The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 11, 2012

Flat chance: Le Sueur artist doesn't like making flat art -- but it sure looks good on album covers

By Tanner Kent
The Free Press

— Gregory Euclide has little interest in making flat art.

Though sketches, drawings and paintings all figure in his creations, such compositions comprise only a portion of the three-dimensional landscapes he creates from artificial and organic sources. The Le Sueur resident whose lush, yet strangely foreboding dioramas have been featured in galleries across the United States very purposefully avoids flat surfaces because he wants viewers to “have a relationship with my artwork that is similar to their relationship with the world.”

Confining landscapes to a flat surface, he posits, is tantamount to divorcing the mind from its body.

“It’s the No. 1 reason I stopped making flat artwork,” he said.

Yet, here he is, on the precipice of notoriety for another piece of flat artwork.

In February, Euclide enjoyed a fresh heaping of accolades when Justin Vernon’s indie-folk band, Bon Iver, won a Grammy for its studio album “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.” Euclide’s artwork graced the cover, adding a heavy measure of pop culture credibility to an already robust artistic resume.

After music fans got a glimpse of Euclide’s art on the Bon Iver album, he received nearly 100 more inquiries from artists wanting similar treatment. However, Euclide -- who accepted Vernon’s request because of a long story that involves mutual friends and mutual appreciation for art -- declined them all.

That is, until he was approached by the Minnesota Beatle Project to design the fourth installment of its series of Beatles cover songs crafted by Minnesota musicians.

“I didn’t want to do any more covers unless I felt strongly about the cause and the music,” said Euclide, himself a college and public school art instructor who supports the Beatle Project’s mission of using sales proceeds to fund music education programs in Minnesota schools. “I felt strongly about this one.”

The “Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 4” hit store shelves on Tuesday. The album includes 13 tracks sung by Minnesota musicians such as DeVotchKa, Trampled by Turtles and Bloomington Jefferson High School concert band. In Mankato, the album is available at Target and Tune Town, 630 N. Riverfront Drive.

As for Euclide, he said he was given few parameters for designing the cover art. The directions, he said, were simple: “Make something cool. And make it relate to Minnesota.”

And true to Euclide’s style, his finished product was imbued with deeper meanings.

In addition to typical materials, Euclide employs a wide variety of found objects in his art, from weathered foam to moss and dirt.

When he created the cover art for Bon Iver’s album, he linked the music’s thematic narrative of transformation to his landscape by using only melted snow during his production. For the installation Euclide recently had on exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, he used paper molds of boulders he found in Central Park.

In fashioning the Minnesota Beatle Project art, Euclide used sumi ink, which is made from pine trees and recalls Minnesota’s coniferous nostalgia. And he created the piece on a whiteboard, allowing him to re-work and redo portions of his creation -- which is a subtle nod to the fact that the Beatle Project albums are comprised of songs that have themselves been re-worked and redone.

“For me to work on a cover, I need some type of significance,” Euclide said. “These subtle little tie-ins mean a lot to me.”

For music and art fans, grab a copy of the CD while you can. At less than $20, it’s one of the most affordable pieces of Euclide artwork available.

The artist’s cogent artistic commentary on the natural landscape has made him an in-demand artist on a national level. At the moment, Euclide has pieces exhibiting Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Denver and the Twin Cities. His artwork appeared recently in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, in the highly competitive juried book series “New American Paintings” and in the new book “High Touch: Tactile Designs and Visual Explorations.”

But, you can always wait for another album cover.

“I had no interest in doing another one,” said Euclide, explaining how he has now been persuaded to create a third album cover for the highly original Berlin- and London-based music label Erased Tapes. “Now, I’ve agreed to do another one.”