Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What The World Needs Now

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Both Sides Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitchell was 24 years old when she recorded this song.

Both Sides Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 1967 Gandalf Publishing Co.

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of Lake Erie's now extinct pike 

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Local Art Seen: Sarah Brokke at the Kruk

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

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

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

The Eye of Married

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

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

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

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

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

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

The artist.
Students discussing one of the pieces.

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

Let's keep it going.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meantime, life goes on....

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