Sunday, August 11, 2013

Local Art Seen: Second Friday Art Crawl, August 9

Many pieces by Chris Dunn caught my eye.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

I visited the grave of Thomas Merton once. Merton was a Trappist monk whose remains can be found at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Northern Kentucky, a little southeast of Louisville. I was doing research for a story about a writer that I titled "The Unfinished Stories of Richard Allen Garston" which can be found in my second volume of short stories, the eBook Newmanesque. I needed to see the place, to understand the life one of my characters had escaped to, to feel the earth, to taste the stinky cheese and bourbon fudge.

I could have learned a lot by means of photos and details from books and the Gethsemani website. But visiting, being there, walking the grounds, getting a sense of the atmosphere, the geography and the proximity to surrendered lives, this was far more vivid and enabled my story -- a total fiction -- to have a level of veracity that I can't imagine having generated otherwise. I consider it one of my best stories as a result.

A Navajo Boy by Rustan
All this to say that when I write about the local art scene here in Duluth, whether it's gallery hopping or visits to openings, or just bringing out of town friends to places where there is public art, I would suggest that there's a quantum difference between the first hand experience and what you see online in various places where Minnesota artists show their work.

Friday night was another beautiful evening for art. If you haven't been down in Bayfront Park at the Blues Fest, the weekend seemed ideal for nearly everything you could think of, from sailing to picking berries to grilling steaks or just sitting with friends on your patio drinking a beer. I attended art openings both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, sharing some of it with a long-time writer friend and meeting many other friends along the way.

Chris Dunn
We started at Washington Gallery, the joint show called Hootenanny featuring work by Emma Rustan and Chris Dunn. I know well how invigorating it is when you're hosting an art opening, but this room was packed and absolutely charged with electricity because it was more than just a show. It was a celebration. The evening before, Rustan and Dunn were married and their many friends were on hand to use this occasion to celebrate. 

This was Rustan's third show here, but Dunn's first. He seemed to be enjoying the occasion as she certainly was. Dunn, who drives a delivery truck by day, graduated from UWS with a degree in Industrial Design. His work, featured in the North Wing of the gallery, shows a confident hand and keen eye.

Rustan is clearly living for art, enjoying a phase of creative production that one looks for in a painter/artist. Her paintings filled Gallery 1 (the South Wing) with color and boldness, a style that reminds me of stained-glass windows at times. She works in acrylics on canvases varying in size from 18"x 24" to 40"x 30". 

Down the street at the PRØVE Gallery the theme was Papyiri. Works in paper and on paper proved to be the cohesive element. Having failed to bring home a show summary I can only comment weakly that many details will be missing here. The first section of the gallery featured intricate layered images that I found fascinating. These works by Tara Austin dealt with perception, geometric reiteration, plant taxonomy and beauty. This was followed by some unusual conceptual expressions from the exploded imagination of Donna Miller. Further back in the gallery space there were a series of hermaphroditic pencil drawings by Venus de Mars, re-staging in my mind memories of scenes from Fellini's Satyricon. The back wall featured colorful works and paper designs and pedestals in the gallery featured art on boxes or created with books.

Even the restroom had an original work of note in it. Rob Adams created a touch-free optically-activated art dispenser in there. Apparently most people chose to wipe their hands on his art, rather than taking it home. His response? "That was part of the social experiment anyway!"

Last month I accidentally discovered the art on display at Minnesota Wine Exchange. I encourage you to check out this space and I have been encouraging Deb Fellman and Brent Johanson to keep it going. They have a wonderful space in a great location, next door down from Double Dutch on the corner of Lake and Superior. Paintings by Philip C. Jones and the late John Peyton are currently featured, but I have been told there will be rotation of artists here and if you're picking up a bit to eat at 7 West or Pizza Luce, it's a space worth checking out.

This city has a lot going for it. Were I able to achieve a successful clone of myself I'd take more of it in. The music options are phenomenal -- this weekend being Blues Fest -- but there's some strong theater talent here as well. Boredom is not an option.

Peyton was best known for his landscapes before his passing.
Author John Prin and myself at the Papyri show.

Be well. Embrace the arts and broaden your horizons.

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