Friday, October 31, 2014

Keeling Over

On October 29, 2014 Ken Nicholson keeled over.

The day began like any other dark morning in late October. He'd gone out to get the paper, returned to the house to drop it on the kitchen counter as he grabbed his car keys and satchel to go to the office. He stepped out of the house and latched the door behind him.

The morning air felt imposing and odd, as if the atmosphere had a greater density than usual.  As he clinked through the gate and headed down the sidewalk toward the garage to begin begin his day, a strange thought occurred to him, even appealed to him. The thought entered his mind to fall over, which he proceeded to do.

Now he is lying on his left side on the grass, wondering how long it will be till his wife comes out to let the geese out of the barns. It should be light by then, so she will likely notice him.

He's hoping she will run out to him and not back into the house to call 911. He'd like her to know he's fine, just felt like doing something different today.

He feels the moist chill of the earth and listens to the sounds around him. There are also other sounds, including the increasing inner noise, his tinnitus, the ringing in his ears that sounds very similar to a marsh filled with spring peepers...

* * * *

Some days are like that. But not today. There's too much to do. No time to keel over.

* * * *

Last night when I got home I found that the mailman had delivered the proof copy of my newest book, A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd. Gratifying is an understatement. More about this soon, I trust.

* * * *

A few recommendations for Halloween:
1. No store-bought costumes
2. Don't get into a car accident while dressed as a ghoul or zombie.
3. Carry flashlights if you're dressed in black.

* * * *

Meantime... if you're feeling wound up, give yourself permission to slow down. It's a weekend.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What The World Needs Now

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

I like the sentiment expressed here. We can often make the mistake of looking outside ourselves for answers to questions that can be only answered within. An example would be students who major in a subject not because it interested them, but because they read an article that said people in that field can make money. Life is long and if you are not into what you are doing for a living, it can be very long.

Find what you're passionate about and you've found life's sweet spot.

* * * *

On the local front, tonight Bob Monohan is hosting a "Costume Poetry Slam" at The Red Herring. If you don't know what a Poetry Slam entails, the link lays out the rules. Sounds pretty scary.

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Follow your bliss!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Both Sides Now

"Both Sides Now" is one of Joni Mitchell's most famous songs. Written in 1967 the song began to get covered by other artists almost immediately from Judy Collins and Dave Von Ronk to showmen like Frank Sinatra and Robert Goulet. The song ranks as #171 on Rolling Stone's list of all-time greatest songs.

The  appeal of the song is undoubtedly due in part to its simplicity and universality. Who among us has not experienced the emotions that accompany optimism toward love and life, and the subsequent disillusionment and despair. Mitchell's concise cycle-of-life story is presented in beautifully painful prose.

According to Wikipedia the catalyst that set Joni Mitchell's pen in motion was the experience of reading a passage about clouds while in a plane flying over the clouds herself. The poet penned lines that dance, the imagery so apt. "Row and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air and feathered canyons everywhere..."

But now, looking at clouds from another angle, they only block the sun. Who hasn't experienced this? The grey, the chill of our sun's warmth being blocked.... and the epiphany: "I really don't know clouds at all."

This is the pattern. We see. We think we understand. Then we see more and realize the smallness of our understanding.

In the second section of the song she turns her attention to love and the "dizzy dancing way you feel" when under its spell. But like clouds there's a dark side and in the end "it's love's illusions I recall, I really don't know love at all," she sings.

The final section repeats the pattern, with the subject being life.

Mitchell was 24 years old when she recorded this song.

Both Sides Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

© 1967 Gandalf Publishing Co.

Judy Collins' more familiar version of the song has an airy upbeat quality that doesn't entirely correspond to the melancholy conveyed by Mitchell's lyrics. Here is a version sung later in life by Joni Mitchell herself.

Trivia: Both Joni Mitchell and Neil Young were afflicted with polio in Canada's 1951 polio outbreak just before Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine that bears his name. She was eight, he was five.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Twin Ports Scene: Six Days Till Seventh Annual All Souls Night

Shortly after noon Saturday I was able to slip downtown to drop by the All Souls Festival art space in the storefront at 134 W. First Street just west of Pineapple Arts. Mary Plaster and two others were there preparing costumes to make this year's All Souls Night celebration the best yet.

This will be the seventh year the festival has been held, and my guess is that it will be bigger than ever. If you have not been, it's very much an experience best appreciated when you get totally immersed.

The event, billed as an alternative to Halloween, will begin in the Depot's Great Hall. Setting up the space will commence on Friday the 31st.

Though the chimerical celebrations are intended to be fun, there's a serious side as well.  In some ways the imagery and activities parallel Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations, but in this case the aim is to acknowledge the fullness of life by honoring deceased loved ones and reimagining a better future for the living. Hence the name All Souls Night.

In the spirit of the event and its roots, home made costuming is the decor of the day. The organizers do not encourage store-bought masks and costumery unless it is excessively customized and made one's own. There will be an abundance of face painters on hand to get your own "mask" accessorized.

A $10 donation is suggested to support the indoor art displays, spoken word, music, dance and outdoor spectacle makers: musicians, larger-than-life street puppets, stilt walkers and fire ceremony and spinning.

The event itself is slated to run from 3 p.m. till 7 p.m. Sunday. Because our Daylight Savings Time clocks fall back an hour Saturday night, there will be plenty of time for the after dark parading to make its way about the area. You can find the full slate of activities and their times here on the Event page at Facebook.

One of Lake Erie's now extinct pike 

Definitely something you might not expect here in Duluth. But why not?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Local Art Seen: Sarah Brokke at the Kruk

Ask Alice
During the Friday noon hour I made my way over to the Univeristy of Wisconsin Superior campus to take in the opening reception for Sarah Brokke Erickson's retrospective at the Kruk Gallery there in the Holden Fine Arts Center. If you've never been it's a nice little space, a great space for encountering art.

There were several intriguing features of the show, titled (r)evolve. First, I can't seem to recall ever attending an opening reception at noon before. Turns out, this proved an excellent way to bring the school's art students and faculty together, to experience another artist's midlife overview. What struck me though is that Brokke Erickson is on the faculty of St. Scholastica, teaching modern art history, painting and drawing there, not here. Her undergrad work took place at UMD with MFAs from Bowling Green and Studio Arts Centers International in Florence, Italy.

Sarah Brokke is a painter's painter. By that I mean the work clearly show her love of placing paint on canvas surfaces, along with the fluid brushstrokes of one who care about the manner in which the images are formed, shaped, framed, fleshed out. The title of the show proved apt as one could see the evolution in her work while there were recurring features and themes as well.

The Eye of Married

Two recurring trends that I especially noticed were had to do with the manner in which she assembled subject matter. In pieces like Ask Alice and The Miscarriage of You one sees complex compositions with a variety of symbols and images. In many of her other pieces such as The Eye of Married we see a primary focal point, the essence of the story, filling a large space on a large canvas. She frequently assumes a role in these pieces

For example, the show included three images from her graduate thesis in which she portrays herself in an overly rotund manner. "I was painting myself as I felt... you know how our inside and our outside doesn't necessarily align.... I was definitely wrestling a lot with that interior-exterior disconnect." What did the process of producing these works teach her" "I learned that I have more questions than answers, and that's a very good thing."

Of The Eye of Married she explains, "I was engaged to be married. I was looking at the concept of sarcaphaguses... I took the imagery from Egyptian concept of sarcophaguses... spirit transfers.... and the concept of being tied together. Marriage is forever." They were engaged at time of this painting, and now he is husband.

The Miscarriage of You. I saw pain here. "That was my intent," she said.
The Miscarriage of You is not about a physical miscarriage, but rather a portrayal of loss after a relationship, the loss of a person of importance and its debilitating consequences. The piece successfully conveys the emotional pain associated with such a deep and difficult experience.

Sarah Brokke Erickson's paintings have shown up in quite a few public spaces in recent years. Her work has appeared at the Duluth Art Institute, where she also teaches painting, as well as a number of galleries.

The Kruk has irregular hours, so I recommend calling first or visiting their website before you visit. There are some free twenty-minute parking spaces out front which are frequently available. Take advantage of it.

The artist.
Students discussing one of the pieces.

A friend from Chicago shared that an acquaintance of hers said, "There is nothing happening in Duluth." She replied that if this person were a reader of this blog they would not have that opinion. 

Let's keep it going.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Local Art Seen: Goin' Postal 2014 Fall Art Show One-Ups Itself

David Lynch by Becky Buchanan
New art and new artists, new music and a great vibe.... that's how last night's event came down for the fifth October in a row. I can still remember that first show. Snow, slippery roads and a lot of folk with good intentions who backed off. Still, it was rewarding for sure, and the foundations were laid for what has now become a semi-annual tradition.

Andrew Perfetti, owner of Goin' Postal, is also a musician and photographer, so the event brings together both of his passions, an appreciation for the arts as well as the music that undergirds his life. The event has also become a reunion of friends as well as a family affair.

Mark Anderson
The balmy weather certainly contributed toward making this an unforgettable evening. Anything is possible when it comes to late October in the Northland. The 1991 Halloween Blizzard isn't far from anyone's thoughts (four foot drifts anda three day blow) but this weekend the weather gods are smiling, perhaps making up for the cruelty rendered upon us last winter.

At least three or four of the events have included an after-party at Bev's Jook Joint, which has now been replaced by a tattoo parlor, tatts seeming to be more in vogue than drinking games. Now that Andy has renovated his basement recording space, the afterparty turns to a music scene not unlike a Greenwich Village hole-in-the-wall. For the late night crowd, those who remained were treated to music from Theft By Swindle, Israel Malachi, and the core of Perfetti's former Uprising band.

We always appreciate the contributions of our sponsors.
The feel-good atmosphere created a magnetic mood that kept people circulating, making it difficult to depart. Once again a memorable evening for nearly everyone, both the new artists and the veterans.

Here are some pictures from the event. For those who couldn't make it, you missed a great reception, but the art will still be hanging on the walls in the event you're able to swing by in the weeks ahead. 816 Tower Avenue,  a.m. - 5:30 p.m. M-F.

Carla Hamilton was among the new artists who participated in this show.
We always appreciate AJ Atwater's colorful contributions.
Lindsey Graskey, whose work I always enjoy, continues to contribute.
Familiar faces and new. Really special evening.
To see some of my own work visit my art blog The Many Faces of Ennyman. A few of these are currently on display here at Goin' Postal.

Thank you to everyone who contributed in so many ways to produce a really rewarding experience for so many people.

* * * *
In other action this weekend, Tim Bouvine will be signing copies of his book Catching Lightning Without The Bottle at Barnes & Noble from 3:30 till 6:00 p.m. this afternoon. 

If you need to get your own creative juices flowing, Pineapple Arts will be the busy place to be as they continue preparations for the seventh annual All Souls Festival. 

And finally, Twins Bar have been renovated and given a new name and a new upscale look, which will include some art by local artists. Grand opening tonight will feature music by Israel Malachi. Check it out.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

In an Age Where Content Is King, "The Lyrics: Since 1962" Shows Dylan's Mastery of Content Generation

We're all familiar with the adage "Content is King." On the Internet, content is the coin of the realm. He (or she) who produces content is the one who collects the chips at the end of the game. Hype and B.S. only go so far. When all is said and done, everyone is eventually found out for what they are. That’s where celebritydom fails. All too often American celebs are pure vapor. The soul hungers for substance.

Well, this coming month Simon & Schuster is publishing a substantial new edition of the collected works of Bob Dylan aptly titled The Lyrics: Since 1962. The book is a tad larger than an LP, near a thousand pages in length and weighs more than 13 pounds. 50 numbered copies of this massive volume will be signed by Mr. Dylan himself, with a price tag set at $5,000 apiece. 3500 copies will be available for $200 each.

The signed edition is available from The $200 version will supposedly be available in bookshops, but 3,000 U.S. copies (500 have been set aside for Britain) means there will only be 60 copies per state, which seems a pretty limited edition. The collectible $5K signed edition will be available to only one person per state at this rate... though my guess is a few will be snapped up by Dylan fans in other corners of the world from Britain and Spain to Japan and Scandinavia. Recommended: You want one? Better snatch it while you can.

One of the more interesting features of the book is the contribution from Christopher Ricks, a British literary scholar now on the faculty of Boston University. Ricks, who authored the 2003 analysis of Dylan's work titled Dylan's Visions of Sin, edited the lyrics here and contributed a lengthy introduction. The sisters Lisa and Julie Nemrow assisted as co-editors.

According to one announcement I saw about the book the editors strove to show the different ways Dylan has performed the songs over time, or even at a single recording session. "When a song’s previously published lyrics differ from what Mr. Dylan sang on the original recording, the differences are noted. So are differences that crop up on officially released live recordings, or outtakes."

The Nemrows, who run a design company, were also involved with the layout of the book. Some of the decisions with regard to the layout of the songs may be surprising, but the aim is to give the printed word the feeling associated with the performance of the songs as Dylan sang them.

Here's a little more background on Mr. Ricks:

Christopher Ricks is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University, having formerly been professor of English at Bristol and at Cambridge. He is a member of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, of which he was president (2007-2008). He has edited and also teaches in the Core Curriculum. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 2004, and is known both for his critical studies and for his editorial work. The latter includes The Poems of Tennyson (revised 1987), The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse(1987), Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 by T. S. Eliot (1996), The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999), Selected Poems of James Henry (2002), Samuel Menashe’s New and Selected Poems (2005), Samuel Beckett’s The Expelled / The Calmative / The End / First Love (2009), Henry James’s What Maisie Knew (2010) and for Penguin Books Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selected Poems(2007). He is the author of Milton’s Grand Style (1963), Keats and Embarrassment (1974), The Force of Poetry (1984), T. S. Eliot and Prejudice (1988), Tennyson (1989), Beckett’s Dying Words (1993), Essays in Appreciation (1996), Allusion to the Poets (2002), Reviewery (2002), Decisions and Revisions in T. S. Eliot (2003), Dylan’s Visions of Sin (2004), and True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell under the Sign of Eliot and Pound (2010). He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford, 2004-2009; in 2010, Waywiser Press published his anthology Joining Music with Reason: 34 Poets, British and American, Oxford 2004-2009.

And if this isn't enough to establish his authority, you can read Donald MacLeod's 2004 profile of Ricks that appeared in The Guardian.

"Don't Look Back"
I mention all this only because I have a couple friends who do not consider Dylan a poet. Mr. Ricks, who seems to have a fairly substantive understanding of poetry, would disagree with my friends. As Mr. MacLeod states early on in the piece, "The critic who made his name with meticulous readings of Milton, Tennyson and TS Eliot has long championed the American rock star as a poet worthy of the same close and painstaking analysis. Not everyone approves."

Regarding the price tag on the signed and numbered limited edition, a story here comes to mind. Jonathan Winters was once criticized because he had priced one of his paintings at $25,000. A woman who was interested in purchasing it exclaimed, "Why is this painting worth $25,000?" to which the famous comedian replied, "Because it has my signature on it. If it had been signed by Red Skelton it would be worth $40,000."

Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster's president and publisher, said, “It’s the biggest, most expensive book we’ve ever published, as far as I know.” And personally, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the books will be sold out before the date of their release. I know know at least a few people in my own circle who will likely end up owning one.

Meantime, life goes on....

* * * *
Photos of The Lyrics: Since 1962 courtesy Simon and Schuster.
"Don't Look Back" is an original painting by Ed Newman that will be on display tonight at the Goin' Postal 2014 Fall Art Show in Superior. You can see the art of 17 local artists from 6-9 p.m. and then unwind up the street at V.I.P. Pizza while listening to the music of Cowboy Angel Blue.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today, Tomorrow and Saturday in the Twin Ports Art Scene

Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body. ~Wassily Kandinsky

There are a number of local artists who could spread their wings and fly off to larger markets and make a name for themselves. One of these is Sarah Brokke, and artist/painter who teaches at St. Scholastica. Her new show is titled (r)evolve and it is opening during the noon hour today at the Kruk Gallery on the campus of UWS. If you're not already booked, then stop by. I am confident it will be impressive.

Today is Day 4 of the Zeitgeist Arts' 5-Year Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser. The Zeitgeist has become a centerpiece of the local arts community. It's facility has become like a home for many in the arts. The theaters set new standards and its offerings have been like nothing you can find elsewhere.

Pineapple Arts on 1st Street has sent out an invitation to poets and friends of the spoken word to an Open Mic of Poetry & Thought. It's a younger crowd, but there are veterans here, too. Poetry is alive and well in the Northland.

Jeredt Runions calclates best height for a piece.
Last night a number of the artists gathered to hang the Goin' Postal 2014 Fall Art Show which will open tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m. There was a good vibe present as the various pieces claimed wall space around the room. 17 artists have contributed to this show, including a number of new ones. Some of my new work will be there as well.

"Utvalgte" is a 16 artist show hosted by the Gulden Kunstverk Gallery in Steinberg, Norway. If you wonder why I mention this, it's because Walter Welo has Northern MN roots, and I like a lot of what I see going on there. There are also a lot of Scandinavians here in the Northland who occasionally make the trek "back home." If you are in the neighborhood, check it out.

* * * *

There's plenty else going on in the Twin Ports this weekend. Pick up a Transistor for the pulse of the music scene. The Reader is always helpful, too. The theater scene is vibrant, and the weather outdoors continues to be inviting/enticing. You have few excuses if you're bored.

My children's picture book A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd has been approved by the publisher as a go. I need to review the final-final proof and it will become available for public consumption. Can hardly wait to share it.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Rather than just look this year, maybe it's a good time to open your wallet. Yes, you can take it with you. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Opening Reception for the UMD Art and Design Faculty Biennale -- "What We Do"

The opening reception for the UMD Faculty Biennale was, as anticipated, a very rewarding event. If you had taken time to attend many of the student shows over the years, you would quickly recognize how these instructors and professors had influenced the upcoming generation of artists and creative designers. Of course the students are influencing the influencers as well. This is a generation that has grown up with technology. And many of the students have not grown up with art in the schools so that there are some surprising deficiencies in their understanding of basic materials and concepts. But that's a topic for another day. 

It's my understanding that "What We Do" will be on display through March 2015. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Miscellaneous Threads from Various Topics

A few years ago, on a  flight home from Ohio, I sat next to an astronaut who was on Gemini 2 and 10 and an Apollo Mission. Tom Stafford was the first human to circumnavigate the moon. In the course of our conversation I asked him what thoughts went through his head as he looked at the earth from the moon. He smiled, looked at me, spread his thumb and forefinger about two inches and said, "I saw that all the problems in the world could fit between my two fingers."

This morning I thought about that incident and it occurred to me how many gazillion things there are going on simultaneously on this planet of ours, in spite of how tiny this sphere appears from a distance. It's an incredibly busy hive. In the same way, no matter how you slice it if you're a writer there's always more to write about. As Dylan once sang, "I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane." Here are few items I have intended to touch on but never got to recently.

1, The Bowie Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I had his early albums, watched the arc of his early career. While in college I did a small original painting based on one of his costumes from a concert, which for years hung tucked away in the basement of my parents house. I occasionally wonder what happened to that painting.

2. Ode to Billy Joe. It's a Deep South story that is a deep mystery according to this account. I remember discussing the song in English class in high school. I thought we had it figgered out then, but maybe we was wrong.

3. Italian 16th century philosopher Giordano Bruno.

4. Visual artist Catherine Meier.

5. The exploding Steampunk Scene in Seoul, South Korea.

6. The Revere Beach Sand Sculpture Contest. I had intended to write about it in early summer so you could go be part of it... if you lived anywhere nearby. Guess we missed the deadline for entering. An East Coast version of Burning Man? Not exactly. Just a happening.

Magic Marc makes a bouquet unexpectedly appear out of thin air for Zane Bail.
7. Planning for next year's Dylan Days is underway. When Zimmy's closed in Hibbing early this year it snuffed out the Hibbing component of Dylan Days. The Duluth wing is preparing to take up the task of carrying the ball forward. Headed by Zane Bail, a small contingent of friends has been meeting in preparation for the year to come.

8. Ideas about time management while under stress, based on a lifetime of watching NFL football and the number of games won or lost because a team fails to "manage the clock" during the last two minutes of the game.

9. I have a few notes here about Odessa. Crime fiction author Elmore Leonard had a character named Linda Moon who was a music star in L.A. who came from Odessa, Texas. I'd especially enjoyed Get Shorty and Be Cool, (I've read at least twenty or more of his books, some several times) in which Linda Moon was featured. While reading about Bob Dylan's family, I discovered their roots before coming to America included Odessa, Russia.

10. Goin' Postal 2014 Fall Art Show. Will undoubtedly share more about it after the event than before. Friday evening at Goin' Postal, 814 Tower Avenue in Superior.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Indeed!

*Photo by Ivy Vainio

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Minutes with Fatih Benzer: The Artist Discusses His Influences and the Ideas behind His Work

Portions of this article appeared in this week's Reader. 

In 1993, Fatih Benzer left Turkey to study art in the United States. After completing his master’s degree in painting at California State University and his doctoral degree in art education at Arizona State University he decided to stay in U.S. since being here gave him an enormous amount of freedom to express himself and the resources to produce his work. He is currently assistant professor of art, design and art educations at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

EN: What brought you to the U.S. originally and when?
Fatih Benzer: I came to United States in 1993 to study art. I completed my master’s degree in painting at California State University and my doctoral degree in art education at Arizona State University. And I have decided to stay in US since being here gave me enormous amount of freedom to express myself and plenty of resources to produce my work.

"Signs of the Times"
EN: How did you come to take an interest in art as a career? Who were your early influences?
FB: I had always been interested in the arts since I was a little child. Art, especially drawing and painting, was a way to communicate to people since I was a very introvert kid. Although I am no longer introvert, art still remains as a powerful tool to communicate to people, even more so than before.

As a child, I was intrigued and amazed by the accomplishments of Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Raphael, Greco, and Rembrandt. As I grew up to be a young adult, the number of artists who had impact on me increased; from Mark Rothko to Frank Stella, from Louise Bourgeois to James Turrel who experimented with light in his installations known as "sky-spaces." Those were enclosed spaces open to the sky through an aperture in the roof. They really made me feel like I was looking at the sky and observing how light behaves as if for the first time. In my recent paintings, the sense and role of light plays a similar role, as well. I also was very influenced by the experimental movies and installations by Matthew Barney. I found his way of capturing a world of fantasy within every day life was visually very intriguing.

"The Bee Kingdom"
EN: What is your process for doing a new painting?
FB: The work I produce seems to naturally organize itself into series. Between these series are transitional works that chart the changes from one series to the next. I would like my work and its development to be logical and coherent, but it gets much more complicated throughout the process of making. Working in series gives me chance to create a large body of work that becomes the context in which specific concepts such as co-existence and stigma can reveal themselves as the content. I enjoy working in various styles, developing various methods to deal with various subjects or concepts. The fact that I work in different styles helped me develop multitudes of vantage points to examine, understand, and present a specific concept or subject. When you have the ability to change your vantage point, your approach to your work in contextual sense change, as well.

At times, this appeared to be an obstacle for some curators I worked with in the past. I guess the reason for that was because, traditionally, we expect artists to walk on the same path showing gradual progress towards mastery. During my undergraduate years, reading postmodern authors such as Umberto Eco, Milan Kundera, and Orhan Pamuk really got me interested in creating new possibilities and getting off that single path and moving in a non-linear fashion. About ten years ago, I started developing various techniques, methods, and strategies to deal with different issues that I was interested in exploring in my work. As an artist, you just cannot invent one solution and expect to resolve every single problem you face with it.

I try to keep myself aware of the major issues we face on the globe. As an artist, I select and focus on some of those issues and create my own reaction and communicate it to the audience. That is to say concepts always come first in my paintings.

Once I decide on a specific concept or subject, I develop sketches using various software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Once the preliminary studies seem appropriate enough to start a new painting, I implement it on large panels of wood using paint and brush. I use various washes to create abstract spaces where the realistically rendered images become actors and actresses as if in a play. I have never been interested in pure non-objective abstraction though in my work, the forms, perspectives, atmosphere of our natural world are represented in many ways and varying degrees of abstraction.

"Watcher" (detail)
EN: The artist statement for your current show notes that your recent iconographic works are, among other things, “inspired by Ottoman and Persian miniatures, whirling dervishes echoing Rumi’s ecstatic poetry of freedom and devotion.” Can you elaborate on this?
FB: My recent iconographic works are inspired by ancient Greek mythologies, Ottoman and Persian miniatures, whirling dervishes in Sufi belief represented by Rumi’s ecstatic poetry of freedom and devotion, abstracted geometry inspired by antique Ottoman and Byzantine architecture. The main purpose of these works is to build a bridge between East and West. Coming from Turkey-a country influenced by Near Eastern and European cultures, I try to build a world of irony in which all those various influences can co-exist regardless of their diverse backgrounds. Such combination of various images and symbols from different cultures play a very important role to offer the audience a multiplicity of meanings.

The Ottoman and Persian miniatures were almost never signed due to several reasons--one being the rejection of individualism and another having more than one artist working on a piece of painting collectively. My paintings follow the similar tradition of not signing the artwork as a way of expressing one’s selflessness. Similar to miniatures, brilliant and contrasting colors were used side by side to achieve a flat surface that acts as a backdrop for the iconographic symbols to freely travel across the picture plane. The purpose of those eastern miniatures was merely to depict the nature as the artist saw nature. Instead, the purpose was to represent a nature that emerged from the artist’s understanding of nature and his/her imagination. However, unlike in the miniatures, one can notice the realistically rendered symbols/images in my work create a contrast with the flatness of the world that surrounds them.

"Journeys of a Dervish"
Dervish literally means "doorway" and is thought to be an entrance from this material world to the spiritual world. During the ceremony, the dervishes remove black cloaks to reveal the white robes with voluminous skirts. They turn independently, shoulder to shoulder, both around their own axis and around other dervishes, representing the earth revolving on its own axis while orbiting the sun. Symbols and architectural forms in my iconographic paintings refer to the same idea of turning, unifying, creating alternative spaces for their existence.

EN: Though the imagery is beautifully rendered, there is a somewhat horrific quality to some of your subject matter. What’s this about?
FB: On the outside, I want my paintings to be very attractive with their highly saturated colors, large dimensions, contrasting imagery, and intense labor. I want my paintings to “appeal” firs, “reveal” after. In the formalistic sense, this has been the core of my approach to how I executed my recent works for “Signs and Wonders” exhibition. “Appeal” is important to get the attention of the viewer and start a dialogue between the work and the viewer. However, that dialogue should go beyond the mere appearance of the work and should get deeper as one starts digging into multi-layered meanings driven from the familiar symbolism and the context in which this symbolism is presented with a twisted manner. References to religious iconography, political satire, irony of using violence to resolve violence become part of this twisted world I create in my work. Occasionally, the viewer’s encounter with some of my work can be quiet disturbing once they question the existence of this twisted world: Will we ever be able to co-exist despite our differences? Will we ever live in a world that is free of stereotypes and biases? How far can we or should we go to reconcile? When you play the devil’s advocate, life becomes more about contradictions and less about finding or creating a common ground.

EN: In what ways does teaching art students enrich your approach to your own work?
FB: Teaching is a big part of what I do as an artist. I do not see teaching as a separate component of my artistic career. I also conduct research and write due to my background in the field of art education. All this research and my practice as an artist become my resources to assist my students, be a facilitator, or to help them find their own voice.

EN: What are you currently working on and why?
FB: Now that the “Signs and Wonders” exhibition is up and running, I am doing my research in adapting a very different medium to communicate to my audience. And that medium will evolve digital technologies and processes such as installations as opposed to painting in traditional sense. I am very excited about the possibilities of this new direction to interact with the audience even further. Because in the end, no matter what medium you use, what techniques you invent, or what strategies you develop, it all comes down to expressing the human condition.

* * * *
This week marks the 5-year anniversary of the Zeitgeist Building in Downtown Duluth. If you're like me, it feels like it has been here for ages. Tonight begins five evenings of celebration as well as awareness-raising and fund-raising for the renamed Zeitgeist Center for Arts & Community. Tonight Mayor Ness and Executive Director Tony Cuneo will be present to talk about the history of the Zeitgeist, among other things. Join us for halfprice appetizers and a silent auction, among other things. Read yesterday's article in the Trib for details.