Friday, November 17, 2017

Flashback Friday: PRØVE Gallery Inaugural Exhibition Proves Art Can Be Exciting


18 November 2011
Last night I had the privilege of being able to attend the pre-opening of Duluth’s newest art phenomenon, the PRØVE Gallery. The collaborative project with a one-year commitment to its current location promises to bring still more excitement to an emerging Twin Ports arts scene.

The PRØVE Gallery mission is to become a conduit of powerful ideas and diverse viewpoints as well as fostering a greater appreciation of the modern arts, expanding community and providing cultural exchange. The gallery’s ambitious aims include presenting monthly shows, collaborating with like-minded arts organizations and create networking opportunities that benefit the arts retail environment.

My first impression upon arriving at the gallery was a huge “Ah, seriously interesting.”

The gallery is located in the heart of downtown, half a block up from the intersection of Lake Avenue and Superior Street. According to Richard Hansen, who serves with Sound Unseen, promoters of the Duluth International Film Festival, explained just how much work was involved is preparing the space for this event. “We didn’t even have a floor,” he said.

The artists are young, enthusiastic and serious about their work while simultaneously enjoying this opportunity to display. Justin Iverson’s Malignant Neoplasm on Steel is richly illuminated to produce a suitable vigor for those who stop to engage it. A vibrant variation on abstract expressionism, there is a fascinating assortment of colorations as a result of the application of salt, water and vinegar onto the surfaces of steel.

Nikolas Monson’s 5:30 PM in the rear of the gallery created interesting visuals due to the shadows and lighting. Monson explained the source of the title. It’s the color of sunset in October here in the Northland. Equally mysterious, based on viewer position, the piece is intended to create “the illusion of something more.”

Steven Read’s Showdown with Agassiz (below right) is designed to distort perceived space and adjust viewers’ relationship with objects in the environment. The name of the piece, along with the names of all these works, is both playful and cerebrally entertaining. I enjoyed taking numerous photos of gallery visitors engaged in conversation beneath the rubric of linear abstraction.

Anthony Zappa’s dynamic Tilt stretches into the interior of the gallery, serving as both wall and window to the space and designs within. The linear elements are wide enough apart to tempt viewers to barge through the piece but narrow enough to restrict such imposition.

Galleries like the PRØVE could not exist without the support of sponsors. And it really is great to see so many companies stepping up to support the arts locally. PRØVE Gallery sponsors include the New Scenic Café, Sherwin Williams, Sound Unseen, Lake Avenue Café and the Twin Ports Gallery. (As an aside, my father was a chemist who worked in the development of latex paints, and once was employed by Sherwin Williams in Cleveland way back when.) Thank you to all sponsors of the arts.

Tonight is the grand opening of the PRØVE Collective's newest art gallery. It is my earnest belief that anyone half-interested in the arts would be well served to pay attention to this new space, and if at all possible drop in tonight and check it out.

* * * *
17 November 2017
Tonight, the Prøve Gallery is conducting it's fourth annual exhibition and silent auction of 30 crafted skateboard decks by local, national, and international artists all sharing one purpose: building skateboard parks in our communities. The event is titled Plys with Purpose. Proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to the Gary New Duluth Development Alliance for their ongoing efforts to build a public, state-of-the-art skateboard park in Gary New Duluth.

Designed by nationally recognized skate park designer, Mark Leski, aka “The Wizard”. The skateboard park will not only give the local youth a new facility, it will bring new businesses and prosperity to the Gary New Duluth community. For more information and donations to the GND progress, please visit   For more info on tonight's event visit the Plys with Purpose Facebook pageAfterparty at The Rex.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Attention Writers: An Opportunity To Be Paid Ten Dollars A Word

November is National Novel Writing Month. It's that time of year when writers put their noses to the grindstone and crank out a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That's 1666 words a day, which isn't wholly unreasonable. Jack London cranked out a thousand words a day. Hemingway strove to set down 500 "good words" a day, a more discriminating writer.

For most of us, attempting this while simultaneously clocking in a 40 hour work week is pretty preposterous, though not necessarily impossible with the aid of vacation days, sick days and a lot of coffee.

I recall years ago reading about a novel writing contest that took place over Labor Day weekend (if I remember correctly.) I considered giving it a go by not sleeping for a couple nights, something akin to the Rubber Chicken Theater's "Chicken Hat Plays," only slightly longer in duration. Alas.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, I would like to commend to you a much more achievable goal, if you're up for it. It's a Flash Fiction story contest. 100 words. No entry fee.

The deadline is November 23, which is coming up fast. I'm willing to guess that most any writer worth his or her salt could produce 14 words a day. And actually, the Foundation is allowing us to submit two stories, so if you're up for it you can sweat out 28 words a day and enter twice!

First prize is $20,000. There are actually four first prizes, one for each of the four languages that writers may submit stories in. The other three first place winners will receive $1000. That amounts to ten dollars a word, which for most writers is a pretty good payday.

Here's another feature of the contest. Anyone who enters the contest and persuades others to participate can win $1000 as well, if that person you recruited wins the competition and has entered your identification code (which you receive once you enter.) MY IDENTIFICATION CODE IS 53421. I would be super grateful if you could use my i.d. code when you enter your story.

When you enter the contest you will see a small box for the five digit code. Go ahead and type 53421. Then, when you complete the entry you will be sent an email confirmation that tells you YOUR identification code. Go ahead and share the contest with your own followers with your code. If one of these folks wins, you will receive $1000 for being the one who encouraged them.

The César Egido Serrano Foundation is the non-profit Foundation convener of this initiative, and whose objective is to use words and therefore dialogue as a tool for understanding between different cultures and religions. The competition first prize is $20,000 for the best short story. All entries will be evaluated by an international jury of great prestige, and the finalist’s stories will be published. A maximum of two stories per person of no more than 100 words each, should be submitted from this link.

Here's the web page where I first saw the story of this contest, Aerogramme Writers' Studio.
The article includes a link to one of the previous winners' stories, titled Oysters.

Here's a link to the article that set this blog post in motion, an article that I saw on Flipboard regarding National Novel Writers Month. The author uses the contest as an excuse to share 11 books on writing, for writers. Most are in the pop category with familiar authors like Stephen King and Ann Lamott. Quite a few, however were unfamiliar to me. You might want to slip a couple onto your Christmas Gift List.

The other is a much shorter read, a link to a page of Quotes For Writers that I assembled over 20 years ago when I built my first website.

* * * *
So if you want to throw your hat in the ring, or one of Bob's, then go for it. Deadline is in seven days. I'll be rooting for you, especially if you use my i.d. code, 53421.

How much can you say in a hundred words? Hemingway wrote a story in six once. 100 words might even feel verbose. Try it, and find out for yourself.

Write on!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Local Art Seen: Robb Quisling's Common Threads at Washington Gallery

This past Saturday I stopped at Washington Galleries to attend the reception for Robb Quisling's new show, Common Threads. I'd first seen his work at the DAI where he was part of a joint show with Jen Dietrich. As I learned at the time, Quisling is an artist who also teaches (Hermantown school district.)

Common Threads carries the notion of things that bind us. but the additional variable of knots is intriguing. Learning how to tie knots is a basic skill learned in Boy Scouts. Learning how to untangle knots is also a life skill.

EN: So, what's the Common Thread in your current exhibit at Washington Gallery? What's the deeper level on this theme for you personally?

Robb Quisling: My theme for a show at the Washington gallery began a year ago. When I started working on it it was about knots as a metaphor. I love the idea of something so economical containing so much information. Knots that connect ropes to other ropes, knots that connect ropes to objects, knots that aren't functional, and tangles all seem like good thought experiments. My favorite piece in the show is called Quick Release Knot and is about the “quick release knot.” If one end of the rope is pulled, the knot stays tight. If the other is pulled, it unties easily. I describe this with an installation that offers a viewing area for each end of the rope.

As time went by and as I talked about my progress with my art friends the theme started to shift a little. Jonathan Thunder is the curator for my exhibit and my weekly racquetball partner so I was able to check in with him during the year. During a studio visit with Jonathan and his partner Tashia Hart we noticed many of my existing pieces use the device of cords or ropes or string to connect objects. The working title at that time became Common Thread. The connections are sometimes about power and sometimes about cooperation. I rely on the people in our art community to help me process information visually. Aryn Bergsven, the art teacher at Harbor City, Jeff Dugan, David Hodges, Cecilia Lieder, my printmaking teacher, Robert Ripinski and several other artists as well as my art students at Hermantown help my development. As far as art influences are concerned, I have always been a fan of Edward Hopper and I am now recently interested in Chris Ware.

EN: Who are the artists who have most influenced you?

RQ: In the 90s when my wife was in school I found a local artist that I admired and I asked her for lessons. Cecilia Lieder taught me to make prints and introduced me to the art community. I became a member of the Northern Printmakers Alliance and the artists there encouraged me to go to school and get my art education B.A. I have been the Hermantown High School art teacher for 10 years now. Although my strength is printmaking, I have gotten a huge amount of encouragement to make installation work by Jen Dietrich and Jonathan.

* * * *
Here are some images from the show, in the event you can't make it in person.

* * * * 
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Can you dig it?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Faith King on Pineapple Arts, Writing and Diversions, Thursday's Opening at the DAI

She twirls in laughter.
The world goes on.
He has stepped out of his
but still can't imagine
the way she loses herself.
A whole room can change 
with her dancing in it.

Surrounded by periwinkle
even her dark sides glow.
His world is shaded in charcoal
though when he moves he feels 
Below them lies another story, 
Unrelated, but always
on their mind...
-- Faith King

* * * *

EN: Can you briefly share your “career path”? 

Faith King: People don’t know that kind of thing these days, do they? I am currently working on my English MA Degree at University of Minnesota Duluth. This semester, I am teaching my first college writing course, and learning so much about writing and research. I’d love to teach creative and academic writing, but I am open to any position that allows me to write.

EN: How did you come to be co-owner of Pineapple Arts and what is its mission?  

FK: The previous owner of Bohemia Arts gave us the business, somewhat unexpectedly, and we just sort of stuck together and did the best we could. Over the years, people have left the group, so now it is really down to Jami Rosenthal, Lucy Meade, and myself. Then there are the members of the Figure Drawing group, and artists who volunteer to use the studio. In recent years, we have focused more on what the members desire out of the space, because the heart of Pineapple is its community art space.

EN: In addition to making art you also write poetry. Do you also do others kinds of writing? Do you have examples online?

Faith King
FK: I write poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. As a relatively new member to academia, I am also learning how to research writing pedagogy and rhetoric. Right now I am piecing together research on the importance of metacognition in teaching writing concepts to college freshmen, and will also be presenting at the Northeast Modern Language Association’s 2018 conference on the continuing relationship of rhetoric and poetic appeal. Next semester I will be focusing on writing fiction, and learning more about presentation and design through online writing platforms. There is a lot that interests me, and I am trying to get as much experience as I can.

EN:  Tell us about your upcoming show and your chief aims with this body of work? 

FK: My exhibit is Thursday, November 16, 5-7 pm at the Duluth Art Institute. There are seven local artists involved: Adam Swanson, Tonja Sell, Patricia Canelake, Joel Cooper, Tim White, Sue Pavlatos, and Jamie Uselman. I wrote poems that respond in some way to their art, and I have two pieces that I created, for which I also wrote a corresponding poem. This type of writing is known as Ekphrastic Writing, which refers to the connection between the poetry and artwork. They become a pair, as one form extends the content, meaning, or description of the other. I was introduced to the idea in my first creative writing course, and fell for it immediately.

The title of the show is Diversions, as there is a common theme of change and thoughtfulness, or letting go throughout.

* * * *
The Opening Reception for Faith King will be Thursday evening from 5:00-7:00 at the DAI Galleries on the 4th Floor of the Depot. Simultaneously there is an opening for Laurentian: Paul LaJeunesse & Lake Superior Wood Turners.

If you're able, you may wish to start your evening across the bridge where the Red Mug Coffeehouse is hosting an opening for Christopher J. Dunn's Rooster Tail Ink.

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

Image upper right, by Patricia Canelake and Tim White.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Local Art Seen: MAAMAWI @ the AICHO (Part 2)

"Nanabozhoo and the Butterfly" -- Rabbett Strickland
As promised yesterday, here are some additional glimpses of Friday evening's exhibition at the AICHO. The variety, the craftsmanship, the exquisite detail, the themes all woven together create an impression that we have in our midst a rare gift. I am referring here to the artists themselves, who continue to pour themselves out, many of them sacrificially.  Yes, there are art communities everywhere, but this one here in the Northland has its own unique fingerprints. We should not take for granted what is happening here.

If you've ever taken photos of the Grand Canyon and returned home afterward only to discover that the photos fell significantly short of capturing the vastness of that fabulous vista... well, that's most assuredly how I feel about the images here. They provide a glimpse of the works displayed, but fall short of producing the emotional weight of the works themselves. Stand before a painting by Rabbett Strickland or  Leah Yellowbird and you're drawn in.

"Winona and Nanbozhoo" -- Rabbett Strickland
"Preserving Our Way of Life" -- Ivy Vainio
"Resistance" -- Steve Premo
"Namepin in April" -- Tashia Hart

"Zigwan Binesi--Spring Thunderbird" -- Michelle Defoe
"Protect Water" -- Ellen Sandbeck
"Still Life with Blueberry Butter-Weasel" -- Jonathan Thunder
Meantime, if at all able, try to visit the AICHO Gift Shop and purchase a 2018 calendar featuring the art of these local artists.  Support the community. You'll also find a range of other practical items in addition to wall art.. and maybe get inspired to do more with your own creative self as well. 

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Local Art Seen: MAAMAWI -- AICHO Group Artist Exhibition

Friday evening the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) hosted an exhibition featuring 25 artists and more. AICHO has been enriching the region for many years, quietly serving an important and often underserved portion of our community. In recent years, their downtown facility -- formerly the YWCA building at 202 West 2nd Street -- has emerged as a significant center for the arts, blossoming like a desert rose.

The event, called MAAMAWI, also served as a fund-raising event and kickoff for the launch of AICHO's 2018 calendar. In addition to the works by 25 artists within the Dr. Robert Powless Center, the hallway outside featured the 12 original paintings and photography that is featured in the 12 months of the calendar.

Every event at AICHO serves as a reminder of the vitality of the community. Creative expression seems to be central here, and the new store within the complex shows both the variety and quality of the talent here. EdNote: Anyone who reads this (who is within reasonable driving distance) needs to make it a top-tier priority to visit the AICHO Gift Shop before Christmas this year. 

If you've never been to an AICHO art show, it often includes poetry, music and finger foods to hold you over till supper. (Many of us go there straight after work when the event is at 5 or 5:30.) In addition to the artists featured in the calendar and the gallery, Karen Savage-Blue contributed a series of pictures she's been making of crows, ravens and blackbirds. A couple years ago she produced a remarkable series of daily landscapes, small oil paintings, for a period of 365 days, reminiscent of Ellen Sandbeck's Buddha-a-Day series. Friday night we were treated to a month of birds.

Here are a few of additional images. I will share more tomorrow.

"Snake Battle"-- Steve Premo
"Sky Woman" -- Jonathan Thunder
"Moonlit Stroll" -- Rachel Weizenegger

For the record, the Ojibwe word Maamawi means "Together." 
You might say "Maamawi is the secret of our resilience."

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Make time to engage it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dylan's Scripture-Soaked Precious Angel: Strength In Weakness

Tonight's theme on KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited radio hour, hosted for 26 years be the über-dedicated John Bushey, featured cuts from the recently released Trouble No More, Volume 13 in Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series. The theme served as a trigger to write about one of my favorite songs from that period, Precious Angel.

There are three points I'd like to draw attention to here. First, the conflict between two conflicting definitions of strength. Second, a question regarding the purported plagiarism claims of his later work. And finally, the passion that he channels when performing.

* * * *
1. Friedrich Nietzsche appeared at a major turning point in history. The modern scientific age was dawning, religion no longer a necessary crutch to help us get through the wheel of suffering known as life. The Darwinian thesis that only the strong survive began seeping into a variety of channels, including the curiously heartless 20th century concept of eugenics in which the State helps in the disposal of the unfit and the weak.

Nietzsche wrote of the Übermensch, the Superman, who would cast off the shackles of the herd mentality found in religion and forge his own way through self-mastery. This secular concept of strength worked its way into the modern mind via a variety of channels, most notably Hemingway's fascination with bullfighters, Camus' existential heroes and secular humanism.

In contrast, we hear the chorus of Precious Angel, in which Dylan cries out from the depths, "I just can't make it by myself, I'm a little too blind to see." This acknowledgement of helplessness is central to a Christian worldview that makes no apologies about being dependent on the "higher power." As the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, God's power is made perfect through weakness. In the chorus of Precious Angel, it's clear the Dylan "gets it."

* * * *
2. There were many critics who made a stink about Dylan's plagiarism in Love and Theft and Modern Times. Dylan "borrowed" from literature and the like without purportedly giving "credit where credit was due." Historically, however, haven't writers and artists been extracting text and concepts from the Bible for ages without necessarily providing chapter and verse? That is, to some extent, there is a measure of cultural literacy involved here? The habit of borrowing lines here and there and putting them into the Dylan mind-blender didn't begin in the 21st century.

* * * *
3. One of the notable features of Precious Angel, especially the studio recording that appears on Slow Train Coming, is the passion Dylan delivers. Looking backward, you hear it in the chorus of "Where Are You Tonight?" (Street Legal) all the way back to when a teen Dylan was unplugged by his principal while performing at Hibbing High School. His ability to channel emotion of all varieties has been a notable feature of his career as an artist. During his "Gospel period" he certainly projects an earnestness that was persuasive to his Christian followers, even if off-putting to many of his other fans. (Listen as he belts out "Solid Rock.")

* * * *
I've highlighted links to a few of the Scripture verses referenced here, not including the concepts of being blind and having one's eyes opened, or walking in the light.

* * * *
Precious Angel

Precious angel, under the sun
How was I to know you’d be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon

Now there’s spiritual warfare, flesh and blood breaking down
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief, there ain’t no neutral ground
The enemy is subtle, how be it we are so deceived*
When the truth’s in our hearts and we still don’t believe?

Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know I just couldn’t make it by myself
I’m a little too blind to see

My so-called friends have fallen under a spell
They look me squarely in the eye and they say, “All is well”
Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high
When men will beg God to kill them and they won’t be able to die?

Sister, lemme tell you about a vision I saw
You were drawing water for your husband, you were suffering under the law
You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed
in the same breath
You never mentioned one time the Man who came and died a criminal’s death 

Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know I just couldn’t make it by myself
I’m a little too blind to see

Precious angel, you believe me when I say
What God has given to us no man can take away  (John 10:29) (Mark 10:9)
We are covered in blood, girl, you know our forefathers were slaves** 
Let us hope they’ve found mercy in their bone-filled graves

You’re the queen of my flesh, girl, you’re my woman, you’re my delight
You’re the lamp of my soul, girl, and you torch up the night
But there’s violence in the eyes, girl, so let us not be enticed
On the way out of Egypt, through Ethiopia, to the judgment hall of Christ ***

Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know I just couldn’t make it by myself
I’m a little too blind to see
Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

* * * *

Is religion the opiate of the masses, as Marx declared? Or is it a last bastion for hope in a world gone wrong?

* see also: Luke 4, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
** Origins of the Blood Covenant: Genesis 15:9-21
*** From Exodus thru to Revelations

For further reading see Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life by Scott Marshall