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Whimsical sculptures fill Nemeth Art Center gallery

“Words such as serendipitous, unpredictable, and as if by magic, describe my process,” said Fargo-based artist Renee Danz. (Submitted photo)

By SHANNON GEISEN

The Nemeth Art Center’s grand gallery opens with Amy Toscani’s fanciful sculptures and Renee Danz’s intricate assemblages.

The unique pair of exhibitions will run at the Nemeth from May 1 through Saturday, July 11.

An opening reception and artist talks will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. Saturday, June 20.

Toscani’s whimsical, large-scale works can be found in prominent spots across the Twin Cities, including the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and in St. Paul’s Western Sculpture Park.

Toscani humorously describes her work as a “weird mix of fantasy and 4-H.”

“My work is ridiculous,” she said. “I’m always into ridiculousness, absurdity and parody. I’m making fun of sculptures, viewers, materialism, contemporary art and space.”

Her playful art reflects her personality.

“I take a lot of tchotchke, knickknacks, figurines and use them in my work,” explained Toscani. “It’s a cultural mash-up – like collage artists do but in three dimensions.”

Another Toscani piece is a “plastic amalgam,” comprising deconstructed and reconstructed recipe boxes and buckets.

While Toscani enjoys serious art, she prefers “turning modern art on its head” in her own work.

“I feel like this is who I am,” she said. “There’s no set recipe. As you work, you find your voice.”

She is the recipient of many awards and grants from the Jerome, McKnight and Bush Foundations and has exhibited widely in the Midwest in solo and group exhibitions.

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Toscani moved to Minneapolis in 1994.

“I’m Midwestern,” she said. “I feel Minnesotan.”

Noting her Italian ancestry, she adds, “I’m too loud to be Minnesotan.”

She’s pleased to share her work with the Nemeth Art Center.

“It’s such a worthy goal and organization. I’m all behind it. I love that place,” she said.

Danz’s artwork is similarly imaginative. For the first time, she is exhibiting a large selection of her pieces.

Danz grew up in Battle Lake. When she was 15, her family moved to Clitherall Lake and her mom opened an antique store known as The Old Clitherall Granary.

“I’ve always loved going to the flea markets, antique shops and auction sales,” said Danz. “I now hunt and gather old parts that could work as parts of a human body.”

Danz studied art at Moorhead and the University of Oregon.

She combines modernistic and folk traditions to create a group of figures resembling a loving, dysfunctional family.

Danz describes her work as “animation of a desired statement that relates to the human condition.”

“Sometimes reality is too hard core,” she said. “I feel a great sense of relief and joy working with animation. My hope is that the audience will relate to and enjoy the statements this work has to offer.”

Along with her husband, Danz is the longtime business owner of Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo.

Having a retail store took the couple to a New York gift market, where “I discovered Marci and Bill Finks, who were selling dolls made of discarded objects,” recalled Danz. “I was so inspired that I couldn’t quit thinking about them.”

She decided to make her own doll, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“You can expect to see dolls in every shape and form,” she explained. “Some of my recent work incorporates suggestions of a face using things that have reminded me of a face. I really love the patina of old, funky junk.”

Danz also spoke highly of the Nemeth Art Center.

“I really love the area,” she said. “I love the people I’ve been working with at Nemeth. The whole thing is a real positive for me.”

Nemeth Art Center exhibitions are free to the public and may be viewed from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

The art center is located at 301 Court Ave. in the old courthouse.

For more information, visit www.nemethartcenter.org.

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