By Tanner Kent
---- — MANKATO -- Amanda Wirig is through with Bob.
As a matter of fact, the Mankato artist is hoping that the grinning, cocksure protagonist that has starred in all of her biggest artistic breaks to this point of her career finally goes home with someone else.
"Any time I've had any kind of break, Bob has done it for me," said Wirig, who created his visage several years ago as the focal point of a work in her series of bitingly subversive narratives guised as vintage advertisements. Having now explored the style for the better part of a decade, Wirig's current exhibition at the 410 Project represents the best -- and perhaps last -- work she creates in that vein.
"I've taken the series about as far as I can," she added.
Along the way, Wirig employed the series of paintings and mixed media works as a way to showcase her own sense of humor and gimlet eye for social issues to audiences both local and beyond.
In "Art Schools of America" -- the piece in which Bob is cast in the lead role -- Wirig criticizes the supericiality of artist stereotypes (they are all gay, brooding and addicted) while simultaneously casting doubt on the get-rich-quick institutions that romanticize the profitability of art careers. The piece earned Wirig second place in the 2010 Fine Artists of Southeast Minnesota juried exhibit in Winona and, earlier this year, was shown in a pair of Chicago galleries.
In 2012, "Artist Temperament" -- which features the slogan "Just one pill and I'm on even keel all day" in an image that recalls retro, housewife-themed advertising -- earned Wirig inclusion into the Prairie Lakes Regional Art Council's juried exhibit. Two other pieces not on display at the 410 are currently showing at Gallery 402B in Minneapolis.
Wirig said she became inspired by the style shortly after graduating from Minnesota State University in 2003 with dual degrees in art and music. Finding it difficult to launch an art career while also looking for an affordable place to live, Wirig said a postcard from an artists' loft in the Twin Cities prompted her to create "Pacific Grotto Home," a tongue-in-cheek endorsement of glorified trailer homes.
Wirig said the series of paintings eventually became a way to thresh out her own frustrations with pursuing an art career while also serving as an outlet for social observation.
"I can say things in my artwork I could never say in real life," she said.
For Wirig, the 410 exhibit represents a changing point in her career, both stylistically and geographically.
With the recent attention from Twin Cities and Chicago galleries, Wirig said she is hoping to begin showing her work more regularly in metro venues. The artist who doubles as a guitar teacher at Scheitel's Music has also begun working in a new, musically inspired style that is equally retro and subversive, but without the commercial backdrop.
When Wirig started an Etsy account to sell her newest work, she cleared her inventory in a matter of weeks. In addition to creating more new work, she said she's also considering making prints of her previous work.
"I'm making stuff that I'm happy with," she said. "But at the same time, I'm trying to find a market for it."
What Exhibit by Amanda Wirig When Through July 14 Where 410 Project Gallery, 523 S. Front St. in Mankato Gallery hours 2-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays