upstairs from Robert’s Shoes (“Not a foot we can’t fit”), the gallery’s host. The late winter snowbanks (more concentrated dirt and gritty ice crystals now than snow) along the curb were coughing up all manner of detritus, including scores of little plastic booze bottles and hundreds of cryogenically-preserved cigarette butts. I was the only person there, at roughly nine a.m., and I was nervous enough to consider leaving my engine running while I got out to look at and document the public display. (I really don’t live in NYC any more.)

Jenny showed up, and was as startled to imagine some stranger taking a liking to her installed picture scroll-grids as I was to be accosted standing there snapping phone pics. She was there to make her own documentation of the very fine installation. I’ve known Jenny for over fifteen years; she was one of the small group of people who worked with me on the pARTs Journal, published in four volumes from 1995 to 1998, with a final issue trailing in 1999 or 2000, by pARTs Photographic Arts (the precursor to Minnesota Center for Photography).

I’ve always enjoyed Jenny’s spirited approach to life, and she’s always had a fondness for celebrating and photographing New Orleans, which endears her to me and which prompted me to include her in a 2007 show, Downriver, at MCP, with Dan Beers, Xavier Tavera, Stuart Klipper, and Alec Soth, four other Minnesotans who had captured NOLA’s unique blend of civilization, creativity, culture, and chaos in the time prior to Katrina’s waves.

Though Jenny may never become an international sensation, she’s an example of a working artist who is diligent, resourceful, good-humored, and pragmatic. Communities populated with good souls like Jenny and Sean are well-equipped to thrive. It was my good fortune to coincide with her that morning. And, looking at Shoebox’s calendar, I note that the next exhibitor is Vance Gellert, Jenny’s and my former colleague at pARTs/MCP. The wheel just keeps turning ’round.

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