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South Dakota Art Museum to host reception for glass corn exhibit

"Primordial Shift" exhibition on display at the South Dakota Art Museum.

The South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University will celebrate the immersive exhibition of huge blown glass ears of corn, “Primordial Shift: The Art of Michael Meilahn,” with a free public reception and panel discussion from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, June 27. 

Artist Michael “Mick” Meilahn and SDSU professor David Clay will speak at 6 p.m., discussing Meilahn’s glass works that explore the evolution of corn from the ancient methods of selective breeding to the cutting-edge techniques of genetic engineering. Clay is the South Dakota Corn Chair and Distinguished Professor for SDSU’s Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science. 

"Blue Bonanza"
"Blue Bonanza"

“Primordial Shift” is both the exhibition title and the primary installation in the gallery, which is comprised of 32 hand-blown glass ears of corn suspended on cast-bronze stalks. Video projections of Meilahn’s own farm are superimposed with motion graphics, from rolling dice to ancient glyphs and DNA strands among other references. The exhibition also features the large-scale artwork “Bonanza Blue” and smaller sculptures that showcase Meilahn’s diverse artistic practice. 

Meilahn, a fourth-generation farmer from Wisconsin, discovered glass blowing during the 1970s while studying at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. After earning a Master of Science in art from Illinois State University, he returned to the family farm where he built an artist studio and extensively pursued his practice. His work has been showcased and collected in museums across the country and around the world. 

“An ear of corn is the point of convergence for my dual careers in farming and art,” Meilahn said. “Corn is not a typical subject in art. But for me, the lines, rows, numbers, higher prices, lower prices, color spectrums, mapping, information technology, air masses and species have all combined to have unwittingly become a catalyst.” 

“People of all ages are mesmerized by Mick Meilahn’s creations,” South Dakota Art Museum Director Donna Merkt said. “His work is both familiar and experimental. We love that this exhibit engages people on many levels and encourages visitors of all ages to explore the intersection of science, agriculture and art.” 

This exhibition and corresponding programs are possible through the generosity of South Dakota State University, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; South Dakota State University Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science; Valero Renewables – Aurora; the Bill and Rita Larson Endowment for Education Excellence; and the Fantle Endowment.   

“Primordial Shift” is open for viewing through July 14 during museum business hours (Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.). Admission to the museum and exhibition is free for all. On Saturday mornings from 10 a.m.-noon, accommodations are made for viewers who have sensory sensitivities to enjoy the exhibition. 

The South Dakota Art Museum is located at 1036 Medary Ave. in Brookings. Visitor parking is also free in the museum’s reserved lot just west of the museum on Harvey Dunn Street. For more information, visit the museum's website or call the museum at 605-688-5423. 

“Primordial Shift” was produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., David J. Wagner, Ph.D. 

Students view "Primordial Shift" at the South Dakota Art Museum.
Students view "Primordial Shift" at the South Dakota Art Museum.

Also at the museum 

Visitors to the museum are welcome to explore on their own and enjoy free hands-on engagement areas throughout the museum. Current exhibits include the permanent collection exhibits, “The Prairie is My Garden” and “Marghab Linens,” as well as “Termespheres: Without Beginning or End” and “Navigating Narratives: The Corps of Discovery in Titonwan Territory” from the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS). Free group tours are also available by calling the museum.  

About the South Dakota Art Museum 

Established in 1970, the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The South Dakota Art Museum’s vision is to serve the diverse peoples and communities of the state and its visitors as South Dakota's premier visual arts resource; its mission is to inspire creativity, connect people and enrich lives through art.