Friday, August 4, 2017

A Flurry of New Twin Ports Murals: Signs of the Times?

What an interesting year for public art here in the Twin Ports. In April I shared my enthusiasm for the murals and public art that I saw in St. Petersburg, commenting how I would like to see more here. Clearly I was not alone in this, for it seems that mural have been springing up right and left on both sides of the bridge. Three weeks ago a new mural was "unveiled" in the new Craft District and earlier this summer a new mural appeared high up on the home of the Red Mug at Hammond and Broadway in Superior.

This week I was driving East on Second Street when I noticed a new mural taking shape atop the former YWCA that now houses AICHO and the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. The mural was in its final stages when I ascended to the rooftop Wednesday during my lunch hour to get an up close view of the three artists in action, Votan Ik, Derek Brown and Leah Lewis. The first half of this week has been perfect for outdoor painting.

Leah Lewis of Albuquerque is of Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo ancestry.
Derek Brown is Dine from Ganado, Arizona.
There's been a lot happening here at the American Indian Community Housing Association. The facilities are aesthetically rich and continuously moreso. They have recently opened an Indigenous First gift shop where people can come buy art and a variety of goods made by local artists, among them Jonathan Thunder and Leah Yellowbird. To be quite frank, and I mean this quite seriously, the value of Leah Yellowbird's original art ought to be comparable to anything created by any artist over the past fifty years. Her work must be seen to be fully appreciated.

Votan Ik of Los Angeles assembled the team.
Now back to our theme. I asked Votan, an L.A. artist of Mayan descent, how he came to be a painter of murals. "I've been doing art all my life," he replied, "but what gave way to murals was growing up as a graffiti artist."

Upon learning he had Mayan roots, I wondered if there were connections between graffiti art and the devotion to public art that I saw during my year in Mexico.

"Public art is crucial because it yields to dialogue, especially on issues that are dismissed by mainstream media," Votan asserted.

When I asked how he ended up in Duluth, and why this image was selected, he stated, "This mural was put together by Honor the Earth and AICHO. I've worked with Honor for the last 5 or so years and we've been finding creative ways to address issues revolving around oil."

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Thunder Notes

Three pieces by Jonathan Thunder in the AICHO Indigenous Gift Shop
This summer Jonathan Thunder's art has been receiving some of the attention it deserves as part of a solo exhibition in the Morrison Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute. On Tuesday, August 15 at 5:30 p.m. the artist will be giving a talk along with a book signing, hosted by Kathy McTavish at Duluth Art Institute Galleries, Duluth Depot, 506 W Michigan Street. Thunder, who was born on the Red Lake Reservation and raised in Minneapolis, studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Art Institute International Minnesota. His solo exhibit features Ojibwe deities placed in a contemporary context. A catalog with color images includes an intro by Anne Dugan and an essay by Mason Riddle, a Saint Paul-based arts writer.

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It's Friday. Hope you have special plans this weekend. Don't forget Shawna Gilmore's Woodlandia opens tomorrow at the Lakeside Gallery, 1-3 p.m.

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, and such an honor to work for such a great organization