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Reasons to Love Minnesota No. 97: House of Balls

Get the inside track on an outsider artist

HOUSE OF BALLS is the studio and gallery of wildly imaginative sculptor Allen Christian. ⁣Back in the 1930s, this building was a gas station; it has also done time as a flop house and goth nightclub. (Graffiti still tattoos some of its walls.) Christian took over the space in 2014 and has been a staple near the Cedar Riverside LRT stop ever since.⁣

Though he first gained attention for sculpting faces out of resin-stripped bowling balls, Christian now specializes in plasma cutting. His creations are big and strange, usually incorporating found or salvaged objects: shovels, saws, wrenches, rakes, grandfather clocks, toilet seats, turtle shells, typewriter keys, piano guts, air ducts, frying pans, and even lumbar supports from disused office chairs.

His sculptures straddle the line between human and robot. “I am not a particularly religious man, but I do believe in animism: the notion that non-living objects possess something like the human soul,” Christian has explained in interviews, adding, “So that with repeated use, a scythe takes on the spirit of the arm swinging it, the highway hungrily swallows the restlessness of those who traverse it, and a fence post longs for the wings of the crow that sits atop it. Since my sculptures are primarily constructed from found materials, I am very aware that each item comes already invested with its own unique history.” ⁣

Visiting House of Balls is always a treat. Before walking in the front door, you encounter Elmer, Christian’s gussied-up art car, and a pedal bear sculpture from an old Art Shanties project. Inside are mummified cats, alligator heads, and ventriloquist dolls nailed to the wall, plus a hidden passageway that leads visitors to a secret room. The studio is open from noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but call before heading over. You want to make sure Christian will be present, as the guy has stories for days. Ask him about his (many) experiences at Burning Man if you want inspiration for your next Axman Surplus run.

House of Balls
1504 7th St. St., Minneapolis, MN; 612-332-3992.