Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Local Art Seen: Checking In with Twin Ports Painter Brent Kustermann

Brent Kustermann's current show at the Duluth Art Institute is titled From the Basement. His paintings defy easy definition. He works in a variety of mediums that include found objects in addition to paints and pigment on canvas. Kustermann considers it to be the duty of an artist to bring a unique perspective to the world, a process “never fully mastered.” I became aware of his paintings through a number of exhibition in 2014.

EN: You state that the duty of the artist is to bring a unique perspective to the world one lives in. What is your "unique perspective"?

Brent Kustermann: I feel that the world of art is positioned within the individual. For me, it is highly personalized and internalized. It is a deeply subconscious endeavor relying on intuition as a guide to produce the picture. Within the realm of art the individual is increasingly demystifying their own mythology only for a deeper wonder toward creation. The evolution of thought and integration of the psyche allow for the perpetual discovery of self and creation while attempting to thwart the ego. This is what makes my art unique.

EN: What prompted you to pursue a career as an artist?

BK: Art has always been a large part of my life. I have often questioned whether or not I chose to be a painter or if it chose me. There have been attempts to put aside the notion of painting throughout my life and this has proved futile. The desire to make paintings becomes a nagging necessity and the only way to quell that desire is to give into it fully and get into the studio and work. With regard to making art a career it seemed evident that I really could not have hundreds of paintings lying around the house. In the past few years if have also taken myself and my work more serious. I have decided to focus on bigger venues to exhibit including quality galleries, art institutes, and the like.

EN: Tell us about your process of making paintings and how do you know when a piece is finshed?

BK: The process of creating paintings for me involves a fairly abstract idea that I mull over for awhile. Sometimes I will sketch and continue to let the ideas take some form that I can attack. For example, in ‘Lung/Lago’, I was thinking about the great lake we live next to and I was thinking of how we as a human race take these things for granted. That moved onto the idea of fish and how they are being fed our pollutants. That moved into the idea about the US Army dumping those mystery barrels into the lake. So, before I digress too much, I will have a bunch of semi¬abstract ideas and then start working and reworking sometimes covering a composition completely looking for the feeling and aesthetic quality that will satisfy those abstract ideas. And, I am not looking for ready made ‘pretty’ pictures. I am attempting to capture the essence of the abstract and the painting is complete when it decides to be complete.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences?

BK: My influences are many. The German Expressionist and Viennese Actionist have a heavy emotion that I truly appreciate for its raw and emotional force. The Abstract Expressionist have a heavy influence on me. The ability to really let the power of self¬expression loose is what is so seductive about that school along with a desire to obtain the sublime. And then there is Picasso’s ability to create massive movements and then just as easily leave them behind for the next.

* * * *

From the Basement will be on display at the DAI through November 6 in the galleries on the 4th floor of the Depot.

TONIGHT there will be an artist talk at 5:30 featuring the three artists currently on display -- Brent Kustermann, Adam McAuley and David Asher Everett. The talk will begin at 5:30 p.m.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Brief Visit with Sculptor David Asher Everett

David Asher Everett is one of three artists currently exhibiting at the Duluth Art Institute. The title of his show is Rust and Flow and can bee seen in the John Steffl Gallery from now till November 6. You can also hear him talk about his work tomorrow evening at 5:30 p.m. as part of an artist talk featuring he and the two other currently exhibiting artists, Brent Kustermann and Adam McCauley.

I met David Everett through our mutual involvement with Duluth Dylan Fest. Everett produced the manhole covers that were placed on Bob Dylan Way on Dylan's 70th birthday five years ago. It's interesting that Dylan himself is recycling scrap to produce metal sculpture art these days.

Here are some insights about David Everett and his work.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in sculpture in general and casting in various metals specifically?

David A. Everett: I became a sculptor by accident, I actually focused on photography and drawing as an undergrad. Drawing and photography remain foundations for my sculptural work. I actually have a large photography piece in progress, and look forward exhibiting it somewhere in the near future.

EN: Sculpture involves a lot more process than drawing. Can you describe how you made the Trash Fish pieces currently on display?

DAE: My attraction to metal casting is probably due to my love of process. I was a science nerd in high school, especially loving labs. Photography (black and white) came naturally, as it is actually produced in a lab and you go through all of these steps and make a lot of decisions along the way to get a finished product, after all the camera/environmental/light work. This being said, the digital process kind of ruined it for me...... too easy and immediate. Of course, less toxic chemicals is a good thing. Metal casting is much the same as old fashioned photography, you start with an idea, make a prototype, figure out how to mold it, how to vent it, how to get the metal to fill it, acquire and manipulate materials. Its a great exercise in physics. My favorite part of the process is the physical nature of casting, swinging a hammer, breaking up old radiators, fuel coke, etc... and the camaraderie of getting together for a week or two with like minded folks, helping each other to carry out our visions.

EN: Most if not all of your work is created from recycled materials. Where do you find these raw materials?

DAE: The Trash Fish are an ongoing project of mine. It begins with collecting actual garbage from Lake Superior and its tributaries. Sadly, I pick up a lot more trash than I actually use. I then manipulate (cut, bend) and arrange the trash on boards to forms resembling aquatic creatures. I fasten the creatures to the board with staples and screws. After that, I build a box around them with a release agent such as talc, powdered graphite or silicon. Into the box I pour fine sand with a salt based resin and catalyst, ramming it to get all the fine details. When the sand/resin mixture is cured, I flip the box, pull out the trash, and if its really thick, I'll use clay to desired thickness and ram the other side in the same fashion. This makes a sand mold between 100 and 500 pounds in which to pour the iron. If I'm able to do just one side, I can just pour the iron directly in, two sided molds require sprews and vents drilled and arranged in such a manner as to let the ~2500 degree iron to travel through and fill completely. I also sort the trash appropriately to recycle as much as possible. We get our iron from old radiators out of buildings, mainly. If any plumbers out there have any to get rid of.... we can always use 'em. We manually break them up with sledge hammers to chunks about the size of tortilla chips.

EN: What inspired you to study at the U of Birmingham and what did you take away from that experience?

DAE: I attended university in England initially through the study abroad programme at UMD, for a year and returned to Birmingham (and spent a lot of time on the Cornish coast, as well) at intervals less than three months at a time (due to visa restrictions) and finances allowed after completing my BFA. Having grown up in Duluth, I didn't appreciate it until living away for some time. Birmingham was my escape at age 19, at the time I thought I'd be a failure in life if I ended up in Duluth as an adult. Through my time in the UK, cultural experiences and travels more afar, I came to appreciate Duluth. That being said, I still get "itchy feet" and need time away a couple times a year.

EN: How much of your work is at the Franconia Sculpture Park? How did this art park get birthed and how did you get involved?

DAE: Franconia was birthed from the hard work and vision of some great artists just over twenty years ago, namely John Hock, who still runs the show. I became involved there when I was one of the iron artists in 2007. I don't currently have any work on display at Franconia. I had a piece there for a couple years (2007-2009) in the rotating iron artist area. I have plans for a large piece at Franconia, and hope to get my proposal accepted. Stay tuned on that. I usually do an iron pour or two every year at Franconia, but usually I just arrive with a small mold and my share of broken iron to help with the actual pour, which takes four to ten hours. I spend most of my time at a pour on the ladle or the top of the furnace charging fuel and iron, and keeping an eye on and communicating with the person in charge of the furnace on what she unable to see.

* * * *
The Duluth Art Institute is a gift to this community. Take advantage of your next trip to the library by walking across the street to see what's on display on the fourth floor of the Depot.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

A New Thought About Time -- Rolling the Past, Present and Future Into One

I had a new thought this weekend. It flowed out of a quote that went something like this: "The future is the past unfrozen."

As I reflected on this notion, however, I couldn't help but think about the behavior of water in its different states. I liked the idea that our past was frozen, and I thought about how water freezes below a specific temperature. But once it is unfrozen it can also be altered yet again when you boil it or heat it above 212 degrees F. It becomes an invisible gas at that point.

It's interesting that time therefore has three phases: past, present and future. Likewise water has three phases: solid, liquid and gas.

What we see when we apply this notion to time is that all of time is a unity, but it is experienced in different forms. Try as we might, we can't alter the past. Our achievements and mistakes leave a permanent record. They are frozen in time. Our present, on the other hand, is fluid. This fluid present is where we live and experience life. The future is invisible. It is so unformed it cannot be seen, like unpolluted air.

If the whole of time is one unit, then this would explain how God can be described as being the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and be both simultaneously. Some people see a fatalism inherent in God knowing the end from the beginning, but the paradox is this: the present is ever fluid until it is past. Because the present is fluid, anything is possible. It's up to us to decide "what next." Our decisions today will determine what will be frozen in time tomorrow.

* * * *
Is it true that what will be will be? What will be is up to us. Is the future inevitable? Yes, but only after it has been frozen in the past.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Catching Up with Artist Carla Hamilton

This month Carla Hamilton's work has been on display at The Red Mug in Superior. Her next show will be at the Duluth Art Institute in February. It seemed like a good time to catch up and see what else is happening in her world.

Sunday afternoon we met for a bit at Beaners in West Duluth. She began with a re-cap of her summer. "I was in Detroit this summer and fell in love with Detroit. There was art everywhere. We did AirBnB.... Madison, Ann Arbor, Detroit and the U.P. ... It was beautiful everywhere," she said, describing some of what she experienced including some spectacular murals. From here I got a preview of her upcoming DAI show.

"My next show is at the DAI in February, a collection of episodes that started when I was profiled last spring by the Duluth police," Hamilton explained. "I got stopped for 'walking while black' on Superior Street. This show reflects my feelings about what happened."

The aim of this show is not to bash the police, she said. "My goal of this show is not to bash the police. My goal is to create uncomfortable conversations and create dialogue. We can't change things if we don't talk about it." True dialogue, however, makes us uncomfortable.

What I found especially intriguing is that Carla did not just accept what happened. She took action to make this into a learning opportunity for the police. "I have since had mediation and good open dialogue. I felt heard. Most of the police involved were open to critique."

Two of the piece that are currently on display at her Red Mug exhibition reflect the new direction she is taking with her art. Carla Hamilton had been living in the Washing Studios initially when she returned to the U.S. from Germany, but now lives in a house in the East Hillside area. "I have a house now but don't have the space (for making art). I'm working in my garage." When I ask what she's currently working on, she replies, "I currently have some old maps. I'm doing a lot of prep and organizing things. I have 600 slides from one source and am using these for ideas. I don't know what I'm going to do yet but am letting them percolate.

"Making frames and stretching canvas... Getting bloody knuckles." Laughs, shows me her hands.

Her theme at this time is, Hate Equals Fear, Fear Equals Hate.

"You don't have to do anything wrong to get arrested," she said. "I get stereotyped all the time."

"How are you addressing this in your art?" I ask.

"I'm hoping to create a dialogue. Maybe it will offend you or maybe not, but I'm going to put it on the table."

She's hoping to throw a little humor into it, which will "hopefully make it easier to approach or discuss it. Topics included prohibition, opioids, the stereotypes we have with each other. These assumptions we have... disadvantaged or successful.... assumptions about people that are all wrong."

"How did living in Germany change how you see America?" I ask.

"That's a loaded question. It made me see that a lot of Americans live in a bubble," Hamilton replied. "A lot of Americans feel really self-righteous and entitled."

Her upcoming show came about like this. "I approached Annie Dugan when the Gorilla Girls were here. I had a piece in the Great Hall and we talked... and I wrote a small proposal and now we're here."

The racism she has experienced is not readily observed. "I grew up in Wrenshall and we had to be friends or you didn't have friends. The racism here resulted in getting beat up... I would get spit on with parents around. Even as bad as I was treated it was nothing compared to what I saw with Native Americans and how they were treated." Can we fix it?

"We can start to. You can be yourself and work on yourself and hopefully that will work out. I try to model it for my son, and am willing to say, 'That was wrong.' It's hard to be hated." She followed this with stories told about being typecast, about stereotyping... "Everyone wants to put you in a drawer. I don't like being defined this way."


* * * *
I, for one, am looking forward to Carla Hamilton's upcoming show at the Duluth Art Institute. If you are here in the Twin Ports, Carla's work current work is on display at Red Mug in Superior. I would encourage you to take a lunch there sometime this week and enjoy the great salads, sandwiches, wraps and soups. Special thanks to Suzanne for her support of the arts.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Phil Fitzpatrick's Dylan Hour (Plus Fitz's Fave Fives)

Last week I mentioned Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation on Bob Dylan during last week's Libations at the Library. I gave the talk short shrift knowing that I would later return to this theme later in the week. That "later" is now now.

Mr. Fitzpatrick is himself an interesting character. In addition to his career in teaching (Marshall School in Duluth, Mesabi Range College in Virginia), he has been a lifelong poet, Dylan fan and author of A Beautiful Friendship: The Joy of Chasing Bogey Golf.  He's also been a volunteer on the Duluth Dylan Fest Committee this past few years, which is how I came to know him. He's modest, considerate, intelligent and a very fine poet. He opened last week by stating "I'm not a Dylanologist, but I will be your tour guide for the next hour." The premise he aimed to defend was that though Bob Dylan is a citizen of the world, he's never forgotten his roots.

The first section was titled Seven Signals that Dylan Keeps the Northland in His Heart.
1. Nature's healing power is a theme that runs through many of his songs. (e.g. Huck's Tune)
2. He still performs here in Minnesota. (11 concerts in recent years.)
3. When receiving a Grammy he gave a nod to his encounter with Buddy Holly here at the Winter Dance Party concert at the Duluth Armory. (January 31, 1959)
4. He still has family connections here, including his brother David who lives just west of the Twin Cities on the Crow River.
5. His parents are buried here.
6. There are local landmarks here with which he is associated. (His childhood homes, the Armory)
7. References to his father we also cited.

Dylan inherited a number of qualities from his family, including a tireless work ethic, a penchant for showmanship and a fascination with rambling.

The IBM commercial featuring Watson last year noted that two major themes running through Dylan's songs are that (1) Time Passes, and (2) Love Fades, two theme interwoven in the song Red River Shore, Fitz noted.

At the Newport Folk Festival Dylan sang about the hardships of life on the Iron Range, and when Hollywood filmed North Country (starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson) the film used Tell Ol' Bill in the soundtrack to overlay the feel and descriptions of the region.

As time ran out Phil shared more examples, including one character that is distinctively Northern Minnesotan: authenticity.

Phil also produced  handout with resources that one could use as a foundation for their own Dylan Quest, as well as a three page trivia quiz and bibliography. What follows here is Fitz's Favorite Fives.

Fitz’s Favorite Fives
Four Sets of Five Resources to Use as Foundation for Your Own Dylan Quest

Novice Set
Highway 61 Revisited, KUMD 103.3 FM, Saturdays/Mondays, 5-6 pm
The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live @ Newport Folk Festival (film)
Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues: Dylan in Minnesota (book)
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, A Martin Scorsese Film (film)
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (CD)

Intermediate Set
Chronicles, Volume One (book or audio CD)
Oh, Mercy (CD – with/after/before “Oh, Mercy” in Chronicles, Volume One)
The Mayor of MacDougal Street (book)
Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back (film)
No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (book)

Advanced Set
Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (book)
Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs, Rare & Unreleased 1989-2006 (2 CD- boxed set)
Inside Llewyn Davis (film)
Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (book)
Song of the North Country: A Midwest Framework etc. (book by David Pichaske)

Dylanologist Set
I’m Not There (film)
Bob Dylan: 1965-1966: The Best of The Cutting Edge (2 CD- boxed set)
Alias: Bob Dylan Revisited (book)
Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and or Modern Times (CDs)
The Dead Straight Guide to Bob Dylan (book)

* * * *
Here's another reminder to mark your calendars for the October 15 celebration of John Bushey's KUMD radio show Highway 61 Revisited. Don't wait to the last minute to get your tickets. (Follow the link below the poster.)



Purchase tickets here. Special thanks to KUMD, the Duluth Dylan Fest Committee, the Rex Bar and everyone else who is helping to make this event happen.


If you were introducing new fans to books, films or albums, what would you add to Fitz's Fave Fives if it were your presentation? Share it here in the comments.

Meantime life goes on.... 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mona Lisa Overdrive

Picture of the Day
Mona Lisa Overdrive
Mixed Media

Check out more of my paintings, drawings and inventions here at
The Many Faces of Ennyman  

Learning the Rules of the Game

Each game has its rules, from boardgames to Hollywood to the publishing industry to jobhunting, bridge, baseball and even blogging.

The more complex the game, the more challenging.... some people thrive on challenges. For others the slightest resistance to an easy solution results in resignation. The external circumstances may be the same, but the internal commitment or lack thereof leads to different outcomes, whether in relationships or life.

Mindset makes a difference. The fatalist sees everything as rigged and some kinds of games are useless to even try to learn. The old adage of half-full optimist and glass half empty pessimist truly holds true.

* * * *

"Made Ya Look"
In the Jersey high school I attended some of the guys played a game that went something like this. They would form a zero with their thumb and forefinger and hold it on their knee or on the school bus seat or someone's shoulder, and if they could get one of their buddies to look at it, then they were permitted to give them a noogie. The noogies were as much a part of the game as the various techniques for placing the zero within someone's line of sight. If you look, you must suffer.

This game comes to mind when I see those multifarious banner ads that promise content, but deliver nothing more than a waste of time. 15 celebrities you will not recognize today, 23 child actors who are now dead and gone, 18 places you'll wish you could have visited before you die, etc. The noogie you receive is now replaced with a boot as you kick yourself for wasting more time you never had in the first place. (This assumes you have more things to do than you have time for.) Hereare some real life examples.

She Had No Idea Why The Crowd Was Cheering
I don't know either and I don't think I want to know.

The Walk Of Shame (27 photos)
The lure shot shows a woman who initially appears to be naked as she walks toward people with clothes on.

What These Lions Did Next Will Shock You
Sex? Cocaine? Break dancing?

50 Cringeworthy Photos From The 20th Century That They Couldn't Show
Who is "they" and why couldn't they show them? Could it be because they were from the 21st century? Or something more insidious?

They Found This In A Lake And Couldn't Believe Their Eyes 
A flying saucer? A mini-donut machine from China?

* * * *
Television itself is a variation on this game of "Made Ya Look." Except that the aim of television is to make you look and keep on looking. It's a game, and Hollywood has become quite skilled at it.

* * * *
NORTHLAND ART HAPPENINGS 
Courtesy Esther Piszczek

Friday - Sunday, September 23-25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Art Tour, 20 Artists in 20 Miles: "Glass, ceramics, woodwork, painting, printmaking, jewelry, sculpture, and photography, will be shown, demonstrated, and offered for sale on this tour. The tour is well-marked along Highway 61 and the many adventurous side roads between Gooseberry Falls and Duluth." Learn more here.

September 23-October 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; Crossing Borders Studio Tour
"The public is invited to participate in a FREE self-guided tour of a select group of professional Artist Studios located along the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior. The Crossing Borders Studio Tour offers a unique opportunity to visit the home studios of the artists and view and purchase artwork. Learn about the artists’ processes and how this environment influences their aesthetic decisions. Featured this year are stone sculpture, Ojibwe art work, pottery, weaving, glass, print making, wood turning, metal works, jewelry, bead work, fiber art and leather. While traveling between the studios, visitors will enjoy the amazing fall colors and panoramic views of Lake Superior." Details here.

Friday, September 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m., "Art for Ed's Sake" Fundraiser for Duluth Public School programs, Zeitgeist Arts, 222 E. Superior Street Music by Georgeanne Hunter- harpist. Food from local restaurants. Silent Auction Suggested donation: $25 per person; A fun evening for adults!! Cash bar open.

Saturday, September 24, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Lester River Rendezvous, Lester Park, Corner of Lester River Road and Superior Street in Lakeside "A living history attraction devoted to reliving the days of the fur trade." "Voyageur Village - Arts & Crafts - Live Music - Food" RAIN DATE: Sunday, September 25 Learn more here.

Friday, September 23, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Through Our Eyes, Photo Exhibit and Community Feast at Trepanier Hall. Details here.

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