Thursday, February 11, 2016

When I Paint My Masterpiece: DAI Presents "Public Doman" & "Land of Wonder"

"Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent when I paint my masterpiece."

One privilege of youth is that you can throw caution to the wind and liberally pursue your passions, no strings to tie you down. The whole experience is made richer by the recklessness of your abandon. Even when you get too close to the sun because you tried to kiss the sky and the the heat melts the wax off your feathers, you can later remember with fondness how it felt... assuming you have a place to make a soft landing.

Later in life you have too many responsibilities to be so carefree. If you have assets you have to think about them. If you have children, a job, a mortgage... you cannot -- unless you're a one-percenter -- just set out like a message in a bottle leaving your destination to the wind and currents.

I mention all this because tonight Ken Bloom's photography exhibit "Public Doman" goes on display at the Duluth Art Institute. In his youth, Bloom followed his bliss and bought a one way ticket to Japan, accompanied by his Leica camera. "Public Domain" is a fulfilling backward look at this experience.

Bloom is Director of the Tweed Museum of Art located on the campus of UMD. Tonight is the opening reception for this show in the Morrison Gallery along with Shawna Gilmore's exhibition of new work. Both galleries are on the fourth floor of the Duluth Depot.

You will find “Land of Wonder: New Paintings by Shawna Gilmore” in the John Steffl Gallery. Gilmore, who paints in acrylic, is a storyteller whose imagery crosses generations. On March 9 she will be giving a family-friendly Artist Talk that will include youth activities, but her work isn't all kid's stuff. As Picasso famously quipped, "It takes a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child." In this case, it is learning to paint with the eyes of a child, to see something fresh in the world we move through and often take for granted. A special feature of this exhibit is a cell phone audio tour stop, where you can listen to the artist talk about her work.

When Jim Morrison of The Doors sang, "This is the strangest life I've ever known" he conveyed it with an ominous texture. Gilmore's world may also be a rendering of strange imagery, but her stories reflect whimsy and delight. You can get a feel for her approach by reading about her show at the Kruk Gallery at UWS last fall.

Also on display during tonight's event is the annual Members Exhibition in the Depot's Great Hall, comprised of work by DAI members created during the past year. If you missed that reception in January, here's a second chance.

For more, visit the Facebook page for this event.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Check it out. It's free.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Almost Wordless: Local Art Seen from Red Mug to Studio 15

Top two: Nissa Wick's paintings interpret Eric Archer's photos at the Red Mug.
Below: Eris Vafias works in a variety of media; on display at Studio 15.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl 50

The Kickoff Show begins with the introduction of 49 Super Bowl MVPs. A rich way to walk through NFL history, or at least the last fifty years.

Observation: I couldn't help but notice that a number of the quarterbacks were limping as they walked to their places.

After a couple commercials, the teams themselves are lauded onto the field. First, the Carolina Panthers with the fanfare and wonder of flames and rockets. Next, the Denver Bronco led by a white bronc and more flames and rockets. The energy is exploding as the story unfolds.

In the pre-pre-game we were taken to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and Michelle. America showcases it's president and its national pasttime. Just before the national anthem we're treated to a Captain America movie trailer... soon followed by the "America" presented by our joint armed forces choir, signed by Marlee Matlin and surrounded by the flags of many nations. The Joint Service Color Guard came forth to stand by Lady Gaga as she sang our National Anthem. The choreography of stars and glory and Navy flyover indeed achieved the emotional effect aimed for. Like, yeah.

Observation: In keeping with expectations, the commercials so far have been stellar.

This year's coin toss is by Joe Montana. Carolina wins the toss, choosing to kick so Peyton Manning will be first QB to take the field.

First commercial after the coin toss: Hyundai. "A dad's gotta do what a dad's gotta do." Funny. Carfinder.

First play, easy completion for 18 yards. Peyton on the move. And after a great run, they stall in the Red Zone. Field goal. First to score: Broncos.

Commercials after the score. Very good. Avocados from Mexico makes its first move. Kickoff. Fifteen seconds. More commercials. Hyundai funny one with bears... Followed by Jeff Goldblum playing a piano being lifted by crane. Mmmm, more celebs.  What next?

Cam throws a bit high in his first pass to a wide open receiver. Too much enthusiasm or energy to burn. Second pass caught a foot shy of a first down, so they will kick on fourth. Denver gets it back again.

More commercials. Mobile Strike. Then a hilarious Doritos spot. New Money and Old Money spot. Hmmm. PayPal is back.

Panthers show some D (3 and out) and we're backto the commercials. The Jungle Book trailer. And then that fabulous Audi spot, The Commander. Yeah. Never tired of this one. "Choosing the moon brings out the best in us." Nice tagline.

First play is a long pass, which is ruled an incomplete. Carolina challenges the ruling on the field, so we have still more commercials. In the end, the "ruling on the field stands." Hmmmm. The talking heads disagree with the verdict.

Wow... next two plays make it look tough. Running back stomped and limping off field. Then Cam hit in backfield, fumbling to produce a Denver touchdown. Here come the commercials.


More game, more commercials. More scoring, this time by Panthers. More commercias.


You get the picture.

Here is my favorite spot so far....

Enjoy the rest of the Big Show.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Get Ready To Watch "Brand Bowl 50"

In case you haven't noticed, today's wide world of sports is all about marketing. Marketing is at the center of commerce, and commerce is at the center of our way of life, at least here in the Western world of capitalist democracy.

One feature of modern marketing is brand building, establishing top-of-mind awareness or zeal for a specific brand. Hence we see an abundance of company logos on race cars, at sporting events and in television commercials.

Atop the endcap at a local grocery store.
The logo is the company's "mark" much like the iron brand used by cattlemen to mark their livestock in the Old West. It needed to be distinctive and definitive. So it is that companies strive to establish a "mark" that sums up who they are, or at least brings to mind everything they represent.

In tomorrow's game, you'll notice that the Denver Bronco and Carolina Panthers wear their logos on their helmets. It's their "mark." They also each wear their distinctive colors, another feature of a well-defined brand. Companies have logos and specific colors associated with them. They may not be as flamboyant as today's sports teams, but they're not random either.

So what has the Super Bowl become at age 50? It's not just about a game. We can't deny that it's a big deal for the teams who are playing, and their fans. A Super Bowl title is a major achievement for any franchise, and those rings are worth more emotionally than the bonuses paid to the game winners. For a lot of people it's the commercials that entice us to stay to the end. And for quite a few it's that over-the-top extravaganza known as the Halftime Show. And what is the Halftime Show? It's something akin to the Bowl itself, as various stars and performers vie for contention to have their "brand" selected as the feature billing on the world's largest stage. Isn't that what celebs are these days? They're brands. When you say Springsteen, Madonna, Dylan, you're no longer talking about persons. These are franchises. This year's winners were Bruno and Beyonce.

The price tag on this year's Super Bowl spots is five million for each thirty seconds. That's just air time and doesn't include production costs. For a 55 billion dollar dollar company like Audi a Super Bowl spot is chump change, but their presence in the Big Game sends a clear message that they are a player. Their 90-second spot is worthy of getting listed as a contender for any top ten list of Super Bowl commercials. My opinion. Titled "The Commander" it carries added emotional punch by use of the recently deceased David Bowie's "Starman" as soundtrack followed this past week by Apollo astronaut Ed Mitchell's passing Thursday.

How do brands measure success for a campaign like this? To some extent it's measured in buzz. Their aim is to move the needle with regard to sales, but is that the only measure? One key measure in our internet age is brand engagement.

Here's a cool website that is measuring how many times people post something about a brand on social media, measured by hashtags. It's a dynamic infographic in the shape of a football field, a real-time hashtag tracker for the Super Bowl ads. They're calling it the #BrandBowl. According to the microsite's developers, "Hashtags have become the defacto call-to-action over website urls so we decided to track the hashtags to see which ads resonated with TV watchers the most. For marketers who are more interested in the commercials than the game itself, the BrandBowl is a great way to follow the social action throughout the game."

If you've got your laptop with you while watching the game Sunday, The Brand Bowl will help you keep in touch with all the action.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Local Art Scene: February Twin Ports Arts Happenings

We're only five days into the month and three art openings are already behind us. Monday Zeitgeist Cafe hosted Carolyn Olson's opening reception. Wednesday you may have enjoyed Nissa Wick and and Eric Archer's opening at The Red Mug. If you missed it the two paired up to do an interesting blend of photography and painting, pairs of the same images in two different media. Last night, if you weren't there, you missed Dale Lucas's opening at Beaners.

"Have You Seen My Marbles" by Eris Vafias
Tomorrow night Studio 15 (15 N. 3rd Avenue W.) is hosting Eris Vafias' Collection of Chaos. The opening reception is slated for 6:30 - 9:00 p.m with special guest musicians: WWP Acoustic Trio (Willie Waldman: Trumpet, Mark Joseph: Guitar, and Jim Britt: Percussion.) This collection of work created by Eris Vafias will include paintings, photography and assemblage/conceptual art.

Next week there's plenty more in store with no serious snow in the forecast. Thursday is the opening reception for two new exhibitions at the Duluth Art Institute, 5-7 p.m. Shawna Gilmore's "Land of Wonder" will be on display in the John Steffl Gallery from February 4 - April 2. Gilmore describes her work as "exploring edges of wonder and reality... These surreal scenes convey other worlds where I can escape to process experiences, observations or obsessions."  Then, in the Morrison Gallery you will find a photographic exhibit by Tweed Museum director Ken Bloom titled Public Domain who in his adventurous youth bought a one-way ticket to Japan to begin three years of cultural immersion, capturing something of a vision along the way with his one luxury, a Leica camera.

Friday the 12th is once again the annual Love Your Local Artist event at the Superior Library. Not often do we get to drink wine in the library. In years past we have seen as many as 30 artists' work while enjoying a string quartet accompaniment. It's a great way to experience a variety of work and especially gives an opportunity for emerging artists to show and share. A good opportunity to purchase last minute Valentine gifts, too, in the event you've been neglectful.

Here are some additional upcoming arts events and happenings gleaned from Esther Piszczek's column in the Budgeteer.

The Red Herring Lounge, Robert Dewitt Adams, new paintings and collage, "In Site: Twin Ports labor History", Friday, February 12, 5-8 p.m.; 208 E. 1st Street; Robert Dewitt Adams: A Multi-Media Artist on The Playlist.

Shawna Gilmore's paintings on display in the John Steffl Gallery at the DAI
Duluth Art Institute's Design Duluth Series, a year-long series that explores Design in Duluth: Gimajii American Indian Center, "How is Duluth Home?", Thursday, February 18, 5:30 p.m.; 202 W. 2nd Street Featuring: Gimajii Artists.

Twin Ports Student Art Show Holden Fine Arts Center, Kruk Gallery, University of Wisconsin. February 1-25; Open Monday thru Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closing Ceremony: February 25.

Benchmark Tattoo, apprentices Jeremy Souders & Kyle James, tattoo flash paintings, Counterculture, 1831 E. Eighth Street.

Pizza Luce, Employee Art Exhibit; 11 East Superior Street.

Zeitgeist, 222 E. Superior Street Café: An exhibition of paintings by Carolyn Olson continues through March 2016.

Atrium: Sue Rauschenfels' nature watercolor paintings on display through end February 2016.

Recommended: Stay current on Twin Ports arts and Zentangle artist Esther Piszczek at her Facebook page here and the Twin Ports Arts Align page.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Current and Recent Readings: Too Many Books, Too Little Time

There really are so many good books out there. We read them for different reasons. Some serve as simply a diversion. Others provide nutrition for our souls. Still others give our "brain muscles" a workout. Here are a few books that I've been enjoying right now or recently completed.

Symmetry by Marcus du Sautoy
I picked up this gem after recently re-reading my interview with Portuguese artist Margarida Sardinha regarding her 2015 project Symmetry's Portal which led me into revisiting (via books) the remarkable features of The Alhambra.

The Red Book by Carl Jung
The Amazon listing about this volume calls it "the most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology." My friend Dan introduced me to this hefty volume so I could see the illustrations, more than 200 in all. But the substance is Jung's private wrestling with the meaning of Self, consciousness and universal truths about who we are. Four decades ago I read Jung's Memories, Dreams and Reflections and was impressed with his candor.

50 Philosophy Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon
I finished the audiobook in December. Having found it to be such a valuable resource I purchased the paper version to use as a reference. A great thought-stimulator. Useful tool for stirring up themes to cogitate upon so you can produce the illusion that you're a deep thinker.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Exceptionally insightful.  Listened to the audiobook this past month and will do it again. Utilizes insights from the latest research in neuroscience. Compelling stories bring home essential truths. Yes, we're creatures of habit, and when those habits are bad ones we need to apply ourselves to cultivating new ones. We begin by becoming aware of our triggers.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
Duhigg's book uses stories from a variety of sources. One of these sources was Claude Hopkins, an influential ad man from the first half of the twentieth century. I'd read Hopkins many years ago because my own advertising guru, David Ogilvy, consider Hopkins his own shining light. Were you aware that it was an ad campaign by Claude Hopkins that prodded a whole nation of people to regularly brush their teeth?

Illustration from The Red Book
The Light on Synanon by Dave Mitchell, Cathy Mitchell and Richard Ofshe
Current bedtime reading. When I read it in the early 1990's it triggered an idea for a story which later became an unproduced screenplay. Still gonna try to resurrect that project if I live long enough.

Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
Currently reading this one as I commute. Absolutely compelling thus far. Reminds us of the context when that first moonshot took place, during the Cold War. The Russians had already embarrassed us with Sputnik and other achievements. A moon landing would be a major PR coup, which really amounted to a "puff our chests out" opportunity to gloat. Had the Russians been first on the moon would that have meant Soviet communism was superior to our democratic capitalism? Rocket Men is an excellent addition to the many other books about the story of NASA. An good follow up to Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. (EdNote: A few reviews on Amazon indicate that this book may not be entirely reliable in all its facts, though for now it's been a good read.)

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What are you reading these days?