Monday, October 31, 2011

In Defense of the 1%

I was leafing through the October 31 Time magazine yesterday when an essay by Joel Stein caught my attention: "Who Speaks for the 1%?"

Actually, the first item to catch my attention was the page's title, The Awesome Column. The haughtiness of the page title seems to reflect the hubris of certain politicians and talk show commentators. I'm not a subscriber to the mag but believe based on 40 seconds of Google research that The Awesome Column used to be a staple of Time and has re-appeared. I draw that conclusion based on a 2006 question at Yahoo, What happened to Time Magazine's awesome column? - Yahoo! Answers

After reading several additional sidetracks I've concluded that Joel Stein enjoys tweaking noses and being contrarian. So naturally he saddles up and leads us into the current fray called Occupy Wall Street. He's a good writer. Here's the opening...

I don't like the top 1% of anything. Intelligence? Boring! Fun? Exhausting! Thoughtfulness? Annoying! Hairiness? Too hairy!

So I get why the Occupy Wall Street protesters gained momentum with their slogan WE ARE THE 99%. Everyone loves the 99%. You can have a beer with the 99%. You can eat with your hands in front of the 99%. You can talk about TV shows with the 99% without them telling you that while they don't think there's anything wrong with TV, if they had one, they would watch it literally all the time, so it's better to just not keep one...

Stein goes on to say that for the most part the top 1% are interesting, generous and charming. These are the folk who started Time magazine, founded Stanford where Stein went to college, and have built the art museums that the public enjoys. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was started by a one per center, as have many other such endeavors.

If there is a pecking order of people to despise in this world, it would probably be the 1% of the 1%-ers who are jerks that embarrass the rest of the 1%-ers.

To read more, pick up a Time magazine at your local B&N* ($5.99) or head over to the online home of this awesome column.

*If you own a B&N Nook, you can download my first novel The Red Scorpion for $2.99. Or click the book cover to the right for the Kindle version.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Surfacing Exhibit Goes Public at Luce

The idea of art in public spaces has been with us for a very long time. No restaurant worth its seasonings will allow bare walls to be the only decoration. Environment certainly plays a role in our enjoyment of eating. Let our eyes be awash with color and our minds stimulated while those taste buds dance.

There are actually quite a few places where artists can display their work in the Twin Ports, from Beaners in the West to Jitters, Zinema and the Zeitgeist Cafe downtown. Going east on London Road there are several additional small businesses like Dunn Bros. Coffee and Lisa Casperson's Art for Hair which has art on the wall, too. And let's not forget all the places and spaces across the bridge... Red Mug and the Phantom Galleries Superior to name a few.

Thursday November 3 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. there is an art opening at Pizza Luce for Tonya Borgeson and Emily Herb's Surfacing exhibit.

Borgeson, who is owner of a ceramic studio on Grand Avenue near the zoo call The Snoodle, studied ceramics and sculpture at Indiana State University and is an art instructor at Lake Superior College. I've not only been impressed by her work but by the way she inspires others to press on and explore new directions in their work. Her annual Love at the Snoodle art shows are a mainstay for many local artists.

Emily Herb, whom I keep wanting to call Emily Rose for some reason, is originally from North Dakota. Her love of three-dimensional creative expression no doubt made for a good match with Borgeson's exploration.

Here's Emily's invitation: Come down and see Tonya and my newest creations. Free Food, Free Music, Free Snooty Intellectual Conversation, Free opportunity to throw tomatoes. This exhibit will be up the entire month of November so if you can't make it to the opening reception, be sure to check it out sometime this month!

I ran into the two of them last weekend at an Ochre Ghost opening and learned that Emily is opening another gallery here downtown, which is a pretty exciting step for her and for the evolving art scene here. Tonya would not let me take her photo as she had been working in her studio all day and her clothes were a bit splattered.

Here's a nice little video clip so you can see what Surfacing is really all about. This coming Thursday... check it out.

eNote: Image at top right is my own, titled With Feathers... click expand. Be sure to check out the video.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Who Shot Rock & Roll?

Rock & Roll. Is it only about the music? It's never been just about the music. It's entertainment. And yes, more than that, too.

Now, it's been absorbed into the art scene in a travelling exhibit called "Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present." First displayed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the travelling art show has been making a circuit that includes the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, Columbia Museum of Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Allentown Art Museum, and Annenberg Space for Photography.

Today the exhibit opens at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.

When you think about it, rock stars probably owe a huge debt to the photographers who captured their images to place them on billboards (the Doors in L.A.), magazine covers ("on the cover of the Rolling Stone") and embed them in our memories. The music has been part of our culture for more than half a century, but its the images that transformed rock superstars into icons of our times.

Hendrix could have played guitar with the same skill without the colorful getup. What if KISS had just worn the clothes they wore to high school? Was Tina Turner's singing approved by her short-skirt shimmy-shine glitterati dresses? That's called entertainment. And the cameras loved it.

For what it's worth, there are more than 180 photographs and videos in the exhibit, demonstrating the power of Rock & Roll and its impact on society. Curator Gail Buckland, the noted photography scholar, assembled the exhibit.

A book featuring even more photos than in the travelling exhibit was published in 2009 by Buckland. Here's a description, followed by excerpts from a review.

More than two hundred spectacular photographs, sensual, luminous, frenzied, true, from 1955 to the present, that catch and define the energy, intoxication, rebellion, and magic of rock and roll; the first book to explore the photographs and the photographers who captured rock’s message of freedom and personal reinvention—and to examine the effect of their pictures on the musicians, the fans, and the culture itself.

The only music photographers whose names are well known are those who themselves have become celebrities. But many of the images that have shaped our consciousness and desire were made by photographers whose names are unfamiliar. Here are Elvis in 1956—not yet mythic but beautiful, tender, vulnerable, sexy, photographed by Alfred Wertheimer . . . Bob Dylan and his girlfriend on a snowy Greenwich Village street, by Don Hunstein . . . John Lennon in a sleeveless New York City T-shirt, by Bob Gruen . . . Jimi Hendrix, by Gered Mankowitz, a photograph that became a poster and was hung on the walls of millions of bedrooms and college dorms . . .

And from Publishers Weekly:
Buckland's visually hypnotic history of rock photography is as much a history of rock as subject as it is of photography. In fact, it is the inseparability of the two that lies at the heart of Buckland's argument. ...the power of the image in the formation and sustenance of rock-and-roll culture from 1955 onward.

Not every reader review of the book is grand, but the power of rock and roll imagery has been undeniable.

Since the images from the travelling exhibit are copyrighted, the images here have been retrieved from the superb collection of Andrew Perfetti's rock and roll images. You can find him on Facebook.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Poems for People Who Are Not Into Poetry

A few years ago I was thinking of offering to do a poetry reading at Barnes and Noble called "An Hour of Poetry for People Who Are Not Into It." I like poetry, and since I also write a little verse myself now and then, it seems like it would be nice if more people would like poetry. My aim at the B&N event would be to share poems that connect, in the hopes of introducing people to some fun, thought provoking material which they are not familiar with because it is labelled Poetry.

Like modern art, a lot of poetry is just gobbledy-gook for many folk who only end up scratching their heads. "Why is this a good poem?" some could ask. "What was that all about?" Like opera, some people hear the word and steer clear.

Anyways, I made a list of selections for that hour of entertainment and placed it in a folder on my desktop. I shared it about four years ago and it seemed worth sharing again. If I had more time I would put the links here, but alas... I am on deadline. (I have to get dressed for work.) Check them out. I'm sure they will reward you.

Billy Collins
(selections from Sailing Alone Around the Room)
Another Reason I Don't Keep a Gun in the House
Some Days

Hilaire Belloc
Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned

(from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)
The Panther
Autumn Day
Sonnets to Orpheus 1.3 and II. 13

Dorothy Parker

Robert Browning
How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Robert Frost
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Eve

Ed Newman
Wisconsin Misty Morning
Bad Break
Hitchhiking Across Antarctica
High Upon the Wire

Poem from Don Quixote

Dale Wasserman
Lyrics of To Dream the Impossible Dream

Bob Dylan
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleedin’)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paranormal Activity

Last night while driving home after dark I saw a row of lights overhead that seemed to be hovering. It was an airplane slowly descending for the airport nearby. But it seemed to be going so slow it was startling to me that it kept huffing forward and didn’t just fall out of the sky. I know from my travels that there’s a huge amount of mass there with all the metal and luggage and people on board. How do planes stay up there like that? Actually, it’s just a matter of physics… which most of us hardly understand so that ultimately becomes a matter of trust when you're one of the passengers.

The same with ocean liners and cruise ships. Look how massive these things are, yet instead of sinking they float. How does that work? The answer again is physics.

We don’t really have to understand physics to appreciate its benefits. Air transportation, cruise ship vacations, space travel… the scientists of our world have done the hard part, and we just appreciate the outcomes.

There are a lot of mysteries in the world. Why is some matter alive and other matter not? Where is the line between living and non-living? Even simple things like intelligence… where is the line between thinking and and non-thinking beings? For example, humans have a brain, so do dogs, and on down the chain till certain living creatures seem non-thinking but react to stimuli.

What about black holes? Who can understand that mystery? And all the mysteries surrounding UFOs. The stories are endless. What do all those testimonials of inexplicable lights amount to? What’s really under wraps in Area 51?

When I was a kid my grandmother had quite a few books about some of these things. There was one called Stranger Than Science (or something like that) which I read more than once. It had stories about mysterious sightings that were explained away as swamp gas and other natural phenomena, but came with too many unanswered questions.

My grandmother’s interest in these things was in part due to an out-of-body experience she’d had while on the operating table after a stroke. She hovered over the room and watched what she believed was twenty minutes of a surgery, doctors and nurses animated and fully engaged. The experience led to a quest which included read books outside the norm by people like Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the Edgar Cayce Institute.

While in college she and I used to talk about these things in great detail. She shared with me papers about the remarkable mysteries of the Great Pyramid and stories about research that the Soviets were doing on psychokinesis, mind over matter.

These were undoubtedly some of the reasons I became interested in paranormal activity at an early age. What were the limits of mind power? How much have we lost through lack of its exercise?

I myself had an out-of-body experience once in which I, in an inexplicable way, was transported to another part of the campus when in college and overheard a conversation. I've known a few others with experiences not possible to explain with our normal scientific approach to things. Crackpots? I don’t know.

Anyways, these experiences and others which I don’t have time to detail here are part of the background for many of the short stories recorded in my two volumes of short stories titled Unremembered Histories and Newmanesque. There’s more to life than you can probably imagine. Modern scientists spend lifetimes trying to grasp it. Instead, I point to the cloud of unknowing and invite readers to climb the stairway. Or something like that anyway.

Make the most of your day. And take a minute to see if you can lift something heavy with your mind.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Foretaste of Abstract Wonderland

They met in second grade in Little Falls, MN and have been friends for a lifetime. As young adults both served their country, Barry Opatz in Viet Nam and Randy Jarvis in the MN National Guard. Barry was introduced to 35mm cameras in Nam and shared his photography interest with his friend. While their life paths were divergent their friendship never diminished, especially their mutual interest in photography. Though they lived in different states they enjoyed those opportunities when they could share their pictures with one another.

One day Randy called to tell Barry about this amazing place he’d found. “He called it an ‘abstract wonderland.’” Barry says. “After he emailed me samples I knew a photo trip was in the works.”

They shot together over a weekend. “As we shared the resulting images with people the response was very positive which led to a gallery show and a photo book I put together on Blurb. This is a joint project so we share in our efforts to get this work out there for people to enjoy, and of course the investment.”

The project can best be described as a combination of "found art" and imagination. The site was a mother lode of fabulous images. Randy said that it was amazing to find so many great images and shots within such a finite space.

I have been sworn to secrecy as regards the location somewhere here in the upper Midwest, an old rail yard with train cars in various stages of disrepair. These two friends spent three sessions on the site and produced more than a thousand fabulous images.

Today over lunch I held in my hands the book they produced. It’s a bit expensive per copy but they’re working on finding a way to reduce expenses so they can sell copies to the many people who have expressed interest.

“The magic seems to be that everyone sees something different in each image. It's a self discovery type experience.”

If this project interests you, send a note to randyjarvis at centurytel dot net or bopatz2 at charter dot net. It’s a great story and their work is indeed magical.

Upper right: Barry Opatz (L) and Randy Jarvis (R)
Tomorrow I will share several more images here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Breaking Point

In psychology, the breaking point is a critical moment of personal stress. What are the events that bring people to this point? How do circumstances conspire to shatter the foundations we build our lives upon?

We live in a culture that dislikes exploring the root causes of a nervous breakdown or suicide. We talk in hushed tones about these aberrations of behavior, if we talk about them at all. Usually it is something careful. "That's too bad what happened to Bill. I never saw it coming."

All the drama in many peoples' lives is on the inside. We see blank expressions or listlessness, but there's a cauldron inside and occasionally it bubbles over into actions others do take notice of. "I never knew... He always seemed like such a nice guy."

This summer I set out to prepare four books for publication, massaging half a lifetime of writings into a set of eBooks to be sold on Kindle and Nook. Three are now published. This past weekend I began assembling the fourth, The Breaking Point and Other Stories. With the exception of the light-hearted and anecdotal Liz Mills, the stories in this volume have internal upheaval as their common thread.

The Breaking Point, 1991 winner of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Fiction Competition, features the emotions, expectations, illusions and delusions of mundane characters. In the midst of their ordinary lives there is an extraordinary event.

I wrote For One Night of Love after reading a story by French author Emile Zola. Though the story focuses on the development of a character named Jeremy, it is actually terminates at another's breaking point.

Episode on South Street was written after reading a non-fiction book on obsessive-compulsive behavior. The character is an artist and good Samaritan type with an unusual disposition, driven by his own inner demons and good intentions. This story was translated into a short film that was shown at the Erie Horror/Suspense Film Festival in 2004.

A Brief Transaction is essentially a scene, a moment in time. Like some of the others here it is characterized by the ordinariness that permeates life's surfaces. The internal scenery is altogether different.

The Breaking Point and other stories will be available in early-to-mid November, if not sooner. If interested in my other collections of stories, click on the book covers to your right here at this blog. Unremembered Histories has a paranormal feature at the center of its stories. The common thread of the stories in Newmanesque is akin to the signature twist that occurs in many of my drawings and paintings. The Red Scorpion, published last month, was my first novel.

Note: When you go to you can read the beginnings of these volumes free. But why stop there?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dylan Paintings Stimulate Controversies

The lead story at today is an article by photo critic and historian A. D. Coleman with regards to the problems raised by Bob Dylan's paintings on display in New York at the Gagosian. Today's Coleman piece was written after having visited the gallery and seen the works in person. It's a detailed assessment of the work and the contentious issues surrounding this show.

There are several areas of controversy. First, is Dylan's visual art worthy of such respected venues for display or is the relevance of his art due only to the fact that he is Dylan? The more serious issue stems from whether Dylan painted from photographs or from observation of real life, which becomes a controversy only when you compare the show's promotional materials (painted from scenes on his trips) to the facts of the case. Like myself, he often uses photos as a basis for the work.

Finally, the biggest issue has to do with doing paintings based on photos where someone else owns the copyright.

I first became aware of this problem when I noted that among the superfine works of crayon artist Don Marco is a reproduction of a well-known John Wayne photo. The artwork was done with Crayola TM but technically this is a copyright violation and an ethical matter.

Frankly, I don't know where the lines are on this issue, however. I've done 30 or more paintings and drawings of Dylan myself, mostly based on images others have taken. My one attempt to contact Dylan's agent in order to shoot original photos myself went no where, as you would guess.

My personal workaround, when doing many of my paintings of public figures, is to shoot my original photos from off my monitor while watching a DVD. Ack! This is probably a violation of the film makers' copyright.

Well, if you have a little time, check out A. D. Coleman's Bob Dylan: The Painter and the Photograph (3). Be sure to follow all the links because they will take you to some interesting places and spaces.

"Meantime, life goes on all around you." Have a good one.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bob Dylan's Dream

About two months ago I got a new (used) car, and it has temporarily changed my lifestyle. The reason being is that it does not have a CD player so that I have been listening to the radio. It's probably a good cultural experience, listening to what people are talking about, and to the music that is airing these days after ten years of audio books.

One thing I noticed the other day while listening to a music station, there aren't a lot of song writers with the lyrical pen Dylan brought to the music scene five decades ago. That's probably harsh, but one song during yesterday's morning commute just made me cringe with its predictability and lack of originality. The song's only real value was the offering up of a simple tune with modern high-tech production values. It was sung by a guy whose name people know, and he's probably made money singing so he's happy. But what a yawner compared to the depth and melancholy connection that a Dylan transfusion offers.

This example may appear simple, but there is more to the song as it unfolds, and the endgame is a real payoff.

Bob Dylan's Dream

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon
Where we together weathered many a storm
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung
Our words were told, our songs were sung
Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied
Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold
We never thought we could ever get old
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one

As easy it was to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split

How many a year has passed and gone
And many a gamble has been lost and won
And many a road taken by many a friend
And each one I’ve never seen again

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

Friday, October 21, 2011

Red Interactive: The Movie

Last night's Intersections event was very special, and once again totally engaging. Time will not permit a fair accounting of the evening in such a short space of time, but here is a film that captures the essence of our Red Interactive open house in September. Check in and check it out.

Photo: Co-collaborator John Heino during our setup in the New York Building, Superior.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Red is the Color

In 2010 the color of the year was red. Or rather, the color that created the most buzz was red, as in the multiple-award-winning play that hit Broadway on the life and work of Mark Rothko, titled Red. As it turns out, the two-man Broadway show has been sweeping the theater scene and capturing audiences across the country.

A September NYTimes article, When The Color Is Primary, focuses on the artwork used to promote these various performances. Whether by means of illustrations, paintings or photographs, artists used imagination in as many variations as there are shades of red, from cherry, magenta and rose to auburn, burgundy and rust. The variety is fascinating, and more so if you're familiar with the abstract color fields Rothko poured his soul into.

While looking for this article online I came across a review of the play, which in some ways reminded me of My Dinner With Andre, another two-man play that got strong reviews from critics. I myself enjoyed both the book and film based on that particular play, but your head has to be in the right place. It's an intellectual stroll quite different from Transformers, Reservoir Dogs or Kill Bill.

The 2010 Times review begins like this:

Even before you see his eyes, you’re aware of the force of his gaze. Portraying the artist Mark Rothko, Alfred Molina sits with his back to the audience at the beginning of “Red,” John Logan’s intense and exciting two-character bio-drama, which opened on Thursday night at the Golden Theater. Yet the set of his neck and shoulders makes it clear that he is staring hard and hungrily, locked in visual communion with the object before him.

Ben Brantley's Primary Colors and Abstract Appetites makes for a good intro to John Logan's two-man drama. For even more drama, read the readers' reviews.

On another topic with a red alert, tonight the Red Interactive gallery will again be opened to the public at 1410 Tower Avenue in Superior. On the docket is a multi-gallery event featuring the art environments in downtown Superior, an expression of the Phantom Galleries Superior. There will be a reception, walking tours, music and even a Tango dance lesson. Featured artists include Kathy McTavish, Sheila Packa, Erik Pearson and the Red Interactive collaboration of John Heino and Ed Newman. Doors will be open from 5:00-9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate with us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Five More Minutes Multi-media artist Tonja Sell

Last week I shared some of multi-media artist Tonja Sell's work. I still had more questions for her, including where others can find her work and see it in person. She graciously replied.

Ennyman: Your work has wonderful layers of color. How did your father’s craft influence this aspect of your work?

Tonja Sell: My father began glass blowing in the mid 60's in Superior, WI. After his hand-built equipment was vandalized and ruined it went on the shelf for many years. He resumed glass-blowing during my last year of high school. I went to college in Milwaukee and only returned home for the summers so I really wasn't a part of the early stages of the developmental process. After college I moved to Arizona for 6 years.

So glass wasn't an early artistic influence but has become one in more recent years. As you walk into the Oulu Glass Gallery you are met with an explosion of color, caught up in a commotion of color and pattern. It cannot help but affect you. I have seen how my work has changed, particularly in color intensity and with the incorporation of pattern, likely an influence of the exposure to the glass blowing process.

I have done little glass-blowing myself but very much enjoy watching my father and children explore the process. It really is mesmerizing. My father began building in the early 70's and lives and works in the home/studio he designed and built. In the early 90's my husband and I designed and built next door. In the early 2000's my brother designed and has begun building nearby as well. Altogether our three families are living on an 80 acre "compound" as it is lovingly referred to. My brother is an artist in Brooklyn, NY and only returns home seasonally.

E: What prompted you to begin incorporating a multi-media approach to your work?

TS: Mixed media has always appealed to me. I tend to become impatient quickly while working on just one thing or with just one medium. I commonly work on several very different things at once. I love the "feel" of work and working, the tactile experience. So often when I am working on something flat-- a painting or drawing -- I will leave it for a while and work on another project that requires more "construction", like felting or fused glass, where I can cut and grind pieces and do bead work, etc... Until recently I kept those things very separate but now am wanting to learn to combine them. Mixed media makes sense for me.

I have had the urge to work sculptural for a long time but haven't had the time or space to devote to the development of it. I am about to take a ceramic sculpture workshop given by Robin Murphy through the Duluth Art Institute. I am looking forward to learning the technicalities of creating larger ceramic pieces. I love learning new things. I want to learn everything I can about everything I can!

E: What are some of the materials you have incorporated into these pieces?

TS: I have experimented with cloth, metal, bead work as seen in "Waterways" (right) Metal, glass and painting shown in the hanging panels and sculptural lamp. Metal overlay on painted canvas (image included). Ceramic and glass and most recently layering paper and fabric onto drawing surfaces and canvas.

E: We met at the Park Point Art Fair. Where else do you show your work? Can people see more of your paintings and constructions online?
TS: The Park Point Art Fair is a very enjoyable fair to participate in. Artists are treated well and it is well attended even in fickle weather. It is close to my home which makes it easy to stay faithful to. Beyond that I rarely participate in art festivals.

I have recently rejoined the Art Resources Galleries in Minneapolis and Edina, MN. My work can be purchased at AR at the International Market Square and the AR Galleria, Edina. I have a couple websites I am creating to showcase my work. I show work in process there, things I am working on currently as well as older work. Some is available for purchase there before it makes its way to the Twin Cities.

I am a member of the Chequamegon Bay Arts Council and was given the top award at "The Gathering", a show being held currently at the Washburn Historical Society.

Elah's Ballet (award winner) and Sentry (owl pair) are on display and for sale there.

I have a few things available at the Bayfield Artist's Guild in Bayfield, WI seasonally. I am currently looking for a local venue where my work would fit.

For best enjoyment, click images to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Talk Tomorrow Evening at Superior Library

In mid-September, T.J. Lind and I held our launch party for The Red Scorpion at Goin' Postal in Duluth. Tomorrow evening from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Superior Public Library. Big thank you to Nora Fie.

The promotional signage states that we will be discussing the writing process, electronic publishing and our eBook, The Red Scorpion.

Since the launch six weeks ago our fledgling ePub house N&L Publishing has produced two additional books that are now available on Kindle and Nook, Unremembered Histories and Newmanesque, which I may be reading from in addition to our talk.

Here's an overview of some of the things we'll cover tomorrow evening:
Overview of how the presentation will go.
The status of ePublishing today.
Roots of The Red Scorpion.
How TJ & I met.
How N&L Publishing came to be.
Things TJ has learned through the DECA program and this project.
A synopsis of The Red Scorpion.
And few thoughts about the writing life.

Based on how much time we have, I will probably read a few sections from the book or a short story from one of the other books.

The books are all available on Kindle and Nook, and will soon be available on Mac's iBook platform. One of my favorite parts of, where Kindle books are sold, is the manner in which they cross-promote other products. If you buy books there you will see, "Customers who bought this... also bought this." It is gratifying to see that The Red Scorpion has received positive reviews there, the recommendation of Unremembered Histories is already recorded here. "Customers who bought The Red Scorpion also bought Unremembered Histories.

Another favorite part of online bookstores for me is the Reviews section. Here's a nice summary from one reader of the book we'll be talking about tomorrow:

This short book is a good mystery/suspense/science fiction thriller. It is carefully crafted and realistically portrayed (with life lessons taught). If you like an adventure/anthropology story (a mixture between the "The Hardy Books" series and Indiana Jones), Newman has written one for you. His depiction of character interaction (between friends, at school, in a family) is true to life. Set in both Mexico and Minnesota, within a time-frame of about 60 years, the Red Scorpion generates a balanced and varied sequence between action, mystery, suspense, and life at a normal pace. Very well done!

For what it's worth, we printed a limited run of 50 books for sharing at these two events, so if you are not yet part of the eBook revolution, you might wish to attend to purchase the paperback.

Meantime, may your day be filled with adventure, marching forward with your eyes on the prize.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Notes from a Discussion About Art

Over the weekend I shared here John Heino's notes from Friday's Red Interactive Brown Bag Lunch discussion. I have a few notes of my own to pass along as well. At the end of the hour we all agreed that we'd hardly scratched the surface. Here are some statements with my own commentary added in blue.

Much of the exchange centered on the question "what is art?" Many in the group favored greater inclusiveness. "There's room for everything in art," one person said, "but I reserve the right to call something crap." This sentiment was shared by others.

Another expressed an aversion to "chaos" or "elitism", the two extreme ends of our dichotomy. "There is no absolute criteria. Everyone has something 'art' in their being."

Erika Mock shared a couple of books with the group. The Re-Enchantment of Art by Suzi Gablik was the first. The second was Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind. I double-checked and both can be found on

Gary Reed, a local screen printer who has been making art most of his life, surprised me by saying, "I do not consider myself an artist." His creative work has impressed more than a few over the years but, he said, "I do it for myself." He was not one to lean toward the "all is art" camp. "That assemblage of chairs over there against the wall, is that art?"

This is exactly what the problem is for the post-modern art scene, because with enough rationalizing and a suitable artist statement, there very well might be an assemblage of chairs leaning in a gallery somewhere that is or has been called art. If so, then reviews will have been written in art publications, and the public might be called to view those chairs in a different light.

John Heino, moderating the discussion, shared his own story with regards to these issues. Heino had been an art student at the University of MN, Duluth, and completed an art minor. His career has been in the business realm at the executive level for more than two decades. Many times, he noted, he has been in business meetings where rigid perspectives could have been softened or even been illuminated by a more intuitive approach to the problem. Creative thinking has benefits that can't entirely be quantified.

He went on to say, "I am personally disappointed with what has happened these last 25 years in the schools. Art is a lower priority than it used to to and that's a bad thing."

He shared a lesson he learned from a photography professor. When he was a student he'd imagined himself as an Ansel Adams taking spectacular images. But it dawned on him that the spectacular scenes in the Rockies were not something he was going to happen upon here in Northern Minnesota. Would he have to travel to exotic locations to get the pictures he wanted? His professor said he was focused too much on what was outside the camera, on the scenery. The advice he was given was, "Don't take the picture. Let it take you."

John found this liberating. Suddenly there were all kinds of images because he was no longer locked in to a predetermined mindset as to what he was looking for. Years later, in business, he found this very same problem occurring. People came to meetings with predetermined objectives, and they don't listen to one another.

How do we elevate the importance of art? Benefits include helping young people better understand the creative process. Flow, non-language based communication and thinking outside our typical paradigms are all things with value. Understanding symbolism, intuition and unlocking invisible worlds... By means of the arts and the encouragement of creative expression, we have an opportunity to engage our young people and better prepare them for life.

Just sowing a seed. In the meantime... embrace the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Remember Who You Are

I came across a Father's Day card from my son this past week which I currently have staring at me from my desk. It reads, LIFE ISN'T ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF. LIFE IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF.

It's one of those conundrums that I can't seem to let go of, because part of me has often said that our quest in life is to discover who we are. Didn't young Simba's father return to tell him, "Remember who you are" while Simba wandered about in the worry-free dream land of Hakuna Matata? Finding yourself is a worthy quest. Discovering that we've got royal blood and a high calling.... these things are all good.

But creating oneself is an equally important task, and challenging. It's a future orientation that recognizes the power of our choices today, in the now. It implies an active participation on our part. Decisions. Making value judgments regarding various paths. Even high anxiety because something is at stake. You. Who you are and what you will be.

In some ways it's like being on a railroad track. At certain points there are alternative directions we can take, but we really can't see where the tracks will lead. We make choices and soon find ourselves in a different setting, with different scenery.

Bruce Barton's quote comes to mind. "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things... I am tempted to think there are no little things."

Make the most of your day... and the life that is ahead of you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dialogue on Role of Art in Society Was Both Surprising and Engaging

During the noon hour yesterday a half dozen of us met for a Red Interactive Brown Bag Lunch Dialogue about art around the theme “Engagement or Chaos?” The main objective was to get clarification on what appears to be a problematic dichotomy in the arts. Is anything and everything art? Or is art only considered art after it has been “blessed” by the appropriately certified critics from on high? John Heino served as moderator of the discussion as we explored these two apparently contradictory propositions.

At the beginning of the hour we were each given a red marker that we were asked to place on a line that indicated where we personally stood with regard to this dichotomy. The line was numbered 1 through 10 with 5 being the middle of the road. On the extreme left we had Elitism and Control. On the extreme right we had Engagement and Chaos.

The dot placements proved surprising. One was toward the left, most were toward the engagement/chaos side of center and one was off the grid completely. Erika indicated that her unusual outside-the-box placement came from a lifetime of observing that many false dichotomies have been created when we make either/or assumptions. She sees the need to re-phrase the paradigm and see it as a circle with room for all perspectives. It was the first of many unexpected insights.

What follows are some of the notes John sent to me from yesterday's dialogue. An hour clearly proved too short and it became evident to all that we were just scratching the surface. Much more can be said.

What was especially valuable, and not recorded here, were the many stories and experiences that informed our personal perspectives. It was helpful, too, that John set up the dialogue in a manner that provided a level of non-judgmental trust in which everyone felt free to be open. John's notes from the discussion are here.

AND (vs. or)
Think of a circle [or perhaps a sphere] instead of linear spectrum
• Room for diverse expression
• Avoid judgment
• Inclusive

Pretty much room for everything
• Whatever criteria you come up with, there’s always something that doesn’t fit
• Reserve the right to call something “crap”

Don’t like either word—“chaos” or “elitism” in the context of art
• Everyone has something “art” within her/his being
• What is “art” will always remain subjective
• Engagement is the better choice

• There is a place for “high” art
• Appreciation at certain levels requires training
• BUT creativity is innate in all of us

Engagement may be the future of art.

People want to engage.

Where is art going in postmodern society?

Capitalism run amok is a problem.
• It seems to be all about the money

What happens with organic growth when it begins to look like chaos?

We need a new paradigm.
• Spirit-based, flowing
• Listen to each other
• Really see
• Pay attention to the intuitive world
• Notice where everyone is coming from

Social and economic dynamics over the past 25 years or so have resulted in art being less valued and less of a priority in society.
• Schools can’t afford art classes? It’s a choice. Political dynamics have allowed that choice, but that wouldn’t be the case if a majority of taxpayers and political supporters insisted that the arts be made a priority.
• Everybody loses when the arts are treated like discretionary spending. It’s more than just the sad shortchanging of something very important that makes us human. The insights students gain in the arts give them a broader tool kit no matter what they eventually do for a living. One-dimensional students become one-dimensional employees and unimaginative managers if they make it that far.
• Think of the cumulative negative impact of turning out less creative graduates. What has it done to earning potential of our young people? To business productivity improvement? To the wellbeing, competitiveness and economic performance of America? In reality, we cannot “not afford” to include arts as part of a well-rounded education.

What is value?
• Utilitarian?
• Aesthetic/beauty?
• What about the assumption that if a piece of art is expensive, it must be good?

"I don’t accept that anything is art."
• But I want to decide. I don’t want to be told why I should appreciate a piece of art.

I don’t really think of myself as an artist, but I have impulses to make things.
• If someone else enjoys it, that’s great.

If something called art is strange or inaccessible on its face, it may be because we’re not trained to understand what is happening.

In the end it proved a most interesting discussion. What happens next is anyone's guess, but some of these points will be posted at our Red Interactive page on Facebook, and you're invited to join the dialogue.

Enjoy the day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Engagement or Chaos: The Role of Art in Post-Modern Society

One feature of the Phantom Galleries Project, and especially our Red Interactive project, has been an attempt to engage the public. For our open house in September we invited people to wear red and bring something red that could be used in a collaborative sculpture. It thrilled us to see the interaction that occurred as the show visitors engaged in the making of that 3-D red expression.

Today the office-space-turned-gallery at 1410 Tower Avenue will be opened for an hour to discuss questions about the role of art in society today. John Heino and I will be moderators of this brown bag lunch public event titled “Engagement or Chaos?”

The main object of the discussion will be to get clarification on what appears to be a problematic dichotomy in the arts. Is anything and everything art? Or is art only considered art after it has been “blessed” by the appropriately certified critics from on high? Another way to break this out will be to explore these two apparently contradictory propositions.

Perspective 1
This idea that anyone with materials and an impulse can make art is just nonsense. More engagement? Maybe, but it’s a slippery slope to chaos. There are still very valid roles for art critics and art historians and that is to ensure that there always remains something legitimate about what gets to be called “art.”

Perspective 2
What is the art elite protecting? There never have been absolute criteria for determining what is and isn’t art. Now, more than ever, we need to foster engagement and not be overly concerned about what “passes for art.” Would the world end if a piece of non-art avoided detection? It hasn’t yet. Engagement is the antidote for elitism.

According to John Heino, photographer and co-founder of the Red Interactive project, “This is not a mere intellectual exercise. If we agree that some form of art is a desirable component of human existence, then we ought to be concerned about accessibility and practice as it relates to the entire population, not just a smattering of insular cults that are intentionally or otherwise incomprehensible to ‘average’ folks.

I, too, have questions. Is aesthetic appreciation innate, automatic and universal or something that also must be learned in order to be valued? If the latter, can this be part of why elites sometimes disdain the common to some extent? Is there a place for high art, high culture?

The dialogue is intended as a starting point for future discussions about the relationships between the arts, culture and commerce. Red Interactive is a sanctioned project of Phantom Galleries Superior.

Phantom Galleries Superior (PGS) is one of six Phantom Gallery initiatives in the state of Wisconsin supported by the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the state of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. PGS is a unique partnership between Superior Public Art Creating Community Environments (SPAC2ES) and Superior Business Improvement District (BID), the property owners, the artists, and the community. Use of properties is generously donated by the owners. Additional support comes from multiple artistic resources, the BID, and the Morgan Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.

For more information about Red Interactive visit our on online interactions on Facebook. In the meantime, let's keep the dialogue rolling.

Engagement happens.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ten Minutes with Artist Tonja Sell (Part II)

Yesterday began an interview with Tonja Sell, a painter and mixed media artist. What I liked about her work when I saw it last summer was how she incorporated found objects and miscellaneous materials into her designs. The effects were sometimes astonishing and the pictures here do not adequately convey it. Do take time to click on the images to enlarge them. And enjoy Tonja's commentary on various facets of the artist life.

Relationship to Color

TS: Color was very frightening to me for a long time. I used it but never felt very confident in it. I have so much to learn! I combine color currently with a lot of curiosity in the process. Hmmm, what if I do this...? Since I have started working again fear really hasn't been an issue. Not that I feel I have mastered anything, but I am embracing color and choosing to explore it's possibilities without fear! I am approaching everything in my work that way. I don't care if things are "successful" or not. I am much more concerned about the process and what I can learn through and in it. It has been very liberating.

A Dreamlike Style

TS: I think glass exposure has been an influence here. Glass is so fluid and the color layering and patterns that evolve in the process of glass blowing likely shows up in my work more than I realize. It's hypnotic to watch. There are definite similarities there. I am a collector of images. Not always physically, but certainly mentally. I am always making note of patterns, interesting marks, fabric samples, flowers, leaves, etc...So they are very much filed in my mind and come out as I am working. Occasionally I will include specific images that come from a collected reference, but more often they simply develop in the space as needed.


TS: I am very much drawn to patten, texture and color layering as seen in the work of Klimt and Van Gogh, the mood, details and drama of Mucha, the beauty and grace of the Pre-Raphaelites and Vermeer. The exaggeration of figure of Egon Schiele, So many things about so many artists that I love. I live in Rural Northern Wisconsin now and find birds, natural patterns, flowers, pets and my kids show up quite
often... It makes sense I suppose, as it is my life.

Are many of your paintings self-portraits? If so, what is the appeal of working from yourself as a model? Do you work from models? Photographs? Internet images?

Many people wonder if I use myself as a subject. I find it very interesting as I rarely do intentionally . I will often refer to my face or the faces of my daughters if I am working out a shadow or specific color, but I usually have the pose or facial features worked out before this point.

I much prefer working from life than photos and hope to be able to do that more and more. The difficulty comes in finding willing and able models that work cheap! My kids are usually somewhat willing and always available. I will use what suits me at the time. I don't have an aversion to photo images as I know artists some do, I just find it easier and fresher to work from life.

Tell me a little about your process, from start to finish. What drawing or painting techniques are particularly important in your process?

I am drawn to simple poses. Moment in time settings, almost like you walked in on someone and caught them unaware. I will often observe a pose and file it away in my mind until I need it. When I prepare to work I often just look at my canvas or paper for a while and see what "appears". It sounds silly but it rarely takes more than a moment for something to begin to take shape- very loosely but still a direction.
I will then usually set up the pose using family or friends or look for a magazine image or reference that is helpful. I have a pretty good grasp of the figure so I am mostly working out color or light and shadow issues. Once I have the figure placement pretty much worked out in a loose sketch I begin to work the whole piece at once, working from the outside in. I am very much considering the entire composition as I go.

The negative and positive shapes are very important as well as the possibilities of what is happening inside those shapes. I almost never work on one area for more than a few minutes before moving around the space. I find that I am careful to repeat colors as well as patterns around the whole piece. I want the eye to move around the piece coming to rest on the intended focal point. I am rarely thinking about it as I am doing it, but find it usually happens in the works that I am most please with.

Often it will begin very loose and aggressive. Fast, loose and bold strokes, patterns and bright color. I am learning the importance of the under painting in my work. I love to have the unexpected show through and that only seems to happen through significant layering. I am intentionally working quickly, trying not to labor over specifics. Learning from a piece and moving onto another. I figure I can always paint over it!

Most of the things I am doing now are done in a day or two, working as I can fit it in. I also home-school my children so days are still full.

Recent Shows

TS: I have recently rejoined the Art Resources Galleries at the Galleria in Edina, MN and International Market Square in Minneapolis, MN. They are currently the only gallery where my work is being shown.
I am looking for other galleries where my work may fit. I used to be very timid about approaching a gallery but have found it worth the effort. If there seems to be a place that carries work of the same caliber as yours and you think your work may fit- approach them, why not, what do you have to lose. If they consider your work --great, if they reject you, respectfully ask why. You may get a very helpful critique out of the experience and that's always useful!

I always have the gallery set price of the piece. They know what they can sell for in a given area. They know their market and have always been happy with the outcome.

The Business Side

TS: I have been involved in commercial free-lance illustration, children's book illustration, art fairs and gallery representation. Commercial illustration paid well but was very high pressure production and very difficult to do with a young family.

Art fairs can be enjoyable or a nightmare. So many factors are a play. Weather, advertising, reputation... I do one outdoor festival that has existed for 40 + years. The artists are treated very well, it is well attended and is a pleasure to participate in as long as the weather is cooperative.

Galleries are my favorite setting. The exposure potential is significant and with the event of the Internet only growing. They are usually able to secure prices that can be hard for artists to otherwise attain.

The Internet holds so many possibilities of self representation. I am very interested to see the opportunities for artists on all levels.


TS: I am a veracious book collector. I love children's books, anything cheap with great illustrations, also magazines, I will often take 10 minutes and tear through a magazine pulling anything that stands out for any reason. Some I will save in a box if they are small or put them into a categorized three ring binder with clear sleeves- faces, hands, birds, fabric....I have several binders full! While I rarely work directly from them they are invaluable!

I have recently discovered Etsy and am enjoying exploring it very much! lol! I find inspiration in the oddest places and Etsy has so many interesting things every day. I have created an Etsy page with my kids where they sell things they find from our woods. It's a hoot! I am just beginning to explore the Internet as an inspiration resource. I would love to have a list of great sites passed on to me!

Present Projects, Future Plans

TS: I am currently working on a large painting that was inspired by a quick study. It is unique for me as I have incorporated some collage elements into it. I am curious to see if it works. It is typical for me to have multiple projects going at once. Right now I have 4 paintings and 5 drawings in various stages of development, as well as assorted fused jewelry projects, glass mosaics and felted scarves. I am also preparing the sketches I do during the drawing group, that I meet with weekly, for a show that will be held in that space. I just intend to keep working and experimenting and see where it leads, enjoying the process as I go. Life is a breath- live it with intentionally and with gusto!

Other Creative Endeavors

TS: My husband and I are considering opening a java/art/cafe in the nearby town of Brule, WI where we would provide opportunity for emerging and local artist to show their work and a place to offer art classes. I would love to create a comfortable environment where artist and those who appreciate art can come together to make, learn, buy and sell. We shall see!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ten Minutes with Artist Tonja Sell (Part I)

Summertime in Duluth is a season of tourism, activities and events. One of these events that's near as reliable as the season is the Park Point Art Festival which this year had 122 exhibits of creative expression from photography, painting and sculpture to fiber art and jewelry. One artist who work stood out to me this summer was Tonja Sell. I chatted with Tonja and aimed to interview her later this summer but as many good intentions go, summer slipped away and I'd misplaced her contact information. C'est la vie.

Last week it happened that while re-arranging some of my paintings at the Red Interactive Phantom Gallery Superior I ran into Tonja again as she was painting in Kathleen Kollodge's Tuesday painting class there in the New York Building. Once more I was impressed by what she was working on, and this time followed through with the interview questions.

Instead of replying to the various questions I asked, she sent back this interview which she had done for another artist newsletter, promising to answer my questions as time permits. She is a mother as well as artist and busy juggling all the other responsibilities of a household. Here's Tonja, talking about various facets of her life as an artist.

My father was a builder and currently a full-time glass-blower and my mother was a high-school art teacher, so I grew up in a very creative home. It was evident early on that making things was very much a part of my nature. I most of my childhood in a very rural part of Northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior where winters are long and brutal but the landscape is stunning! I was continually building forts, making mud sculpture. One of my earliest memories of "making art" was from the age of about four, a young friend and I painted automobiles in a apartment complex parking lot with house paint that we had discovered. From about six on I drew all the time. If I wasn't exploring the 80 acre woods we moved to, I would be found drawing.

Making Time for Art
Upon high-school graduation I received a scholarship to attend MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design). Since I was a lousy waitress, and needed to pay for art supplies, I chose to sell the fused glass jewelry I made from a cart in downtown Milwaukee that I made with my father from old bicycle parts. That was my first "professional" art experience!

After college I married my "product/industrial designer- now pastor" husband of 22 years and moved to the Phoenix, AZ area where I did freelance illustration, some murals and worked on some minor book projects. I also taught art to children and adults and did glass fusing that I sold at street fairs.

In 1994 we returned to Northern WI to raise our family and build the home and studio where we currently reside. I continued to work as I was able while raising and home-schooling 4 kids, now ages 17 to 6. I had drawings and paintings in a few galleries and continued to make glass jewelry.

My repertoire includes fused glass, metal-glass-oil painted sculpture, felting, printmaking, photography, pottery and ceramic sculpture, watercolor, acrylic painting, mixed-media, sewing, charcoal, pastels and oils with a few other odds and ends thrown in.

Though I have been able to work some, I haven't worked seriously until jumping back into it in 2009.

Subject Matter
So much of the art community seems to emphasize the shocking, odd social commentary, the ugly or strange for the sake gaining recognition. I think an artist is a social reporter whether or not they are trying. It seems so many people try so hard to become a certain type of artist that they often aren't being very truthful. I focus on what moves me. Usually it's simple, beautiful things. That is the world that is mine. It's not that I am oblivious to the ugliness in the world I just don't feel the need to focus on it. I don't care if I am "discovered" I just love the process and activity of making things.

I like art that draws me into someone’s experience. A point in time, a moment, that I can become a part of. I have a harder time connecting with completely abstracted images for that reason. I can appreciate them on a certain level but They lose my attention very quickly.

The human element is important to me. People are the reoccurring subject for me- usually women- after all it's what I know best as I am one.

Though I am interested in nature themes and landscape I find it more difficult to interpret it in a way I am comfortable with and find it doesn't hold my attention the same way the figure does. My landscapes tend to be very quick studies.

I am in experimental mode right now. I am interested in so many things it can be difficult to focus. I love to work and have multiple things going at once. Drawing is my first love, I love the feel of the paper, the noise the tool makes as I am working it, the motion of it. I am pretty aggressive as I work. I just love making marks!

I am learning to paint. I only had intro painting exposure my first year of college so I am finding my own way. I started with acrylics and now am experimenting with oils. I have found acrylics to be frustrating since the dry so quickly. I am very much enjoying oils but have much to learn.

Collage is quite foreign to me I love the idea of layering images and using found objects that tell a story but there is much about technical application that I do not know. Glass fusing is collage with color, layering to achieve unexpected results. Glass has also been an income staple for us. I have been able to easily incorporate into a busy lifestyle in a way that I could not with painting and drawing previously.

Developing the Craft
I personally believe drawing is vital. It is the starting point. If someone cannot interpret image with line and shadow it's evident in their other work as well. If you can, anything else done will only be enhanced by that knowledge and skill.

My daughter dances ballet so she made a lovely study model as I began to work again. Dance lends itself so wonderfully the drawing process. I try to draw daily now and have joined a local drawing group that meets weekly. We meet for fellowship and inspiration. It is a time where I can work uninterrupted by family activities.

Click images to enlarge.

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