Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday: White Space and Other Diversions

"Creativity takes courage." ~Matisse

One of the hardest things in writing is a blank piece of paper. Much has been written about it, as the mind races around trying to decide what to put down as the all important first sentence.

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh wrote that he dislikes seeing a blank canvas. When he sees one he feels obligated to smear paint on it, and I know exactly what he means.

In painting, before you can really do the work you have to do the prep. Once you get the surface ready (if canvas, with gesso) you still want to paint a neutral undercoat of some kind. At least, this is one approach that is common. It certainly doesn't apply if you are pouring stain onto a canvas like Louis Morris, but in traditional painting, that background undercoat helps set the tone.

So, I'm staring at a box here where I am to write today's blog entry and I don't know where to go with it. Should I jump outside the box and write a string of absurd sentences about colons and dashboards or steering columns and carcinoma? Or do we follow this train we're on to some kind of logical conclusions?

I just deleted one direction this could have gone. Let's head southeast for a moment. No, wait, maybe west. Oh, never mind.

So, I am having an art opening this week on Tuesday evening. One of the pieces is a Tribute to Duchamp who said, "I am interested in ideas, not merely visual products." Thus was born the concept of conceptual art. The Tribute piece is an item I found at a garage sale for a buck, which if I were famous might garner ten thousand. The current price is, "To Highest Bidder."

The irony is that young people, and maybe even older ones, have never heard of Duchamp, or the urinal on display in a Philadelphia gallery (Fountain). They do not know Magritte, Matisse or any of the most prominent artists who initially steered the direction of 20th century art away from representationalism.

Another irony: I began my college studies moving in the direction of philosophy (ideas) but found art more appealing because you ended up with a visual product. So Duchamp pushed art in one direction (conceptual), but pure idea as an end had to return to earth in some form... whether it be paintings or perhaps in acts of service to one's neighbors, community, etc.

Think about it. Then express yourself.

19 July 2009

* * * * 
“With everything emptying into white.”

White Space
It was a white space, and I didn't know what to put there.

First I started to write about Free Trade. I tried to make a connection between post-World War I economics and the rise of Hitler. Discarding that, I made a lame attempt to falteringly present with varying degrees of interest and disinterest
in no particular order the relationship between line and form, a digression on Hollywood one-liners, the origin of panpipes,
Dylan’s debutants, kitsch, ambiguity, the Zeitgeist, Perry Mason’s undiminished cool, the man with rose-colored eyes, and the genius of Sitting Bull.

These, too, failed to get me jazzed and the center would not hold.
So we’re back… to the white space.

22 October 2010 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Local Art Seen: Resist & Protect @ the Zeitgeist

Rise Up!, Stacie Renne, Mixed media
There came a moment in the early development of the Grateful Dead in which they had to choose whether to write songs with political messages or to create music outside of what was happening at the time, songs that were more timeless and less of a commentary on the era. After all, it was the Sixties and many San Francisco groups (Jefferson Airplane, for example) were becoming vocal about the war. The Dead chose to opt out.

I had a friend in college who likewise urged me to use my art talent for political purposes. I recall him saying to me on numerous occasions, "The artist is the vanguard of the revolution." Like the Dead I opted out. 

After last year's election, many local artists  have produced work propelled by an internal swirl to make political statements. The current November show at the Zeitgeist, Resist and Protect, is the product one such local response, artists united by a desire to make a statement, artists who have chosen to opt in.

Don't Drink the Water, Carla Hamilton. Photo print. Photo by Emanuel Eisele.
Making Waves, Lisa Kosmo. Acrylic on canvas.
To purchase artwork, contact Penny Perry @ Perry Framing, 216 E. Superior Street, Duluth.
perryframing (AT) aol dot com.

Earthlings, Ellen Sandbeck. Multi-colored scissors-cut papercut.
The Seventh Wave: Love, Susan Krochalk. Acrylic on canvas.
Repel and Replace, Penny Perry. Mixed media collage. 
Persistence, Susan Krochalk, Acrylic on canvas and canvas board.
Force of Nature, Kathryn E. Lenz. Acrylic on canvas. 
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sidetracked? Don't Worry, It Happens To All Of Us

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." --popular proverb

Yesterday late afternoon I stopped by the library after work to drop off some DVDs and books, and to look for a couple other items on my reading list. One of these was a book called Brainwashed, which was on an upstairs shelf near some marketing books about persuasion and influence, one of the these being the famous work by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

What caught my eye, though, was another book there titled Sidetracked, by Francesca Gina, which I began reading late in the evening instead of going to bed like a good boy. Subtitled "Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan," I found myself immediately drawn in. For the record, it is a publication of the Harvard Business Review Press.

Whether you are in a business with objectives, or an individual with a self-directed career plan, or just someone with personal dreams you wish to pursue, the book appears to have application to any and all of these kinds of reads.

The introduction explains what the heavily researched book will cover. There are three forces at work in us whenever we set out to accomplish anything, Gino says. First, we have our internal distractions. As the saying goes, sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We frequently fail to see our own limitations, or have a mistaken sense of our own capabilities. Or, it may be we just don't know ourselves well enough to know what we want.

Next, the author shows, are forces from our relationships that impinge upon us. These come in a variety of forms, from parental expectations to compromises we make on behalf of our spouses.

Finally there are inevitably myriad external sources at work to distract us. Our intentions may be good, but because we are not resolute we allow other people or events to divert and thwart us.

What I like about the title is the railroad metaphor. Trains are sometimes intentionally diverted to a side rail to keep the lines clear for other traffic. If our intention is to be in St. Louis by midnight, and we're parked on a side-rail, one must begin to wonder, "How did this happen?" and "What can I do to keep it from happening again?"

When I was eight years old my grandparents took be out of school to travel from Cleveland to Reno on a train to go visit my aunt, uncle and cousins out west. The three-week adventure was a truly formative event in my life. The train went day and night for three days, with stops in Chicago, St. Louis and Salt Lake City. On the return east at some point during the night I was awake and looking out the window when I noticed a strange phenomenon. There were two glowing red lines on the ground next to our train. It was very strange because it just went on and on. I woke my grandmother to ask what it was. She didn't know, and we both studied it with wonder. Then the train slowed and stopped, the lights went on, and a voice announced that we were picking up passengers. We learned that a train on the adjacent railroad track had jumped the rails. We would have to all squeeze together till we reached the next stop.

Wow. There was an explanation to those glowing lines. That was heat generated by friction. Ultimately the train, having derailed, was stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Francesca Gino's book is has as its aim to help individuals and businesses avoid that kind of fate. It's a book for goal-setters and dreamers. And maybe a book for you.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Robert Hunter's Translations of Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. in the question.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

* * * *
Saturday, when I wrote about Robert Hunter's collaborations with Dylan, my original intent had not been to write about Together Through Life. Rather, I had discovered Hunter's translations of some of the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke and began by laying a foundation, introducing readers to Hunter the poet/songwriter. I got a little carried away, ultimately snipping it it for a blog post of its own.

* * * *
It's often been remarked how the Internet is like a giant labyrinth, with each explorer ending up in different places based on choices one makes, following links, or as Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Not Taken" suggests, "way leads on to way" so that we sometimes know not how we arrived in these various places and spaces within this seemingly infinite hypercard deck.

* * * *
All this is a rather circuitous route to Robert Hunter's Rilke translations. Hunter was such an integral part of the Grateful Dead magic that when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Hunter was included with the band, even though he'd never actually performed with them. Hunter was the first, and maybe only, non-performer inducted in this manner.

As a lyricist Hunter's interests stretched beyond the bounds of contemporary songwriting so that quite by accident I discovered his translations of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke, specifically his Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus, which features some of my own favorite Rilke verses. It's intriguing how Rilke resurrected Orpheus, a character from Greek mythology endowed with superhuman musical skills, to become a symbol in the modern world.

According to the Brittanica, "Orpheus was the son of a Muse, (probably Calliope, the patron of epic poetry) and Oeagrus, a king of Thrace (though some sources cite Apollo). According to some legends, Apollo gave Orpheus his first lyre. Orpheus’s singing and playing were so beautiful that animals and even trees and rocks moved about him in dance."

This was Jerry Garcia's mandate. "Boogie." If they -- the fans, including the rocks and trees sometimes no doubt -- then the Grateful Dead were not doing their job.

* * * *
I myself first discovered Rilke through his first and only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. The vivid, haunting imagery moved me deeply. Then I discovered his poems. "The Panther" is probably his most famous, only because it was popularized in the film Awakenings (Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams). In 2008 I learned that the poem has been translated more than two dozen times from the original German, which I shared here at that time.

What each translator strives for is to find an approach to the work that is consistent and authentic. Translation work is fraught with challenges, as literal word-for-word translation can sometimes be stiff, or miss the meaning behind the words. Robert Hunter's aim, he states, was to "approximate the original rhythm and rhyme of The Sonnets to Orpheus."

Here I have reproduced two of the early sonnets as translated by Hunter. A link to the complete translation can be found at the end of the second passage.



Tree arising! O pure ascendance!
Orpheus Sings! Towering tree within the ear!
Everywhere stillness, yet in this abeyance:
seeds of change and new beginnings near.

Creatures of silence emerged from the clear
unfettered forest, from dens, from lairs.
Not from shyness, this silence of theirs;
nor from any hint of fear,

simply from listening. Brutal shriek and roar
dwindled in their hearts. Where stood a mere
hut to house the passions of the ear,

constructed of longing darkly drear,
haphazardly wrought from front to rear,
you built them a temple at listening's core.

-2 -

Something akin to a maiden strayed
from this marriage of song and string,
glowing radiant through veils of spring;
inside my ear a bed she laid.

And there she slept. Her dream was my domain:
the trees which enchanted me; vistas vast
and nearly touchable; meadows of a vernal cast
and every wondrous joy my heart could claim.

She dreamed the world. Singing God, how made
you that primordial repose so sound she never
felt a need to waken? Upon arising she fell straight to dream.

Where is her death? O, will you yet discover her theme
before your song is eclipsed forever? --
Abandoning me, where does she go?--something akin to a maid-

* * * *
You will find the rest of the sonnets here.

Learn more about Orpheus in the Britannica.

When I built my first website in 1995 I also created a Labyrinth, akin to the hypercard concept I'd been introduced to several years earlier when I got my second Mac. The Labyrinth starts here, and if you make a wrong turn you might run into a Rilke poem, or a page with prose by Jorge Luis Borges.

Meantime, life goes on all around you... Listen to the music.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Local Art Seen: Terry Millikan's "Meditations" @ Lizzards

Saturday afternoon Lizzards Art Galler & Framing hosted a reception for a exhibition featuring a new series of Mandalas by Terry Millikan. The images have been produced using a variety of media. What's fascinating is how several of the images appear almost three-dimensional as if embroidered.

The word mandala is a sanskrit word that means, literally, "circle." In Hinduism and Buddhism it is a symbol of the universe.

For Millikan there is a Southwestern influence woven into many of the the patterns reproduced here. Each has its own design.
The pieces vary in size as well as design.

Terry Millikan, right, shares how the pieces came about.

Looks like a circle of beads or peas on this one. It's just a drawing.

Millikan's Meditations series became an opportunity to explore ideas 
she's been thinking about for a long time. It's just one more reason to
stop in at Lizzards this holiday season.

* * * *
Adam Swanson had set up an easel inside Perry Framing yesterday. If you were
downtown doing some Small Business Saturday shopping, you could have 
stepped in off the street and visited with the popular local painter while he worked.

If you don't have other plans, Beaners Central and Zenith Bookstore are hosting a special event celebrating the publication of The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen. Authors Chef Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley will be on hand for readings, signings and sample recipes, with books available for purchase. Author talks begin at 6 p.m. at Beaner's Central Coffeehouse. Samples of cedar-maple tea will be served throughout.The book, published in October, has been receiving stellar reviews. Some have called it life changing.  

Excerpt from Here is real food—our indigenous American fruits and vegetables, the wild and foraged ingredients, game and fish. Locally sourced, seasonal, “clean” ingredients and nose-to-tail cooking are nothing new to Sean Sherman, the Oglala Lakota chef and founder of The Sioux Chef. In his breakout book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sherman shares his approach to creating boldly seasoned foods that are vibrant, healthful, at once elegant and easy.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Together Through Life: Robert Hunter and Bob Dylan Team Up to Produce a Gem

“Things are not as easily understood nor as expressible as people usually would like us to believe. Most happenings are beyond expression; they exist where a word has never intruded.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

During the Fourth of July weekend in 2009 I hung my first solo art show in more than 30 years at The Venue @ Mohaupt Block. In addition to framing and mounting illustrations and paintings from two years of blogging, quite a few of the works were from stages of my earlier life, thus making it a retrospective of sorts. The title I gave this show was First Hand Experiences. The significant piece of this story is that Bob Dylan's Together Through Life had been just released and for two days running I must have listened to the new album forty times while hanging my work.

What I didn't know at the time was the critical role played by his songwriting collaborator on this project, Robert Hunter. Born Robert Burns in June 1941, one month after Robert Zmmerman, Hunter purportedly descended from the great Scot poet of that same name, apparently an heir to the poetry gene embedded in his DNA.

Together Through Life wasn't Dylan's first collaboration with Hunter, who estanlished his cred as a lyricist for the Grateful Dead. After the brief six-gig Dylan and the Dead Tour in July of 1987 Hunter co-wrote at least two songs with Dylan for his 1988 album Down in the Groove, one of these being Sylvio, a favorite of Dylan's which he's since performed live more than 500 times during his Never Ending Tour.

According to an interview with Hunter in 2014 at the website Highway 81 Revisited, when asked how his relationship with Dylan got started, Hunter replied: It started with a song that I had written for the Dead. I used to write up a little book full of songs titled “Can You Dig It?” every year or so, and give copies, and the guys in the band who wrote would choose stuff they liked out of it. Dylan came to the practices for that Dead/Dylan (tour in 1987), and I was in court at the time, so when I got out, Dylan said, “Hey, I set one of your songs,” and he had taken “Silvio” from that book. He said, “I dig your work,” and I said, “Well, I dig your work too.”

We bantered back and forth over the next couple years. I wrote more things, and nothing was really clicking too much. Then out of the blue he asked me to write an album for him (“Together Through Life”), so I got clickin’ on that, and it’s very much a collaboration. His words are in there as much as mine are, to the point where I don’t even remember who wrote what in those songs.

* * * *
When the album was released, Dylan described Hunter as "an old Buddy" and said, "We could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there... He's got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting."

No question about it.

In 2015 Robert Hunter was finally inducted, with Jerry Garcia, into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. (Dylan inducted in 1982)

* * * *
"Hunter tapped into his generation the same way Dylan did," says Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, a longtime Dead fan. "People will look back and say, 'That's American culture represented in music.' He captured the hippie freedom, the mentality of the little guy against the corporation. A lot of the songs are about gambling, card playing and riverboat guys who'll cut your throat if you look the wrong way."
Source: Rolling Stone, March 9, 2015

* * * *

For more on Robert Hunter, here's an exclusive Rolling Stone interview from 2015.

* * * *

For me, Together Through Life shines as another Dylan triumph, creating yet another "sound" with its accordion accompaniments, exploring still new tonal territories. I am reminded here of how he incorporated Scarlet Rivera' magic violin into the striking sound for Hurricane, Desire and the Rolling Thunder Revue.

What's more, this is his first full album of songwriting collaboration with a single artist. I would love to have been a fly on the wall, as they say, when these two creators hashed, slashed, restructured, dreamed and re-dreamed the lyrics they produced here. Where does one end and the other begin? Even Robert Hunter isn't certain, he said.

The whole world is my throne
Beyond here lies nothin'
Nothin' we can call our own

There's some dark shadows flowing through a lot of the songs, and the gravel-voiced Dylan conveys this stark beauty so convincingly.

The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door

Meantime, life goes on all around you... Listen to the music.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Flashback Friday: Picasso's Guernica Revisited

Steve Martin, in his autobiography Born Standing Up, describes the impression he received during his first visit to the Museum of Modern Art (affectionately referred to as the MoMA) as he came face to face with Picasso's Guernica. It stuns, and stops you in your tracks. When you see this painting reproduced in books it's difficult to comprehend its massive scale and the powerful effect it produces. Martin then rounds a corner and there finds himself awed by this miniature Dali, equally famous, The Persistence of Memory. It's an experience unforgettable.

Both of these share a prominent positions on many lists of the most significant paintings of the 20th century, Guernica topping the list and Dali's delicately rendered dreamscape third. (Duchamp's earth-shaking Nude Descending A Staircase, second but no second fiddlehangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

The MoMA has as many as 300 Picassos, but Guernica's the one that makes your hair stand on end. The painting was brought to mind by an article earlier this week in the ArtDaily about a newly released documents and research about the famous painting.

Those familiar with the story recall that Guernica was painted in response to the bombing of a Basque town on April 26, 1937 by German and Italian air forces under the orders of future Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The horror was committed not against an army but against a village. Hundreds died, a foreshadowing of the bombings that would later occur in World War II by both the Allied and Axis powers.

That same year Picasso had been commissioned to produce a painting for the 1937 World's Fair in France. Before the bombing he was having the equivalent of writers block. The horror of the bombing ignited Picasso's imagination and this monumental work was the result.

The online exhibit Rethinking Guernica is an extensive exploration of the history of the painting, its influence, its role as a political symbol, its influence, the controversies it generated and Picasso's own perspective on the painting. If you don't have time to check it out today, take a minute to visit the page and bookmark it.

Small Business Saturday

Mandala with Southwestern Influence, Terry Millikan
Artists and authors are small businesses. Before you spend all your Christmas shopping money on Black Friday, be sure to save a little for small bookstores like Zenith (Central Avenue) across the parking lot from Beaners. There are numerous local art venues clustered here and there, including SiVi's, Art Dock and Northern Waters within walking distance of one another in Canal Park.

In Downtown Duluth, we have Lake Superior Art Glass, Art in the Alley, Zeitgeist, the new Ryan Tischer Gallery and Lizzards within walking distance of one another. If you park nearby and do your walkabout Saturday afternoon, you can catch the Terry Millikan art opening titled Meditations at Lizzards from 1-4 p.m. at 11 Superior Street W.

All Creative Work Involves Decisions
Guernica in 3-D

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Seven Years Past

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude. ~A.A. Milne

The following was written in 2010. With the exception of the description of the weather it could probably have been posted on any recent Thanksgiving. 


Tomorrow is Black Friday. I know this because it has been in the news for a week. Also, today's Duluth News Tribune feels fifteen pounds heavier than normal. I'm guessing that Black Friday is some form of fix for people addicted to bargains.

Today is Thanksgiving. As its name implies, or rather exclaims, it is a day set aside to give thanks. Or at least that is how it was originally designated, as a day to celebrate the harvest, the bounty and abundance of God's blessing.

Nowadays it's a secular holiday for the most part, signifying a short work week (unless you work in retail), a Lions football game and time to eat turkey.

Yesterday it snowed pretty heavy here, though not as fiercely as predicted, for which I am personally thankful. I still have to blow the driveway though... but that's the price we pay for living here in Minnesota.

Thought for the day, from John F. Kennedy: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

* * * *

-- The Power of Music to Comfort and Heal
Have a a very special day... and give thanks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Local Art Seen: All Dunn at the Red Mug

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. --Picasso

I first encountered Christopher J. Dunn's drawings at the Washington Galleries in a joint show with Emma Rustan on the first day after the two were wed. It was Dunn's first public art show and an exciting weekend for the pair. This current exhibition at the Red Mug in Superior is a solo venture, with a range of new works framed for display throughout.

Like his first show, Dunn's pieces reveal a fascination with contrasts, between light and darkness, between sharply defined and loose, between hard edges and soft. An emerging artist, his draftsmanship is strong and the effects he creates appear intentional as he tackles a variety of subject matter. There are subtle features in many of the drawings which he produces with ink markers. The subject matter appears to be anything that fascinates him and will enable him to develop his skills of observation and representation.

Here are a few select pieces from this new show which will be on display till the end of the year.

EdNote: Kitty-corner in the park across the street, beginning Dec. 2 and 3, the 8th Annual Christmas Market in Superior will again set up shop. They'll keep a fire going to warm your cockles, but if you need to step out of the cold you can grab a bite to eat and swig java at the Red Mug before continuing on your way to do the rest of your shopping. While there check out Chris Dunn's latest work.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ali, Dylan and Gorgeous George: Audacity as a Marketing Tool

1. the willingness to take bold risks.
synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage, heroism, pluck, grit;
2. rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence.
synonyms: impudence, impertinence, insolence, presumption, cheek, bad manners, effrontery, nerve, gall, defiance, temerity;

This week I've been reading a biography of Muhammad Ali by Jonathan Eig, a rich, in-depth look at the life of one of the 20th century's major sports figures. (Ali: A Life) The  book is filled with details, anecdotes and stories, as well as life lessons for everyone from the street to the C-suite.

At this point in the story the young Cassius Clay, a Louisville slugger, has been fighting his way up the ladder in order to achieve his dream, a title fight with the World Boxing Champion Sonny Liston, and the right to be called "The Greatest."

The author does a superb job of guiding readers through Cassius Clay's formative years, thus showing how the boy became the man we all came to know as Ali. Eig conducted more than 500 interviews with all of the key people in Ali's life, and its apparent he's produced a monumental story about a complex man who came through a complex period of history.

The trigger for this blog post is an incident that occurs early in Clay's pro career as a boxer. He's pulled off a victory (Gold Medal) in the 1960 Olympics and is now determined to climb through the pro ranks as quickly as possible in order to become the youngest ever heavyweight champion. It's a tough job to get consideration for a title fight, but a fateful encounter with the pro wrestler Gorgeous George made an impact on the young boxer, adding a dimension to his character that propelled him more quickly through the ranks.

"The Human Orchid"
Who was Gorgeous George? He was a pro wrestler of the 1940s and 50s who was rich, famous and charismatic. My dad saw him once in Cincinnati back in the 50s. He had wavy platinum blonde curls, entered the ring wearing a hairnet and gold hairpins, and preened while drawing excessive quantities of boos from audiences that paid money to see him beat. My dad says at one point someone threw an empty liquor bottle into the ring that hit his forehead and cut him so that he was bleeding. He sometimes painted his nails and always wore outrageous attire.

According to Wikipedia, "In addition to his grandiose theatrics, Gorgeous George was an accomplished wrestler. While many may have considered him a mere gimmick wrestler, he was actually a very competent freestyle wrestler, having started learning the sport in amateur wrestling as a teenager, and he could handle himself quite well if it came to a legitimate contest."

Serendipity played a role in his success as well as his audacity. Though he'd been "performing" throughout the 40s, by the time television began piping into American homes in 1947, his antics had been fine-tuned and "pro wrestling" became one of the big drawing cards of the new medium, on a scale comparable to Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.

It proved fortuitous for Cassius Clay when he unexpectedly met Gorgeous George while promoting one of his fights in Las Vegas, June 1961. George was in Vegas for a match as was Clay. While making the rounds, each hyping their own separate events to the media, they crossed paths and the young boxer found the missing ingredient in his career: audacity. Clay's goal was to fill arenas with spectators who would pay to see him fight. In Gorgeous George he found something of a role model, a compelling mix of arrogance, mouthiness and wit.. a persona that fit the young boxer like a glove.

Dylan Meets George

Photo by Ted Russell, 1962, courtesy Bill Pagel
As I was reading about Ali's meeting with Gorgeous George I recalled how Dylan, too, cited his own encounter during the wrestler's visit to Hibbing in 1957. The intersection of their two lives occurred while young Robert Zimmerman was playing in the lobby of the National Guard Armory of the Veteran's Memorial Building. George entered the room with his entourage of performers, which was easy for me to imagine because near 30 years ago I was seated in a small restaurant in the Indianapolis Airport when 25 or more WWF wrestlers walked in to catch an early flight, many of them attired in costumed plumage. Everything seemed to stop as people gaped, taking it, the wrestlers in return gauging the effect of their presence.

Dylan says Gorgeous George flicked him a wink and said, or seemed to say, "You're making it come alive."

Maybe George wasn't a necessary component of Dylan's audacity. It's possible, though, that the famous wrestler cast a catalytic spark his way. His performance in the Hibbing Auditorium was audacious enough to have the principal pull the plug. While still living at home Dylan made an attempt to join Bobby Vee's band in Fargo, audaciously claiming that he was a pro piano player named Elston Gunnn.

Dylan's gamesmanship with journalists was legendary. But most outrageous was his return to that nerve-jangling electric sound, after several years of being a folk singer/songwriter of major importance (while still so very young, like Cassius Clay.) That first world tour with The Band was so disrupted by boos and catcalls that Levon Helm couldn't take it and left the group before it left the country.  Helm wrote in his autobiographical This Wheel's On Fire that the more they booed the more Dylan seemed to enjoy it, a very different emotional response from his own.

When Dylan was announced as winner of the Nobel Prize last year his initial silence was considered by many an audacious, outrageous act of affront to decency. Alas. His detractors may have rolled their eyes, but not his fans who shrugged it off as Dylan just being Dylan.

Here's an aside for more along this line: Novelist Jonathan Lethem on Bob Dylan's 'Mad-Scientist Audacity'

All this to say that I found it interesting that somewhat forgotten golden-locks wrestler made an impact on two of the most significant men of the last half-century. Here's a YouTube clip you may find amusing, followed by another if you're up for it.

Yes, George was one of a kind...

Here's a CBS Sports account of how Gorgeous George influenced the legendary boxer Ali.
This Huffington Post piece sheds light on Dylan's encounter with the flamboyant wrestler... as a simple twist of fate.

Local Art Seen: Ryan Tischer's New Gallery Has Opened for Business

An out-of-town guest takes in this view of North Shore
Thursday evening there were three receptions of note for friends of the arts in the Twin Ports. Christopher Dunn's opening at the Red Mug in Superior preceded the two Duluth openings by a half hour. At the DAI paintings by Paul LaJeunesse were displayed in the context of sculpted pieces by the Lake Superior Wood Turners in the Morrison Gallery while Faith King's presentation flowed through the Corridor Gallery space.

The proximity of the Duluth Art Institute to the newly opened Tischer Photographic Gallery made it convenient for many to take in both.

I first met Ryan Tischer when he was the Washington Gallery Committee Chair five years ago. Since that time he has actively shown his work in numerous local galleries, shows and exhibition spaces. With his subject matter primarily nature, the Tischer len does its best to capture a sense of the spectacular. By varying the surfaces on which he prints his images he capably produces varying effects.

The past two years, with assistance from the city, he set up temporary galleries for the holidays. This year, the Tischers -- Ryan and Aimee -- have made a commitment to open their store for more than a season here at 5 West Superior Street in the emerging arts district. It's a fairly major undertaking and the third local gallery to open in the past six weeks. In addition to selling his photography it would appear that they will also be offering additional services. Thursday's Grand Opening was clearly a success, the space crawling with friends, well-wishers and fans.

Though his camera is primarily focused on the ever resplendent Northland, he's also captured and brought home some striking imagery from the Southwest, Northwest and California. You can see and purchase many of his pictures here at his online gallery.

Gallery hours are as follows: Tues, Wed, & Sat 10-5, Thurs & Fri 10-6.

Iconic ice slats at dawn.
Visually compelling images.
* * * *

We have so many talented photographers here in our region, and it's easy to understand why. The region is simply so inspiring. 

If you're downtown doing a walkabout leading up to the holidays, 
stop in for a few minutes and check it out. This winter, should the weather 
be especially brisk, consider the Tischer space and Lizzard's as hot spots
to warm yourself before moving closer to your other destinations.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why I'm Tired of People Talking About "Awesome Content"

It has to be the most overused word in digital marketing. "Awesome." I understand the intent, but please, to hear the way people chatter on about it you'd think creating "awesome content" was as easy as kindergartners making mud pies.

Synonyms for awesome at include all of the following: awe-inspiring, breathtaking, alarming, fearsome, magnificent, intimidating, formidable, terrifying, wondrous...  It's a word best applied to the Deity, though the Grand Canyon might give us a sense of something approaching awesomeness. I mean, it is pretty grand, as in the dialogue, "This is a piano, and that is a piano, but this here is a grand piano." Unfortunately the way we use the word awesome these days it feels like any hack can produce mind-blowing "content" as easily as tying shoelaces. And if you can't do it yourself, you can hire people to do it for you... for pocket change. Or so they say.

In an ideal world, everything is awesome and everybody is above average.

Look at all these stories you find when you Google the phrase "awesome content":

6 Awesome Content Sources That Take the Stress out of Social Media Sharing

9 Tips on How to Create Awesome Content that Is Easily Discovered

How to Create Awesome Content People Actually Want

4 Rules For Creating Awesome Content Your Audience Loves

4 Steps to an Awesome Content Calendar (and 6 Things You Need on It)

25 Tools to Find Awesome Content to Share

15 Ways To Consistently Create Awesome Content That’ll Get People Coming Back To Open Your Emails, Visit Your Blog, And Watch Your Videos

7 Awesome Content Marketing Examples You Can Steal

How to Create Awesome Content for Facebook, Twitter and Google+

The 3 Keys to Awesome Content Marketing That Works
(Both this and the previous one are by Jeff Bullas. Awesome!)

Awesome Blog Writing Service

How to Create Awesome Content

7 Types Of Awesome Social Media Content Your Brand Can Be Creating Right Now

We All Want Awesome Content, Here's How to Start Making It

7 Elements of Awesome Content

The Principles of Awesome Content

Infographic: How to find awesome content topics

How To Create Awesome, Eye Catching Instagram Content

How to Plan Awesome Content That Grows Your Email List

How To Create An Awesome Content Strategy

12 Types of Awesome Visual Content You Can Use in Your Blog Posts

5 Ways to Transform Your Content From Adequate to Awesome

How to Find Awesome Content Writers for Less than $3 Per Article

Awesome Content Writer

Five Ways to Focus on Creating Awesome Content With Your Client

Awesome Content Tools - Grow Your Business with WordPress

Announcing our Awesome Content Targeting (ACT) tool

1 Awesome Way To Create Great Content

Five Tips for Awesome Content

How to create awesome content in 5 easy steps [infographic]

How to Write Awesome Content For Your Website

9 Awesome Content Marketing Tools That Will Make You More Efficient

10 Steps to Building an Awesome Social Media Content Calendar

Awesome Content

How to Write Awesome Blog Content for Your Nonprofit

Two Ingredients of Awesome: Content and Metaphor

Your Awesome Content Is Useless, Until…

5 Ways to Come Up With Awesome Content Marketing Ideas

* * * *
So, what do ya think? Pretty awesome, huh?

Bottom Line: I'm a big believer in attempting to set the bar high, but common sense says that when everything is awesome, nothing is. What is it you are really trying to do? Entertain? You're competing with Hollywood. There are plenty of other reasons for creating content though: to enlighten, to inform, to persuade, to comfort, to connect with a  community, to leave a legacy, to inspire, to spark a discussion, and maybe just because you have a need to express yourself so you can sort out what you really think and feel on a subject.

If you've read this far you pretty much know what I think. Let's use a different word and scrap the A-word. Try out some of these: useful, meaningful, engaging, etc.

Have a great day.

* * * *

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Local Arts Scene: Cohort Continues Conversation About Arts Writing

Jamie Ratliff leads a discussion in observation and interpretation.
The Duluth Arts Writing Cohort held its second meeting in the board room of the Duluth Art Institute this past Tuesday evening. The group's ultimate aim is to build a body of arts journalism with a focus on Twin Ports visual artists and their work.

The panel this month was comprised of arts writers Ann Klefstad and Christa Lawler, and Jamie Ratliff, who teaches art history at the U, with our moderator being freshman ARAC Executive Director Drew Digby, who earlier in his career spent a decade as a journalist.

At the beginning of the meeting Tim White brought up the idea of recording the meetings so that we might have a historical record available for the future. In a sense it would provide a snapshot of this moment in our community history as well as a reference point that we can re-visit. A concern was raised that recording the meetings could potentially dampen open exploration of sensitive subject matter. Ultimately, the group seemed to accept the adoption of Tim's idea for the next meeting.

After introductions we opened the session with an observation exercise in the John Steffl Gallery in front of one of the paintings in the current Art of Grief show titled A Figure Scape by Diane Bywaters. Jamie Ratliff led the exercise, asking us to write down on a sheet of paper what we saw when we looked at this large painting comprised of human figures of various races and genders as well as skeletons. "What do you see?" After a short period of time in which we were all busy scrutinizing and scribbling she then asked, "What is the artist's intent?"

Ratliff then led a discussion that began with the point that writing is a form of translation. The starting point is the work itself, what the artist has done, not simply how I feel about it. (This point was later reiterated by Ann Klefstad in the subsequent discussion.)

When we returned to the board room Drew Digby led a Q&A with the panel that circled around our theme from various angles.  Here are a few of the takeaways for me personally that came out of the discussion.

-- Sharon Moen said, "I write for an audience." In other words, who I am writing for dictates to some extent how I write, how I say it. Jamie Ratliff concurred that after making a formal analysis of a work the actual writing has to be restructured based on who you are writing for.

-- Ann Klefstad stated that her aim is to write about the art itself. "My job as critic is to raise peoples' interest" in the work. Her focus is on the work itself. As a writer she strives to become familiar with and really know the artist's work. The artist statement is not important to her.

-- Jamie Ratliff, on the other hand, always considers the artist statement and writings. The contrasting approaches showed that there is no one correct answer in writing about art. (Christa also reads everything, she said.)

-- The panel was asked about their approach to the large piece the rest of us wrote notes about. Jamie's theme would include something about gender and race, and about the representation of women and men. She would bring in context and perhaps reference Gauguin, Degas and the objectivization of women. Ann noted that she would discuss painting and drawing styles. Christa would write about it in the context of the show about Grief. "Always look for a moment of entry."

-- In response to a question from Drew about writer's block, Jamie stated that she writes in the middle of the night, a period of time when there are fewer distractions. Ann stated that she writes out of economic necessity. "Economic panic" doesn't allow her the luxury of writers block.

* * * *
In addition to the panel discussion we each received a useful handout that provided elements and principles for discussing art. Concepts like form, content and context were defined, as well as some general guidelines on the principles of design. Understanding principles of visual language are an integral part of arts writing, principles that help us better define what we are observing like the rhythms, patterns, visual movement, proportionality, variety, emphasis contrast, unity or disunity, and harmony or discord... all of it useful information.

My initial response to the discussion portion of the meeting was that the time went too fast, and the topics raised were interesting but insufficiently explored. I left hungry for further discussion, and believe others may have as well. The good part of this is that these meetings seem to be stimulating the possibility of greater dialogue outside the constraints of the ninety minutes we've been temporarily shoehorned into.

In short, the meetings are creating an appetite for more dialogue. And that's a good thing.