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Conversations on Art

Why they love Minnesota, why classical music should be intoxicating, and the bizarre story of why one gallery went up in flames—more tidbits from our interviews with the seven Twin Cities artists to watch this fall.

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These artists are featured in the October issue's "7 Artists to Watch."

Terrence Payne

Artist and operator of Rosalux Gallery

Your style is instantly recognizable: graphic backgrounds, illustration-like images of boxers, cowboys, and swimmers. How did your style evolve?

After college I did the backpacking across Europe thing then found myself living in my girlfriend’s parents’ basement in Iowa. I won some money off her dad in a card game and said, “Hey, I’m moving to Minneapolis.” I wasn’t the best planner at 22.

You have to figure out the discipline of making art for yourself. And I needed to get a new body of work together. Anything I brought from college was much darker. The goth kids got the A’s in college. It’s a lot to ask a young person to figure out what they want to be as an artist. It’s a lot more practical to tell a kid to build a bong out of whatever you can find.

After a year and a half of school, I had started drawing things over and over again. And that evolved into the idea of using different objects that people have built-in associations with—they can connect with what I’m doing.

How would you describe the Minneapolis visual arts scene right now?
If you want to compare it to New York, it’s still a lower cost of living here and you can afford to take more risks—but you can’t sell your work. People expect you to charge by the square foot because that’s what they’re used to at Home Depot. The more savvy artists among us are promoting ourselves on the Web. You can make a pretty decent living if you build a following in other cities.

The Minneapolis gallery scene has changed a lot. It used to be more oriented toward the commercial galleries—the goal was to get a show at Flanders or Thomas Barry. When we started Rosalux, I thought, the galleries are taking 50 percent, what the hell? I can write a press relesase, I can unlock a door, why do we have a pay someone?

Rosalux reopened in northeast Minneapolis this year after closing at Open Book. But that wasn’t your first gallery, right?
No, the first was next to an auto-body store—which blew up on Mother’s Day. I was working at the Uptown Bar at the time, and this guy comes in and says, “Hey, your gallery’s burning down. It was a front for a meth lab. I drive out there and a bunch firemen are standing around eating White Castle. So I got the firemen to help me drag the art out of the gallery.

Minneapolis is cracking down on alcohol at galleries and art studios. What’s your take?
I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s tacky to ask people for a donation and it’s such a hassle to check IDs and such. Plus, there’s a whole group of alcoholics who look out in the papers and find out where the openings are—they make the circuit and take the free wine and get hammered. And if there’s food there, even better. At our grand opening at the new space for Rosalux, I’d forgotten about this. And then, sure enough, the bus pulled up and they all rolled off, and I was like, here they come.

“Flourish: Jennifer Davis, Erika Olson Gross, Terrence Payne, and Joe Sinness” opens at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on October 22, artsmia.org

Namir Smallwood


You’re from New Jersey. How’d you wind up in Minnesota?

I got a flyer in the mail about the Guthrie’s BFA program, and I almost threw it in the garbage. I had no intention of coming to Minnesota, but my mother implored me to at least inquire about auditions. I’m ever grateful that she did, because that’s where I learned how to act, how to harness and craft my talent. I got to work and meet with some of the very best people out there.

And you’ve survived a few winters.
When I came here for callbacks in March of 2002, it was 27 degrees below zero, and I had never experienced that kind of cold before. There’s just nothing like that in New Jersey… and I came here anyway. Let’s just say I was impressed by the program. And I’m really glad I came.

What have you been drawn to about acting?
I love transforming into someone else. Whoever I am on stage, I’m nothing like that in person. But when I inhabit that character, when the audience is with me, when I have their undivided attention, that’s the best feeling in the world to me. To take somebody on a journey, that’s one of the greatest thing I can do as an actor, as an artist.

Smallwood stars in Ten Thousand Things’s Life is a Dream, opening October 29, Open Book, tenthousandthings.org

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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