Saturday, September 30, 2017

In Situ: The Artists of Studio 101

Thursday evening I attended the opening of a new exhibition in the John Steffl Gallery of the Duluth Art Institute titled In Situ: Studio 101 Artists. This fall we've seen several major openings and events featuring representational artists showing new work, including two featuring plein air painters. In Situ features a circle of artists who have been gathering for a number of years in the semblance of a artists collective. The current number is seven, the location is 101 East Michigan Street, though for the duration of October the artists will be doing live painting right there in the gallery.

At Thursday's opening it was quickly apparent who the model had been the evening before as several paintings of Terry Millikan were on display. In addition to the paintings mounted about the Steffl Gallery there were also easels with paints and other art-making paraphernalia.

Studio 101 had initially been started by Jeff Schmidt and Penny Clark of Lizzard's Art Gallery & Framing on Superior Street. Currently there are seven artists who work in the Michigan Avenue space: Dorothea Diver, Lee Englund, Goran Hellekant, Constance Johnson, Cot LaFond, Dale Lucas and Larry Turbes.

One of the threads that has woven these artists together is a weekly gathering in which they paint live models, developing their skills as students of the human form. The seven artists who are part of this collection each have different motivations for their artistic endeavors. Dale Lucas states, "I paint for the joy and relaxation it gives me." Lee Englund says, "Painting from life offers me a challenge I cannot resist," adding that each painting is a new experience.

The work will be on display throughout the month of October at the DAI in the 4th Floor of the Depot, and on Wednesdays the public is invited to come watch as the painters work "live" there in the gallery.

It's been really exciting seeing the renewed enthusiasm for painting here in the Twin Ports and its variety of manifestations. And the best is yet to come.

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Big shout-out to Christina Woods, new interim director for the DAI. Annie Dugan, who has stepped down from the role of director, has not in any way stepped out of the Duluth arts community, being on the scene Thursday with sleeves rolled up for the next adventure, coming soon to a City Hall building near you. Tip of the hat to Dana and Catherine, and everyone else who has helped manage and maintain this community asset.

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There's plenty to see at the Tweed, the DAI and all the satellite galleries and art spaces in the Twin Ports. And it's free. 
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

"Paintings, Now & Before: Figures, Flowers, Landscapes" and an Introduction to Jill Mackie

"August in the Park" -- Oil on Canvas
This month we've been sharing quite a few shows featuring artists painting and drawing in more traditional and representational styles. In keeping with this theme I asked Jill Mackie if she could talk about her work as an artist and her upcoming show at the Alliance Gallery in Narrowsburg, New York titled “Paintings, Now & Before: Figures, Flowers, Landscapes.”

Before writing about the burgeoning Twin Ports arts scene I was interviewing artists whom I "met" through social media and the Internet. Jill Mackie falls into this latter category of acquaintances. After the interview you can read details about her upcoming show, the opening of which is next Saturday, October 6. My only regret is that I can't be there.

EN: How did you come to take up art as a vocation?

Jill Mackie: Becoming an artist came first; that was the main goal. Selling was always desirable, but first one needs to make art that satisfies certain standards of quality and personal integrity. I think now that if you want to "make it" in the art world, making it has to be your main goal.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences?

"Marian K" 16"x 14" Oil on Canvas
JM: The earliest influences and certainly big ones were "The Red Shoes," for its colour and the power of its story. It was the world of art and life and I was stunned. I saw it on the big screen when I was eight years old. I went to museums as a child, mostly the Detroit Institute of Arts, and was in love with being in that space, the light and the marble, and especially the medieval section and the room where the huge Diego Rivera was. I watched my parents looking at paintings, which I was too short to really see, and I remember wondering what they were looking at so intently and I started looking, too, to see what was so interesting. So I grew up loving museums and looking at art and it was all about beauty.

EN: What attracted you to portraiture?

JM: After studying art history in college, I found that the paintings I loved best were those of the Northern and Italian Renaissance. Jan Van Eyck is still one of my giants, as is Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci. And most of all I loved their figures in the landscape and their portraits. Look at van Eyck's self portrait at the National Gallery in London and his " Adoration of the Lamb," Leonardo's Ginevra in Washington, and his "Annunciation," in Florence, Bellini's Doge and his Baptism. These are my favorite subjects, still, for my own work. For commissioned portraits, and for my own paintings, I most often include a landscape background, usually something that has to do with the clients life, environment.

"Henry Laufer" -- 28.5"x 23.5" Oil on Canvas
Portraiture appeals to me because of the simplicity and beauty and character of the human being. It never fails me that in drawing and painting a portrait, the person begins to glow from the soul as we work.

EN: What was the impetus behind your current show?

JM: The impetus behind my current show was to share with my friends and neighbors who I am and what I care deeply about and do.

EN: What have been the biggest lessons you've learned from your life as an artist?

JM: Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from being an artist is that life is very beautiful and profound and it is this that I try to paint as best I can.

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“Paintings, Now & Before:
Figures, Flowers, Landscapes” by Jill Mackie
at Alliance Gallery

October 6 – 28, 2017
Opening reception from 7 – 9 pm on Friday, October 6, 2017
Alliance Gallery, Delaware Arts Center, 37 Main St, Narrowsburg, NY
This is a Free Event

"Blue Ice" 
“I use oil paint, a traditional medium, to represent the subject realistically in a traditional manner,” says Mackie. “I paint layer on layer and the painting grows and changes as I go along enhancing or subduing a color, making a sky lighter or darker, removing a tree or a wrinkle, and so on. It seems to me, like words in a poem, the elements of a painting need to be moved around, changed, or got rid of completely. The goal is to make it better.”

Mackie, a non-representational painter at the time, was chosen by the Whitney Museum of American Art to participate in the independent study program in New York City. During her time there, she immersed herself in the art world of museums, galleries, seminars, and lectures; she realized what mattered most to her was representational art.

“The subject of my work, simply put, is how I feel about life, nature and art,” says Mackie. “Something will attract my attention, a person, a place, that, perhaps because of some change in light, shows itself to me in a new way.”

"James and Mary"  27"x 36.5"  Oil on Canvas
One of Mackie’s self-portraits was purchased by the curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle and shown in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. “It was great to walk through the museum and have people recognize me,” Mackie recalls. Pictures of the painting appeared on the cover of the Washington Review, as well as in the Smithsonian Magazine, and The Washington Post. Later, because of another painting, Mackie was invited to a cocktail party at President Clinton’s office in Harlem, where she met the President.

She has been in group shows at Bernarducci-Meisel Gallery, The Allan Stone Gallery, Tamanaga Gallery, The Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Club, all in New York City. In addition, she's shown at The General Electric Gallery in Fairfield, CT; Bennett Galleries in Knoxville, TN; and Portals Gallery in Chicago, IL.

Originally from Detroit, Mackie received her Bachelor of Philosophy and Master of Arts in painting from Wayne State University. She lived and maintained a studio in New York for ten years, after which she moved to Narrowsburg, NY with her husband, painter Frank Holmes. Loving her environment, she paints landscapes, portraits, figures, and flowers.

Alliance Gallery is located at the Delaware Arts Center at 37 Main Street, Narrowsburg, NY, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

For more information, visit 

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Nease News: Two Openings In Two States

When Karen and Joseph Nease moved to the Northland a couple years ago you knew right off that they would become a welcome addition to the Twin Ports art scene. Artist/painter Karen Nease, finding inspiration in the natural beauty that ebbs and flows around us, was quickly at work on her first Northland show. Husband Joe, meanwhile didn't waste any time doing the essential footwork necessary to locate the ideal space for a new gallery. The Joseph Nease Gallery in Kansas City had gained the attention of national art magazines and in a relatively short time established itself as a serious player in the region.

Well, the Neases are in the Northland now, and it is with pleasure that I share this blog post announcing Karen's new show at the Kruk Gallery in Superior, and the premiere show in the new Joseph Nease Gallery in Downtown Duluth. Anticipation is running high for both these events.

As Above, So Below.
Karen Nease Opening at the Kruk

Superior, Wisconsin - The Kruk Gallery, University of Wisconsin – Superior presents As Above, So Below. The exhibition features a new body of artwork from Karen Owsley Nease’s wave portrait series. Exquisitely painted, and dramatic, these oil paintings portray the waves as powerful, elemental forces. They are monochromatic in palette, ranging in size from small studies to the full size of a wave. The breaking multi-faceted waves create strong patterns of light and dark drawing the viewer closer. As Ann Landi describes, “ … this artist builds up her pictures in glazes until the surface reaches a seductive luminosity. “

Karen Owsley Nease is a contemporary landscape painter whose “…seascape painting draws from the traditions of Western landscape painting, and subverts those traditions as firmly as it refers to them. By doing so it encourages us to retune our way of perceiving the non-human world which surrounds and supports us,” states Ruth Henriquez. Throughout her career, Nease’s artwork has sought to extend the meaning of landscape beyond the Western European tradition. She achieves this by presenting the power of the waters with no reference to humans whatsoever except for the viewer’s own reaction. Her paintings present the forces of nature as entities in their own right, inviting the viewer to see the subject in new ways.

Nease's artwork has reference points in her own efforts toward habitat restoration, American transcendentalist landscape painting and the work of more recent artists such as Neil Welliver, April Gornik and Vija Celmins who are similarly engaged with both the landscape and its use as subject matter for formalist experimentation. Almost photo-realistic when viewed from afar, the paintings become more painterly and abstract as one approaches. From the catalog essay by Ann Landi, “the wave series keeps viewer pleasurably off balance, flirting with abstraction…”

Karen Owsley Nease, artist, states, “I am thrilled at the opportunity to introduce this new and ongoing series of artwork to the Northland. The Kruk Gallery is an ideal space to present my large scale wave paintings and it is important to me that this work can be seen at such a lovely space at the University of Wisconsin – Superior, whose programs play an important role in the protection of Lake Superior which is so nearby.”

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, October 5, 2017, 5-7pm
Exhibition dates: October 4 – October 26, 2017.
Gallery Hours:
Monday - Wednesday 12:00 - 6:00 pm,
Thursday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm,
Friday 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Three States
Joseph Nease Gallery Opening in Duluth

It is a little less than a month before Joseph Nease Gallery opens with its inaugural exhibition Three States on October 21, 2017 with Matthew Kluber, Kathy McTavish, and James Woodfill. If you are unable to make the opening the show will run through January 6, 2017.

So what is Three States?

Art critic, Dave Hickey once suggested “that all an artist needs is to decide where to live, how to live and what they want their art to look like.” Similarly, as a gallery, all you need to know is where you want it to be, how you want it run, and what you want the work you show to look like. Thus, we are in Duluth, Minnesota, with a thoughtfully run gallery showing artwork that we want (you) to see.

In our inaugural exhibition titled Three States, we feature artists from three states with work that is related by motion, technology and finally formed by the space it occupies. Each of these artists, Matthew Kluber (Iowa), Kathy McTavish (Minnesota), and James Woodfill (Missouri) share these commonalities, but through painting, projection, motion, and vantage point options give distinctly different viewer experiences. Matthew Kluber is an artist whose “painting (projection)” work investigates the intersection of painting and digital technology. Kathy McTavish is a media composer, cellist and installation artist whose work blends data, text, code, sound, and abstract, layered moving images. And James Woodfill, an interdisciplinary artist whose work is focused on direct experience through the composition of objects, occurrences and site.

In order to fully introduce the gallery during this inaugural exhibition, we also will be showing at least one recent artwork of each of the artists with whom we are currently working, including work by James Brinsfield, Marcus Cain, Cary Esser, Peter Granados, Rachel Hayes, Don Kottmann, Heidi Pollard, Warren Rosser, Eric Sall, and Tim White.

For more information, Follow the New Joseph Nease Gallery on Facebook.

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Don't miss tonight's Opening Reception for IN SITU in the John Steffl Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute, on the fourth floor in The Depot.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yes, It's a Blog Post About Memorable Couches

"The Chesterfield" by Frank Holmes
Couches.  Sometimes they're called sofas. And often they evoke memories. I remember the old green couch which we had when I was growing up in Maple Heights. I remember, too, the brown couch in our living room in Bridgewater. In fact, I have memories associated with a number of couches over the course of a lifetime.

A couch is one of those things you probably don't think about very often, until someone draws attention to it. The occasion for this blog post was a convergence of sorts. This summer I re-connected with an art instructor I'd had at Ohio University circe 1972-73, Frank Holmes. He shared with me a binder with many of the paintings he's executed over the years, and I happened notice a series that featured couches. At roughly the same time I stumbled upon a Vanity Fair article titled TV's Most Memorable Couches. This seemed too serendipitous to not be shared.

So, as I prepared to share some of the couches Frank Holmes had painted he sent me an email indicating that he had at one time said he did a whole show at TLK Gallery in Costa Mesa on the West Coast featuring couches. He found transparencies and forwarded them so I could add them here.

"Andy's Sofa"
Do you ever Google a word and then click on the Images tab? Here is what you see when you want to find images of couches. See anything you recognize?

Here are several additional Frank Holmes couches for your visual stimulation.

"Seaside Sofa" --31"x 44" / Oil Pastel, 1981
"Party, Party" --31"x 44" / Oil Pastel, 1981
"Faust's Sofa" --31"x 44" / Oil Pastel, 1981
"Heavenly Sofa" --31"x 44" / Oil Pastel, 1981
"Misty Sofa" --63"x 88" / Oil on Canvas, 1982
"Sofa in Blue" --63"x 88" / Oil on Canvas, 1981
"Big Red" -- 63"x 88" / oil on Canvas, 1982
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Learn more about Frank Holmes' "Big Date" 

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Suggested Related Readings:
The Sofas of Madison County by R.J.Waller
Of Mice and Couches, John Steinbeck
The Couch Also Rises, Hemingway 
The Old Man and the Couch, also by Hemingway
The Great Sofa Gatsby Owned by Fitzgerald
Black Couch Down by Mark Bowden
Portrait of the Couch by a Young Man, James Joyce
Finnegan's Couch, also by Joyce
Joyce's Couch, by Finnegan
Brave New Couch, Aldous Huxley
Sofas at Noon, by Arthur Koestler

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Meantime, sofas stretch out all around you. Dig it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Head Studies: Art of the Portrait (Local Art Seen)

Head Study by Jesse Kane
Form Study: II, Brock Larson
It's been a week of rarified realism and representational art here in the Twin Ports, and the local art fans are enjoying it very much. Last week the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) were performing their magic in our midst, culminating in a show at the one-year-old Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art. The preceding evening the Tweed Museum showcased plein air painters whose focus was America's Industrial Landscapes. Thursday we'll see a clan of local artists who have been doing representational work as well, and through November the Red Herring has decorated its walls with a new exhibit titled Head Study, Art of the Portrait.

The Red Herring show features work by GLA founders Jeffrey and Brock Larson in conjunction with their first year student body. The students are clearly marching along a good path here. It has to be gratifying to experience the progress they've made as they begin their second year of the program.

The Poet, Brock Larson
I've identified some of the pictures here but if you need complete attributions, the Red Herring Lounge is walking distance from the center of town on East First Street. The six student artists: Daralyn Pfeifer, Cam Conlon, Patrick Glander, Jesse Kane, Kelly Schamberger and Eric Rauvola.

Earlier this summer I spoke with some of the students about their experiences this first year and what they've been learning.

“I’ve learned how to see things better and judge values," said Kelly Schamberger, who added that she wasn't as good of an artist as she thought she was. This, of course, is the first step in teachableness, and she's become quite accomplished by the end of her first season.

Cam by Daralyn Peifer
“My taste has changed drastically," she noted. "My standards are higher. I've had to work hard and stay focused for long periods of time.” Like the other students she's also learning how to use the materials. “I can see, by looking back, the progress I’ve made. You don’t realize the progress as you’re going along. I think all of us are way ahead of where we imagined we’d be.”

Jesse Kane, from Wilmont, South Dakota had studied 2 years of graphic design before coming to the school here in Duluth. His dad is a farmer, mother an insurance adjuster, and both are supportive of his art ambitions. “Breaking down mental pre-conceived notions of what drawing is and putting full trust in what Jeff and Brock are doing," has been invaluable. He's always asking questions: what is the correct shape? Are these the right values? Is the edge right? It requires patience and discipline.

Self-Portrait by Jeffrey Larson
According to Jeffrey Larson, who co-founded the school with his son Brock, half the first year students had art degrees already when they enrolled.

Ellen, by Daralyn Peifer

Drawing by Patrick Glander
"Jake" by Brock Larson; Oil on Canvas Panel

Again, Head Study will be on display through the first week of November. A closing reception will be held on November 2. Do it if you can. It will be a great way to mark a moment in time for the school and this crop of second year students.

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

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EdNote: Some of black and white drawings have splashes of color on them. These are reflections off the glass and not necessarily intentional by the artists. I personally find them interesting, even if it does present a challenge for photography in certain settings.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Motivation: Ten Art Quotes That Will Surprise You

A Red Rothko. 
"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy. I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."
--Art Williams

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Living isn't a simple thing... no one said it's supposed to be.
--Art Alexakis

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The two best interview subjects are children under 10 and people over 70 for the same reason: they say the first thing that comes to their mind. The children don't know what they're saying and the old folks don't care.
--Art Linkletter

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Paul has more, I think, of a feel for the stage. Whereas I have it more for the notes themselves. I love record making and mixing, arranging, producing. That I love. I love to make beautiful things, but I don't like to perform.
 --Art Garfunkel

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Life is available to anyone no matter what age. All you have to do is grab it.
--Art Carney

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Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.
--Art Blakey

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Remember, before you can be great, you've got to be good. Before you can be good, you've got to be bad. But before you can even be bad, you've got to try.
--Art Williams

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If you don’t see the wonder in the most ordinary phenomenon, you’re not going to resonate very much.
--Art Shaw

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There is no such thing as a wrong note.
--Art Tatum

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All you have to do is be able to feel.
--Art Blakey

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ON THIS DAY in 1903, American painter Mark Rothko was born. Whatever your feelings about abstract art in general and color field painting in particular, the 2014 play RED provides insights into the mind of the artist and why he was influential.

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Meantime, Arts go on all around you.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Plein Air Painting in the 21st Century: Last Night at the GLA

Jeffrey Larson, in his element here at Glensheen. (Photo courtesy C. Strom)
Fifty years ago people wondered if Warhol's "Brillo Boxes" were signalling the end of art. Everything's been done. Where else can it go. It half reminds me of the U.S.Patent office in 1900 when the director said, "We should just close our doors. Everything that can be invented has been invented." So it is that art continues, despite what many critics predicted.

As a long-time observer of the arts it would appear that the art scene is "still alive and well," as Johnny Winter once sang. The creative spirit continues.

It's funny how journalists and cultural observers keep making the same mistakes as regards what is to come. There was a time when radio was significant, but when television came along radio was going to be annihilated. Radio is still here, and cable didn't kill network television and the Internet didn't kill television or newspapers and magazines. So it is that photography did not eliminate realistic and representational painting and drawing.

Carl Bretzke's "Park Point" evinces an involuntary "Oh, wow."
This week a consortium of plein air painters has been in town to display of their exceptional translation skills, translating 3-D reality onto 2-D surfaces. The subject matter: our Twin Ports region. The results? Impressive.

Andy Evenson's "Rain on Canal Street" 14"x19" Watercolor
Last night the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art opened its doors and welcomed the public to see a range of works created by this week's visiting members of the Plein-Air Painters of America. It was a heady experience. Hundreds attended from the community, nearly everyone awed not only by the art but also by the renovation that has taken place here. This Catholic Church, which had at one time been inches from the wrecking ball, is itself becoming a museum-piece.

I spoke with several of the paints who are in town and there was a universal sense that Duluth is rich with subject matter for artists. Industrial, historical, natural and nautical themes are abundant and accessible.

Friday evening the Tweed celebrated a new exhibition of America's Industrial Landscapes, featuring a whole range of atypical subject matter... until you dislodge the idea that painting outdoors means painting water lilies or parks. There are certain features of Duluth that contribute to its being an exceptional locale to collect artists. The steep hillsides pouring into a massive body of water, the railroad yards and shipyards, the multitude of parks, the ever changing weather -- it all contributes. Here are a few more images from last night's show.

"Green Van" by Carl Bretzke of Grand Marais
"Trailer and Timbers" by Bretzke
Billyo O'Donnell's dense oils produced vivid images.

Related Post: Interview with M. Stephen Doherty, author of The Art of Plein Air Painting.

THIS WEEK: IN SITU at the Duluth Art Institute
Opening reception: Thursday, September 28, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Dorothea Diver, Lee Englund, Goran Hellekant, Constance Johnston, Cot LaFond, Dale Lucas, and Larry Turbes share a studio on Michigan St. in downtown Duluth. What does it mean to inhabit a space with other artists? What are the habits that develop throughout an artist's studio practice when working near others? This exhibit showcases five to 10 paintings from each of the seven while examining concepts of habitation and transposition. The artists will recreate their atelier environment within the gallery and create LIVE onsite 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Wed. evenings (Sept. 20 & 27; Oct. 4, 11, 18, & 25). The exhibit is on view through Oct. 27, sponsored by: Cartier Agency, Inc.

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