Arts Center McConnell

Larissa McConnell presents déjà vu at the Arts Center of Saint Peter. 

She’s calling it déjà vu so she’s obviously got a sense of humor, which is handy when your pandemic-era frustrations include a surprise cancer diagnosis.

Larissa McConnell’s déjà vu, a solo exhibition of more than sixty embroidery and mixed media pieces at the Arts Center of Saint Peter from March 5-April 10, includes all the artwork that was on display last March when the statewide shutdown cut the show (then called Graftworks) short. It also includes several new pieces completed over the past year while McConnell, experiencing the same COVID-era disorientations and disconnections as the rest of us, also underwent treatment for leukemia.

“I feel like I’ve been lucid dreaming…participating, but only through a haze,” says McConnell, whose canceled 2020 show was first rescheduled for December, then rescheduled again when she realized chemotherapy had drained her of the focus and energy required to transport and install artwork. “A chunk of my life went missing, due to COVID and due to cancer. I feel disconnected to everything that happened.”

And it shows. In a good way. McConnell did what artists do with any murky, lonely, frustrating experience — she gave it form. She made it relatable. The newer pieces in déjà vu depict winter light coming through trees, in a pleasing yet hazy yet vivid yet just-out-of-reach kind of way. Not unlike a pandemic day, or the aftermath of chemo, or any moment that’s a mix of wonder and worry, desperation and hope.

To hear McConnell talk about déjà vu, her cancer experience, and more, tune in to KMSU 89.7FM on Thursdays March 18 and 25 from 1-2 p.m., when she’ll be my guest on Live from the Arts Center of Saint Peter. (The show is streaming and archived for two weeks at kmsu.org.) To see the exhibition, swing by the Arts Center during open hours: Wednesday-Friday 1-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m. The gallery is free and wheelchair-accessible.

It’s also a no judgement zone, just FYI, in case you find yourself weeping at the sight of an embroidered winter scene, than full on crying, because you’re embarrassed, because it’s just a dang tree made out of thread and shouldn’t have this kind of power over you, then laughing as it dawns on you that this is the whole point of art, and you’re probably not alone, and it’s probably why a place like the Arts Center exists in the first place. You would be correct.

Hope to see you soon.

Ann Rosenquist Fee is the executive director of the Arts Center of Saint Peter.

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