Fall 2023 News

Dear friends, colleagues and family,
It’s been almost a year since my last newsletter. To say that 2023 has been a mixed bag is using overly polite language.

Das Fundbuero — Civic Lessons closed on February 26th. The museum estimates 30,000 to 40,000 visitors to the show. If even 1% of these people interacted with the work, I’m thrilled, and they did if the wear on the record collection and missing books are any indication. Unfortunately, there was no published writing about the show. Minneapolis has very few arts writers, and critical discourse is virtually non-existent there. You can, however, see many images of the show on my website and develop your own analysis.

On February 1st, I suffered a serious injury during a medical procedure that has impaired use of my dominant hand. For months, all I could do was lay on the couch, and I had to have many basic tasks done for me. I thought about watching all the horror movies about artists and their hands (The Hands of Orlac (1924), Mad Love, The Hands of Orlac (1960), Hands of a Stranger, The Beast with Five Fingers and The Hand), but at the time my impairment was so severe and the future so uncertain, that I could not muster the appropriate level of irony for it. I’m happy to report that I can again write, cut my own food and draw in a rudimentary fashion, but I still don’t quite have the ironic distance for a hand-themed movie marathon. Full recovery, if it happens, will take until at least February 2024.

Despite this handicap, The GRIND Issue 3 was published in May. An editorial committee (formed through an open call) selected visual artwork and writing from dancers across the US as well as Canada and New Zealand. Designer Lucia Weilein provided a beautiful new twist on the old visual identity. And thanks to generous grant funding and reasonable printing costs, we were able to hold the price at $10 a copy—you can get yours at The Feminist Strip Club’s Etsy store.

On May 1st, my partner Matt Fritts and I closed on a three-story brick building built in 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri. We moved to the city June 1st. The intent is to live on the second and third floors and to rehabilitate the first floor to a storefront that I will use as my studio and community art space. The building needs significant work, more than was revealed in the initial inspection. Now I know why they say not to make life-changing decisions when you’re on the medications I am to control the pain in my hand. But Matt and I are both excited to live in a place where we feel like we can truly become part of the neighborhood and express our values through our living space.

Since September, I have been an artist in residence at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California. I am at the beginning of new work inspired by my experiences with The Feminist Strip Club and the issues around sexuality, transactional and reciprocal relationships and femme identity that have come up with them. I’ve been fortunate to meet many amazing artists here who are also working with similar themes. I have about 5 more weeks before I return to St. Louis, where I plan to continue working in the warm glow of an electric heater on the unfinished second floor of our building.

Finally, I’ve started an Instagram account on which I’ve been posting work-in-progress and updates on the rehab work on our building. I chose the very creative handle of monicasheetsartist

I’m not going to bother hoping that 2024 is better—at least not out loud.
With best wishes,

Winter 2022 News

Dear friends, colleagues and family,

I know many people share my experience of feeling like the speed of everything ratcheted back up in 2022. This after so many declarations that we’d learned to take things more slowly over the past two years. Demands on our time and attention seem higher than ever and any hope of a more humane world seems ever more out of reach. Despite this, I’m feeling better than I have in years, which I can only attribute to the so-called U curve of happiness.

Installation view of Das Fundbuero -- Civics Lessons at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

I spent the majority of this year preparing for a solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Das Fundbuero — Civics Lessons brings together the archive and documentation from Fundbuero projects in Germany with works I’ve made since returning to the US that reflect on participatory processes. The show is up until February 26. Please visit if you are in town—I’m happy to meet you there for discussion. I’ll send a short notice again when photos and dates for programming are available.

Appearing in conjunction with the exhibition is a new book. Conduit, Caretaker, Anchor, Catalyst: an incomplete taxonomy of relationships between artwork, artist, participant and audience is a set of 24 drawings that diagram relationships I experienced in Das Fundbuero from 2007-2014. Published by and available for purchase from Birchwood Palace Industries.

Earlier in the year, I was surprised to find the Tweed Museum at the Univ. of Minnesota Duluth was hosting an exhibition of experimental art from the late GDR. It was an amazing show curated by Sara Blaylock and Sarah James. You can read my review of Anti-Social Art: Experimental Practices in Late East Germany at ARTMargins online.

I always endeavor to make the end of the year a quiet, meditative time for reflection. If that’s your bag, too, here’s hoping you can carve out the space for it. If the holiday hustle and bustle are more your thing, I hope you find time to enjoy that.

Best Wishes for the New Year,

PS Issue 3 of The GRIND will be appearing in spring next year, so I’m trying to clear out inventory of Issue 2. Use the code BACK40 at The Feminist Strip Club’s Etsy shop for 40% off until January 31, 2023. Makes a great stocking stuffer!

Summer 2021 News

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Family,

I find writing a newsletter to be a strange exercise under normal circumstances, and it feels doubly bizarre these days. I worry that if I comment on recent events that it will seem as if I’m trying to be profound, and if I don’t that I am contributing to the cultural amnesia that is the US’s hallmark. The third option seems to be vague, anodyne-sounding hopes that people are “doing as well as possible during all this”, which feels like trivialization of ongoing crises.

I’ve been fortunate during the last 15 months. I’ve had personal and professional upheavals and anxiety, but my closest circle has been relatively lightly touched by tragedy from COVID-19. I don’t take this for granted, and I know this is not the case for many of you.

As a white person living in Minneapolis, it’s also difficult to find adequate words to address the epidemic of police violence here. In our metro area, there has been at least one extrajudicial killing of a Black man by law enforcement each year since I moved back here from Germany in 2014, each time triggering protests, community meetings and re-evaluations of police procedure. The brutality of George Floyd’s murder last year by Officer Derek Chauvin (warning: graphic imagery) has created a tipping point where the abolition of police—something that never would have seemed feasible in my youth, or even 5 years ago—is now part of mainstream discussion. I try to contribute to moving that discussion forward where and how I can, but perpetually come up short. Here’s one local organization that’s doing the hard work.

So I am left trying to engage with the world as best I can from my position, which is always changing in relationship to context. Often the best way still seems to be through art—to create room for the constant ambiguity and uncertainty that is, for me, endemic to being human. Part of my good luck has been to have the time during this last year to bring a few projects to completion, and I’m writing to share those with you.

a seafoam green background with a black ink drawing of the lower right corner of a mailbox with the words "three seasons" on itFirst is an illustrated essay in booklet form. Entitled “Three Seasons”, it is a subjective look at porches and how they might help or hinder neighborhood relations. This work has its origins in my return to Minneapolis, when the unfriendly façades of the enclosed porches of the vernacular architecture seemed to be reflecting the social challenges of reintegrating into a fairly closed culture. Many thanks to Andy Sturdevant of Birchwood Palace Industries for helping bring this little guy into physical form.

two magazines lie on a orange velvet background ,surrounded by a pair of black, strappy super high-heel platform shoesSecond is another print-based project, Issue 2 of The GRIND from The Feminist Strip Club. The FSC, a collaborative project begun during my residency in 2019 at the Weisman Art Museum, is a group of current and former erotic dancers who examine the present conditions of and utopian visions for stripping.

Like so many others, our activities and plans were turned upside down by the pandemic. Uncertain access to unemployment insurance, health concerns, job insecurity from strip clubs closing and re-opening and closing again were existential crises for members. But by the second half of 2020, members wanted to pick back up and share what they’d been through. Now, a year after it was originally planned, Issue 2 is available for purchase. Naturally the pandemic influenced the content of this issue, including expanding previously drafted articles about traveling for work and writing completely new ones about switching to online sources of income. But we also found some time and space for more visionary content like self-care tips for dancers and imagining future transfeminist technologies. And though we couldn’t have the big photoshoot we’d planned, we still found some ways to include dancer photos, art and images.

orange, pink, brown and off-white dots are arranged in a diamond pattern with curved, colored lines connecting them in various configurationsI’ve also been working on a series of drawings that diagram various relationships between artist, participant, artwork and audience as I experienced them in the project Das Fundbuero. I’m hoping to complete it as a printed multiple (apparently this is my new medium) by the end of 2021.

I do sincerely hope each of you are well, and I’d love to hear from you, too. I still hold out hope that we can learn new, better ways of being from our experiences in the pandemic, so if you’re looking for someone to share your resistance against “going back to normal”, I’m here for that.

Best Wishes,

Winter 2019 News

Is it too late to start by wishing a Happy New Year? I know we’re almost a month into 2019, but it still feels fresh to me.

I’m starting off the year as an artist in residence through the Weisman Art Museum’s Target Studio for Creative Collaboration. The platform, curated by Boris Oicherman, serves to bring Twin Cities artists and University of Minnesota researchers into meaningful collaboration.

For a pilot project this semester, I’ll be convening a series of workshops with entertainers from Minnesota strip clubs to collaboratively identify how dancers see their work, what their ideal structure of labor is and how this could be implemented. We will then develop an artwork addressing the changing value and structure of labor in society, the stigmatization of erotic dancing and the place of sex work in the feminist utopia. I’ll be documenting the process in blog posts on the WAM website starting in February.

On Wednesday, February 20 from 7-9pm, the project kicks off with a public panel at WAM.
Dr. Beth Hartman will present a brief overview of how Minneapolis has regulated erotic dance in the past, and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies PhD candidate Jayne Swift will talk about current efforts to regulate VIP rooms at strip clubs. Presentations will be brief to leave plenty of time for discussion about how regulation can better serve the safety and labor rights of dancers rather than the moral anxiety of neighborhood groups and city officials.

Despite the preparation and research leading up to this project, I’ve still been able to do some other work: Last summer I completed another neon sign, this time incorporating animation.  I’m also hoping to install collectively we support your autonomy in a new location this year, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re in the MSP area.

Happy 2018!

Happy New Year!

I’m excited to be starting off 2018 as part of the exhibition Land Body Industry, running January 16 through February 10 at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The opening reception is January 20 from 5-9pm. I’ll be showing a new installation drawn from Das Fundbuero’s archive that looks at the roles of work and consumption in people’s lives.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve made a page for my neon sign “collectively we support your autonomy”. The install photos are also pretty cool.Thank you so much to everyone who helped support this project! I’m really honored by your contributions. Big shout outs to Ne-Art Custom Neon and Marlaine Cox for the fabrication work.

January 23rd will be the last of a series of 5 new open house events I designed for the City of Minneapolis’s 2040 comprehensive plan development process.If you live of work in Minneapolis, come and have a say in future city land use (e.g. zoning and housing) through direct conversation with the people writing the policy.

Maybe it’s the psychopharmaceuticals, but today at least, I am feeling optimistic about 2018. What about you?

The neon sign “collectively we support your autonomy” is supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, or to make it all legal:  Monica Sheets is a fiscal year 2017 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.