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Artist using 3,600 paper bags transforms ND Art Museum wing into weed-like environment

The North Dakota Museum of Art is being taken over by weeds. That'll be evident when visitors to the museum on UND's campus walk into the east wing of the building, where artist Francisco Alvarado and volunteers are hanging up on the walls roughl...

Francisco Alvarado of New York talks Saturday about his art while surrounded by his exhibit, "Yerba Linda/Pretty Weed." The exhibit, consisting of painted and cut bags to resemble weeds, plants, dirt floors, paintings and video projections, is part of the North Dakota Museum of Art show titled "Into The Weeds." (April Baumgarten / Grand Forks Herald)
Francisco Alvarado of New York talks Saturday about his art while surrounded by his exhibit, "Yerba Linda/Pretty Weed." The exhibit, consisting of painted and cut bags to resemble weeds, plants, dirt floors, paintings and video projections, is part of the North Dakota Museum of Art show titled "Into The Weeds." (April Baumgarten / Grand Forks Herald)

The North Dakota Museum of Art is being taken over by weeds.

That'll be evident when visitors to the museum on UND's campus walk into the east wing of the building, where artist Francisco Alvarado and volunteers are hanging up on the walls roughly 3,600 paper bags. The bags have been painted and cut to make the room look like thick walls of weeds are growing and invading the 1,650-square-foot space.

"They are recycled," he said of the bags, some dating back to 1993, "but never like this."

The piece called "Yerba Linda/Pretty Weed" is part of the museum's "Into The Weeds" show, which will run from mid-August to mid-October. Eight other artists will be featured in the rest of the museum, with their pieces showing some aspect of weeds.

Weeds is a concept North Dakotans know well, said Laurel Reuter, the founding director for the museum. Gardeners, florists, agriculturists and the typical homeowner fight weeds on a daily basis, but they keep coming back.

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But artists relish weeds, she wrote in a description of the exhibit, adding the plants "represent exuberance, vigor, abundance a cornucopia bursting with life."

"I really wanted an exhibition that really transforms something that we live with every day, that we all associate with, into something to think about," Reuter told the Herald.

In Alvarado's part of the show, he will transform the east wing into a maze, leading visitors through a path of dirt-covered floors and plant dividers. People weaving along the path will see video projections of nature and Alvarado's paintings, many of which feature insects. The projections and paintings all will be surrounded by the paper bags.

He also said he will bring in organic material to make the room to smell like a natural environment.

He has done similar shows involving paper bags, and the exhibit at the North Dakota museum has been at least a year in the works. ArtWise students and volunteers painted and cut the bags. It will take a total of two weeks to put the project together.

The exhibit officially opens at 3 p.m. Aug. 13 and runs through Oct. 18, but the museum will remain open as Alvarado sets up his piece.

That gives an advantage to the museum, he said. People may wander in and see the work in progress, then they may be encouraged to come back with others to see the finished product.

One woman who walked in unexpectedly ended up helping with the project, he added.

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The exhibit is meant to be abstract so those who see it will experience it in their own way, Alvarado said, but he hopes viewers will see the general themes of recycling, the beauty and fragility of nature and the importance of protecting the environment.

"The abstract nature of the paper and the patterns leaves it wide open for people to dream about a whole lot of different things," he said.

Francisco Alvarado of New York talks Saturday about his exhibit, "Yerba Linda/Pretty Weed," as volunteers work on the painted and cut bags, which are supposed to resemble weeds. The exhibit is part of the North Dakota Museum of Art's show, "Into The Weeds." (April Baumgarten / Grand Forks Herald)
Francisco Alvarado of New York talks Saturday about his exhibit, "Yerba Linda/Pretty Weed," as volunteers work on the painted and cut bags, which are supposed to resemble weeds. The exhibit is part of the North Dakota Museum of Art's show, "Into The Weeds." (April Baumgarten / Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: ART
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