Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Local Art Seen: Penny Perry in the John Steffl Gallery at the Depot

Despite nasty Northland weather last Thursday evening, as many as 250 people stopped in at the opening reception for three new exhibitions at the Duluth Art Institute: Tia Keobounpheng's 100 Days in the Corridor Gallery, David Short's Type 13 in the Morrison Gallery and Penny Perry's Art & Craft in the Steffl.

Perry's pieces reflected a variety of mediums from ink on paper and acrylic on canvas to stained glass, photography and wood. A number of paintings featured a bird-character that made me think of surrealist Max Ernst's Loplop, a birdlike character that appeared in his collages and paintings that in his case served as an alter-ego.

Penny Perry has played an instrumental role in helping the Zeitgeist maintain wall art in the restaurant and Atrium. A handout accompanying the show states that she "is the youngest of four daughters that grew up on the family farm in Spooner, Wisconsin. Her life is blessed with creative, generous teachers and mentors, two and four-legged. She graduated UW-Superior with a degree in Theater & Art and for the past thirty-seven years has owned/operated the family business Perry Framing & Stained Glass that still maintains its original location in Downtown Duluth."

She has a strong following in the local arts scene, quietly influential.

Again, from her statement: “I relish in details of texture, juxtaposition, layered depth of color. Refined shape of negative space. Tension and resonance between colors, notes, words...I trust my right hand-to-eye to draw what I see, and the left to paint what isn’t seen. “




"Woven Together" -- Copper wire and driftwood


Titles always interest me. Here are a few titles of pieces in this show: The Dream Disintegrates Sideways, After the Torrent, Inadvertent Imprint, Hard Times Chair Tumbles from the Past, Oliver Reflections, Lost Marble, Dreamed Memory and Temporal Display, among many others. Be sure to pick up the handout when you visit.

* * * *
DAI MEMBER SHOW REMINDER
It's that time of year again. Wednesday through Friday is the window for bringing work to the Duluth Art Institute for the DAI Member Show. The show itself is the following Thursday, January 25. This show, which features a new piece of artwork created by members during the past year, is always very special and takes place in the Great Hall of the Depot, 5:00 p.m. till 7:00 p.m. A highlight of the show is a member-selected "Best of Show" piece. It's rewarding to see how much variety and talent there is in the community.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Five Minutes with Skye on Her Remarkable Bob Dylan Tribute "Shakespeare's in the Alley"

In May, Bob Dylan will be 77 years old. In light of this the Duluth Dylan Fest (DDF) committee has settled upon the theme Twins for this year's week-long Dylan celebration. Dylan was born in the Twin Ports (14* blocks East from Twin Ponds), and when he left his Hibbing home for college he moved to the Twin Cities. His zodiac sign is Gemini, a.k.a. the Twins. There are some who have called his double album Blonde On Blonde his best or most important. Many more symbols could be extracted from his discography as well, no doubt. (eg. I and I.)

Every Twin Ports Dylan fan misses Zimmy's and the Dylan Days celebrations they carried off before Zimmy's closed. Hence it has been important to these local fans that the torch be a bright one here. Two years ago Bob turned 75, which made that DDF a very special one with many unique features including the public display of a portion of Bill Pagel's private memorabilia collection. (See Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood.) Last year, the Nobel Prize gave the annual DDF a shot of adrenaline, bringing media attention from all over the world to Duluth's native son. So in the aftermath, the local comrades wondered, "What next?"

It was at this point we learned of Wisconsin artist Skye's text-based art installation featuring the song poems of Bob Dylan. It was a massive and magnificent undertaking titled Shakespeare's in the Alley: A Tribute to Bob Dylan, which first made its appearance a year ago at the MOWA (Museum of Wisconsin Art) in West Bend, near Milwaukee.

EN: What was your motivation to undertake a project of this scale?

Skye: I would say my motivation was a passion for Bob Dylan’s work. I became so full with an enthusiasm for his work, that it had to “overflow” in some way or other. Because of my background as a visual artist, it took the form that it did. I wanted to pay tribute to him for personal reasons, but also because of his impact on the world. In a sense, I wanted to wrap myself in his words and music. I wanted to live inside of his work. I wanted it to pour over me. I knew the power of words writ large from previous stenciling projects I had done. I felt the scale needed to match the scale of Dylan’s genius, if that is even possible. Imagine 80-100 panels hanging in the Grand Lobby of the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. That might do it.

EN: You have been working for 10 years on this. When you first started did you have any idea what you were getting into?
Skye: Well, I guess you could say yes, it started 10 years ago. But 10 years ago I simply saw the film “No Direction Home“ about Dylan in the 1960’s. I was “struck” by something in that film and the interesting juxtaposition of Dylan in his 60’s looking back at himself in the 1960’s, as well as many others looking back on that time. The film prompted me to look into his music again. I had not really followed Dylan since the late 70’s, so there was a lot to catch up on. I listened to everything I could from the local library and then slowly began to collect all of his studio albums. I read a lot of books about him (and still do) and watched films and documentaries. For 2 years this was a love and passion of mine, an interest. The installation grew out of that passion. I wanted to pay tribute to an artist who had moved me so much. It was his life of work that so inspired me. And most especially his late career renaissance. I have to say, the panels came into my vision on my morning walks, sometime in 2009/2010. They would unroll in front of me in the invisible world, the dream world. At first I resisted it. But I began to see the power and strength of such a project. Back then, I knew I wanted the work to span his whole career. I thought perhaps I would choose 30 songs. I stopped at 44, but really it should probably be closer to 100 songs. So, in that way, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Nor did I know that I would be paying tribute to the 2016 Nobel Laureate for Literature, although by the time I completed 44 song panels and had poured over his music and lyrics for 4 years, I knew he deserved it. The stenciling of the panels was done from the summer of 2011-fall of 2015, sometimes more, sometimes less.

EN: Can you share one or two things you learned from creating this work?

Skye: I learned about following a strong vision to its conclusion, regardless of what anyone thinks about it. I learned about the beauty of paying tribute to another artist... for the most part, the ego falls away. And I was reminded again that great art comes from mysterious places, places of whispers and dreams. Bob Dylan’s art has given me glimpses into those places and sometimes, at it’s very best, transports me there. Creating this work allowed me to hang out in the landscape that is Bob Dylan in a very intimate way... I learned that genius is a Lonely realm, but Mystery and Beauty are there as well.

EN: How did you decide on the name “ Shakespeare’s in the Alley” ?

Skye: One of the songs in the collection is “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again“ There are a few lines in the song:

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
with his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking with some French girl
who says she knows me well

I shortened it to Shakespeare’s in the Alley, mirroring the line in the song and, in my mind, referring to Dylan as the Shakespeare of our time.


* * * *
This year Duluth Dylan Fest will run from May 18 thru May 27. You can find more information about points of interest and schedule of events as they are finalized here at BobDylanWay.com.

*14 = 7+7

Sunday, January 14, 2018

We Almost Lost Two Twin Ports Artists This Past Year

Despite efforts to be good defensive drivers, sometimes there's almost nothing one can do because it's so out of the blue and there is so little time to react. Here are brief accounts of two local artists who became victims this past year, plus information about a fund raiser for the latter.

Scott Murphy
Broken Threads...
Last summer, I had scheduled a visit to popular painter and muralist Scott Murphy's studio to do a story in anticipation of his upcoming fall show at Lizzard's here in Duluth. We had spoken the day before and all was arranged, but when I arrived there were no cars in the driveway. No one was home. I did not immediately assume the worst, but after visiting two more times that week with the same reception I began to wonder what had happened. Perhaps he'd been called out of town on an emergency?

After three weeks of periodically stopping or driving by his home, I saw a car in the driveway. I stopped, knocked and was invited in... by his daughter, Claire, whereupon I learned that on that very day when Scott and his wife Colleen were heading home for our meeting, a reckless driver had careened into the Murphy's lane on Highway 2. All the bones in Scott's legs were broken and his wife had serious but less life threatening injuries. It was a crazy thing to happen, but Scott has been a battler and a survivor. His show with UMD Professor Robin Murphy (no relation) was postponed.

Trissa Wilson  (a.k.a. Eris Vafias)
Last spring a car going 60 mph ran a red light and slammed into Trissa's car. In the accident she experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that resulted in short-term memory loss, sensitivity to light, visual impairment, as well as cognitive deficits in the areas of processing speed, memory retrieval, attention and concentration. Like many with these kinds of accidents she has PTSD with heightened anxiety and depression. Trissa has gone through speech therapy and occupational therapy. She continues to be in physical therapy and to see other assorted medical providers. It has been 9 months since the incident and she's still waiting for the okay from doctors so she can to go back to work.

A single mother of two growing daughters, she is best known for the Artist Kamikaze events that she has produced over the years as well as other arts related events including the Limbo Gallery that she curates and directs.

Fund Raiser for Trissa / Eris
According to Lydia Walker, whom I was partnered with in my first Artist Kamikaze event, Trissa’s medical bills are piling up and so are the bills for her to just meet the basic needs of her and her girls. She is fighting to not lose their home and despite everything, she has increased her volunteer work in our community, while asking for little from others. She has continued to host free events for local artists to share their work with the community through events like the Artist Kamikaze. The proceeds from these events go all back into the artists’ community and future free events. Trissa sees no profit and she doesn’t care. Trissa just wants to give back to her community and promote the growth of the local arts.

Saturday January 20th 5pm-10pm at the Elks Lodge
1503 Belknap St, Superior, WI 54880
Tickets: $10 each available at the door

Interested in donating:
cash - https://www.gofundme.com/trissas-fund
food/beverage, Musical talent, items for auction - contact fundraisertrissa@gmail.com
For more information follow the event page on Facebook

Update on Scott Murphy
Yesterday I reached out to Scott and gained a new appreciation for the meaning of the word resilience. If I'd not known all he'd been through I'd never have believed, based on his cheerfulness, that he'd been through anything serious at all. As he shared the details, however, we're fortunate he is with us at all.

"It's amazing how much energy it takes to paint," Scott said, lamenting because of how much energy is expended by rehab.

Then we talked about the accident.

"The guy was going between 72 and 90 when he hit us," he said. It happened so fast, and had Scott not veered both he and Colleen would undoubtedly have been killed. The speeding car hit the corner of the Murphy's car  and spun it. Scott was trapped in the car, but Colleen despite a cracked sternum, broken wrist and other injuries, climbed over the seat and managed to escape through the back door. She went out, picked up Scott's glasses off the highway and began directing traffic.

An Emergency Medical Technician just happened to be near and immediately attended to Scott, keeping him conscious and hopeful while waiting for the "jaws of death" to extract the car from around his broken body.  "I was lucky my back wasn't broken or my head damaged, lucky not to have had permanent paralysis," he said. While trapped in the car he had no idea, though, how smashed up he was. He's had four surgeries and a lot of rehab since the accident last summer.

On the positive side of the ledger,  "I had some great hallucinations," Scott said. "I went to Russia, went to the mountains. When you can fly you can go anywhere you want. The hallucinations were a gift."

He also shared how special it was for his daughter to be able to return home and be there for he and his wife. "Claire was such a big help. Colleen and I couldn't do basic functions, like mowing etc. The fact that she took three months off her life to help was wonderful. By her nature she's a healing influence."

For now, the Murphy and Murphy show at Lizzard's is slated for this coming fall. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Local Art Seen: Rauschenfels' "His & Hers" in the Zeitgeist Atrium

"Anchored Dinghies" -- Tom Rauschenfels
"Spruce Swamp Sunset" -- Sue Rauschenfels
"Fall In Love" -- SR
The full title of the show is "His and Hers -- New Year, Old and New Work." You will want to be sure to check it out sometime in January. Tom and Sue Rauschenfels have put something together that is worth your while. An even better suggestion would be to make the Gary Oldman film Darkest Hour your destination at the Zinema, and be sure to linger in the Atrium for a spell before our after the show.

It's worth noting that Tom and Sue are not husband and wife. Sue is married to Tom's brother, so we have a pair of in-law artists here, Tom a printmaker -- linocut and woodcut reliefs -- and Sue a maker of images in various media. Both reflect the Northland in much of their work, featuring birch trees, walleye, fishing boats, biking by the lake, and the like. The work is intricate and elegant, straightforward and skilled.

You can read their artist statements and bios here.
"Intimate Kiss" -- TR
"Pearl" -- SR
"Walleye" -- TR
"Poppies" -- SR
"Poppies" (detail) -- SR
"Boat Basin" TR
"Moon Struck" -- SR
"Hulls on Calm Seas" -- TR
 This show will be on display through January 31.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Debbie Duncan Live at the Carlton Room, Cookin' at the O

Debbie Duncan, vocals
Next Friday and Saturday, January 19 and 20, there's a new lineup on tap in the Carlton Room, at the Oldenburg House, 604 Chestnut Avenue in Carlton. Award-winning jazz vocalist Debbie Duncan will be accompanied by Matthew Mobley on bass, Ryan Frame keyboards and the Master of Vibe Glenn Swanson on the drums.

Originally from Detroit, Debbie Duncan's Minnesota Music Awards include Best Female Jazz Vocalist, Best Jazz Vocalist, Best Female Performer, Best Jazz Group and Best Jazz CD. A nice resume by any standard. Her horizons have been expanding as she has been performing from the Dakotas to the East Coast. The intimate Carlton Room setting provides a classic opportunity to produce mesmerizing memories.

In addition to great music, culinary fare will be provided by OMC Smokehouse. Yummm.

Matthew Mobley 
A few notes on the band:
Duluth-native Matthew Mobley plays both acoustic and electric bass, adept in a variety of genres. He took up the bass in his early teens and has performed with a variety of rock groups and jazz combos, comfortable in all. He captured his BFA in Jazz Studies at UMD in 2007, has learned much from Bill Barnard and Ryan Frame, and especially enjoyed performing throughout Europe with the UMD Jazz Ensemble.
Ryan Frame, living the dream... making music as a career.
Ryan Frame is Director of Jazz Studies at UMD and a familiar name in jazz circles here in the Northland. Ryan has backed or performed with a long list of familiar names and notables.

Swanny does more than just keep rhythm
Glenn Swanson is the seemingly indefatigable lightning rod responsible for bringing all this energy to this historic house on the edge of the Jay Cooke Park wilderness. What Glenn and Emily have done with the Oldenburg House is visionary and impressive. At an early age Glenn became a leading drummer in the Twin Cities, both as a performer and in the studio. His decades of workmanship resulted in numerous connections, but I would suggest much of his success is due to his generous spirit.

The Swansons have made a commitment to once a month offering up world-class talent in a nightclub atmosphere that you won't find just anywhere. Their first half dozen shows have been stellar, and the lineup going forward looks to be equally thrilling.

Event schedule and tickets here.

* * * *
Debbie Duncan, heart and soul on the line every night.

If this comes across like a bit of a puff piece, that's because it is. What Glenn and Emily have done is noteworthy, and I personally get inspired when I see people dream big and go after it. That's really what's going on here.

Abe Lincoln once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." That's what has been happening here. They're making something special and we're all beneficiaries.

For more, read the Oldenburg House backstory in The Reader.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Roman Polanski's The Ghostwriter, Revisited

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN 2012

There are some movies I’ve never tired of watching. Each viewing yields new details, or a deeper appreciation of a story well told. Of writing John Gardner wrote, "Detail is the lifeblood of fiction." Certainly celluloid makes instantly vivid quantities of detail that words on paper would take pages to convey. But in film, many of the details are not simply for the creation of the fictional reality but serve to produce subliminal messages that reinforce the story's themes. In this regard, Roman Polanski is a master of the film arts.

For years Polanski’s harrowing Chinatown (Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway) has been one of those films I never tire of seeing. In his book Screenplay, screenwriting instructor Syd Field points to Chinatown as one of Hollywood’s most perfect films and worth studying in depth if one desires to learn the craft. I’ve not read the screenplay for The Ghost Writer, but as I watch once again this nail-biter suspense drama I’m swept away by those details.

For example, in one sequence Ewan McGregor is watching out the window as a man is attempting to sweep hay or brush into a wheelbarrow. There’s a strong wind, however, and the lightweight material keeps getting dispersed till the fellow gives up in futility. It’s only a few seconds in length, and totally unnecessary in terms of advancing the story, yet it telegraphs the entire film with no words whatsoever.

The main story line is about a writer (Ewan McGregor) who has been called in to complete the memoirs of former prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) whose previous ghost writer was found washed up on a beach on the island where they are staying here in the U.S. It’s interesting that we never learn the ghost writer’s name. A few times Adam Lang addresses him as “man” – as in “hey man” or “good work, man” -- but any special feeling of comradery in thus addressing him is pinched away by another's explanation, “he always calls a person that when he can’t remember their name.”

Like Chinatown this film is about a man brought in contact with a situation in which he finds a loose thread that slowly unravels a mystery that is far too big and dark and potentially deadly. You know he's in over his head but you root for him, though each turn of the screw leaves you more uncomfortably anxious for his safety. And like Chinatown, you only have the hero's perspective so that as new information arises the ground shifts beneath his feet. Like the ghost writer, you yourself are uncertain who the good guys are.

It would be easy to compare this film to many a Hitchcock thriller in which a simple character is unexpectedly thrust into a much more dangerous and complicated situation than he first imagined. I think of The 39 Steps or Cary Grant in North By Northwest, or Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much. With each new revelation tensions mount as our ghost writer begins to realize that he is now a man who knows too much. Yet, what does he know? He’s uncertain but somehow feels impelled to divine what it was that his predecessor knew.

Throughout I found this film pitch perfect. Next time you're looking around on Netflix or Blockbuster, check it out.

Featured Book of the Day: Unremembered Histories

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

More Chairs by Kris: The Magic of Imagination

"Cairn For You"
I believe I first saw Kris Nelson's chairs at The Red Mug in Superior. She also had a few "art chairs" for sale, and still does, at Art on the Planet, which is located on Tower Avenue adjacent to Wine Beginnings near Belknap. Her chairs have evolved and I can envision a gift book emerging some day. Or maybe an Instagram ongoing saga?

When I saw her chairs at 315 Gallery this past Friday I felt a blog post dedicated to her work was in order, and a brief interview with the Wrenshall artist.

EN: What prompted you to start painting chairs?

Kris Nelson: I painted my first chair in 1996. I wanted my bedroom chair to match a quilt I had recently made. Something clicked and I haven't ever wavered in my decision to reach my goal of painting 1000 chairs before I am 100. My style has changed and grown through the years. In the beginning I was still teaching full time and would only paint a few chairs a year. Now that I am retired, I paint around 30 chairs a year.

"The Killing Chair" features the seven ways state death penalties are carried out.

EN: Your "Killing Chair" is quite powerful. At what point in your chair painting did you begin to make social commentary through your chair art?

KN: My first social commentary chair was back in 2004. There was a controversy about the 10 commandments being displayed in front of the Duluth Courthouse. I painted "Moses and the 10 'Art' Commandments". (Thou shalt not kiln until the clay is dry is an example of one of my changes). I have now completed 20 social commentary chairs from Medical Marijuana to Gay Marriage to the Death Penalty. I use my art as a way to express my feelings, better than I can express myself in words.

EN: Your chairs are for sale I see. What does it cost to ship a chair if someone from Texas or Maryland wants one?

KN: Shipping a chair is not cheap. The last chair I shipped was a small child's chair that cost $100 and arrived broken. The recipient had to ship it back to me for $100. I repaired it, shipped it back for another $100. The USPS claimed no responsibility! The price varies from different states to different sizes, but I would advise people to carry it back in their car.

EN: Any other comments you wish to make about what you are doing?

KN: I love painting on chairs. I find it more challenging and interesting than a flat canvas. Each chair has a personality that I try to fit in with the theme I am painting.



Lest we forget, Death by Hanging is still on the books in some places.


Pair of chairs hanging out at the Red Mug show.

Kris Nelson's First Chair
* * * *
Visit Kris Nelson's home page.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.