Friday, August 29, 2014

Seeing the Unseen: Contemporary Chinese Artists at the Ringling

Li Wei
I like surprises. Especially nice ones. One of the more exciting unexpected finds for me took place while traveling in Florida a couple years back: the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. I'd already known about Ringling Brothers Circus Museum being in Sarasota where the circus wintered like snow birds. I did not, however, know that John and Mable were art collectors.

Like many from America's privileged classes, they took up an interest in art collecting. During the Roaring 20's post-WWI European art could be snapped up on pennies for the dollar. The Ringlings even purchased a 16th century theater they found on the outskirts of Venice, disassembled and re-assembled the whole of it in Sarasota.

Unfortunately, the Thirties hit and many -- like the Ringlings -- got stung and lost all. Fortunately, a few years before, they donated their art collection to the University. And what a collection. One highlight is an enormous painting Peter Paul Rubens, but there are many other famous artists represented include Benjamin West, Diego Velázquez, Paolo Veronese, Rosa Bonheur, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Giuliano Finelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Frans Hals, Nicolas Poussin, Joseph Wright of Derby, and Thomas Gainsborough among others. But the highlight for me was running into two paintings by Marcel Duchamp. Very special.

The museum is host to other exhibitions and through the end of February 2015 The Ringling is featuring eight contemporary Chinese artists in an exhibition titled “Seeing the Unseen.” Artists in this show include Cao Fei, Li Wei, Wang Qingsong, and Miao Xiaochun. A promotional blurb on the show states, "Reflecting the artistic innovations of our media age, their works provide a fresh view of China’s rapidly changing socio-cultural landscape. These Chinese artists apply new concepts and technology to record and present inspiring moments veiled in daily life."

One of the featured artists in this exhibit is Liu Bolin, whose invisible man pictures went viral a couple years back. I remember seeing links being shared extensively whenever it was, not knowing who he was at that time. Here is a promotional image from the show that may jog your memory on this artist. Yes, there is a man in the photo.

Liu Bolin... 
If you're a Sun City resident or a someone who likes to escape South for the winter, the Ringling Museum is worth going out of your way to see. And this winter at least you'll have this treat to look forward to.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Twin Ports Art Scene Will Be Lively in September

It looks like September is gearing up to be an exciting month in the Twin Ports arts scene with exhibition and openings in a whole range of locations. Let's start with...

Adam McCauley, Colin Witta, and Christopher Selleck will be featured in a show called Thread at the Washington Gallery, September 12, 6-9.  McCauley, who sent the poster here, expressed his excitement about the new work he will be showing. I mention it first only to get it on your calendar that the Second Friday Art Crawl is shaping up to be a good one. Start here, then walk downhill to the PROVE.

Next week's openings include:

Esther Piszczek's show Visions will be opening: Thursday, Sept 4 from 6-9 p.m. @ Beaner's Central. Thematically the work will be an exploration of pattern on glass and mirrors. Maija Jenson's interview with Esther about this show will air on KUMD 103.3 FM tomorrow morning, 8/29, at 7:45 a.m. during Northland Morning. Live Stream is available on KUMD and the interview will be recorded and archived.

To make an art night of it, you might want to start with Mary Reichert's opening at Lake Avenue Café from 4-6 p.m. featuring her beautiful felted rugs and scarves.

On Friday evening September 5 there will be an opening for Ed Newman's show Influences at Benchmark Tattoo. It's another great new space, located at 19th Avenue East and 8th Street, nearly across from Sara's Table up near UMD and Chester Bowl. I will share more about the theme in another blog entry. Dane and Kyle are outstanding artists themselves, with skin as their canvas. You might even be interested in having one of my drawings on your shoulder. This is the place to get it done.

"Blue Van Gogh" by Ed Newman

Ken Marunowski will be taking down his work at Red Mug tomorrow but you'll still get an opportunity to see it at The Shack for the month ahead. Marunowski is a plein air painter of the first degree. He also works in charcoal and other media.  

The September 11 Opening Reception at the Duluth Art Institute is going to be another great night for the arts. It's a triple header with an Earl Austin Retrospective, an exhibit titled Signs & Wonders featuring Jim Klueg and Faith Benzer, and Sean Connaughty's Ark of the Anthropocene. And a special surprise on top of all that will be the re-emergence of Sophronia in the Great Hall. I kid you not, this will be a night not to miss.

Can't get enough? Take a trip up to the Tweed Museum at UMD and feast there now and again. There's a new exhibit coming that may excite you.

And now, for something completely different.... Dylan will be in Minneapolis the first week of November. It's not too early to mark your calendars. More information coming soon

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Check in and check it out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Visit with Island Lake Artist Elizabeth Kuth (Part II)

THIS IS PART II OF AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH KUTH. Portions of this interview appeared this week in the Reader.

After examining the many canvases and resources in her studio, we walked up to the house where she shared books of drawings. Many of the drawings are with brush and ink or other various media. With a warm zeal she described the ideas behind her work.

In a statement at the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota website Kuth explains, "As an artist I believe the commitment and passion from yourself is essential to develop a high sensitivity for quality and meaning in your work. Only you have the power to do the work, endure the struggles and sacrifices it takes to translate your inner world into a medium of expression." You can read her full statement here.

While driving home after the visit I felt a surge of desire to get into my studio to paint. The following evening this wish was fulfilled.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences?

EK: A lot of my influences come from German abstract expressionism. That is kind of an intrigue to me.

EN: Where are your forms coming from?

EK: In your genes and who you are, and who your parents were and grandparents were. That’s one thing that started to come out. That interested me because I saw a lot of bones in my earlier work. These bones kept appearing, which was interesting, because my grandfather was a bone surgeon. He did drawings and did a book of illustrations of bones.

I think a lot about spaces, from early childhood. Whether it was the dock I was on or the lake,… even when I’m painting something would hit me from early on and I would go with that for a while.

Sometimes I turn a painting upside down and look at its shapes and forms and work on it as abstract design….

A lot of my images have a sense of falling. Those back there are about something falling down. By turning it upside down I might see something that ignites something in me, and I will see something different.

A lot of my things seem to have a downward position and by turning it I see a new meaning in it.

I am looking for something that hits me…. Ah! I like this better. I don’t think about what it’s going to be until it starts to become something.

(Referring to three large paintings that she is working on simultaneously.) Now these two are doing more for me than this one. This one is too still. I look for movement. Maybe this theme of falling has something to do with vulnerability.

* * *

I do feel a need to identify something in a piece. Most of my things are figurative, filling up the whole space. There’s a suspension… but also a dominant form.

These are a couple earlier paintings of mine. Less shapes and forms, but Paul Klee-ish, something I sort of see, a playfulness.

EN: Did you know Bill Morgan?

EK: Yes. He was my teacher and mentor. Went to UWS a while in art education, but knew that was not for me. Went back later and got a Masters in Art.

I may never exhibit these things but it’s influencing me… drawing horses, capturing movement. I also work with paper, oil paint on paper, and I’m really liking them.

These were early works of mine, these early forms. I see that in a lot of my shapes… I paint around suggested forms to find the forms. The more I superimpose something, that makes more of an illusion.

Another thing I do is integrate space… I see this over and over, these forms, like bones or faces. But these lines create the magic, building up the space that way.

EN: How much comes from within as opposed to replicating what you see?

EK: No, it’s just creating and moving forms. If you go through these you’ll see how they changed so much. This one is from 2012…. This was early on, and then see how they changed. Sometimes I go back into my sketchbooks and redo them, superimposing on what was once subtle, but now evolved, showing somewhat a development. That’s what I’ve been doing with all my paintings, going back into them, so there’s push and pull. It’s not about the subject, but about forms, forms that have an emotional quality.

That’s kind of what I do.

* * *

SEE more of Elizabeth Kuth's paintings at

Featured eBook of the Day: The Breaking Point and Other Stories

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Visit with Island Lake Artist Elizabeth Kuth

A few years ago I was visiting the office of then-director of the Duluth Art Institute Kat Eldred.  While talking I became distracted (captivated) by a painting on her office wall. She said it was by an artist who lived out on Island Lake, Elizabeth Kuth, and she practically insisted I see her studio someday.

A few years passed but someday finally came. Earlier this summer I made the trek out. Here I found an artist creating a symphonies of shape, color and form under the direction of her own internal conductor. The word "impressed" is an understatement.

When I arrived that evening she first showed me the large canvases she had stored in her garage. From there we went down to her studio, which is set apart from the house. Essentially we looked at her work, moving from piece to piece, taking in the scope of her creative endeavors, frequently pausing to engage each piece. All this time she provided background on the paintings or an explanation of the problems she’d set about to resolve in each piece.

Her enthusiasm extended beyond the work to her various sources of inspiration, including the energy of horses and the mystery of deep sea monsters. What follows are sections of notes from the exchange that followed. I consider the visit to have been a privilege.

Eliabeth Kuth: This is one of my earlier ones. I just got angry and (was) using dark colors. This is one of the first ones I was doing drawing on. It’s kind of like rock painting, like prehistoric time. I am looking for simplistic form in that way. I am doing forms that are childlike or animal like. Maybe from living out here so long I have connections with nature forms.

I actually need to have a lot of quietness around me. That’s one that started it for me. Scratching marks on it… like a cave drawing.

I’ve been told my work is ethereal. I see that… It calms me down. I am so far over in a visual mind rather than a mathematical mind, so my things are about fantasy with fantasy forms. Imaginative forms come out.

* * *

This is something influencing me now. I’m making a connection with horses. Horses connect to the soul. Also this is influencing me. (She shows me a book about animals in the super deep sea.) They have a lot of mystery. A lot has a sense of birthing, or something coming out of something else and transforming it into something else.

* * *

A lot of my work is coming from the unconscious, that Karl Jungian thing…. This line is responding to this line, creating an energy that takes you that way. We’re always in constant change, and so the work is that way.

Life gets thrust upon you, and that’s the way art painting is. You thrust upon it and don’t tell it what to do.

* * *

EN: How did you become a painter?

EK: I used to draw all the time when I was a little kid, In my bedroom. There were five kids in the family. I didn’t want any conflict so I used to go to my room and draw all the time. When I got out of high school I went to a junior college and then to art school. I knew this was what I wanted to do… went to Minneapolis School of Art & Design. Then I came back here to Duluth because I didn’t have any money to carry on.

In the studio: Track lighting and three large canvases simultaneously.
So this thing of being a loner started to evolve around then. I liked to be by myself and draw. I liked to be by myself and paint. I did a lot of drawing, pen and ink things, did lithography. I was living in an apartment behind my dad’s dental business. I was doing that and working at a photography store, but that is where I found meaning.

My dad wanted me to open a gift shop downstairs in his place. I was upstairs in an apartment but his building was down below.

I got married and had two children, then took a watercolor class with Cheng Ki Chee. Did watercolor for 17 years. I taught at the Depot and adult ed classes in the area for a while.

After my divorce I went back to school. That’s when I started oil painting and printmaking. And that’s when I started to draw every day.

Do come back tomorrow to see more paintings and here the rest of her story.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Local Art Seen: The Sophronia Project (Don't Miss It)

Yesterday afternoon I finally made it to The Barn in Wrenshall, home of the Free Range Film Festival. Picture a rural Northern MN community with Grant Woods hayfields and cornfields shrouded with fog set on the outskirts of a laid back community of 399. This weekend for a brief snatch of time The Barn hosted The Sophronia Project, a collaborative digital multimedia event that is being shared in various locations about the state, including the Walker Art Museum, The PROVE Gallery in Duluth, and on September 11 the Duluth Art Institute.

Primary visionaries in this installation / interactive performance include artist Joellyn Rock, multimedia composer Kathy McTavish and netprov creator Rob Wittig. When I arrived to check things out there were a whole assortment of assistant collaborators including Tobin Dack (the electronic music man), Lizzy Siemens, and many more who are acknowledged fully on the Travelling Sophronia Facebook Page.

The collaborative project offers both physical and virtual space where participants may spin their own stories of Sophronia, an imaginary city invented (or discovered) by Italo Calvino and which appears in his book Invisible Cities.

The project is a full-scale interactive wonderment, a circus conceived for a new age, stimulating all the senses including the imagination. I share it here in hopes that you will mark September 11 on your calendar so that you do not miss it.

On the walls, the graffiti angel mixes text and digital imagery gleaned from the project database... In a glowing tent, the audience can play along with projected video and digital animations to become part of the carnival...

The mood when I arrived was suffused with energetic cheer as Ann Gumpper and others attended to assembling the final embellishments on the tent housing the heart of this audio/visual experience. My photos here only hint at what the project is like to experience.

For more information about Sophronia, visit

Joellyn Rock is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of a Career Development grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council ( which is funded in part by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, Minnesota State Legislature, and The McKnight Foundation. Graffiti Angel in Sophronia was first presented at Northern Spark 2014 with the support of Northern and the Walker Art Center. Special thanks to the Motion and Media Across Disciplines Lab at University of Minnesota Duluth.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

No Trivial Pursuit: Whatever Happened To Dylanologist Tony Scaduto?

Whatever became of Anthony Scaduto? In 1972 the Chicago Tribune called him "heir apparent to the title of Dylanologist Number One." This accolade was based on the determined and detailed analysis he brought to his research while writing his book on Bob Dylan. Scaduto was the first Dylan biographer to approach the life of Dylan as a journalist and not a fan.

The reason I ask where he is today is that sometime about a month ago I received an interesting email from a woman in Chicago who knew him when he wrote the book on Bob Dylan. She contacted me because of my blog review of Scaduto's book.

The details of Scaduto's career are sketchy. For a brief period he seems to have been high profile, beginning with the Dylan bio (1972) and his 1974 investigation into the Bruno Richard Hauptmann case whom he believes was railroaded for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. He also wrote bios of Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. But he cut his teeth as a reporter for the New York Post where he was known as an expert on crime and the mob.

According to Richie Unterberger of AllMusic, "The fact that he was, for that era, old for a rock critic (he was around 40 when he wrote the book) probably worked to his advantage. It was a time when young rock critics tended to idolize their subjects, an approach Scaduto never bought into. He also had a lot of reporting experience, not just about music, but also as a police reporter, sometimes covering organized crime. He knew the importance of investigative research, and digging for material that wasn't always going to be easy to find." **

Scaduto got the assignment to do a Dylan bio when it started to become apparent that writing about rock might be something profitable. Grosset & Dunlap called and asked if he might be interested in doing a book on Johnny Winter. Scaduto re-directed. Dylan was the only subject matter that really interested him.

What's a mystery is how a high profile writer with connections to the N.Y. publishing scene would go into hibernation and not leverage these contacts and advantages. According to Wikipedia, Scaduto also writes under the name Tony Sciacca but a quick Google search there only leads to the same books on Amazon, but under a different name.

Maybe it was his boldness in writing about Frank Sinatra's mafia connections that got him into hot water. Or his daring Who Killed Marilyn? with its suggestive subtitle "And Did the Kennedy's Know?"

Scaduto worked hard to develop his craft and it paid off. In the 70's he tackled some big stories. After his season in the sun, he's carried a decidedly lower profile. If Tony's still around, I know one fan who would still like to find him. If you have an information, drop me an email. ennyman [at] northlc [dot] com.

Meantime, life goes on all around you.

* Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune, Sunday May 7, 1972