Minnetonka Artist is Inspired by Bold Hues and a Fascinating Career

Minnetonka artist Sandy Resig and his wife, Bonnie
Entering artist Sandy Resig’s mid-century Minnetonka home is like walking into a modern art gallery.
Sandy (left) and Bonnie Resig

Entering artist Sandy Resig’s mid-century Minnetonka home is like walking into a modern art gallery—but with warm sofas and a mug of coffee. Resig, 81, and his wife Bonnie moved into the post-and-beam house about ten years ago; they snapped it up when it went on the market after having had their eye on it (especially Bonnie) for several years. “We partly bought the house because it was a good place to have art,” says Sandy Resig, whose own art and design career spans more than 50 years. “I always have this feeling that, if you’re an artist, you should appreciate beautiful things.”

The home was designed by renowned Twin Cities architect James Stageberg, and its 15-foot ceilings offer the perfect height and light for displaying art of all kinds, including much of Resig’s own work. In fact, he’s made several pieces to fit the particular nooks and crannies of the house, like a three-part series over the dining room credenza. “This one’s called ‘Three Square Meals,’” Resig explains, gesturing to the pieces high on the wall, made in his signature style of bold shapes and colors. “I have a 10-color palette,” he adds. “Every painting I do uses the same 10 colors…I just have 10 cans of paint, and that’s it.”

Resig’s clever, minimalist-block style paintings are an incredible collection (there are more than 70, most of them on display or in storage at the Resigs’ home and some in galleries around the Twin Cities). Though the subjects vary widely, they all offer the viewer a new way to look at an everyday object (like the three-part series “Bite Me,” which includes a bold apple, orange and grapefruit)—or a sly observation on American life and culture. There’s “Our Government at Work,” which includes a mechanical element that makes Uncle Sam twiddle his thumbs, and a pair of complementary paintings that made me laugh out loud: one of Michael Jackson, and one of a circus clown. “Every time I looked at [Jackson] while he was still alive,” says Resig, “he turned into kind of a clown. I thought of the Joker in Batman.”

The paintings’ names are layered and funny, an important part of the experience, because the audience uses the title as a clue to figure out just what they’re seeing. Bonnie Resig says, “The titles have so much to do with the paintings. This one could be ‘Mousetrap…’”

“But it’s called ‘Waiting for Mickey,’” Sandy finishes.

Most of Resig’s paintings are large. He starts with Masonite, which typically comes in 4-feet-by-8-feet sheets. He builds out three-dimensional elements with pine, and then paint on top. Some he’s made simply for the fun of it, like a bright green reptile made partly with leftover Styrofoam from a building project at the house (“See You Later Alligator”), and some have been a more serious artistic experiment. “I wanted to do a spiritual one, just to see if I could pull it off,” Resig says. “The Day Christ Died” is a slightly askew cross with Christ’s face at an angle. “It ended up being a happy accident,” says Resig. “It’s a side view and front view, almost like a Picasso.”

Speaking of Picasso, one of his prints is situated on the Resigs’ living room wall over a sketch of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, made by Lennon himself. Ask the Resigs for a tour, and Sandy will talk about what each piece of art means to him. He’s collected art from unknown local artists and famous makers alike, including work from some of his former teachers at the Minneapolis College of Art Design. There’s also his collection of antique cast-iron toys. Each piece in the house is labeled with the title, artist and date.

Believe it or not, Resig’s fine-art career is relatively young. He retired from his graphic design business in 2003 and worked on his golf game. “I hit so many golf balls, I got tendonitis in both elbows and couldn’t even lift my arms,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is not going to work for me.’ So that’s when I started painting.” He stopped a few years ago, when he ran out of space for creating—and storing—his large works. “Now, my yard is my palette.” (“He gardens obsessively,” Bonnie says dryly.)

Resig grew up in St. Paul and graduated from St. Paul Central High School. “I’ve known I wanted to be an artist since I was 3 or 4,” he says. “My teachers would take craft paper and tape it up all around the room, and say, ‘Do a mural.’ But what can you make that’s that long? I’d draw a herd of buffalo, or sailing ships.” Under his senior class photo, it said, “Best Doodler.”

Resig completed two years at the University of Minnesota, but at the time, they didn’t offer much instruction in commercial art. “Everything was fine art, but I wanted to be a graphic designer,” he says. “I switched to MCAD, which was called the Minneapolis School of Art at the time.” Resig wanted to explore different design disciplines before starting his own business, so he worked for a while at Rapinwax, which produced food packaging—wax paper for bread, butter and other goods. “At one point, they decided to switch to aluminum foil, as an experiment,” Resig remembers.

“The colors looked gorgeous—magenta and chartreuse. I got the job of designing the first cinnamon bread package in foil. I thought it was beautiful.” But when the new packaging hit supermarket shelves, it was a total flop. “It didn’t sell. I was so disappointed,” he says. “They did more research and found out that customers would pick up the loaf to smell the cinnamon—and none of the flavor came through the new wrapper.” The solution? Put cinnamon in the ink. “Then they just flew off the shelves,” Resig says with a laugh.

After another stint working for a company that designed exhibit booths for industry conventions, Resig started his own business offering a variety of design services. He got a long-time contract and studio space from a printing business, and at one point had seven full-time employees. Life—and business—was good. But in retirement, Resig can try his hand at other passions—like gardening, painting, or golf. He and Bonnie visit their blended family of children and grandchildren as often as they can. Meeting them, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve been married for decades—their affectionate banter is “couple goals,” as the kids say. They’ve been married for ten years, but have known each other much longer. “We dated in the 1970s, went our separate ways, and got back together in 2004,” Bonnie explains. “It’s one of those stories.”

What’s the secret to such a happy union? “At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we always meet for a date to watch Judge Judy,” Bonnie says. Sandy adds, “We drop everything. We always make sure we can connect at 4 o’clock.”