Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Local Art Scene: Armory Annex Artisans Actively Apply Themselves to Their Crafts

Paul Webster shows a visitor how to forge iron.
The growth of the "maker scene" has been quite explosive in recent years, perhaps in part as a countertrend to the tech wave that has swept the globe. Hands-on interactions with raw materials, building connections with the real -- not digital -- world.

For those unaware, a number of makers have taken up active residence in the Armory Annex, a former Perkins Restaurant adjacent to the Historic Armory. The Annex was open during Saturday's Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop, but you're actually welcome to visit most any time I believe. This is a quick snapshot. There is are glassblowers, artisans, a piano technician and a forging community here. Check it out. It's a beehive of activity.

The forgers are present every Saturday. 
A few tools of the trade.
Paul Piszczek is the piano man here. These are the innards for
Esther P's Zentangled piano. 
One of the glassblowers at work. Between Duluth and Oulu we have 
a talented and active network of glassblower artisans.
* * * *

All Along the Watchtower All Around the World... with Echoes

Ten years and 1.5 million pageviews ago I wrote a blog post about Dylan's enigmatic All Along the Watchtower. In re-reading it today it dawned on me that the title of the album Love and Theft might even be an echo of these two characters, the Joker and the Thief.

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to the video below, Playing For Change. It's a fascinating way to interweave cultures, to visibly show us -- as well as dramatically and aurally -- how diverse we are as a human family, yet can simultaneously be united through song and through music.


Shortly after Paul Simon released his Graceland album a documentary was produced showing how Simon incorporated South African sounds and other influences into the rich fabric of his music for this production. At one point in the film he is giving a workshop to youth about how to write a song. He said, "Begin with one true thing," and then add another and another.

I can't help but hear this approach to songwriting in many of Dylan's songs, especially this one, which begins, "There must be some way out of here." Which (after introducing the characters) is followed by, "There's too much confusion. I can't get no relief."

Many have called the song apocalyptic. It is certainly enigmatic and like the Joker, it is a perpetual riddle without resolution. "And the win begins to howl." (Does anyone else here see a tie between that line and the opening of Allen Ginsberg's most famous poem,  "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness"? Or a reference to another Dylan classic, "Blowing in the Wind"?)

How many of these layers of connective tissue are intentional and how many serendipitous?

* * * *
An Amusing Anecdote
Two or three years ago we were at Carmody's for Dylan Trivia on the second night of Duluth Dylan Fest. One of the questions pertained to this song All Along The Watchtower. When the scoring was taking place at the end of the contest, as the MC read the answer, someone at the next table said, "I thought Jimi Hendrix wrote that." Our table of Dylan Fest friends laughed.

* * * *
Related Links
The Musicians on Playing for Change
Buy the Album here


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Local Art Seen: Students Show Their Stuff at the Tweed

I've always enjoyed seeing the kind of work young art students are doing. I suppose it's in part because I 'm always about how their work compares to what I was producing when in their shoes. I also wonder what these art students are thinking and how the envision their futures. What kinds of expectations do they have? What kinds of paths will they travel?

Here is some of the artwork I saw at Saturday's Art For Earth Day open house at UMD. If you missed it, it's not too late to see this show at the Tweed, though the open studios will no longer be accessible in the same manner as last weekend, and certainly no one will be making waffles for you in the halls. Thank you to everyone involved in making guests feel welcome. You brought back many memories.

And to Nick Kuvach, who won the Best In Show Award in our own Ohio University senior exhibition 1974... Congratulations. I was jealous at the time, but your award was deserved. You epitomized the times.


* * * *

REMINDERS
DON'T MISS LEAH YELLOWBIRD'S 
"DIMENSIONS"
at the AICHO's Dr. Powless Community Center on Friday

And the two shows that same evening in Superior.
Click links for Details:
816 Tower Avenue, Superior
and V.I.P. Vintage Pizza hosts the
 Afterparty for both shows at Vintage Italian Pizza
1201 Tower Avenue, Superior

MEANTIME, ART GOES ON ALL AROUND YOU. 
Engage It.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Local Art Seen: Wendy Rouse's "What Goes Around" at Lizzard's


Yesterday I mentioned visiting Studio 101 during the Earth Day Gallery Hop here in the Twin Ports. Another gallery that participated in the gallery hop was Lizzard's Gallery on Superior Street, a 30 second walk from the Tischer Gallery, which also had its doors open.

Thursday evening Lizzard's hosted an opening reception for Wendy Rouse, whose work I have long admired. I was grateful for the opportunity to finally meet the artist, and to share a bit of her story here.

EN: There is a fairy tale quality to much of your work. Where does this influence come from?

Wendy Rouse: A fairy tale quality. Hmm. I have thought more about myths than fairy tales.

I like to tell stories with my paintings and I do find inspiration in fairy tales, nursery rhymes and myths. What fascinates me is the way fairy tales are impossible/ improbable yet we choose to believe them, this suspension of disbelief is what I want the viewer to have when looking at my paintings.

I prefer to paint from life, using toys and objects set on a table top or mirror. The objects are small and that smallness may contribute to the story book quality. For example the polar bear is a little toy and the iceberg is a piece of styrofoam. I use realism to convince the viewer that a little boy could sail into the arctic to check on a polar bear.

EN: Have you been doing art full time since UMD or did you have a career in between UMD and NYAA?

WR: Art full time? No My husband and I met in the restaurant business 40 years ago. We have worked in many restaurants and owned and operated two. The first was Lake Avenue Cafe in Canal Park and the second was Farm Table in San Francisco. Restaurant work cut into my painting time and energy but it paid the bills and was a nice break from being in the studio which can get lonely. After I earned my masters degree I did quite a bit of art teaching, community ed art classes, private lessons and a few art classes at St. Scholastica.

EN: I see a couple of paintings that have ties to the story of Narcissus. Can you say a little bit about these?

WR: The Greek and Roman myths have often been a backstory for my paintings. I think of myths as fairy tales for adults. Ancient societies use myths to explain the big things; love, life, death, nature and mankind's place as part of nature. These issues are just as relevant today. My paintings may look sweet and decorative but I paint slowly and have lots of time to think about serious issues that hide under the surface.

Narcissus was a beautiful young man who fell so in love with his image he fell into a pool and drowned and the beautiful nymph that loved him was heartbroken after Narcissus drowned and all that was left of her was an echo... the Greeks way of explaining where echos came from and warning about narcissism. I did some unintentional gender bending in my version; Narcissus female and Echo male -- maybe the result of living 3 years in San Francisco? Sometimes these paintings take on a life of their own.

EN: What did you learn from being a student of Chee that has stuck with you to this day?

WR: Chee stressed the importance of designing a painting. No matter what your subject or style, underlying design holds it all together. He was one of those instructors who truly shared his passion. Also, interested adults from the community often took Chee's classes, subsequently his classes had a different atmosphere than my other art classes at UMD.

EN: How did NYAA advance your skills, career as an artist?

WR: When I attended UMD in the early 80's it was all about creativity and expression. The fundamentals of drawing, anatomy, perspective, color were not taught, I guess that was out of style. I wanted to be able to draw and paint realistically and learn about oil painting. Thats what I got at NYAA and much more. They have a great Thursday night lecture series with a different artist from New York or beyond every week. A rigorous academic training but relating it to what was happening in the New York art scene. Plus spending two years in New York with access to museums and galleries was ideal.
* * * *
Receptions are always a nice way to meet the artist.
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your work with us.
A very nice turnout for "What Goes Around" Thursday @ Lizzard's
* * * *
Next Friday, April 27
Three More Great Art Events
Here's the Lineup
The Inimitable Leah Yellowbird
SAME EVENING


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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Local Art Seen: Studio 101 on Art for Earth Day and a Noteworthy New Idea for Art Buyers

THE WEATHER could not have been nicer for yesterday's 28th annual Gallery Hop here in the Twin Ports. Though there were fewer participating galleries this year, the red carpets were rolled out all around and it was a perfect day to leisurely make the rounds. A dozen galleries welcomed friends of the arts with open arms, or rather, doors. And treats. And warmth. 
STUDIO 101
A number of people whom I spoke with yesterday did not know about Studio 101, so I thought it would make a good starting point here. The is derived from its location on Bob Dylan Way (Michigan Street at the bottom of First Avenue East). This loose  collective of veteran painters has been renting this space for eight years. Their work was featured last year at the Duluth Art Institute where they invited other artists to join on Wednesdays to paint a live model in the Steffl Gallery.

The location of the space has a couple of nice features, one of them being large plate glass windows that allow for a generous amount of light to illuminate the out rooms. Because the group does figure painting on Wednesdays, there are interior spaces for more privacy. 
The painters here include Dorothea Diver, Goran Hellekant, Mosswren (Constance Johnson), Cot LaFond, Dale Lucas and Larry Turbes. Lee Englund, who also paints with the group, spent the winter in Arizona and will be returning soon.

* * * *

While visiting Studio 101 yesterday several artists were in a discussion about art buying when all of a sudden a new idea emerged. It was like a revelation, an Aha!

Here is some backstory. I have many times over the years attempted to encourage people to buy paintings or pieces, in part because I want to see artists receive the financial remuneration they need to survive. My argument would go like this: "You can enjoy this painting today for a few minutes, or you can take it home and enjoy it for the rest of your life." I follow up by stating that on several occasions I've here people lament not having purchased a painting they saw when they were in Seattle or Albuquerque, wishing they had today what they briefly enjoyed in a gallery.
HERE'S THE NEW IDEA (Capitalized to underscore its importance). Sometimes price is the barrier that keeps people from making a purchase, so What If two or three friends went in together to buy a painting they all loved and then they time-shared the painting. Perhaps it is a $900 painting and three people want it. They can all pay $300, sign an agreement to each have it for four months of the year. Or perhaps it is a $4000 Leah Yellowbird painting and four people each pay a thousand dollars for the privilege of having it in their homes three months each year.
What do you think?

For what it's worth, here are some additional images from Studio 101.



Next Friday, April 27
Three More Great Art Events
Here's the Lineup
The Inimitable Leah Yellowbird
SAME EVENING


* * * *
MARK YOUR MAY CALENDAR 



SPRING INTO THE TWIN PORTS MUSIC AND ART SCENE 
WITH ALL THESE GREAT EVENTS
PLUS HOMEGROWN.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Eleven Rings: Phil Jackson's Story Carries Lessons for Leaders and Laypeople Alike

"The sign of a great player is how much he elevates his colleagues' performance." 
--Phil Jackson

This week I finished reading Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings. I find inspiration in these books by or about successful leaders. There's almost always something to be gained, and the stories stick with you longer than a few stats.

An unexpected feature of Jackson's life story was how his leadership style is fully integrated with his spirituality. He grew up in the Pentecostal church, the son of two pastors. His mom happened to be the fire and brimstone preacher on Sunday evenings, his dad a bit less threatening. The burden of being forced to attend every service burned him out on the church but not on spirituality. Throughout the book he pulls insights from an eclectic mix of spiritual traditions from Buddhism to Native American. As he narrates his life story one sees that for Jackson the spiritual facet is inseparable from the success he achieved as a player and coach. It's a book about mindful leadership.

MINDFULNESS
A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Living in the now.

Here are the eleven principles of what Jackson calls "mindful leadership."

1. Lead from the inside out.
Don't be a follower of what is trendy. Don't be a lemming. Follow your own inner vision.

2. Bench the ego.

3. Let each player discover his own destiny.
Don't force players to become what you think they should be. Let them be authentic to who they are.

4. The road to freedom is a beautiful system.

5. Turn the mundane into the sacred.

6. One breath = one mind.

7. The key to success is compassion.

8. Keep your eye on the spirit, not on the scoreboard.

9. Sometimes you have to pull out the big stick.

10. When in doubt, do nothing.

11. Forget the ring.

* * * *
Phil Jackson's leadership approach comes across as almost hokey at times. I've never seen a top tier pro coach utilize Eastern and Native mysticism in such an open and pronounced manner. One thing you can't argue with is the rings, and for Jackson it is apparent that his spiritual belief systems are an integral part of his coaching style. 11 championship rings gives a man the right to share his ideas. Here's a guy dealing with many of the biggest egos in sports, some of them still practically kids with multimillion-dollar salaries. Championships were important, but more important was helping each of his players mature into the best he could be as a person. In this manner, Jackson built truly great teams.

Caveat: If you've never been into pro basketball and are unfamiliar with the teams or players in the the NBA, the book might become tedious at times as he goes into detail about the big games his teams won or lost, and the challenges he faced in various situations. Nevertheless, even though I have only followed pro basketball superficially the past 30 years I found the book engaging and the lessons valuable. Jackson makes an effort to have a payoff for readers with each story. It is not just a book for Lakers and Bulls groupies.

* * * *

Related Link
Five powerful books for business leaders.
Eleven Rings at Amazon.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

Courtney Yasmineh Returning to the Northland for Dylan Fest

It's been five years since her first Duluth Dylan Fest when she shared a stage with Scarlet Rivera and Gene LaFond at Weber Hall. The following year she returned with enthusiasm and after her performance we talked about where her career has taken her, whereupon I learned she was also writing and working on a novel. This time around A Girl Called Sidney, her first in a quartet of books, has been completed and the second well on its way.

Courtney's returning here to rock, though, and you find her Wednesday night with Rob Genadek at The Rex @ Fitgers right after the Highway 61 Band Five dollars gets you fifty dollars worth of music that night.

EN: You begin your bio by talking about how rare honesty is in rock and roll. Why is this? And is it something that has gotten worse, this lack of honesty?

Courtney Yasmineh: Well, the bio was written by a publicist, so that isn’t necessarily my own viewpoint. I guess I would say that certain artists in popular music are more genuine or authentic or honest than others and that I always endeavor to be sincere in my work.

EN: Your energy and drive are noteworthy. Where does this energy come from? That is, what's behind it that propels you to perform?

CY: I feel that this is my time to fully explore being a full time artist, now that my children are grown. I’m excited to be able to do all that I can.

EN: When did you start your blog and what have you learned from this daily discipline?

CY: I started the blog after my recent tour in Europe. I felt that I wanted to sidestep the constraints of social media and write more freely for people who want to stay in touch with me as an artist. Most of my adult life I have written in a journal every morning. Now I have the idea that it would be inspiring to others and to myself to share these morning musings in a semi-public way on my own website.

EN: Your blog projects an explosion of color that is catchy. At the top of the page is the title of your new album, The High Priestess and the Renegade. Which one is you, high priestess or renegade? Can you elaborate on this?

CY: I am the high priestess and the renegade. And also Rob Genadek, the Minneapolis music producer I work with, he is the renegade as well. I saw a High Priestess card in a Tarot deck and she has her hand on a lion’s head. She tames the lion with her inner strength and graciousness. The picture of me on the front of the album artwork is the High Priestess. The picture of the lion on the back cover is the renegade….and my fans and I like to say that the lion is Rob, too.

EN: You've been performing internationally since when? And do you have a favorite memory from performing abroad?

CY: March 2018, 26 shows in 32 days, was my 11th Europe tour! Some years we went twice, and this year we are invited back to play outdoor festivals in August, so it’s been twelve tours in ten years. My favorite memory was the filming of my music video “Heartbreak Woman” in Paris. I loved that! You can watch it on youtube or on my website.

EN: You've given credit to Bob Dylan's music for getting you through a very hard winter when you were young. I know other's who have said Dylan's music helped get them through hard times. What is it that enables him to connect with so many kinds of people?

CY: I think Mr. Dylan has written songs to express pain in a very sincere way. The beauty of his melodies and the brilliance of his words has never overshadowed the deep feelings running through his recordings. As a performer, especially on his recordings, he has so many times been able to create an atmosphere of remoteness, a sense of only you listening to only him.

EN: You've released four albums of original music and songs. What is your process for writing songs?

CY: The new album is my seventh, believe it or not. I write songs as I walk outside usually. I just start singing a soundtrack to whatever is happening in my life and in my heart. I sing it, right from the first words. Then if it seems promising, I sing the first line over and over until I get home so I won’t forget it and then I sit down and actually work out the rest with a guitar and a note pad and a recording device.

EN: Last time you were in Duluth we discussed writing. You mentioned you were working on a book. Have you published it now? What's it about and where can people find it?

CY: Yes, I had been thinking for many years about how to tell the story of the year I ran away from Chicago and stayed alone for the winter in my grandfather’s deserted old cabin on Lake Vermilion.

I was approached by a publisher out of Chicago a few years ago. She had heard that I was a songwriter and touring artist who also was writing fiction. So with her encouragement I wrote and edited a very concise version of the story.

That first novel, in the literary fiction category, came out a year ago in June. It is the first in a four book series with the second book due out in early 2019. The novels are about a girl who wants to be a songwriter, and yes, the stories are based on my own experiences. I find prose writing to be very hard work. I find songwriting to be delightful hard work. I’m very grateful that I get to go around singing my songs.

I got the idea to make it a four book series in an effort to show a woman’s life of pursuing her artistry and also having children and trying to survive by conventional and less conventional means.

Book one has had excellent reviews and is available internationally at independent booksellers as well as all Barnes&Noble stores, and is available on Amazon.com in ebook and paperback.

* * * *
Related Links
Courtney's Website
Another place to find her book.
Complete Duluth Dylan Fest Schedule 
Follow Courtney on her blog.