Artist ‘Deconstructing the Minnesota Flag’ at North Hennepin Community College
A Minnesota graphic designer is exploring what the Minnesota state flag is made of through a new exhibit in Brooklyn Park.
“Deconstructing the Minnesota Flag” at North Hennepin Community College takes a look at how art is both subjective and symbolic.
The Minnesota state flag has hung untouched for years. Luis Fitch, an artist who calls Minnesota home, said he believes it has never changed.
“It does not represent where we are right now as a state,” Fitch said. “Not just from demographics, but just in general. The state of mind of the community.”
The current flag is also a recent topic of conversation. Minnesota lawmakers have pushed for some time to redesign the flag for a number of reasons, including the emblem that is considered offensive to native Americans. A commission got to work in September to craft that redesign.
In addition to being an artist, Fitch was selected to lead that commission. His deconstructing project is not connected to that work.
‘Deconstructing the Flag’
At the exhibit, Fitch is taking the flag apart. He shows it at eight different stages as he removes key design elements. In particular, it showcases the power of symbolism.
“I don’t know exactly what is bothering the community, but what happens if we start with the flag the way it is and pay attention at first?” Fitch said.
The first layer is the flag as it is. The second removes the shotgun and axe from the foreground of the image.
“It makes it less violent, and there is less of a story,” Fitch said.
Still, Fitch said there is a story to be told.
“We don’t know what the story is, but it doesn’t have to take too much to understand that the Native American is not touching the land that the white person has,” Fitch said.
The third iteration removes the land and person in the foreground. The fourth version removes people entirely.
For the fifth layer, Fitch pulled the years and Minnesota writing. The sixth removes all graphics– and is a look at the land alone.
“You really have what probably Native Americans first encountered when they first moved here. And that’s the sunset, the river, and the land,” Fitch said.
The seventh layer removes all iconography, leaving a blue flag. For the eighth:
“You remove the color blue because even the color has meaning, and finally you have a white flag,” Fitch said. “Everything has meaning.”
A New Conversation
Fitch hopes his exhibit provokes questions. It looks like it already has. North Hennepin student MJ Schuster said it got her thinking about symbolism.
“You can just assign meaning to really little things, or what people consider to be throwaway things, or things people pay no attention to. But people can really identify with it positively or negatively,” Schuster said.
Schuster’s class got a chance to redesign the flag.
“I don’t think I realized how bad it was, how extremely colonizer-focused it was until we started doing this project,” Schuster said.
The deconstruction is sparking conversation. It also is an opportunity to create a new story and a symbol for years to come. She said she is hoping a new flag is more representative of Minnesota’s indigenous peoples.
“It almost makes you wonder, if the deconstruction process looks the way it was, why did you add things the way you did?” Schuster asked.
The exhibit opened up on Oct. 12. It’s free and open to the public and runs through Dec. 18 at the Joseph Gazzuolo Art Gallery at North Hennepin. More information about the exhibit is available on North Hennepin’s website.
People can also submit their own ideas and designs for the state seal and flag to the committee. More information about what they are looking for and how to submit is available on the redesign commission’s website. Those submissions are due by Oct. 30.