2020 Faculty Biennial Profile: Brad Jirka

Meet the artists of the 2020 MCAD Faculty Biennial 

“What times are these?”

A pause in order—perplexing and challenging. A time to reflect on it all.

I tend to think of myself as a “maker” of objects of discovery. The studio works that I create  explain something to myself, they are a little mystical and unknowable. While in my collaborative Public Art practice this sometimes becomes muddled by context, it is my hope that all of the works become objects of reflection.

However, this summer, I paused from my normal studio works to alleviate my responsibility to art and embraced my familial craft heritage. In my mind, this act is something simple in the face of complexities. 

Sort of a “Mittian” wandering on the sea. The crafting of an artifact to belay the distraction of isolation by imitating a practice of the monotony of a sailed passage often described as “boredom punctuated by sheer terror” by even the most experienced of sailors.

This ‘artifact’ is a Fid, a traditional tool for untangling knots and splicing stronger connections. A simple tool used by mariners to not only create functional line work but to embellish the larger “tool” of their ship and floating home. We all need a “fid” right now.

This work is dedicated to Peleg, who embellished the Pequod, and the cohort of my students last spring whose art embellished my life.

About Brad Jirka

Brad Jirka is a professor of fine arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design focusing in Sculpture, Digital Fabrication, and 3D Foundation Studies. In addition to four decades of teaching studio art Jirka’s professional history includes working with the collaborative group “Midwest Electric Art”; co-founding The American School of Neon; and as Vice President of Design for St. Elmo’s Inc., an internationally recognized producer of creative and architectural lighting.

Jirka's studio works focus on the tradition of the Philosophical Instrument, which he uses to explore and discover the phenomenology of our environment, while his Public Art projects, with collaborative partner Katherine Jones, strive for the creation of “event” often incorporating light, motion, and random technologies into the work’s object set.

Public works include “Justitia Omnibus” for the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Education Center at Metropolitan State University, MN.; “Lax Communica” for the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse; ”Geometrica Kinesic” for the University of Wisconsin, Parkside; “The Newtonian Proxies”for the Duluth Public Arts Commission; and even the Neon Riverboat Mural over Hennepin Ave at Riverplace in Minneapolis. Their public work has been featured in the CodaMagazines ‘Light as Art III’ and ‘Placemaking Art’.

Jirka has been a juror for the MN State Fair Art exhibition, the Society of Mn Sculptors, the U of M Morris annual student exhibition “Support Group”, co-curated the Make it Move “Body and Machine” Exhibitions in Mpls, and was a co-curator of the MCAD international exhibition "Beyond the Buzz: New Forms, Realities, and Environments in Digital Fabrication" and the exhibitions Artist Panel Moderator.