A Tribute to Heroic "Country Boys"
In 2010, Karl Unnasch was invited to participate in the Minnesota Biennial at the Soap Factory, the Twin Cities' largest art gallery.
His response was Near-Mint Condition, an outdoor installation representing the Rural perspective through the incorporation of iconic imagery in backlit stained glass in and upon the chassis of an International Harvester 966 tractor.
A beacon of boyhood fantasy, the tractor glowed with panel images representing popular-culture ‘country boys’ from the artist's childhood musings.
Near-Mint Condition was the first in what was to become a signature series in Unnasch's body of work: his vehicular installations mounted with representational stained glass imagery.
Begin your browse below.
Foreground photo: Gene Pittman
Background photo: Gene Pittman
Background photo, previous block: Gene Pittman
“With stained glass panels of iconic cultural imagery, Karl Unnasch transformed an ancient
International Harvester tractor
into a glowing reverie of dreams…”
— The Soap Factory, Minneapolis
Photo: Gene Pittman
A Word from the Artist:
Being raised on a 220-acre dairy farm in the 1970s and 80s, I spent quite a bit of time doing my part to help the family earn a living. A John Deere B was my first introduction to hauling loads and tilling fields. One of my teenage jobs was to pull the chisel plow, tilling up the spring fields for planting. The drone of the tractor engine, the long hours spent in the cab and my fervent imagination combined to convert the tractor cab into a place of almost tantric contemplation. I got lost in my own thoughts and ideas, which would have a long-term effect on my art-making ideas and solutions.
Near-Mint Condition became a tribute to all the popular culture “country boys” whom I saw as having some influences on my older self. As a stained glass survey, this work was not only a glowing, colorful extravaganza but also a contemplative site of rural meditation.
— Karl Unnasch
Photo: Gene Pittman
“I am particularly taken by Near-Mint Condition and Ruminant (the Grand Masticator) because of the multiple layers in each piece; the viewer can engage in so many ways. The pieces are really beautiful – colorful, shiny, glowing... There’s this unexpected presence of stained glass in a large machine.”
— Kristine Frank Elias, The Soap Factory (Minneapolis), Director’s Blog
A Word on Unnasch's Nascent Body of
Object-Mounted Stained Glass Work
"Ultimately, the machine or object is the dominant billboard and driver of the visual language of the piece. The narrative is devoted as homage and story. As a subset, homage is often paid to the memories that drive the narrative as well.
Any object that physically can be made into a stained glass extravaganza is treated as a potential 3D comic book. I take imagery that is gleaned for value from my interactions, memories, interests, etc. and construct a disjointed narrative relative to the theme. Humor, play, emotive content, light, positioning, audience, shape, color, framing, proximity, and more are worked into harmonious array."
— Karl Unnasch
Articles & Press:
· How a Minnesota Farm Boy Found His True Calling as an Incredible Stained Glass Artist, Bill Vossler, Reader’s Digest, 2016
· Food for the Soul: Endless hours of daydreaming in a tractor cab now fuel this artist’s whimsical storytelling style, Bill Vossler, Farm and Ranch Living Magazine, Feb/Mar 2016
· Stained Glass Tractor, Farm Show Magazine, Volume #40/Issue #2, Mar 2016
· Karl Unnasch Interview, Kristine Frank Elias, Soap Factory (Minneapolis) Director’s Blog, January 16, 2014
“A Theory of Values” Artist Profile: Karl Unnasch Episode
(audio file, approx. 9 min.)
— Karl Unnasch discusses his piece, Near-Mint Condition, in The Soap Factory’s biennial survey show of Minnesota artists, “A Theory Of Values”, Oct. 2, 2010
Special thanks go out to:
· The Soap Factory
· Gene Pittman
· Laurie Kottke
· Richard and Winnifred Unnasch