Friday, June 30, 2017

Local Art Seen: Thunder at the Depot

Last night the Duluth Art Institute hosted an opening reception for a pair of shows that are now on display through the summer: Play (in the John Steffl Gallery) and Peripheral Vignettes (in the George Morrison Gallery). Play features the work of a trio of artists--Robert DeWitt Adams, Elizabeth LaPensee and Christopher Selleck. Of this exhibit I will write more at another time. This blog post will feature the work of Jonathan Thunder, whose work I have been following since I first enountered it at the Washington Studios.

Perhaps a name like Thunder calls forth boldness. There is nothing saccharine about Jonathan Thunder's art. The colors are vivid, the imagery compelling, and the finish on these canvases somehow conveyed the sheen of a pearl, which made you almost want to feel them and not simply gaze.

The characters and subjects in his painting have their origin in his dreams, he has explained. His canvases are a form of journaling. When I was young I kept a dream diary for six of my years as a teen. Jonathan Thunder's diary is visual, as opposed to my ink scribbles on lined notebook paper.

Thunder's Native roots are in full evidence here. Though his roots are Minnesota, he studied in the Southwest at the American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Visual Efects and Motion Graphics from the Art Institutes International Minnesota.

This latter course of study explains the animated work that was displayed in the gallery and on Thursday, July 20, there will be a film screening at Teatro Zuccone, at 7:00 p.m.

Though mostly paintings, there were also some large ink drawings, produced with a decisive hand.

Inside the one alcove off from the main gallery space there were a pair of paintings with more muted coloration, striking only because of their stylistic contrast from the other pieces.

One of two large ink drawings.
The two-hour reception included a jazz guitar accompaniment by Briand Morrison, son of the artist George Morrison from whom the gallery takes its name. At six o'clock there were some brief remarks made about the show and a reading by the poet Dustin Blackletter.

The titles of many of the paintings had a whimsical quality. For example, "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Rabbit" and "Deer Woman Gets A Manicure." Others were simply descriptive, such as "Road Signs" or "Big Red Owl."

The gallery space buzzed with energy, drawing a large swath of local artists, writers and fans from the community.

Jonathan signs his book for artist Karen Nease.

"Big Red Owl"

Perhaps the most unusual: "She Dreams of Flying"
The show will be on display through the summer. Mark you calendars for the Artist Talk on August 15 here at 5:30 p.m. Sponsors for this exhibition include the Minnesota State Arts Board, Art Works and CPL Imaging. 

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Sneak Peek inside the VIP Ladies Room

You won't believe what she found in here.
Last Friday night Cowboy Angel Blue came down from the Iron Range to perform at VIP Vintage Pizza in Superior. John Bushey, host of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited, was on hand doing table magic, but the real magic came from the musicians who, this night, were really in the zone. 

Late in the evening I overheard one of the women talking about how unusual the ladies room had been decorated. Inasmuch as I was only familiar with the men's room, and it was likewise amusingly decorated, I asked permission to get a quick peek, which is to say, "Can you two go in and make sure the coast is clear?" In exchange, I made sure the men's room was vacant as well before they explored. All three of us agreed, the women had a more interesting room. 

* * * *
Hard to believe we're so near July. 

I don't believe my next blog post will need any introduction. 
When tomorrow comes, I will let it speak for itself.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. 
Make the most of it, my friend.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Back to the 50s

BONUS TRACK: Minnesota State Fairgrounds, June 2017

People love this stuff. It's real.
Here ya go, check this out

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Yeah. 

Local Art Scene: Springing into Summer at the Tweed and the DAI

"This Way to the Tennis Court" by Neil Sherman
The weather here in the Twin Ports is a lot like the roulette wheel in Las Vegas. If we call sunny days red and rainy days black, then when betters see four red spins in a row they start betting on black because it seems like the odds of black being next are increasing, when in reality the odds on every single spin are identical. So it is here with the weather.

I note this because when I saw the forecast for a lot of rain this coming week, my first thought was, "That's O.K., let's get it out of the way so when the Plein Air Festival arrives in a couple weeks, we will have nice weather. In point of fact, it will be what it will be. But that's not all bad. The artists coming have strategies for accomplishing their work outdoors... and it's going to produce some great work no matter how tomorrow's weather unfolds.

Besides, we have some great places to go (the rest of us) to get out of the stormiest. Here are a few highlights of shows you will want to take in sometime this summer, at the Tweed and the Duluth Art Institute. The price of admission can't be beat. Make it a date night, with a special friend, or any friend. Or, just take it in while your in the neighborhood...

An Opening Reception at the Duluth Art Institute

Tomorrow evening, Thurs., June 29 from 5 - 7 p.m. there's an opening reception to celebrate two new exhibitions and an artist-designed game of croquet. See the art, enjoy some refreshments, and listen to jazz guitar by Briand Morrison. New on view:

Jonathan Thunder
“Peripheral Vignettes: Jonathan Thunder ” will be in the George Morrison Gallery. Thunder is a painter and digital media artist whose solo exhibit will reveal a new body of paintings of Ojibwe deities placed in a contemporary context, as well as showcase the artists animations. A catalog with color images accompanies the display. See his films show on the big screen Thurs., July 20, 7 p.m. at Teatro Zuccone, and hear him speak about his work and sign books on Tues., Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at DAI Galleries.

“Play: Robert Dewitt Adams, Elizabeth LaPensee, & Christopher Selleck” will be on view in the John Steffl Gallery. The three featured artists explore games, gaming and game mechanics in their work. See a fascinating installation of Great Lakes map sculptures constructed from Battleship games; check out “Honour Water,” an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water, and “Invaders,” a remix of the arcade classic “Space Invaders”; and explore issues of masculinity, identity and sexuality through interrogations of hyper-masculine sports. Tie-in events are offered throughout the run of show, including a game night with Dungeon's End Fri., July 7; an artist talk Thurs., Aug. 10; Kids' Games Tues., Aug. 15; and a lecture, “What Games Tell us About Human Nature,” Wed., Aug. 23.

Croquet Designed by Artist Robb Quisling will be available to play in the Corridor. Yes, you read correctly. You can actually play this game! Both exhibits and the game are on view through Sept. 4, 2017.

Plein Air: Paint du Nord Returns to Duluth

Wendy Lacksa's "Duluth Nocturne" from 2016 Plein Air Duluth
• Festival: July 9 – 14, 2017

• Group Paint: Mon., July 10, Lincoln Park neighborhood

• Quick Paint: Tues., July 11, 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Lake Superior Zoo

• Group Paint: Wed., July 12, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. at Glensheen

• Opening Reception: Fri., July 14, 5 – 7 p.m. at Blacklist Beer. Prizes awarded by juror Matt Kania; live jazz performed by Randy Lee Trio

• Exhibition: July 15 – Aug. 27, 2017, Blacklist Beer

Thirty-four outstanding artists from Minnesota and beyond have been selected to participate in the Duluth Art Institute’s third annual outdoor painting festival, Plein Air Duluth: Paint du Nord, from July 9 – 14, 2017. Duluth offers wonderful inspiration for painters with postindustrial buildings nestled on a hill leading down to the greatest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, and surrounded by pristine wilderness. En Plein Air means “in the open air,” and artists will work outdoors to quickly capture the landscape in shifting, natural light, immortalizing Duluth scenes. Many will post their painting locations on social media, using the hashtag #DuluthPleinAir17, so that the public can watch them transform canvases from blank slates to completed works. In a new twist, resultant works will go on view at Blacklist Beer downtown. For details and a list of participating artists please see the attached news release.

Two Important Shows at the Tweed

Linda Naughton Watercolors @ the Lakeside Gallery

Featured artist for July at Lakeside Gallery will be Linda Naughton. The opening reception is slated for Saturday, July 8. Looks like another good show, directly on the heels of Sue Brown Chapin's "Woods and Water."

* * * *

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Susan Laing Shares Her Incredible Adventure -- From Down Under to Duluth Dylan Fest

Hibbing's Dylan Days and Duluth's Dylan Fest have attracted visitors and fans from from all over the world. Over the years I've had the opportunity to meet, or begin friendships with, folks from England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Australia. This year Susan Laing of Australia made the furthest trek to be part of our weeklong Duluth festival. Her story was quite impressive, for she came to the States to not only walk the glorious hills of Duluth that a young Bob sang about on Planet Waves, but to touch all the major touchstones associated with the Nobel Laureate. What follows is a very brief recap of Ms. Laing's six weeks in America.

EN: Can you share the places you visited while you were here on your six week adventure?

Susan Laing: I arrived in Houston... visited the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) ...
I saw the sculptures of (Australian) artist Ron Mueck ...
I saw a fabulous exhibition of Cuban revolutionary art Adios Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950...
Wanting to take in as much American music as possible...
I saw Martha Redbone perform ‘Bone Hill - The Concert’ at the Alley Theatre....
Being a tourist I heard songs from traditional Cherokee chants and lullabies to Bluegrass and Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Rock & Roll, and R 'n B...

I saw the Houston Space Center and, unlike the crew of the Apollo 13 moon flight, I did’t hear the words “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”...

Portal, the Dylan sculpture in Maryland.

The Intrepid Traveller
The point of starting my Dylan expedition in the South was to visit the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa and experience the future hometown of the Dylan archives.
I saw Woody’s original handwritten manuscripts, lyrics, inscribed photographs, early photographs, rare letters, medical records, flyers and films.
I saw paintings, drawings and assemblages.
I saw guitars, a mandolin... felt the dust.
I heard his songs and the songs of all the good people who have travelled with him and since.
I saw Pete Seeger’s exhibition... his film ‘The Power of Song.’

Then on to old New York City... an East Coast city that you all know well... swept on to MacDougal Street... walked a line from the Lower East Side to the ghost of Gerde’s Folk City... I heard the Transatlantic Sessions’ voices of Rosanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carter, Sarah Jarosz, Karen Matheson, Aoife O’Donovan, Declan O’Rourke, John Paul White.

The sculpture working in a medium familiar to all Iron Ranges.
EN: What was it that prompted you to make this journey?

SL: I wanted to attend Dylan Fest.

Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge is a memorable landmark here.

EN: How did you come to be such a Dylan fan?

SL: In 1998 I was living in Sydney and visited the studio of Brett Whiteley. He was a Dylan fan and this was the music he played while working. I had an instant feeling of connection when I heard it.

EN: If you have time, can you share one highlight from each place you visited?

Susan at Fitgers
on Bob Dylan Way
SL: The Tulsa highlight was the Woody Guthrie Centre .... I had no idea of how much there was to his story and his contribution to music, history and American culture

The Hibbing highlight was the grandeur of the castle in the wilderness High School and the Historical Society Museum at the Memorial Centre. In Duluth it was the amazing community of people who join to celebrate all things Dylan in the week long festival.

The boondocks of Hibbing-Duluth are far greater than The City - or Paris!

* * * *
Right: One of three Dylan-themed manhole covers on Bob Dylan Way. 

* * * *
The magic of our town is made moreso by the many who make their way here to visit with us and share memories. Thank you, Susan, for being with us in May. And we loved your hat! (VBG)

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Embrace it.

P.S. The Dylan-machine continues to fire on all cylinders. Reviews of recent concerts on his Never Ending Tour, such as this one in Providence, have been stellar.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trending On Twitter: #MondayMotivation

Writing is in my DNA. When I look back on my life I see that I started a newsletter for nearly every organization, group or club that I was part of. The chess club, history club, even our bowling league in high school -- I saw a need for communication, and produced a primitive form of a newsletter, mimeographed in those days before copiers. I used my art/design skills and would come up with a cartoon for each issue as well as write summaries of the key events of the previous week.

In 1982, when I returned to the Twin Cities from a year in Mexico, I obtained temporary employment painting apartments till I sorted out what I wanted to do with my life. I'm not sure how it happened, but before long I was producing a one page newsletter as I had in high school, called the New Monday Memo. The owner of this loose association of painters, Terry O, liked the idea and the NMM became a useful communication vehicle. He came up with the name and wanted it written in an upbeat manner for the purpose of countering the prevailing drabness associated with going back to work on Monday.

It was a great concept. A shot in the arm. Fresh juice to start the week off on the right foot, to give one a lift.

Fast forward. 

One of the Twitter features that I like is the Trends list that runs alongside your Twitter feed. It's useful for identifying key stories or breaking news based on what people are talking about. It's how I learned about the Mumbai massacre before CNN or the local news outlets.

On Mondays one of the trending topics nearly every week happens to be Monday Motivation, or rather, #MondayMotivation with the hashtag. It's a social media phenomenon that shows our little team of room painters were on to something. A little uplift on Monday mornings can really help put wind under your wings as you soar into a new week.

Here ar a few gems from my Twitter fee this a.m.:

--Your Attitude Determines Your Direction

--Let your smile change the world.
Don't let the world dampen your smile.

--The only way to win with a toxic person is not to play.

--Setting goals takes Desire
But completing them takes Determination.

--Don't Make Excuses, Make Changes.

--Get out of your comfort zone and step into your great self.

You get the picture. Whether heading back to the office or the factory, to the fields or to knock on doors, if you need a lift check out the MondayMotivation hashtag on Twitter.

Have a truly great week. Thanks for checking in. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Franconia Sculpture Park Is An Expanding Universe

Franconia Sculpture Park is one of the surprise discoveries we made in the late 90's. We were headed toward Taylor's Falls and off to the right there was a large field with large unusually-shaped sculptures planted here and there. Fifteen years ago we paid another visit to this intriguing place.

When I heard the the Duluth Art Institute's Amber White had left for Franconia it triggered a desire to return, which was doubly amplified by Christa Lawler's DNT article in late May. I was "in the neighborhood" recently so I took a brief self-guided tour of some of the structures on the North end of the park. It's 43 acres and I really didn't have a lot of time, but I saw plenty. And I like the price: free.

Taylor's Falls makes a nice day trip if you're seeking a place to go on a lazy day. It's beautiful down there. Franconia Sculpture Park is just another stimulating diversion, worth the time.

Here in the Twin Ports it's day 2 of the Park Point Art Fair. If you were scared off yesterday by the forecast, let it be known that a 40% chance of rain actually means a 60% probability that it will not rain. Today's forecast has similar foreboding from 10 a.m. till noon. Don't worry about it.

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