Friday, August 31, 2012

Author Eddie Upnick and Time Will Tell

Once confined to fantasy and science fiction, time travel is now simply an engineering problem.
~Michio Kaku, Wired Magazine, Aug. 2003  

Because of this blog I am offered review copies of books on a fairly regular basis. I try not to take very many because my reading stacks are fairly backed up. Of those I do take I don't read as many as I'd like because, as the saying goes, "my eyes are bigger than my stomach."

Nevertheless, the concept in Eddie Upnick's Time Will Tell was interesting on two counts. First, because I have written a few stories related to time and alternate histories (see Unremembered Histories ) and because of my father-in-law's own superb volume about his World War II experiences, a second theme of Upnick's story.

We're all familiar with H.G. Wells' classic The Time Machine, and who has not enjoyed Hollywood's three part Back to the Future series? Here's Upnick talking about why he wrote this book.

EN: What prompted you to write this book? 
Eddie Upnick: I wrote Time Will Tell because of a chance meeting I had with a man named Sidney Dowse in 1995 in Antigua. Mr. Dowse was one of the men who escaped from Sagan, the prison camp portrayed in the 1963 movie The Great Escape. He was one of 76 men who escaped from the German prisoner of war camp. 50 of the men were murdered by the Gestapo, Sidney was recaptured. The stories that Mr. Dowse finally shared with me, after three days of trying to get him to talk, were amazing. Before the war started, Sidney Dowse worked with Stewert Menzies, who headed up MI-6, British intelligence. Menzies had daily meetings with Churchill. The shocking hidden details of World War Two history were the reason I wrote Time Will Tell.

EN: Having written a book titled Future Tense, you are obviously fascinated with time. When did this kind of interest emerge in your life? 
EU: I was influenced in early childhood by Rod Serling's Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits series. Rod Serling was my greatest writing influence. His Twilight Zone episodes fascinated me a child. Gene Roddenberry was also a strong influence with the original Star Trek series. I hope readers will be both entertained by the story and learn a little lost history as well.

EN: Your book was finished in 2009. Were you surprised when Stephen King published a time travel novel about a man trying to alter the Kennedy assassination? What was you reaction to that?
EU: Stephen King's novels are interesting to me, but they had no influence on me or my writing style at all. All of his novels that relate to time keep the genre alive and well. So I wish him well.

EN: I suppose you'd like to see this as a movie. How would you compare this story to 13 Monkees with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt? 
EU: Yes, I think all three books in this trilogy would make for great movies. 13 Monkees was certainly an interesting, yet dark film with a time travel theme. I would envision my "movies" as more uplifting and humorous.

EN: What are the biggest challenges in writing this kind of fiction? 
EU: I call my writing style reality-based science fiction. Beginning each book with a real life premise and slowly morph into the Sci-Fi elements keeps the books believable and entertaining.

2052, the final book deals with the end of life on Earth and how our heroes attack the problem, battling enemies and getting help from allies in outer space. 2052 answers all the open questions left from the first two books.

40 years of stories told to me by top level people in many industries helped me piece this trilogy together. These novels are a fast read, that much I can promise your readers.

* * *

EdNote: Though the book will never be considered classic literature there are readers who will enjoy the game. It's always interesting to see where another person's unrestrained imagination will take a reader if they choose to follow. Like all fiction of this type the enjoyment requires the usual suspension of disbelief. There is a lot of improbable to impossible here, but isn't that a given in time travel stories? The book is available in paperback as well as the digital version on Kindle. Download the beginning free and if it grips you, go for it.
In the meantime, make the most of your weekend.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Calls for Artists and Opportunities for Patrons

It's exciting to see new venues open up for artists to show their work. The art call from Edgewood Vista caught me by surprise, though it shouldn't have. Throughout our lives we're nourished by the arts, and why not be surrounded with it in our sunset years as well.

If you're an artist who missed any of these "calls" for art, it's not too late to assemble something for one, if not all four, of these shows. The first here invites all artists, with no entry fees or requirement to be a professional. It's an opportunity for closet artists to gain an audience. The second is a call for submissions to the PROVE Gallery's September show, curated by the Collective's newest team member Kathleen Roberts. The third is for the next round of Phantom Galleries Superior events. Funding came through for the program to continue. And fourth is the Duluth Art Institute's juried show for 2012. The deadline is tight for all of these but it's not to late to make contact and see which one is suited for you.

And for friends of the arts, I hope we'll see you at the openings. Be sure to mark your calendars!

Art for the Ages

Art Call - "Art for the Ages"
Edgewood Vista has announced a call to artists for an exhibition to be held September 9-12, 2012.The event helps increase awareness for National Assisted Living Week .

The invitation it open to all 2D and 3D artists. Amateur or professional artists welcome. (Paintings, illustrations, woodwork, pottery, photography, fiber art, quilts, glasswork, jewelry, sculpture, etc...) No entry fee required. Artwork can be available for display or for sale - with a portion of sales donated to the Alzheimer's Association.

And for the public:

"ART FOR THE AGES" RECEPTIONS
Thursday, September 13 from 3-6pm
A professional reception with local businesses and health care providers.
Saturday, September 15 from 2-4pm
An open house for the community.
Questions? Please contact Rachel Larson at rachell@edgewoodvista.com or (218) 723-8905. Edgewood Vista 4195 Westberg Road Hermantown, MN


PRØVE Gallery announces an Open Call for Submissions for the show “Playground”

Show Description: With autumn now fully upon us, it’s time to return to school, work, and dwelling indoors. In honor of years past, when the return to school meant finger-painting, eating paste, and hitting other children with your lunchbox, Prøve Gallery invites you to submit to “Playground.” Art that addresses the idea of play – whether by approaching art in a playful way or incorporating lighthearted subject matter – will be considered for this show. Every form of art is welcome; we just want to have a little fun!

Prøve Gallery, Duluth, Minnesota’s independent and artist run contemporary gallery, is proud to announce “Playground,” opening September 14, 2012.

An extensive description of the show, and requirements for submission can be found on the Prøve Gallery Facebook page. Deadline is Sept 1 for artist submissions for consideration with drop off dates September 6-8. The Opening will be September 14. Mark your calendars.


Phantom Galleries Superior 

The Phantom Galleries call reads like this:  
Hey savvy creative ones! We're excited to invite you to submit proposals for the 2012 and 2013 Phantom Galleries. Deadline Sept. 1, 2012. Pass the word.

Artists in all media, including live art and performance, where some component can be made visual 24/7 are encouraged to apply. Scroll down on this invitation to find the details/call and what's new in an earlier post.

Request a pdf version of the application by sending an email to erikamock@gmail.com
Or contact: Erika Mock at 715.392.1150


DAI 2012 Arrowhead Biennial Exhibition

The call for submissions went out some time ago and the deadline is just around the corner. Like, September 1. This important show is a juried event and a wonderful showcase for serious artists.

Full details are available here at the Duluth Art Institute website.

AND if this isn't enough... there's another big Gallery Hop brewing for October. Very special two-night event. Watch for details here, there and everywhere. Hope your day is a great one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adam Swanson Opening at the Zeitgeist

Last night after work I was able to slip over to the Zeitgeist Arts Café here in Duluth to catch the opening for Adam Swanson's new show featuring 35 paintings. The turnout was strong, and the space filled with lively discussion and energy. I saw that Swanson’s vibrant colors are as vibrant as ever. And though many of his themes remain -- windmills, penguins, bicycles – there are other themes appearing.

Before coming to Duluth Swanson lived for 3 years in Ithaca, NY working as a book and manuscript conservator (and also painting) and later moved to Antarctica for a 9 month contract position fixing and working on boats used for science, the apparent inspiration for those penguins which add salt and pepper to his colorful scenes.

When he arrived in Minnesota he settled into a cabin on the north shore of Lake Superior, eventually finding a spot in Duluth to work on art full-time. His home away from the studio is Zeitgeist Café where he serves as a bartender.

Swanson’s whimsical work has appeared in numerous venues around town including, most prominently, Lizzard’s on Superior Street.

In a 2010 interview Swanson said he has been making art since he was a child, but began to take it more seriously during his undergraduate degree in studio art at UMD. “I paint now because it's the best way I can think of to make imagery that grabs people and expresses some of my ideas. I like to paint because it is a meditation that I have on an idea. Painting is something I am working on getting better at, so that I can communicate more clearly.” He added that he loves all art forms and would love to get into sculpture or film someday if the opportunity arises.

His influences include Vincent VanGogh, Andrew Goldsworthy, Talouse Lautrec, Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, Edward Gorey and many more.

The bicycles, which appeared in much of his early work have a symbolic value, representative of human ingenuity. “They have character and are very lovely, efficient machines,” he said. “Bikes are also a great way for me to experiment with my technique. They are complicated objects with lots of little bits and pieces and it has been fun to (try and) pare it down to minimum components. Most of the bikes I paint are of friends or loved ones. Many are of the 1969 Schwinn Cruiser my dad gave me.”

Swanson primarily chooses to paint on masonite rather than canvas. “Masonite is cheap and sturdy, and often made of recycled materials. I have thought about painting on birch or some type of wood, to lower the acidity (though I am not sure it would). But masonite always seems to be so much flatter and straighter. And I gesso it up pretty good before painting.”

The artist currently lives in Duluth’s Central Hillside. You owe it to yourself to make an effort to check out his show sometime soon.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Six Minutes With Rock Art Magician Peter Juhl

Peter Juhl
I discovered Peter Juhl's photos of rock art two weekends ago at the Bayfront Art Fair. Most of us have seen the growing interest in rock assemblies and sculptures here and there, along a creek in the park or as a decorative piece in a rock garden. What you have never seen are the kinds of rock sculptures Mr. Juhl enjoys making. It was a delight watching people stop in to see his photos and to examine the examples he had balanced there, some which seemed impossible. "There's no superglue" he explained as he disassembled and re-assembled an unusual piece.

EN: What's the story behind your rock balancing photos? How did your interest in rock balancing begin? 
Invert
PJ: I began balancing rocks on vacations to the North Shore of Lake Superior when my children were young. We'd spend hours on the beach hunting for agates and skipping stones. I recalled a kid in my junior-high lunchroom balancing a tilted salt shaker on a little pile of salt, then blowing the excess salt away. That made a big impression on me.

I tried the technique with rocks and little piles of sand, and quickly found out that it didn't translate, but I did discover that I could use any little chip or depression on an outcropping to nestle the end of an oblong rock in and maneuver it around until it balanced. Soon I was trying to get two or three up, and succeeding. I played with simple balancing for about fifteen years and took a few photos to give as gifts. It was always on a kind of back-burner simmer, but I didn't have a lot of time to devote to any of it until my kids were in college.

So about four years ago I decided to take some time during a family vacation to balance a lot of rocks and take a lot of photos with the new digital SLR I had gotten. It didn't really pan out because I was too distracted by all the other fun things like cookouts, hikes, and general socializing that happen on a family vacation. That's when I decided to go up to the shore alone and just work all day for a couple of days. And I discovered the importance of having time to focus. I got some really nice photos from that trip, and now I separate my vacation trips from my working trips.

EN: Were you doing photography before this?
PJ: I've been interested in photography for most of my life. I collected cameras for a long time and actually used the old cameras a lot. I took some of my first balanced rock photos twenty years ago with a 4X5-inch Speed Graphic like the ones used by photojournalists in the nineteen-forties. I still have a darkroom in my house, with a huge enlarger for those 4X5 sheet film negatives. These days I shoot mostly digital, but still haul out the 4X5 from time to time. The photos you can get from a large negative and good lens are really smooth and delicious, and the whole experience of being in the darkroom with the smells of the chemicals and the slower process of "discovering" the photos is good to come back to.

The first requirement for a good photo is an interesting subject, and not being blessed with a very good eye for subjects, I've sometimes fallen into the trap of letting it be all about equipment. Once I got some rock balancing skills, I had subjects I was passionate about, and the photography, while still a struggle sometimes, suddenly had a very specific foundation on which to grow.

EN: Do you have an "artist statement" about your work?
PJ: Here's the statement I've been using:

A good magic trick presents what we know to be a deception and makes us want to believe it’s real. A good balanced rock sculpture does the opposite: We know it’s real, but want to believe it’s a trick.

Drawing on elements of performance art, sculpture, and meditation, I arrange natural stones found on location, using only shape, weight, and friction to create a unique composition. I don’t use glue, magnets, or other artificial supports: The rocks are held up by nothing more than high-school physics and maybe a little karma. The sculptures may last a few minutes, or a few hours – with luck, long enough to be photographed. The photographs provide a kind of second incarnation to the sculptures, which have long since returned to the environment.

Though I try to create sculptures that look implausible, I also strive to elevate the stones in another sense, taking them from objects disregarded under our feet to essential elements in an organized and beautiful structure. My goal is to contrast the simple strength of these individual stones with the complexity and fragility of the work as a whole, which evokes a sense of serenity and comfortable tension.

EN: You appear to be having fun with this. Does part of the enjoyment come from having an audience and from seeing peoples' reactions?
PJ: This art form gives back to me in so many ways. I do love to balance in front of an audience and see the amazement on their faces. It really seems to delight people, and that is always gratifying. But I also love spending a whole day alone on a lovely beach, creating and trying new things. The moment when I give a final twist or nudge and can release a new piece into the world is like a mental "pop" releasing me from the many minutes of focus I put into it and freeing me to relax and enjoy the result. And I really love the thought that my photos are hanging in people's homes, being enjoyed.

To see more of Peter Juhl's beautiful photography and art, visit www.temporarysculpture.com

 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Eagle Has Landed

Neil Armstrong passed away yesterday. He was 82.

In an age where the biggest benefit of knowing facts and dates is for getting points in games like Trivia Pursuit, we often take for granted and fail to fully comprehend the meaning of these events or their subsequent benefits. The technical commitment to achieving a moonwalk resulted in innumerable gizmos and gadgets that are now ho hum to us. Improvements in miniaturization was just one of the many requirements for accomplishing the Columbia endeavor. But there have been countless overall benefits in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, computer technology and industrial productivity.

My first blog entry in the summer of 2007 was titled "One Small Step for a Man, One Giant Leap..." Neil Armstrong's declaration 38 years earlier was evidently still rattling around inside my head. These were words that reverberated throughout the world. A man, a human being like one of us, had set foot on the moon, a true rocket man. And there were no Golden Arches there yet.

To read more, Dan Vergano's USA Today story is a concise, nicely done tribute. Neil Armstrong: A quiet hero who left his mark on history

Urban Myth: NASA developed teflon for the space program.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Uprooted: Part XX Jail Time

On Saturday mornings this blog is devoted to the serialized telling of the Ralph Kand story. Kand, a young man with a withered leg who fled Estonia when the Red Army began its westward march in autumn 1944, had been living in Schrunz, an Austrian ski resort town that hugged the Swiss Alps. With the approach once more of the Soviet advance he attempted to escape to freedom by going over the mountains. This plan was thwarted by Nazi soldiers and Ralph was jailed in Germany.

Jail Time

The cells were located in the basement of the county office building, an old sandstone structure in the vicinity of Munich. A few of the sullen-eyed men who occupied the row of steel cages looked up at Ralph as he was escorted by two Nazi police to his new residence. Here he was given instruction regarding the use of the toilet, the shortage of blankets, the feeding regimen and other practical matters. Each cell had two small buckets of water. Because there was no running water, one bucket was for flushing the toilet, the second for drinking and bathing. As the cell door clanked shut an icy grimness withered his spirit. 

"What have you been charged with?" said the man in the next cell who called himself Franz.

"I don't know. I'll find out at the hearing."

"Ha! That's a good one. When is your hearing?"

"I don't know. Why is all this funny to you?"

"Franz! Leave him be," someone called.

"Why is this funny to you?" Ralph repeated.

"There will be no hearings until they rebuild the courthouse," Franz explained.

"Allied bombs," a voice from another cell called.

Ralph soon learned that there were bombing raids taking place in the region almost every night now. The courthouse had been badly damaged a month earlier and all trials suspended until further notice.

"The bombs don't know we're here. No one knows we're here right now."

Ralph turned and studied the man in the opposite cell. This one had hardly breathed during all this, sitting hunched forward on his bunk, staring at the backs of his hands.

"Pssst."

Ralph whirled. Franz held his chin up in the air as if here a high-minded professor looking down his nose at Ralph. "Don't pay attention to him."

Franz informed Ralph that he was from Bavaria. It wasn't clear from his story what precisely landed him in jail but he was friendly and made an earnest attempt to be helpful.

"There's a library here by the way. You can ask for books. Reading is a good way to pass the time. Do you read?"

"People who don't read are no different from animals," Ralph said coldly, but his heart was warmed by this prospect of having access to books.

Late in the afternoon there was a commotion at the end of the hall. It turned out to be the food cart. Two uniformed Germans delivered a small plate of potatoes to each cell. When Ralph saw how small the portions were his stomach churned.

One of the Germans seemed to pity Ralph when he noticed how he hobbled. Ralph addressed the officer in German. "Any news from outside?" His name was Martin.

"No one believes what they're saying on the radio. The only thing we know for sure is that there will probably be more Allied planes tonight."

"And less food tomorrow," the other said. He was a large, barrel-chested man named Steffen.

The following day Ralph acquired his first stack of books, including Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. By the end of the week there was another book he strove to acquire, a German-English dictionary.

CONTINUED

Friday, August 24, 2012

Matthew Oman's Series of Art

“I don’t think I mentioned that my biggest/favorite/most complex piece of artwork is my house.” ~Matt Oman

On Saturday, August 25th, 2012, Matt Oman will be having an art sale at his home. From 1:00 to 2:00 all available works will be on view; then starting at 2:00 purchases can be made.

Former Duluth News-Tribune art critic Ann Klefstad describes Oman and his work this way:

MATT OMAN RECENTLY GRADUATED FROM UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA-DULUTH with a history degree, but his house is a work of art. His very ordinary home has become, through his sowing of books, images, arrangements of objects, and more, a kind of machine for mindfulness, a way of externalizing and developing ideas. It's a three-dimensional materialization of a mind.

He's compiled his interests in physical form and arrayed them inside his living space in a most curious way. Some of the thematics are: books, Zebulon Pike, mountains, skiing, snow, Pawnee cosmology, baseball, blue jays, dogs, the signs given out by the forms of living beings (say, the forms trees take when they grow, and how those forms are retained in driftwood). The flows that shape the dead are also important: how does water form wood and rocks? Art, personal history, the nature of persons, the workings of color and form -- all are part of Oman's concrete imaginary.

Oman says he enjoys beauty, as does every person, but more than the average person. "I need it as much as possible… visible all around me. Thus, ever since I was young, I would place things that I liked, that looked good and nice to me, on my walls, dresser space, etc., and arrange them so that they were 'at their best,'" Oman told me last winter. "By that I mean that their overall position within the context of the entire room, their near and distant neighbors/juxtapositions, all maximized the inherent beauty of the object. The object then was for ALL the objects, pictures on the wall, etc, to achieve their highest possibility."

Tomorrow's showing begins at 1:00, though purchases will be put on hold until 2:00 so that the pieces don't sell-and-leave before people get a chance to look them all over. There are approximately 50 pieces available. The mediums are collage, mixed-media, drawing, painting, and photography. There will also be coffee, pop, and snacks on hand (free of course).

The event's location will be Oman's house/garage at 1316 Foster Ave, Duluth MN, 55811. If you're unfamiliar with the street, Foster is located in the network of roads in the quiet neighborhood behind Kohl's.

More details, including an attempt to describe the unique pricing structure, can be found at Seriesofart.com. You can read more of Ann Klefstad's review here.   

Make your weekend is a special one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Dozen Things off the Top of My Head

Glassware by Robinson Scott
1. Which one does not belong in this list of Mother Earth News cover stories?
a. Care and Cultivation of Permanent Garden Beds
b. Double-Duty DIY Solar Solution
c. Incredibly Easy Homemade Pizza
d. Learn to Be Self-Sufficient (Advice from Leading Experts)
Answer: These are all cover features in the 2012 Feb/March 2012 edition. Yummm. Pizza.

2. Just saw Being Julia this past weekend. I really enjoy watching Jeremy Irons. He is so very, very good in whatever he does. The film itself was much more interesting than I expected. Kudos all around.

3. There will be an autumn Twin Port Gallery Progressive in October, the 11th and 12th. Mark your calendars.

4. On September 8, Lee "Colorblind" Johnson and I will be performing jugband music at the Carlton Chicken Swap. Anyone know anyone who might be available to join us and play washtub bass?

Patricia Canelake
5. The Robinson Scott / Patricia Canelake opening at Lizzard's was well attended last night. Nice event, interesting works. Scott, who resides in Anoka, does glass work that is very much worth seeing. Canelake titled her portion of the show "Unleashed." Her large, loose paintings of farm animals and other topics swim in color. I especially liked her mixed media work. Lizzard's gallery is a half block west of Pizza Luce and the Tech Village on Superior Street.

6. We often think we have to move faster and sleep less to accomplish more. Jesus walked everywhere, never took a subway, did not have a smartphone, never wrote a book and yet continues to influence the world nearly two thousand years later. His career, once his life work really got started, lasted less than four years.

7. Currently watching a documentary on Woody Allen. My first date in college was to ask a girl whom I'd met in orientation to go to Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. She did not laugh the whole time. I knew then that we had a problem.   

8. There is a call for submissions by the PROVE Gallery for their September show. The theme is whimsy. That is, they are looking for art that is whimsical in nature or created with that kind of light-heartedness. You can find details on Facebook.

9. A cat in the window is worth 100 points, right?

10. Why are people so fascinated with UFOs?

11. I'm currently working on a poster comprised of images of my art assembled to form a bust of Dylan. Would you pay $5 for something like that? Would you pay $10 if half went to flood victim relief?

12. “There’s no black and white, left and right to me anymore. There’s only up and down, and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up, without thinking of anything trivial such as politics.” ~Bob Dylan

Have a great day, friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spotlight on John Heino (Part 2)

Heino by Perfetti
When John Heino and I began assembling our proposal for the Phantom Galleries Superior project last year we were required to create an artist statement. We took a lot of approaches to this task before zeroing in. Here's an excerpt from a portion of what John had written initially regarding Red Interactive, our collaborative show/event.

Why red? It has a richer, wider array of connotations than any other color. It has powerful meanings in different cultures—emotion-triggering semiotics that come to us through time and space from the earliest moments of human history. Red grabs attention. Red elicits responses. We are catalysts for adventure, tapping the imagination of all who come along for the ride. 

We relish the challenge of sorting through what at times may appear to be chaos to integrate, synthesize and, in a sense, orchestrate this adventure. The glue that holds the images together is the light, the presence, or absence of, the chiaroscuro dance, the crepuscular hour between dog and wolf, the darkness holds the mystery, the light holds the truth. 

The scenery changes, but John's fascination with light continues. Here is the second half of yesterday's interview, with more of his imagery to experience. 

EN: What’s your take on what is happening today in the Twin Ports arts scene?

Eye of the Velociraptue
JH: The scene is exploding. Look at all the new galleries in the past couple years--it's really exciting! More people are engaging, the stream of new work is impressive and I think momentum is still building.

The facet that's lagging, in my opinion, is turning creative success into real economic benefits for artists, galleries and arts organizations. When I go to an opening, I still do not see many (if any) buyers with the financial wherewithal to purchase one or more pieces priced above say $100. Personally, I sell far more prints, mostly through Facebook and the client decides how to mat and frame the piece based on their budgets. It's rare that I sell a matted and framed print or a large format dye-infused aluminum piece at a local show.

We need to find out what it would take to entice more affluent art buyers in the region to buy local art. Is there some real or perceived lack of quality or vision in local art? Real, I don't think so; perceived, maybe. If that's true, how can we change that perception? Perhaps it's just collectors' interest in buying "names" -- artists with established profiles in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or some other major market. The dialog has improved since Art Works, I think, but we need to get to a point where we really understand the dynamics of the regional art market and build from there.

EN: What are you currently working on?

On the Rocks
JH: One of my highlights of the year so far was a recent shoot with dancer/model Nicole Bedard, featuring mask and costume designs by Steampunk artist Richard Rosvall. His work has tremendous visual interest and Nicole wears it well. I think we've barely tapped the potential and I'm excited to do more.

In mid-July, we also had one of the best aurora displays I've ever seen in the continental United States. It was paradise for a photographer.

I'm also very excited to be negotiating with a large hotel interested in featuring my photographs in guest rooms. We're having some large format demo prints produced now. If the results are satisfactory, I hope to finalize that arrangement in the next couple weeks. This is exactly the kind of initiative we began talking about with Art Works a few years ago. When an area hotel, restaurant, office building--whatever--is being built or remodeled, why not choose local art to decorate? It keeps money circulating right here in our local economy and showcases art that has real significance and connection to the area. Certainly, most visitors to the Twin Ports would prefer to see fine work done right here instead of some generic warehouse art from Los Angeles.

EN: Where can people see more of your work?

JH: The best place to see my work as it unfolds is my John Heino Photography page on Facebook. I also have more than 600 images on the Capture Minnesota web site along with images from hundreds of other shooters across the state. If you're not familiar with the site, it's definitely worth checking out.

In terms of physical displays, I have a dye-infused aluminum piece called "Ascent" hanging in the Duluth City Council Chambers and another one called "Arms" at Z Studio.


EdNote: You are invited to follow Red Interactive on Facebook as well.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spotlight on Photographer John Heino (Part 1)

Lightin Brighton

John Heino, long-time keyboardist for the Centerville All Stars, has been a perpetual advocate for the arts and for community involvement. After a career in the energy industry, Heino is currently caught up in another of his life-long passions, photography.

EN: How did you first become interested in photography?

JH: When I hit the road with a band fresh out of high school, I took a lot of pictures with a cheap camera. At the time, I wasn't thinking about art. I just wanted to bottle the adventure. But, there's nothing like the real experience, and it's a bit pathetic trying to relive it through a photograph. A picture can trigger strong emotions and vivid memories, but it can never match the intensity of being there for someone who lived the experience.

Adagio in Green
When I eventually started college as an art major, I chose an emphasis in photography. For a long time, I shot exclusively in black and white for fine arts purposes. And I still love it for light revealing form, textures and powerful impact. Whenever I work in color, I still try to think in terms of light revealing form. A strong photo needs dark shadows, bright highlights and sufficient gradation. And that holds for color as well as black and white. When I digitally process a color image, the very first thing I do is set black and white levels. For those photographers out there who don't currently do that, I suggest giving it a try. See for yourself how setting black and white levels up front helps create a color image that really pops.

EN: You recently said you are seeing things you never saw before. What do you mean by this and what kinds of things?

Of a Different Feather
JH: Recently, I had a vivid childhood memory of lying on my back in a field of fragrant, green grass. There was a brilliant blue sky overhead with beautiful fluffy white clouds. I could even hear the drone of a plane. After all these years, it was my first tenuous reconnection with the way I saw things as a child--a wide-eyed explorer discovering marvels in the simplest things.

Since that memory, I have been trying to approach shooting the way a child wanders through the world, noticing whatever is fun or interesting to look at. I doubt you can ever completely neutralize all the adult baggage that filters and constrains perception, but I'm noticing wonders I would have missed a year ago.

This wander/wonder approach helped me discover the magic of light pockets in the forest. Initially, what's left of my inner child noticed the electric green of the backlit leaves in these scenes. Now I see these treasures everywhere. Once seen, of course, all the technical and compositional thinking kicks in and it becomes a matter of taking that childhood wonder and rendering the best possible capture. This new wrinkle is diversifying my portfolio of images.

EN: You have been a long time advocate for the arts and were part of the Art Works project. Why was this project important to you?

JH: We have so much talent in this area, but historically it's been tough for artists to make a living here just from their work. One of the thrusts of Art Works was to let local art buyers know that we have a rich supply of top notch local art available. And, in recent years, I think we've made good progress toward creating a more vibrant local market for art. We have much to do, but we're headed in the right direction.

CONTINUED 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's Goin' On?

On the radio the other day I learned that  thirty-eight soldiers killed themselves in July. A Greg Jaffe story in the Washington Post called July "the worst month for suicides since the Army began releasing figures in 2009, according to Pentagon officials."

This made me curious about military death rates in general in that faraway land. For some reason stats stick in my brain and 38 seems similar to the casualty rates overall in Afghanistan. A quick Google search brought me these numbers.*

Monthly U.S. death tolls in Afghanistan this year have been as follows.

—August 2012: 25

—July 2012: 40

—June 2012: 27

—May 2012: 39

—April 2012: 34

—March 2012: 18

—February 2012: 10

—January 2012: 25

In other words more soldiers died by suicide than by being shot or by helicopter crashes in six out of eight months this year. This never happened in World War II. There may have been suicides but certainly not at a rate comparable to casualties.

A blog post by retired Pakistani general Agha H. Amin now living in Kabul addresses this problem. The piece is titled, "Soldiers need conversion system to cope against suicidal tendencies."

The US soldier is brought up in an environment which is far different from Afghanistan... far superior in comforts and amenities. Afghanistan is a rude shock and a harsh change for the worst.

He is suddenly brought in a danger zone with little conversion training.The enemy is invisible and everywhere. He is not allowed hard drinks although he manages something . He is shackled in rules of engagement and also given a lot of nonsense about hearts and minds.He sees his colleagues going into depression and is normally operating in a role where he is most visible and easily targeted. 

The former general makes suggestions which may or may not help. What's certainly borne out here again is that war is hell, and this was has some especially hellish features. What's really going on? 
 
*Source: Casualties in Afghanistan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Uprooted: Part XIX -- Escape

These Saturday blog entries have been devoted to a serial novel titled Uprooted, a story about Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. It's a story of alienation, and of the relentless pursuit of freedom and a homeland.


Escape

Blankets of snow had descended on Schrunz making the mountains more beautiful than ever. The ski resorts remained operational but there was no bustle of enthusiasm in the town for what was happening. Ralph continued to set up his speakers and pour strains of Finlandia and Beethoven up the mountainsides when he was able, leaning into the balcony raining sucking his black cigarettes, lost in it all.

During his time here he had found others from Eastern Europe who were not enthusiastic about the approaching Red Army. And as luck would have it they managed to find a guide who promised to lead them through the mountains into Switzerland. It would cost them nearly all their savings but Ralph was willing to pay that price for the freedom he longed for and prepared for yet another exodus, this one a treacherous trek through the mountains.

"We have to go at night," their guide told them, "and it should be when there is cloud cover. The moon can make it bright as day in the thinner air of the slopes."

There were eleven who had been given instructions to meet at a lodgeon the westernmost part of town, but only nine had arrived -- a family of five, a young couple, Ralph and an older man who looked tired.

"My sisters were afraid," he said. "They're not coming."

Ralph mumbled a disparaging remark under his breath and shook his head.

Their guide was a wiry, grim-faced man in a white parka. He looked at the small company of followers and noted that none were dressed in white. "Thank God there's no moon tonight," he said. He then held out his hand toward Ralph.

"What."

"The others have paid already."

Ralph pulled an envelope from his pocket. "It's all there," he said with little enthusiasm.

"Time to go,"  the guide announced. Then looking at Ralph again, "You up for this?"

"I've been dragging this bum leg my whole life. Since I was three. I can probably climb better than you. And I'm a helluva skier."

The guide trudged forward without comment  and the party followed his lead. Every now and then he would pause to let the laggards catch up.The young couple from Lithuania was surprisingly slow on the climb.

The children in the group were young teens and seemed hardy enough but when they began chattering the guide hushed them and said it was imperative that they not make noise.

The trail they were on came to a ridge and their guide quietly gave instructions to be still, that there was a road they would have to cross. He would go forward and make sure all was clear. Ralph had a bad feeling about this but could do nothing and let it play out. The guide's head appeared between two mounds of snow and he ushered them forward with a eave of his hand.

"Hurry," he whispered harshly.

The group crossed the road and found a trail across the road up through the trees. The mountain continued to rise with menacing steepness. Nearly everyone was breathing deeply now, and pauses became increasingly frequent.

"Can we stop for a bit?" the Lithuanian man asked.

"Do you want to turn back?" their guide replied.

There was no response.

"Stay here," the guide commanded quietly. I will see how far we are from the crest. There's another road to cross up ahead. 

The Latvian family was huddled together for warmth beneath a network of branches amidst the trees. Ralph, wonderin how there could still be road this far up the mountain, began shivering against the cold. He didn't have a parka nor a family to press against.

Just then the silhouette of a man appeared from above, but it was not their guide in the white parka and Ralph saw that he was holding a rifle. The other man with neither family nor spouse immediately broke into a run down through the trees. The rifle barked twice and the man fell forward into the snow.

The soldier shouted something in German and Ralph knew there was nothing to do but go along with it. Two more soldiers appeared to lead the group up to the ridge where two vehicles wearing Nazi insignias were waiting.


CONTINUED

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Leisure Class and the Arts

Every now and then I make observations that I do not know fully how to process. One of these is in relation to our notions of wealth and poverty, and especially wealth and the arts.

It occurred to me as I was reading the diaries of Andre Gide that his "situation" was far different than mine. The Nobel Prize winning French author produced 80 books, many of which were self-published small circulation pieces that were shared with friends. Some diary entries mentioned playing piano for six hours during the day. When he traveled to Tunisia he had fourteen large trunks of belongings. In short, he was not like me. He was from a different class of people.

Having last weekend visited the Duchamp collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stimulated questions about the man who many acknowledge now to be the most influential artist of the twentieth century. The Duchamp story is interesting because he achieved so much fame, created such a stir in his earlier life and then abandoned it all to play chess for the second half of his life.

It made me ask questions as regarding his employment, or rather how he supported himself. Some would call playing chess all the time the same as being a do-nothing. I find it astonishing that he did this amazing work before World War I commenced and yet lived quietly out of the public eye right through to the Viet Nam War, passing away in October 1968.

The phrase "leisure class" came to mind and I decided to see what Google had to offer. First, this desciption from Answers.com.

Consuming, parasitic class, represented by an idle elite engaged in continuous public demonstration of their status. Idea particularly associated with the American sociological economist, Thorstein Veblen, who published The Theory of the Leisure Class in 1899. Veblen saw the fundamental human motive as the maximization of status rather than orientation towards any monetary variable. In establishing status, expenditure was more important than income, enhanced status being often achieved by ‘conspicuous consumption’. Thus a leisure class comes into being which dominates and trivializes leisure within a culture, though this pattern of consumption may be a necessary feature of the working of the economic system. Veblen's theories belong in the category of critical analysis of consumer society, a form of discourse embracing such writers as Lewis Mumford, J. K. Galbraith, and J. B. Priestley. — Lincoln Allison 

This passage lead me to Veblen himself and this passage from Wikipedia.

The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899), by Thorstein Veblen, is an economic treatise and detailed social critique of conspicuous consumption, as a function of social-class consumerism, which proposes that the social strata and the division of labor of the feudal period continued into the modern era. The lords of the manor employed themselves in the economically useless practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, whilst the middle and lower classes were employed in the industrial occupations that support the whole of society; economically wasteful activities are those activities that do not contribute to the economy or to the material productivity required for the fruitful functioning of society. (emphasis mine)

As for Duchamp, his obsession with chess was all part of his mystique. On one occasion he went to Buenos Aires for nine months and played chess with game pieces he carved himself. He actually became a Chess Master, and algorithms of all his games were fed into a computer so that you yourself can play against Duchamp (or what purports to be his strategic play) online today. Here's how the invitation reads...

Marcel Duchamp is widely recognized for his contribution to conceptual art, but his lifelong obsession was the game of chess, in which he achieved the rank of Master. Working with the records of his chess matches, I have created a computer program to play chess as if it were Marcel Duchamp. I invite all artists, skilled and unskilled at this classic game, to play against a Duchampian ghost.

Do you want to play Duchamp?

As for the "leisure class"... which bears a striking resemblance to one percenters, what painter would not like to have a patron who has oodles of money to buy up one's works? Well, think again. Some of these are people with so much money that a forty million dollar Picasso doesn't make a dent in their pocketbooks. Why would they buy your art when they can own a Warhol? If they bought everything you have ever created, they would then simply have a problem of knowing where to store it all. And that would not be very conspicuous, would it?

For what it's worth, most of us who wish to make art need to support ourselves with other vocations. And that may not be a bad thing. It keeps us in the loop was regard what is really going on in the human race.

Hope your weekend is a great one. Do something creative. And keep in touch.

Disclaimer: The author of these blog entries is both an amateur philosopher and amateur art historian.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Anthem

Yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio I heard a commentator ask, “Where are the liberal Ayn Rands?” It was an interesting complaint, though not the aim of this blog entry to answer. (I assumed the question being asked was referring to contemporary writers.) I did, however, wonder how many writers might have been offended at not being considered the answer to this question.

Last night, while filing some notes I came across a folder titled Anthem. Because of the above referenced comment I was curious what its contents were. As it turns out, the folder contained the several assignments pertaining to Ayn Rand’s vivid novella. Our children were homeschooled for several years and in addition to teaching them writing I occasionally helped develop assignments and quizzes. One of the books covered in their studies was Anthem.

I was first introduced to Ayn Rand by my grandmother, captivated first by Rand's powerful ideas and prose in Fountainhead and later this small volume, her unforgettable offensive against socialistic collectivism. My daughter was 14 and son 16 when the assignments below were developed, approximately the same age I was when first introduced to Rand.

Here are the assignments I presented, based on the background materials provided by the curriculum.

ANTHEM

Questions for students on meanings contained in Ayn Rand’s Anthem.

Assignment One

Find and read the Greek myth about Prometheus.

Write a one paragraph summary about the story.

Then answer this question:

Was Prometheus right or wrong for what he did and why?


Assignment Two

Write one paragraph answers to the following questions about Chapter one:

1. When does this story take place -- past, present or future? How do you know?

2. What are some of the “sins” or crimes of this culture?

3. Why do you think the Council of Vocations assigns Equality 7-2521 to the task of Street Sweeper? Was it a mistake or intentional?


Assignment Three

1. In what ways is Equality 7-2521 different from others in his society?

2. What character traits do we see in Liberty 5-3000 based on the brief description we have of her in this chapter?

3. Create a glossary or journal with the following topics on separate pages. Write whatever you learn about each one on the appropriate pages. Phrases, words and incomplete sentences are O.K. You may also write your own thoughts or feelings about the notes you write. (Put your own thoughts and impressions in parentheses like this.)

• The Great Truth
• The Unmentionable Times
• The Uncharted Forest
• The Evil Ones
• The Great Rebirth


Assignment Four

1. What was it that Equality discovered in chapter 3? How important was this discovery?

2. What does Equality finally understand about his society when the Council threatens to destroy his invention?


Assignment Five

Define the following terms. (use any resources you can find....and write a paragraph in your own words for each.)

1. Collectivism

2. Individualism

3. Altruism

4. Egoism

5. Conformity

6. Independence


I find it interesting how I just happened to stumble upon these notes last night because originally I was planning to write a short blog entry today titled, "I'm Unique... Just Like Everybody Else."

I also find it interesting how the 1930's produced several novels with visions of the future that have both similarities and contrasts. Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength make for a great trilogy of futuristic study. Rand's stands at odds with these other in at least one respect. The others see technology advance. Anthem portray's the demise of technical achievement when totalitarian rule is complete.

Well, just a little seed sowing here for your mind farm. Make the most of your day.

You're invited to visit my art blog as well, The Many Faces of Ennyman.