Self portraits

Self portraits

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Collaboration with Hassan Nor

This two-minute film shows my friend, Hassan Nor, and I in collaboration. Without an interpreter that day, we just had to wing it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Awesome Foundation Grant & "Made Here" Exhibition - Dwelling

Last year, I met an amazing artist, an elderly gentleman named Hassan Nor (goes by Nor), who draws his memories from Jubaland, Somalia, before the war; when life was peaceful, and food plentiful.

The artist's daughter was a catalyst for our meeting. Earlier, she had given some of her father's drawings to her neighbor, whom she met at Neighborhood Night Out. When the neighbor was preparing to travel out of the country for a year, he reached out to me on FB -- where he knew me only through my art.

The neighbor brought some of Nor's drawings over to my studio, and I was blown away by the artworks, which depicted nomadic and village life back home, in Jubaland and Kismaayo, where Nor was a pastoralist, a tailor, a farmer; also, there were drawings of the artist's life here in Minneapolis, where he has lived for 14 years.
Drawing by Nor
Detail of drawing by Nor
Drawing of Wedding, by Nor
After meeting with his daughter, I met with Nor, and since have had several opportunities to chat with him. His daughter, Farhio, interprets for us. I learned that Nor had been drawing his whole life, since age 19 (he's now 76); he is self-taught; he has become interested in showing and selling his art. Since last fall, I have searched for opportunities for him -- written some applications for exhibitions, and reached out to some curators who had helped me in the past, on his behalf. 

As I received some nibbles of interest, I began to understand that some funds would be needed to frame his work, which were primarily works on paper and neon cardboard, and prepare it for exhibition. I did not have the funds to assist with this, and didn't quite know where to turn.

Late in 2015, I heard of the Awesome Foundation, and wrote a grant for Nor to move his art forward. The Awesome trustees loved his work, and appreciated that I wrote the grant specifically to benefit another deserving artist. When the foundation contacted me in January with an award, I was thrilled for the support and encouragement this would bring to Nor's ambitions and aspirations. The grant was just what was needed to frame the work, purchase art materials, bring his art to exhibition, and make it more archival. A small amount of money remained, which provided honorariums to the artist and interpreter (what we call 'food money').

The interest in Nor's work seemed to propel this artist into new realms, increasing his detailed observations and nuances in his storytelling. With assistance from the grant, I was able to bring him new kinds of papers and markers to experiment with, to frame artworks, buy easels; but the other gift that developed was the dialog between us, often in the common language of art.

As Paul Wellstone once said, "We all do better when we all do better." -- this is especially true for artists, and one reason I enjoy collaboration. Our application to Made Here, Represent was created after an idea of Malidoma Patrice Soma, "Being born into this world in a particular place is like having the signature of that place stamped upon you." - from the Healing Wisdom of Africa. Our showcase, Dwelling, is rich with pictorial narratives of home and homeland; along with memories, dreams, and fantasies of the places we call home. 

I'm honored to show my work with Nor downtown, in a place of high visibility, and for the premier exhibition for this exceptional artist. Dwelling will be on view both day and (lit up at) night, installed in a window and viewed from the street, in a building on the corner of 8th and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN. 

The exhibit will remain up all summer, until 29 September.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Three Eleven Sixteen

This painting is for my friends at Somali Health Solutions -

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hey, Aren't You Somebody?

At Hennepin Hustory Museum until September 13th - Don't miss it!

Portrait installation at "Hey, Aren't You Somebody?" top row, l to r ~ Salah, Bobo, Jenny, Pete, Mune; middle row ~ Bill, Osman, Sarah, Lu, Frank; (dog portraits) bottom row ~ Kari, Abdiweli, Diane
The museum curator is an incurable ailurophile;
from the gallery entrance ~ front center - portrait of Frank; l - portraits by Pam; r - weavings by Ubah and Nura

Portraits and weavings installed in "Hey, Aren't You Somebody?" at Hennepin History Museum

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Somali Independence Day 2015

Lake Street, Minneapolis
June 13, 2015

I asked this young girl, " Ma nabad baa?"  and she said, "Take my picture!"

Monday, March 9, 2015

Photos from International Women's Day ~ Minneapolis, MN ~ March 8, 2015

Photo by Ahmed Laarri
Photo by Puntland Post

Photos from International Women's Day event at Safari Restaurant and Event Center in Minneapolis

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New Portraits Incorporate Influence of Somali Handweaving

Portrait of Mune

Study for Portrait of Mune

Portrait of Seven (Revised)
My next exhibition at Hennepin History Museum will feature some of my portraits, photographs, and hand-weavings made locally by Somali and Oromo elder women artists. Meanwhile, these motifs are weaving their way into my paintings~!

Weaving Study ii

Weaving Study i

Thanks to Amina, Ardo, Hawo, Hawo, Nura, and Hawo (yes, there were three women named Hawo!) who taught me hand-weaving, or Farshaxameedka Soomaliyeed last summer at the Somali Museum, in Minneapolis. Since celebrating with women weavers locally at their exhibit at the McKnight Foundation offices in 2008, I have been intrigued with the designs, colors, and techniques practiced by some of the amazing and talented women in our community.

My New Weaving (in progress)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One Door Closes; Another Door Opens

After I lost my job as scientist at the University of Minnesota Department of Epidemiology in 2006, an acquaintance asked me to teach an art class for Somali girls at a non-profit organization in Minneapolis. This was on the West Bank, near the apartments which the community calls 'Cedars' -- and, it was organized to help women have a safe place to leave their children (in each others' care, like a co-op), while they went across the street to learn English. 
Portrait of Mohamed

I taught the class for girls, and then I stayed on to volunteer until I found work. And so I had a chance to follow several east African women around the small kitchen at the center to learn about their cuisine. This was especially fun, because a) they were fabulous cooks, and b) they didn't know a lot of English.  So, if there were five women in the kitchen there might be four languages spoken, and lots of laughter.  They didn't have English words for all the ingredients, which meant smelling the spices to guess the names. Chasing after the women with my note pad, I created recipes to try later -- with mixed success.

Learning about Somali cuisine was my entry point to working in the community on health and wellness initiatives, which I have done for the past eight years.  My background in public health and nutrition brought me to work with east African elders in community clinics and other businesses, where I have learned and taught in equal measure. I partnered with UCare to give out free shoes to clients to increase physical activity, taken folks on 'walking tours'. I've worked on a Somali language film and other educational materials concerning public health and nutrition. Assisted by countless amazing colleagues and interpreters (much more than simply translating a language, my Somali interpreters patiently explain cultural and religious customs along the way), I've really come to love Somali language and culture.

Bar ama baro. (Somali proverb, meaning - "Learn or teach") For me, learning Somali language starts with the cuisine.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Two Recent Exhibitions - Instinct Art Gallery and Made Here

Self & Others ~ Instinct Art Gallery, 940 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis MN ~ July 26 - September 8, 2014

Miss the exhibition? Here is more information:

Photo credit - Instinct Art Gallery - Self & Others at Instinct Art Gallery, portraits by Stu Mead (l) and Pamela Gaard (r)  (also in exhibition although not seen in this photo ~ Frank Gaard and Nancy Robinson)

Portrait of Salah

Portrait of Matt

Portrait of Char
Thanks to Euan Kerr and MPR for their interest in the exhibition~!

Also, my Portrait of Osman, the Founder of Somali Museum of MN, is installed at the Somali Museum's pop-up gallery, as part of Made Here @

Portrait of Osman

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seven Sixteen Twenty Fourteen

Portrait of Lu
Self-Portrait 2013
Portrait of Nancy
Portrait of Betsy
Portrait of Mohamed
Portrait of Frank
Portrait of Zainab

Self and Others

Self and Others reminds us why portrait painting will never die: we can never fully understand ourselves or others, nor keep from trying.  Opening Saturday July 26 with a reception from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Self and Others runs through September 6. Instinct Art Gallery is located at 940 Nicollet Mall. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, noon to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The exhibition is curated by John Schuerman and features the art of Frank Gaard, Pamela Gaard, Stu Mead, and Nancy Robinson. High-res images are available upon request. Images Attached (in order): Nancy Robinson, Frank Gaard, Pamela Gaard, Stu Mead, Postcard.

About the Artists:
For many years Nancy Robinson has painted narratives with herself as the protagonist.  She runs away from creepy people on the streets, finds herself painting a clothed model without her own clothes on, is the girl that walks into a bar and feels all male eyes turn, finds herself waking up in bed with a Pinocchio-like being, and is in the Garden of Eden as both Adam and Eve.  These are dreamy sequences we relate to, because we too know, that the world is weird and really like that, and we could easily be there in her place. These are not pretend, 'dress-up' self-portraits in the vein of Max Beckman or Cindy Sherman, they are real stories.

Frank and Pamela Gaard have been creating dual portraits of family, and people they've met along the way.  In part, it is socializing.  Pamela says, 'it's a way to get to know someone on a Thursday morning'.  Frank does a lot of the talking and engaging of the subject.  His portraits are comic, expressionist, and cut to the core -to the one bright color within. Pamela takes the quieter observational vantage point.  She distills the person and flavors them with touches of realism. "I think a portrait's successful when I catch that verisimilitude; maybe it's the psychology of the person or just a quirk that they do which is recognized by those that know them well."  The dual portrait is synergistic. We see the person at one moment in time, through two different artists.  They make the complexity of a living human being visible like no other static portraits.

Stuart Mead as a portrait painter -is able to pierce visual reality, sweep away the irrelevant visual cues and render and  accentuate the ones that tease the mind --and still we think, 'that really must be what she looks like'.  We get a true likeness of the sitter, 'the other' but heavy with Stu's gaze and what he wants of them, his 'self'. Hailed (and dissed) for  his desirous overtones, he calls you. Come decide for yourself if these are not wonderful portraits.