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Heroes, ordinary and mythic, showcased at South Dakota Art Museum

My Hero! Contemporary Art & Superhero Action, South Dakota Art Museum Exhibit
My Hero! Contemporary Art & Superhero Action, South Dakota Art Museum Exhibit organized by Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA

BROOKINGS, S.D. – June 21, 2018 - Pop culture superheroes, mythic Native American heroes, and heroes from the pages of vintage magazine stories fill South Dakota Art Museum's galleries this summer. Four exhibitions feature artworks depicting heroes in various forms and settings from epic to ordinary.


Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman and many other familiar superheroes make debut appearances at South Dakota Art Museum in surprising and inspiring artworks, full of humor, irony and poignancy. This exhibition celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes through a sprawling collection of artwork from artists around the world.

Some works harken to classic comic book drawings while others reinvent superheroes in completely new forms, including Lizabeth Rossof’s “Xi-an-American Batman Warrior,” created in Xi’an, China, and depicting Batman as a historic Terracotta Warrior. The Batman warrior is authentic in composition and detail, using the same natural material as the original statues.

A number of artists ask: What happens when Superman gets old and checks into an assisted-living facility? What does he look like and what’s he up to? Another perspective comes from Brooklyn, New York, artist, Dulce Pinzón, who makes photographs depicting the lives of immigrants as society’s “real superheroes,” with images of Catwoman working as a nanny and Superman delivering pizzas on his trusty bike.

Carrie Lederer, curator of exhibitions for the Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California, organized this collection. Once they arrived at the South Dakota Art Museum, Lisa Scholten, curator of collections, and Jodi Lundgren, curator of exhibitions, went to work uncrating, cataloging and installing the pieces, including four floor-to-ceiling hand knit superhero costumes by Michigan artist Mark Newport. Student workers and interns gained literal “hands-on” experience with this challenging installation. For example, the team was tasked with accurately creating a giant crocheted spider web entangling a life-sized crocheted Spiderman by German artist Patricia Waller—all within the unique space, materials and lighting of the museum’s gallery.

Lundgren said that the number, variety and scale of the artworks made this an especially lengthy and puzzle-solving process. “That’s one of the many aspects of exhibit curating that I find fascinating and enjoy training others to develop their skills and appreciation for the complexities of each new exhibit.”

The generous support of local exhibit sponsors, Elizabeth Berg, David M. and Patricia A. Meyer and Zeno W. Wicks III and Roxanne Savaryn-Wicks, helped bring “My Hero!” to Brookings.


The second exhibit in which heroes play a prominent role is “Rabbett Before Horses Strickland: Image Maker.” Strickland’s large, colorful, allegorical paintings blend traditional Ojibwe mythology, the artist’s personal experiences and dreams, and Western fine art traditions. His paintings feature strong female figures as well as Nanabozho, the complex culture hero and teacher from Ojibwe mythology.

Lundgren curated this exhibition by working directly with Strickland as well as a number of institutions holding Strickland paintings in their collections. “Although Rabbett Strickland’s work has been displayed around the world, it had never been seen in South Dakota before,” Lundgren noted. “I am excited to be able to share his dramatic and important work with our visitors.”

Upcoming events, including a “Lunch & Learn” for adults July 10 (noon–1 p.m.) and “Art of the Story” for children July 11 (10:30–11:30 a.m.), will help people connect with these paintings and their stories. The museum co-hosted an opening reception in April with the South Dakota State University American Indian Student Center. The reception was focused on Native Women Leadership and Activism.


Drawing from the museum’s collection of original illustrations by Paul Goble (1933–2017), Lundgren curated a heroes-themed exhibit to coincide with the “My Hero!” exhibit. This exhibit features stories of triumph and the heroes—both mortal and supernatural—who save the day. The illustrations are from 11 Goble books including Caldecott Medal winner, “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.” The children’s “Art of the Story” session June 20 focused on the paintings in this exhibit and included a reading of “The Gift of the Sacred Dog,” the story of how the horse, or Sacred Dog, came to be.

HARVEY DUNN: ILLUSTRATIONS (June 2 – Nov. 4, 2018)

Visitors will also find heroic characters in the “Harvey Dunn: Illustrations” exhibition, featuring paintings that illustrated stories of adventure and romance from early 20th century publications such as “The Saturday Evening Post” and “Cosmopolitan.” Copies of the original magazines are displayed alongside these dramatic paintings. Many of these stories have only been recently located by the museum. Visitors have noted that they appreciate the context these magazine stories give the original artwork.

Harvey Dunn (1884-1952) is one of South Dakota's most famous and noted artists. He is beloved by many in the state for the power and spirit of his prairie pioneer paintings. The imagery he created as a war artist in WWI is some of the most compelling and popular because of its honesty and starkness. But Dunn's biggest claim to fame, the one that spread his images across America and served as the foundation of his practice, is his work as one of America's foremost illustrators during the “Golden Age of Illustration.”

Two illustrations in this show are from Dunn's first book illustration assignment in 1906 for “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Dunn was prolific, punctual and dedicated, and had no trouble finding work. At one point, he was able to complete 55 illustrations for various clients in just 11 weeks. “The Saturday Evening Post” became a leading showcase for his talents, with Dunn creating more than 250 illustrations for that magazine alone. Visitors will gain a new appreciation for Dunn and many of the illustration paintings in the museum’s Harvey Dunn collection.

This exhibit will be the subject of the June 27 “Art of the Story” for children (10:30–11:30 a.m.) and was featured in the June 19 “Lunch and Learn.” The museum is also hosting private gallery discussion sessions for interested groups, including assisted living centers, children’s groups, family reunions or other groups. Please contact the museum to schedule.


About South Dakota Art Museum

South Dakota Art Museum is located at 1036 Medary Avenue in Brookings and is open daily. Admission to the museum is free. Parking is also free in the museum’s reserved lot just west of the museum on Harvey Dunn Street. For more information call (605) 688-5423, email or visit


About Bedford Gallery

“My Hero! Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is organized by Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions, Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California.

Telephone: (925) 295-1417 | Email: | Website:

Bedford Gallery Press Contacts:

Alesha Colberg Martinez, Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator | (925) 295-1435 |

Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions and Programs | (925) 295-1415 |