Saturday, February 17, 2018

Local Art Seen: /FINE, Re/FINE De/FINE UMD Faculty Show at the Tweed

The answer is "Yes, there is always more to see."

This week I visited the Tweed Museum of Art with the aim of viewing the UMD Faculty Show titled /Fine Re/Fine De/Fine. Without reading anything about the show, I suspect /Fine has a double meaning or more, being a reference on the one hand to Fine Art and on the other "Fine work." Ideas get refined, and concepts defined when the final pieces are completed for display.

The exhibition, on the balcony level, will be on display through August 5. If you get any chance at all, I recommend making a trek to the Tweed at this time. There are several shows to see from Kathy McTavish's Chance to the Modern(ism) show to Treasures from Home, which is a wonderful display of paintings and pieces from within the extensive Tweed collection.

The faculty show is an annual feature, I believe, always interesting. While there be sure to take in whatever student show is taking place in the corner gallery.

Alison Aune's intricate "Mandala" is striking for its scale.

"Eve Is The Apple, Adam Is The Worm" by Jeffrey Kalstrom
Detail from Kalstrom's piece.
"Real-Unreal/The Rigor of Harmony" by Darren Houser

This is a snapshot of a moment in time in Joellyn Rock's
Remixing Shakespeare.
This shows the morphing taking place.
And a third from that work of experimental video.
Rock's work rocks!
Wanda Pearcy's Bows of Promise; coffee toned cyanotype.
As you can see here the faculty work in a variety of media, the students get stimulation from a variety of instructors and the public gets to enjoy the bi-product of their explorations.

When classes are in session at UMD parking can be a problem, but I've never had a problem on weekends (open 1-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). The Tweed is also open on Tuesday evenings till 8:00 p.m. and the parking lots have more space, and no expense.

Meantime, life goes on... 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Local Art Scene: Vern Northrup Discusses Ishkode -- The Role of Fire in Native Culture

Early last week author Judy Budreau, DAI Director Christina Woods and I met with Vern Northrup at the Dr. Robert Powless Community Center to learn more about his exhibition of photography and especially the manner in which traditional Native culture has utilized fire as a tool. The exhibition of Northrup's photographs in the AICHO Gallery is titled Ishkode, which means "Fire" in the native Ojibwe tongue.

Vern Northrup, brother of the nationally recognized poet Jim Northrup, began his talk by noting his own background as a professional firefighter, as in forest fires. But his interest in fire has deeper historical roots. Generations of native tribal peoples used fire as a means of land management.

The current focus for Ishkode is the Apostle Islands off the coast of Wisconsin on the South Shore of Lake Superior. According to Northrup, the Apostle Islands served as a refuge in the Western migration of the Anishinabe from the East. On these islands there was an abundance of pines and blueberries, as well as game.

To put his Ishkode exhibit in perspective Northrup shared a few details about the Native culture. The clan system was a means of protection for tribal peoples. They also had fairly sophisticated means of delivering information. Birchbark canoes were a breakthrough… faster, lightweight. Innovation and technology developed, resulting in tools that made hunting or building easier. Traditions evolved, but some things were constant. The people strove to follow the path of their elders, because it was important to remain connected to the traditions. "Becoming removed from the traditions makes life hard, and life is not meant to be hard," he noted.

One of these traditions was the process of land management, or Ishkode. Ironically, the U.S. government squashed this tradition in the 1930s by making the burning of land illegal. Legislators did not understand the function of the burning, which helped in growing one of Algonquin food staples: blueberries. The Algonquin were practicing forestry. Planned burning helped keep the bugs down and reduced disease as well. In fact, according to Northrup, there were 70 different benefits to the managed burns in various areas every five to seven years.

"Fire is another spirit, another one of our grandfathers," Northrup said. "We have to venerate it. Fire has always been a part of me. My grandfather was a fire warden for Minnesota."

Northrup was modest about his work. He brought with him a portfolio of more than 100 additional photos, many capturing nature's most exquisite beauty. He expressed himself with warmth and authority, and seemed to take pleasure in sharing, perhaps in part because he had such an attentive audience. Our attentiveness was, in part, due to the sense that we were in the presence of something profound, the manner in which the native peoples lived a life fully integrated with respect for the land.

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The context for this talk was the larger display of Northrup's photos reproduced on anodized aluminum. Vern Northrup began doing photography just 3 years ago in 2015. His tool of choice is a Galaxy S7. It's easy to transport and takes vivid images, to which these photos on the walls of the AICHO Gallery  attest.

Northrup has a keen eye, and understands that the best stories unfold by focusing on small details. Here are my own iPhone reproductions of his S7 shots. You can be certain that the original photos are far superior in person, just as the Grand Canyon is superior to post cards of the same.

It was interesting to see this same split in the shoreline rocks in various seasons.

RELATED STORY: Read Judy Budreau's "How far is the far?"

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For more information about AICHO, visit 
Tonight the community center in Trepanier Hall will be hosting 
a special presentation of SKIN(S), a dance program 
by Seminole dancer Rosy Simas.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Program begins at 7:30.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Call For Art: Phenomenal. Plus, AICHO to Honor Women of Color


DULUTH, MN - The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) is excited to announce that they will be hosting an open call art exhibit honoring phenomenal women of color. The exhibit will open with a reception on Saturday, March 10th at 5:30 p.m. in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center and will remain on view through April 9th. There will be a $10 suggested donation at the door of opening night, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Alongside the art show, AICHO will be honoring 10 women in what will be their first annual AICHO Phenomenal Woman Awards, including Karen Diver, Marlene Diver, Victoria Ybanez, Mary Ann Walt, Laurel Saunders, Wendy Savage, Karen Savage, Tawny Smith-Savage, Sarah Curtiss, and Jara McLarren. The women are being recognized for their consistent support of and involvement at AICHO, as well as their efforts to address various barriers in the community.

For this exhibit, AICHO is seeking artists who identify both as women and individuals who are Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and/or Asian. Artists who fit this criteria are asked to submit artwork inspired by women of color, representations of womanhood as related to their culture, and/or equity in feminism within communities of color.

Visit THIS PAGE for info regarding how to submit artwork to Phenomenal.

Selected artists will be notified prior to the drop-off deadline. Artwork must be ready to hang and dropped off by March 5 at AICHO (202 W. 2nd Street, Duluth, MN).

Artwork will be curated based on the following criteria:
-- Overall artistic quality
-- Connection to show theme
-- Diverse representation of artists from different backgrounds

Approximate Timeline:
-- Submission Deadline: March 1
-- Drop-Off Deadline: Monday, March 5
-- Opening: Saturday, March 10
-- Closing: Monday, April 9

For more information, contact Moira Villiard at moira.aicho or 218-722-7225.

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Friday Evening: February 16


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What Makes Life Worth Living? Magnolia Salon Prepares to Explore Hygge, Mindfulness, Creativity and Flow

Two weeks ago the Oldenburg House, in conjunction with Magnolia Cafe, kicked off a concept they've dubbed the Magnolia Salon, stimulated in part by the salon-style meeting places featured in late 20s Paris and re-created in films like Midnight In Paris. Here are few notes I've gathered on the topic that is swirling around for exploration tonight on hygge, mindfulness, creativity and flow.

Emily said to me recently that she and Glenn 'have had endless conversations about what we call 'the slipstream' and creating the optimal environment for flow and creativity." These are conversations that many others might wish to become part of.

She went on to say that they have been  pondering the role of limits, struggles and discontent in sparking creativity. "We often have had great things happen because we believe in 'loving our constraints'," she explained. It's another way of saying "necessity is the mother of invention.

Emily then cited a TED Talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the book Flow, who asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow."

This led to some thoughts about the Danish concept of hygge, the Swedish focus on lagom, Scottish belief in còsagach, the Japanese focus of wabi-sabi and ikigai, the Dutch phrase gezelligheid and the German term gemutlicheit. If that string of words is a bit too much, the notion of mindfulness, of coziness, and maybe satisfaction are all part of it. (I'm guessing.)

What I do know is that these are idea starters that our Salon group will strive to investigate more deeply, especially as it relates to creativity, appreciation for beauty, and the mutual enrichment of exploring the possibilities that come from dialogue. 

Here's the opening of a blog post titled The Hygge Connection. It's from a blog called "Not Quite Superhuman." I love that name.


According to author Marie Tourell Soderberg (2016), at one time Denmark claimed much of northern Europe, even parts of Britain, as part of their territories. However, after losing the last bit which consisted of Norway in 1814, Denmark was left with nothing more than a small, flat landscape of a country. Therefore, they promoted a strong sense of community among people with shared interests. The characteristics of hygge are the epitome of the Scandinavian welfare state and Danish identity. Demark ranks as number two on the current World Happiness Report (2017) and was previously rated as number one in the world. Many researchers have pointed to hygge being the reason for this high rating (Soderberg, 2016).

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a term that somewhat defies translation into English. In a sense, it is a feeling of family and friends, conversation, openness, and warmth (Soderberg, 2016).

The author goes on to write about Hygge & Mindfulness, Hygge Themes and Hygge and Mindset, perhaps more than you ever wanted to learn about this word, though I suspect you'll find it more of a catalyst to do further thinking on this topic. It may even prod you to think about moving to Denmark sone day.

You can read the rest of this excellent essay here at Not Quite Superhuman.

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At this point I hope to have accomplished my purpose, which is to make you want to join us tonight for a stimulating discussion and the mutual exploration of themes we often think about only privately. If you already have other plans, then plan to join us next week or any future Thursday that you have open. We'd like to get to know you. Oldenburg House is located at 604 Chestnut Avenue in Carlton, about 15 minutes South of the Proctor exit. (I promise to time this for you at some point soon.)

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Magnolia Salon was initially organized by Oldenburg House, Oldenburg Arts and Cultural Community (OACC), and Magnolia Café. The first season of The Salon will be held on Thursday evenings from 6-9 p.m. in the Carlton Room at Oldenburg House through May 31, 2018.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Boredom Escapes Us: A Philosophy Abstract, Illustrated

"Against boredom the gods themselves fight in vain." ~ Nietzsche

This is the Abstract for a paper that I stumbled upon titled
 Doctor of Philosophy, 2009 
Lesley Kenny 
Department of Sociology University of Toronto

Few sociologists have addressed the concept of boredom despite interest in the subject and experience of boredom from psychology, philosophy, the arts and popular culture. Classical sociological concepts of alienation, anomie and disenchantment are related to boredom, but do not address it directly. The history of the word boredom itself is not clear, though it appears it was first used in the late 19th century. Most authors agree that an increase in individualism and the concomitant rise in secularization, combined with industrial changes in labour and increased bureaucracy, help to explain a perceived increase in the experience of boredom. This dissertation is a phenomenological exploration of boredom, informed by the writings of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin on the subject. Inspired by Benjamin's method of literary montage, from his monumental Passagenwerk, I construct a cultural collage of the subject of boredom. I use the metaphor of storeys (the levels of a building) as an organizing device to construct the empirical work of this project. These storeys include a consideration and analysis of: billboards, internet advertising, the reflections of an overseas development worker, art installations, a poem, a greeting card, a play, song lyrics and Kafka's short story character, the hunger artist. Each storey serves to inspire a sociological meditation on the subject of boredom, all of which are grounded in the historical, social and philosophical reviews in the first four chapters. These extensive reviews, as well as the eleven storeys, contribute a preliminary sociological analysis of the ambiguous yet ubiquitous experience of boredom in modernity.

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“Boredom may become Western man’s greatest source of unhappiness." --Robert Nisbet

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“... millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” ~Susan Ertz

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"I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored." –Erich Fromm

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Little things that no one needs
-- Little things to joke about --
Little landscapes, done in beads.
Little morals woven out,
Little wreaths of gilded grass,
Little brigs of whittled oak
Bottled painfully in glass;
These are made by lonely folk.

Lonely folk have lines of days
Long and faltering and thin;
Therefore -- little wax bouquets,
Prayers cut upon a pin,
Little maps of pinkish lands,
Little charts of curly seas,
Little plats of linen strands,
Little verses, such as these.

Dorothy Parker

Find a pdf of the full PhD Thesis here.  

Are we living Passionately with Purpose
or are we simply keeping busy to stave off boredom?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cookin' at the O: Carlton Room Establishes Itself as a Northland Hotspot with Another Full House

Apparently no one told the Swanson's they couldn't support a high class jazz club here. I mean, we're talking about Carlton, Minnesota, population 1,046. They just went ahead and did it anyways, in the grandest way possible, with one class act after another. Build it and they will come they believed, much like the fabled Field of Dreams, and indeed the Oldenburg House has become a dream-laden outpost for fans of jazz and friends alike. 

Justin Delaire, carrying the Peterson family jazz tradition into a third generation, fronted our February Cookin' at the O' weekend along with Peter Schimke on keyboards, Matt Mobley on bass, and the connecting fiber of this stellar team, percussionist Glenn Swanson. 

The evening opened with "Softly in the Morning" by the trio of Mobley, Schimke an Swanson. Involuntarily I scribbled, "These cats really swing."

Justin Delaire sings, plays sax, and even did a stint at the keyboards in a Schimke duet. The first number for the quartet was rendition of Sinatra's hit "Night and Day." Delaire's resume includes performing with Prince, Kenny Loggins and a host of others. The past 15 years he's been travelling with Michael Bolton. It wasn't long before everyone present knew we were in for an evening of smooth swingin' sweet sounds.

The Sintara cut was followed by a Lou Rawls number, "Muddy Water."

During a break Emily Swanson, Glenn's biggest asset, introduced Yvette, who helped put the dinner presentation together with assistance from Chef Paul Saputa from Room at the Table . Yes, the food amplifies the sweetness of the vibe.

The second half of the program opened once more with the trio of Peter Schimke, Mobley and Swanson, Glenn gave us set of light flourishes on drums setting up the tempo and mood for their preface to part two. Delaire came forward, stepping up with another heart-throbber, "My Romance."

We were quickly transported to another space with a beautiful rendition of Ray Charles' "Georgia on my Mind." Oh man, yeah. Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" prevailed next followed by "Mr. Magic" at which time I allowed myself to be carried away on a magic carpet. The evening closed with sentimental favorites "You've Got a Friend" (Carole King) and "Doc on the Bay" (Otis Redding).

With the exception of this picture all photos here by Steve Mattson of Zenith City Photography.

The home fires were burning and it was a delightfully full house.

Book your reservation for March at the Carlton Room
next month featuring the energizing and uplifting Pippi Ardennia.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Local Art Scene: JNG's Sweep Is a Survey of Contemporary Painting

"Nanabazhoo with Butterflies"
One of the cool features of the new Joseph Nease Gallery (JNG) here in Duluth is the ability to reconfigure the gallery space by rolling some of the walls into new locations. The opening reception for Sweep presents the advantage of this feature, enabling the viewer's line of sight to take in compositions from angles that reveal other relationships and contrasts.

The JNG has 29 paintings on display from more than 20 artists representing a wide range of styles.  Some of the artists will be familiar to local gallery hoppers -- Leah Yellowbird, Kirsten Aune, Adam McCauley -- and others less so, such as Marcus Cain, another artist with Joe Nease/Kansas City connections. There is a lot to see here, some of which has obtained national recognition.

I found a number of pieces to be exceptionally striking and worthy of more than just a passing glimpse. One of these is Rabbett Strickland's "Nanabazhoo with Butterflies."

A much larger, more complex painting from this Native artist has been on display at the Tweed in recent years. This beautifully painted piece is an excellent example of the mystical power of Strickland's sensitive work.

Detail from "Nanabazhoo with Butterflies."
Marcus Cain, who came to town for the opening, has four pieces on display here as a result of a previous relationship with the Neases in Kansas City. Cain's approach to painting (right) focuses more on process as opposed to image reproduction. Rather than using brushes he makes his painting using the marking-making tools ceramic artists use. He calls it meditative mark-making, but if you get up close and engage the pieces, they have a tendency to cause eyes to un-focus because there is no object or point of reference for the eyes.

Whereas one is initially drawn to the pieces by their colors and the 3-D impression of corrugation and depth, it's possible to soon experience the kind of headache one gets from overmuch exposure to those Magic Eye pictures which encourage you to allow eye-focus to relax.  

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One of my favorite artists in the region has to be Leah Yellowbird. Her "Rolling in the Deep" grabs you in part due to the Escheresque underwater fish pattern in the background, almost like a wallpaper pattern. Her acrylic paintings tediously reproduce the sensation of Native American bead-work on canvas. The vibrant colors, lively compositions and unexpected sterling silver attachment on this piece all conspire to produce a magical image that defies easy categorization.


"Rolling in the Deep" (detail) -- Leah Yellowbird

Here are some additional pieces you will see if you're able to go.

Adam McCauley's "Nosun"
"Reddy"-- one of three gummy candies painted by Kay Kurt.
For more information on the Joseph Nease Gallery, 
including its hours, visit