A man in a light blue ensemble has his feet in the air and his head in a bright blue suitcase. The handstand goes on for almost ten minutes.
Then he leaves.
This is how the Weisman Art Museum welcomed their newest exhibit, “Baggage Claims,” on Friday night.
Avery Lawrence, the man capable of holding a handstand for roughly ten minutes, is one of the 18 artists involved in "Baggage Claims," on view at WAM through May 12. For the exhibit, each artist was tasked with showcasing their own interpretation of the word “baggage.”
“It’s about transitions in life and the physical and emotional baggage that you carry with you,” Lawrence said. “[It’s] how you shoulder it, how you deal with that kind of move or big change.”
Lawrence’s piece, “Arranging Suitcases,” tells the story of his paternal grandmother who lost her husband due to a brain aneurysm when she was in her 50s.
“It’s always been sort of like family lore,” Lawrence said. “Like this story of Nana and how she overcame … hardship and started a new life and how brave that was. It’s always been an inspiring story for me.”
“Baggage Claims” houses several personal histories, from a bad breakup in a motel room in rural Texas to a physical representation of the political deadlock in Palestine.
“Some of the artists are using baggage as a physical thing,” said Ben Weil, a curatorial fellow at WAM. “Some of the artists are using baggage … in the more metaphorical sense, like ideas and thoughts that you’re carrying with you.”
The exhibit came to WAM from the Orlando Museum of Art. Each of the pieces included were curated by Ginger Duggan and Judith Fox of curatorsquared, a curatorial partnership formed in 2008, and were put together as part of a traveling exhibit.
“The way that curators work … they start to see these trends and connections and [Duggan and Fox] started doing this show … years ago,” said Diane Mullin, WAM's senior curator. “People were talking about movement and traveling and … their sense was this very thing.”
Just as the word “baggage” takes on multiple meanings, it can also take on multiple physical forms.
Many of the pieces do utilize suitcases, but there are also films and a glass box that had been shipped as the traveling exhibit moved from place to place.
“It’s important to have variety so you aren’t just having a show of all the same things. But then it’s also like representative of how they’re thinking about [baggage] in different ways,” Weil said. “The objects are really personal for a lot of the artists and since they’re all coming from different experiences, they’re showing them in different ways.”
Many of the artists are immigrants and address the exhibit’s theme through a political lens.
“[The artists are] allowing us to … expand the topic and also illuminate it in … a way that puts some things in order and allows people to think about it in a more nuanced way,” Mullin said. “It’s not just travel, it’s not just vacationing. It’s not exactly that for everybody.”
The exhibit is more than contemporary art for art's sake. It is intensely personal and representative of several corners of the world. As a whole, it’s a narrative of finding home and sitting with your emotions.
“[Duggan and Fox] … say that these things span from being humorous to heartbreaking but if you really look at them, they’re all both of those things,” Mullin said. “They really are.”
What: "Baggage Claims"
When: Now - May 12
Where: Weisman Art Museum, 333 E. River Rd., Minneapolis