Saturday, June 30, 2012

Uprooted: The Ralph Kand Story (Part XIII)

These Saturday blog entries are devoted to a serial novel titled Uprooted, a story about Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. As the Red Army approached Tallin, capitol of Estonia, Ralph secured a spot on the very last boat of exiles fleeing their Homeland. When the boat neared Gdansk in Poland, a Nazi patrol boat brought them to port where they were placed in a makeshift concentration camp.


As morning broke, Ralph lay prone, wide awake as he had been the entire night, his mind dizzy from too much thinking. With considerable effort he finally sat up. There was only one other man in the bunkhouse now, a squat man with very small ears and brown, greasy hair.

“What’s your name?”

“Kand. Ralph Kand. And you?”

“Hans. Did you just arrive? This is not a place you want to stay.”

“I don’t plan to,” Ralph said, his mouth bitter with a nostalgic taste.

“Good. I’m leaving, too,” Hans said. “I’ll go mad if I stay with this rabble.”

Ralph squinted, slats of sunlight now filling the room. “You can get us out of here?”

“I have tin snips. I’ve been here three weeks. Tonight there will be no moon. I found a space in the outer fence where they have no guards and no lights. I will show you.”

It was well past midnight when Ralph and Hans slipped from their bed to the door. They could hear a woman crying in the dark as they eased their way out the door, keeping to the shadows. Hans had said he'd been told it was not intended to be a prison, just a means of confinement while they processed the mass of fugitives from the east. Nevertheless they both knew it would be disastrous to get caught making an escape.

When they reached the fence, Ralph knelt and lifted the bottom wire. It was loose. It didn't even need to be snipped for them to scrunch under it. Once on the other side they were soon in a clump of trees and brush across the unpaved outer road.

"Now what?" Ralph said.

Hans vigorously shook his loose trousers and jacket to knock the dirt off, threw the tin snips into the weeds, then patted himself down. Ralph followed, in an effort to make himself presentable.

"We walk. Need to put some distance between us and the camp."

For a short while they trudged through the countryside in silence, the only sound being the snapping of twigs or whooshing of bramble against their legs.

"We have to go west," Ralph said. "We can't stay in Poland."

They crossed a road and went into another batch of trees. "Let's find a place to rest," Hans said.

Ralph, too, was weary, exhausted, but determined to press on. Hans lifted his eyes to Ralph's to meet his gaze. Ralph turned and limped on as he reluctantly followed.

Ralph's thoughts went to his days at the brewery before the Russians came. How easily they joked then. How easy it all seemed, drinking vodka and laughing. What a chilling effect the loss of freedom had on everyone, a dark blanket that smothered men's souls.

"Shhh!" Ralph gestured with his hand for Hans to halt. All the first sounds of dawn were springing to life now, birds chirping, rejoicing, oblivious to danger. The rippling of a nearby stream formed a melodic undertone. In the distance a steam locomotive pounded the rails. A whistle blew. Ralph's eyebrows lifted.

"We can't catch a train. We have no money and no papers," the squat man said.

"It's the fastest way out of here. We have to do what we can."

Ralph waved his hand in the direction of the stream, found a small rocky place where he could kneel, splashed water in his face. He cupped his hands and began to drink. "This is good."

"Lucky." Hans said. "I was thirsty, too."

"We'll find the tracks and follow them to a town. Maybe we can find a way --"

And like that they both understood the mission. "We need to rest first. We have a long ways to go."

Hans was carrying a small pack which had extra clothes in it. He lay down and used it as a pillow. Ralph found a grassy patch under the trees lay on his side, head resting on his arm. They were both quickly sleeping.

The sun was straight overhead when they wrangled themselves up to get started again. Both were feeling their hunger now. After a modest hike they reached the tracks, gazed southwest and trundled along. After a short time they came upon a farmhouse. An old Polish man with round face and bushy eyebrows was seated on the porch whittling. 



Friday, June 29, 2012

Eight Minutes with Artist Morgan Pease

Morgan Pease is a 25-year-old artist who grew up in Wisconsin, schooled here in the Twin Ports and now lives in the Twin Cities. When it was announced that Morgan Pease would be exhibiting at the Ochre Ghost this month there was a noticeable buzz. I'd seen one of his shows at the Duluth Art Institute a couple years back and looked forward to meeting him when he was back in town.

EN: What do you do for a living at this point in time? 
Morgan Pease: As of right now I am a bike mechanic (been doing that for a long time actually) for the Hub Bike Co-operative in Minneapolis. The job allows me to afford the fun stuff I like to do and gives me time when I need to really concentrate on my artwork.

EN: How did you first take an interest in the fine arts? 
MP: I grew up in a very creative family. My father is a children's singer and my mother is amazing at pretty much everything and they encouraged me to do whatever made me happy. Which to date has been a fair share of crazy adventures and the like. The community which helped is also full of a handful of very talented artists and crafts people which allowed me to see a lot of different processes from the time I was very little still to this day.

EN: What kind of training have you had? Schooling… mentors… etc. 
MP: Ahh... training. Never quite liked that word. But anyways I studied at the University of Minnesota Duluth under a bunch of wonderful professors. I definitely can attribute most of my technical skills (which I'm not sure there is much there anymore) to the professors there. Especially Ryuta Nakajima, Robert Repinski, Jen Dietrich, Cecilia Ramone, and all the friends I worked in the studio with.

EN: Can you describe your personal attitude/philosophy toward making art? (example, “Art for art’s sake” or “Art as conscience of the world” etc.) 
MP: This is a tough one for me because I feel like it changes almost every time I am creating something or thinking about creating something. For the most part though I believe as much I want to put my own thoughts and teachings into my work I feel that by the end of a series the work has taught me more then I could ever put into the work. This may be because most of the work I do is monotonous and time consuming which leaves me with plenty of time and space to bounce stuff around inside my head.

EN: What are your current projects? Are you still into triangles and movement? 
MP: My current projects right now are more based in functional creation although I have a new series entitled "16 Year Dream" which is still in the planning stages at the moment. I've been trying to figure out a couple new processes in which to work with and I'm definitely seeing some progress there. As for the triangles. I definitely will always be interested in triangles and the movement which such a simple shape can convey if used correctly. More then just triangles I have a fascination with most simple line/shape work which can convey subtle and intense motion.

EN: What does your personal art space look like? Do you have a studio in your home or elsewhere? 
MP: I do have a home studio, two actually. I've got an office for design and planning work and a wood/workshop in the basement to get my hands dirty. I've talked to a lot of artists about their decisions to have a studio at home or not and for me I just feel like it works for me. I'm a homebody so the less distance I have to go before starting something the better.

EN: What inspires you or keeps you going as an artist? 
MP: Enjoyment is the number one thing which keeps me creative. As with pretty much everything I do if I don't or can't find enjoyment in it I will simply not do it.

To see more work by Morgan Pease visit


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are Blacks And Whites Treated Differently In This Country?

In the summer of '73 Pluckemin Presbyterian Church participated in a program in which inner city black youth were brought out to live with suburban families to get experiences you don't always enjoy in Newark or the Bronx. My parents signed on and "adopted" one such child for a week or two. I was away at college so my recollection of the details is sketchy. All my brothers can probably tell you his name, but for me he was the eight-year-old kid from Newark who stayed in my room, enjoyed our pool and became part of our family for a small space of time.

At the end of his stay my dad bought the boy a new bicycle. Evidently the kid liked riding our bikes and didn't have one of his own. I imagine that it must have been a thrill to bring that bike home with him.

To my parents' shock and surprise, two days later the police confiscated that bike from this boy on the assumption that he had stolen it. Little black kid in the ghetto + shiny new bike = suspicion of crime. That must have been the math the police used to draw this conclusion, as if everything is black and white. Unfortunately, they did not see the full picture because they did not have the facts.

I think of my own youth, riding my bike to the park and to the school and to the drug store for candy. And I wonder how many times the cops were thinking, "Better check this kid out. Might be a stolen bike." As we know, that never happened. I was a white boy with that innocent Leave it to Beaver look.

All this to say that Duluth's controversial Un-Fair Campaign this past winter caused quite the uproar here for a couple months. The Mayor was threatened. Editors received scathing hate mail. Protestors came in from out of town to make a statement. In short, it got ugly around here.

There are few issues more controversial than race in this country -- you probably know what they are – and one way to learn exactly how controversial a topic has become is to talk about it openly.

The Un-Fair Campaign began as a billboard campaign featuring white folk with messages on their faces, and the theme, “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white.” Was the campaign aiming to say whites are racist? I don't think so. Were they saying other races are not racist? No, I don't believe so. I think their point was that our personal experiences lead us to take it for granted that everyone else's experience is like our own. Unfortunately, like the boy from Newark, normal for him has been a very different experience than what was normal for me.

Afterward I was able to discuss the campaign with a couple members of Swim Creative, the agency that helped develop the campaign pro bono. The campaign objective was to start a dialogue about white privilege and raise awareness of the sensitive issue. Though successful in getting attention, there were many in the community who took offense and failed to get the point.

I myself even became the object of a vicious email for having interviewed Naomi Sundog-Yaeger Bischoff on a totally unrelated topic (writing) the year before. Bischoff, as editor of one of our local papers, wrote a favorable review of the concept of the campaign, and some hate-filled person who was out to get her slathered me as well. (I did not post the comment because it was wholly unrelated to the topic in the interview and too vile for public reproduction.)

For what it's worth, I work with someone who likes to throw a smiley face at the end of any email that might be perceived as having something of an edge on it. So I decided to do the same here by sharing a Saturday Night Live skit with Eddie Murphy that addresses this same issue. Are blacks and whites treated differently in America? Eddie Murphy goes undercover to find out.

For more information visit

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Red Interactive

Today's images were all taken from the collaborative social media art experience called Red Interactive. You're invited to check it out, "Like" it and contribute to your heart's desire.Spread the Red!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SPECIAL REPORT: Flood Assistance for Artists and Small Businesses

Because of the nature of the world we live in, troubles befall us that we have little or no control over. This week's devastating floods in the Twin Ports region brought this truth home to us with unexpected force. In response, many agencies and good-hearted people from across the land of sought to respond, to assist those in need here.  

Local potter/ceramicist Karin Kraemer forwarded this information to my attention for posting here on my blog as a means of getting the word out to artists in our region. Here are some organizations that you can turn to for assistance.

The Northeast Entrepreneur Fund is collecting who and how much impact there is in small businesses, so they can get funding from FEMA and other resources to help businesses harmed.

They will want to know:
How much disruption in time and loss of business and income
Loss of equipment and materials to be replaced ($)
And other stuff? I have to call and ask, also to get the pertinent info…

202 W Superior St # 311
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 726-4793

Artist Relief Fund in Duluth 
All of these will be helped along by getting ahold of the SBA and having them certify your damage photos of everything!
The University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development is the Small Business Development Center program in NE Minnesota.


Types of Financial Support
CERF+’s Emergency Grants are designed to provide immediate help to eligible craft artists after career-threatening emergencies.
The maximum potential Emergency Grant is $2,500.
The maximum potenital Emerging Professional Craft Artist Emergency Grant is $1,500. CERF+ loans and other CERF+ grants are not available to those qualifying for this grant program.

Note: If you receive a grant, you are required to report the money as income when filing your IRS tax form.

CERF+’s Emergency Recovery Loan is used by an eligible craft artist to re-establish, improve, or possibly expand his/her work capacity after an emergency.
The maximum potential Emergency Recovery Loan is $8,000.
No interest is charged and loans must be repaid within five years. To be considered for an Emergency Recovery Loan, applicants must answer all applicable application questions, provide a cash flow projection statement for the next 12 months as well a short, loan-related business plan.
Applicants may request a loan, grant or both.

Need help? Contact

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 838
Montpelier, VT 05601
Street Address CERF+
28 Elm Street #2
Montpelier, VT 05602
Tel: (802) 229-2306
Fax: (802) 223-6484
Office Hours: 8:30am - 5pm EST

Hope this helps. If there are corrections needed, leave a comment and I will correct as soon as able. 

Wanda Pearcy, Part II

One of my favorite questions when interviewing is the straightforward, "Who are your influences?" First, it is often one of the fastest ways to get inside a person to see what makes them tick. Second, it is a great way to lead readers toward vaster horizons for their own future growth and experience. And finally, I myself enjoy the enrichment that comes from learning about new artists or writers or thinkers so I can advance my own education with regard to the arts, for writers are students as well. 

Here is the the rich, detailed reply Wanda Pearcy UMD artist/assistant professor gave when I asked, "Who have been your heroes and why?" 

Andy Goldsworthy
“I respect his commitment to use natural materials and processes to make work, thus having a low impact on the environment. He found a way to make sculpture that is ephemeral. His work is somewhat escapist, and although I love it, how can this work be done without leaving culture is my big concern.”
Robert Smithson and Walter de Maria
“Both affect the land in ways that may be potentially harmful, extracting earth to bring into the gallery may not be the best way to bring about ecological balance, which I really want to work towards. Both of their work is complex and speaks to living in the 20th century, the industrial revolution allows large scale earth works to happen. The Walter de Maria Lightening Rods may be my all time favorite artwork, as a way of harnessing nature in a very organic way.”
Wolfgang Laib
“I respect his use of natural materials to manifest a sense of purity and presence. His work incorporates time in the natural world as a way of spiritual healing that I want to emulate.”
Anna Mendieta
“Her use of the body in nature comes across spiritually and non-sexual. I look to her work when wanting to use my body, in my art, in this way.”
Joseph Bueys
“I was introduced to Joseph Bueys while in grad school. His use of art as a teacher/activist/performer excited me and moved my work from painting towards some type of performance and started an integration of my diverse interests.”
John Cage/Bill T. Jones/Miles Davis
“I spent more time in dance classes than in any other discipline and it really created how I experience my self and my body in the world. I use improvisational choreographed time when I photograph and move in a photograph. I started school with a desire to ‘change the world’ per se via politics. I registered in undergrad as a Political Science student. I moved into art late in my undergraduate time and thus, carried my political intentions with me and J. Bueys was an activist who believed art had the power to change the world, so he inspired that part of myself who still wanted to make change. Bill T. Jones uses his dance performances to highlight diversity and power. Miles Davis and John Cage’s influence was in the use of improvisation to make a connection to authenticity.”
Louise Bourgeois/Joel Peter Witkin/Francesca Woodman
“I loved Louise for her freedom to make work about anything, even taboo. I see her as a pioneer for women who want to make work outside of what is acceptable female subject matter. She made work about intense intimacies, sexual politics and used no standard set of materials and explored installation. She was experimental and brave as was Francesca’s work. I like Joel’s work for that reason as well, his work uses taboo subjects and in doing so suggests that the idea of beauty is deeper than skin deep.”
Eva Hesse/Jasper Johns/Robert Rauchenberg/Jackson Pollock
“All for their freedom in the way they applied materials and in the materials they used. Ultimately I left painting on a search for a more environmentally kind material and process … this search is still on and I still miss painting and have a longing for it. Oil painting was what I loved, so, acrylic didn’t satisfy that desire for texture, glaze and depth.”
"I loved both of their work of the depth of color and meaning. Yet, I found humor and humanity in the Rembrandt work whereas, the Rothko work I found a sense of sorrow and humanity."
Vitto Acconchi
"For his understanding that if art was to change the world, artists had to leave the comfort of their field and join the fields that do the work to change systems. Creative people in the courts, in the food business, in architecture, in city planning etc… Artists in all fields, this is how art changes the world. Shortly after he discovered this way of thinking he left art to start an architecture firm. He is the idea man and the designer, and he hired a team of people who could make it happen."
Roman Signer
"Roman is my more recent inspiration. His work is playful, witty, fully of irony and has a sense of lyricism that is filled with a full understanding of the time we live in and the absurdity that exits with living within the age of technology."

Finally, I thought this thoughtful and thought-provoking excerpt from Pearcy's THE GAME OF ART would make a great note to end on. 

Expect it to nourish player in a way that is theareputic and personal.
Expect to be healed and touched spiritually
Expect it to transcend the personal and document the player’s social and contextual history.
Expect purpose and security
Expect constant experimentation with what art is and art can be. Expect love to change you
Expect content and clarity to be direct while leaving doors open for experimentation.
Expect fluidity and freedom within changes
Expect to disregard all of the above.
Expect to be surprised

Thank you, Wanda, for sharing yourself with us here.

All photos courtesy Wanda Pearcy. Click images to enlarge.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ten Minutes with Artist Wanda Pearcy

“As I continue examining ways to make art that fit my desires for transformation, I am working on Earthworks as a way to integrate my life and my art.” ~Wanda Pearcy

Duluth artist Wanda Pearcy is an assistant professor at the UMD’s College of Art and Design. Her work as an artist and photographer has garnered her much recognition and many awards. Her background includes painting, sculpture and modern dance. She received her MFA at LSU in 1997.

I first became aware of Wanda Peracy’s work through a show at the Duluth Art Institute approximately two years ago. This spring, despite a very busy schedule, she consented to participating in this interview.

EN: When did you first take an interest in the arts?
WP: Probably in high school when I took a class on Rembrandt. I also remember a great satisfaction from carving a hippo out of orange wax in high school. It wasn’t until I went to college that I thought of art as a lifestyle or a career.

EN: What prompted you to get your MFA?
WP: After I earned my BFA I spent a year teaching dance at Blue Water Dance and trying to find a job. After a year of searching it was clear that I needed a higher degree, I saw the MFA as a driver’s license in the field of art. After arriving and going through my first year of grad school it became an intense journey into the history of sculpture and video/film arts.“

EN: Later you gave up painting. What were the reasons behind this decision and where has it taken you?
WP: In grad school I sought after a process or a deliberate set of rules that would guide my art making process. Due to post modernism’s dismantling of the standard set of artistic rules artists used to make their work, it became necessary for each artist to create their own guidelines. The guidelines I developed became an art series called “Art as Life”. This series started with a physical process of transforming my oil paintings, literally dismantling them strand by strand, hand shredding them and then restructuring them into sculpture. In the end, this series developed a set of rules that I would follow to allow my art to fit the lifestyle and value choices that I live by. I created a life-sized game board that included my rules of what to make and expect from art, which included the following text:

Player One 

OBJECTIVE: Create art that is not in conflict with how one lives, how one thinks, who one is and the reality in which one lives.

In my life environmental concerns were increasingly becoming the foundation of how I lived and what I thought about and what time of changes I wanted to make in my life. After some deep thought about what I could commit to as a process for making art, oil painting didn’t seem to feed me due to it’s toxic nature. I still loved it and what it could produce and feed me spiritually but, the conflict was too great and I started experimenting in how I could transform my work process and my life process to fit this new creed.

As I continue examining ways to make art that fit my desires for transformation, I am working on Earthworks as a way to integrate my life and my art.

EN: Conceptual art and minimalism seemed like endpoints of a history that began with Duchamp's readymades. Now it seems like creative expression has exploded into whole new territories. What do you see happening in the arts as we begin the second decade of the 21st century?
WP: Technology has changed our relationship to the earth and to the art experience. Much of the art we see today has a sense of distance due to the distance between the art and the maker via the tools that are used to create, most of us no longer use the hand in the way that we have in the past. When I start framing an image with my camera I am pushing buttons that have an intended purpose. It is not the same as pushing charcoal across the page in an intuitive process. More of the mind is in the art process. I would say that less of the heart in a direct connection to expression has taken a silent step back. I hope to see artist’s re-examining, art without machines in new ways. As long as the machine is the way we live, travel, communicate, etc… it will always be in our art.

EN: 2012 is the hundred-year anniversary of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. Who are your heroes in the art scene today?
WP: Roman Signer – beautiful simplicity that is full of depth and questions the absurdity of the pace of the technical being.
Anne Arden McDonald – the body in the landscape.
Wolfgang Laib – spiritual guest in the landscape.
Francesca Woodman – innocent playfulness.
Anna Mendieta – use of the body in the landscape.
Robert and Shanna ParkeHarrison – I love their commitment to a sense of ecological heroism.

EN: What are some of your other sources of inspiration?
WP: Plant life underground has been my main study in the past 7 years as I grew my garden and it is now entering my art-work. I do foresee it becoming the focus of my work and I move toward documenting symbiotic landscapes. The title of my new series is ‘symbiotic landscape’, I also have a ‘dreamscape’ series in the works that is heavily influenced by my time in the natural world.

EdNote: Come back for Part II tomorrow.

Part One of this interview originally appeared in The Reader.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Park Point Art Fair: Take It In

Detail of painting by Tatiana Oles
The Park Point Art Fair is back in town. Sponsored by the Park Point Community Club, this art fair is now in its 42nd year, showcasing fine arts and crafts in a whole range of media including clay, fiber, glass, painting, photography, jewelry, wood and other natural materials. There' also music and the traditional array of food vendors.

All this to say that the sun is shining today and yesterday's rains have been chased away, so you really should take a little stitch of time from your afternoon to head on down to the end of the point.

I was quite surprised how many cars and people were there yesterday afternoon. Obviously the early rains did not dampen spirits and many of the artists I spoke with said business was good. After all, for the artists this is a business venture, not just a social occasion.

My aim here this morning is two-fold. First, to make a few observations about what I saw yesterday. And second,to encourage anyone reading this to make it a point to visit the Point today. It will be worthwhile for you and whomever you bring along to enjoy it with.

And if you're not from the upper midwest but reading this, I'm almost certain there will be art fairs in your area this summer. Looking at art is an aesthetically uplifting experience and the cost is zero to get in and enjoy it.

When I was in the screen printing industry I heard someone say that if your t-shirt doesn't have something printed on it, then you are walking around in your underwear. I think the same applies to walls in our houses and office spaces. Whether you clothe it completely or simply embellish it with a few select pieces, walls should not be left naked.

So, what's new this year at the Art Fair? You can definitely see that many photographers are now doing more photo manipulation with their images after capturing them. I saw a number of large photography on stretched canvas with the colors ultra-saturated so that flower literally leap toward your eyeballs. There's more and more photographer printed on other surfaces as well, and I'm sure we'll see even more creative uses of imaging technology in the future.

Annette Mattingly of Ely
Most artists have embraced, or accepted grudgingly, the high tech world we live in today and have websites for their work, or at the very least an email address where they can be reached. But some, like Annette Mattingly of Ely, have remained decidedly low tech. She makes beautiful mandalas out of the elements in her surroundings -- seeds, petals, other assorted natural materials. Her business is called Morning Glory Creations. I own one of her pieces which I purchases several years ago, a beautiful design wonderfully preserved.

A Morning Glory Creation
That's the best part of purchasing art objects. You see them at shows briefly, but when you bring it home you can enjoy it every day for the rest of your life. I think I understand the mindset of collectors. At least a certain kind of collector, the kind who buys art to appreciate it.

If you do make it to Park Point today, be sure you go out of your way to Booth 64 to see the paintings by Tatiana Oles. Originally from Eastern Europe, Tatiana does bright and intricate work that one is hard-pressed to describe.

I found Joan Wilson's mosaics quite original and fascinating. Wilson is from Shorewood, just north of St. Paul, and the way she's transformed old skis and boat paddles into art is quite imaginative. They're very reasonably priced, too.

You should also look for Sam Spiczka in Booth 70, a sculptor from Sauk Rapids whom I hadn't noticed before. He's doing some fascinating work in steel, inspired by natural bone forms. Think dinosaurs, with a pinch more imagination than you might expect. Really cool.

There are a lot of regulars here, too, a small fraternity of creative spirits who could probably tell you how it was back in the early Seventies and how it changed in the Nineties, and how it has evolved to what it is today. Elliot Silberman has been drawing portraits at art fairs and Rennaissance Festivals for longer than some of you have been alive. While drawing portraits of children he considers each one a teachable moment, a chance to impart some kind of wisdom and insight and encouragement to the kids. It's not just about making them sit still, but helping them taking something away that has value later.

All this to say it's going to be a beautiful day today, and if you are not dealing with last week's flood damage this would be a nice way to get outside to get a little fresh air, soak in some sun, entertain your eyes and meet some interesting people. Hope to see you there.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Uprooted: Part XII Westward Bound


These Saturday blog entries are devoted to a serial novel titled Uprooted, a story about Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. Last week Ralph was able to secure a spot on the very last boat of exiles fleeing the approaching Red Army. On this historical day 10 percent of the population of Estonia fled their homeland.

Westward Bound

No one was surprised that there might be submarines off these coastal waters. The two torpedoes only confirmed what the captain had feared. As the fully crammed fishing boat splashed into the open sea white-knuckled hands gripped the railings all around. Prayers were muttered and a hysterical woman was comforted by her husband. Ralph only peered into the waters, anticipating the worst.

But the worst did not happen. The boat chugged on, sloshing through the murky, turbulent waters. After the first hour Ralph relaxed enough to look about at the weary travelers on board with him here. How far were they going? How far would be far enough? Very few had slept the night before but there was not enough space for sleeping on the wet, spray-drenched decks or below. They would have to take turns.

Like everything else it was the unknowing that Ralph found so disconcerting. He turned and wriggled through toward where he hoped to find the captain. As he ducked below he nearly smacked his face into the first mate's as he stepped up to climb up top.

"Here, here. What's our destination?"

The first mate shrugged. "Don't know. We'll be following the coast."

"Stockholm. It's not that far."

"Captain doesn't want to lose his boat. If the weather turns the open sea will toss us like a piece of driftwood."

Ralph threw his head back and turned away. Stockholm would be safe. Anywhere else here on the continent... it would only be a matter of time. The Nazis were going to be in full retreat and there would be nothing to stop the Red Army from rolling wherever it wanted. Latvia and Lithuania had no real armies. Poland might become a place of retrenchment, but the real destination had to be further.

As the day wore on the mood shifted from dread to relief to small clusters of people telling stories. The return of the Soviets was a monumental disaster for Ralph, but now Ralph could hear others telling their experiences during the Nazi occupation as well. One man told about his Jewish housekeeper who was taken away. Others talked about how young the German boys were. Ralph listened, said very little, wondered how his mother was, and thought about his brother.

At dusk temperatures dropped and the cramped, wet conditions resulted in family units pull in close together for warmth. Ralph, isolated as he was, began to shiver. He stamped his feet to get the circulation flowing. His socks were soaked through as were his pants.

"We've passed the Gulf of Riga," he heard someone say. They must be off the coast of Lithuania somewhere, he surmised. He wondered again how far they would go. Poland? Germany? He found a wall to lean against and nodded off.

The commotion woke him. It was still night, but alarmed voices were mumbling. Ralph stood and saw coastal lights off to the left. Then he saw what the agitation was about. Another boat was approaching. He saw lights but couldn't gauge the distance. Suddenly a blinding spotlight flared to life and he realized the approaching craft had been much nearer than it appeared.

A man with a loudspeaker, shouting in German, requested that the captain identify himself. The captain had already climbed to the forecastle, lifting his hand in a form of salute to shade his eyes. The German now requested permission to board.

Ralph watched the procedure as an officer and two soldiers climbed into the vessel, armed and serious. The captain welcomed them nervously, Ralph thought, and invited them to examine the contents of the ship which was nothing more than refugees. The Germans made a cursory show of it, and notified all on board that the were on the outskirts of Gdansk, Poland. The German patrol boat ushered them into a bay where the captain could unload his cargo of passengers.

Soldiers ordered their new Estonian guests to assemble in clusters to await transport to temporary housing. After a time three vehicles arrived to usher them away. As dawn began to break the weary travellers disembarked, wet and ashen-faced. Their new home was a large temporary encampment with row after row of buildings, muddy walking paths and very little greenery. A German officer approached and ordered them to listen up.

"These are temporary homes. You must understand the situation. You will have provisions and sleeping quarters until we can process your identification."

The camp was surrounded by double rows of fencing decorated with barbed wire. That first Ralph knew this was not the freedom he was seeking, and decided this was not somewhere he would stay for long.


If you are enjoying these weekly installments of Uprooted: The Ralph Kand Story, you might also enjoy some of these other books by Ed Newman and friends.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Intergalactic: The Narrative

From March thru the first week of June I was involved in an exhilarating collaborative art project called Artist Kamikaze IV. This was my second year and I was initially paired with clothing artist Patricia Mahnke. The project we wanted to undertake was going to be ambitious so we didn't waste any time meeting to outline a plan. What we decided was to create a character and costume, whom I would then paint. Eventually this evolved into two characters and costumes. 

As the project evolved we had the good fortune of being able to obtain a third partner, Kate Dupre, who brought photography and Photoshop skills to the project. The first week of April we determined that in light of our busy schedules the first and last date for doing a photoshoot with our new characters and costumes would be May 19. This would give us enough time, 6-7 weeks, to finish the costumes and assemble the props for the shoot, and still allow me enough time to do the painting I wanted to do. 

What follows here is our story line, as conceived by the three of us, evolving as we went along. In another blog entry I will share some of the lessons I learned through working on this invigorating collaborative venture. 

Intergalactic: The Narrative
By Patty Peterson Mahnke, Kate Dupre and Ed Newman

Building Aurora
Once upon a time the people of planet earth began to realize that their planet had no future. They were not fully aware of the causes, they only knew that earth’s core was shutting down. Mankind did not comprehend the role it had played in this event.

This was the Steampunk era of Celestial Dreamers, however, and two scientists, Professor Minerva Delphina Wonderborn and Dr. Jules Langdon Lafon, pulled threads of a dream together to create an automaton who could give the people of Earth a vital hope. In her womb she carried galaxies, nebulae and rainbow fragments of infinity.

One very cold mid-winter eve Drs. Wonderborn and Lafon christened their creation and called her Aurora. After a final inspection of all her moving parts, the doctors uttered an ancient ritual incantation and the automaton was animated by the spirits of life. In the next instant lights flashed, the doctors leaped away and Aurora was hurtled into the universe to fulfill her mission.

* * * 

After a solitary voyage through vast expanses of space Aurora found herself attracted to a solar system aligned with the Andromeda galaxy where she identified a planet that she would soon learn was Galdur, an unusual bewitched planet, yet similar to the Earth where she had been generated.

Her first impressions were that the desolate planet was uninhabited. But then, she perceived a presence. Her instincts told her to be still and wait. She had landed within the shadows of a forbidden forest.

Njall, the young seeker.
It happened on the occasion when both Galdurian moons were swollen with fullness. As fortune would have it, a young girl from that planet had defied the edicts of her people to visit the shores of Lake Eir where her descendants once played in the open light of day. Her name was Njall. When she saw the brilliance of Aurora’s coming, she trembled.

The people of this planet had been cast under a spell, living in perpetual insecurity and fear. Njall belonged to the tribe of Gissuradotti who had once been bold and fearless. In olden times they would have sent an entourage to welcome a strange visitor like this to their planet, but something had crushed their confidence. They had come to believe the lies of a false prophet who said the planet was doomed and they were a doomed race. As a result the entire race chose to live underground, living in caverns, waiting for the end.

Within the shadows of the forest Aurora stood motionless, fully aware. Njall, in defiance of her tribal tendency to flee, went forward to explore. This was the forbidden Forest of Griffton. Njall had heard that there was an altar there to an unknown God and she suddenly felt compelled to find it, for what reason she knew not.

As she entered the forbidden forest she caught sight of Aurora and was struck dumb by Aurora’s bright spirit and beauty. Weary of the hopeless outlook of her people, Njall stared at Aurora and wondered how anything but goodness could be in store for her people. Though it was against her nature, Njall stepped out of the shadows into the light of Aurora’s presence and crept toward this wonderful and strange being that stood before her.

Words were useless, but soon they found creative ways to tell their stories. Aurora explained how she had been sent to find a new home for the people of Earth. Njall, using gestures, symbols and the universal language of mathematics, helped Aurora comprehend the plight of Galdur.

For a long time both were silent, looking into one another’s eyes as they pondered the meaning of these things. Aurora then stepped back a pace and as she did so her belt began to radiate in a fascinating swirl of lights and colors, clouds, oceans and deep spacial wonders. Njall’s cheeks flushed and her eyes went wide as she became mesmerized by so strange a sight, and the emergence of a new hope for the peoples of two planets, so different and so the same.

The images associated with this project will remain on display at Pizza Luce in downtown Duluth through the end of June, along with the rest of Artist Kamikae IV.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jason Huntzinger and the 42nd Annual Park Point Art Fair

About three years ago I flew in to Nashville on a business trip and the city had just been devastated by rains and flooding. As we drove along the highway we could see the immense losses caused by this storm, a whole lumber yard under water, auto dealerships and more. I couldn't imagine the work that would be involved in restoring things back to normal there.

Today, as some of you know, I am getting a close up look at what this kind of devastation looks like. Our beautiful city on a hillside has just been decimated by large volumes of rain, including four inches in one hour at one point. Hills and heavy rainfall can produce destructive flash flooding and Duluth took a beating yesterday. If you have Facebook friends, be sure to look at their photos of washed out roads and cars in sink holes or under water. 

Nevertheless, even though Duluth mayor Don Ness has declared a State of Emergency here, this weekend, June 23 & 24, the 42nd Annual Park Point Art Fair here will go on as planned. Situated out near the end of a seven mile long sand bar, the heavy rains slid back into the bay and the lake so that come Saturday this outdoor festival featuring 120 Midwest artists will go on as planned.

In anticipation of this event I interviewed photographer Jason Huntzinger, who had a piece in our Red Interactive Phantom Galleries Superior show this past autumn.

EN: What is your relationship to the Park Point Art Festival and how long have you been involved?

Jason H: This will be my third year in the Park Point Art Festival. The last time was in 2008. I have been in a few art festivals over the years, not many. It takes a lot to put one together. It would be a very difficult way to make a summer living. I usually have a day job of some sort and don't have the time to devote to that many shows. I am no longer living in Duluth so I thought it would be a good reason to get back up there. Duluth is where I am best known. I am also doing the Minnesota River Arts Festival at the end of July in my new hometown of Shakopee. In August I will attempt to drive halfway across the country to be in the Helper Arts and Music Festival in Helper, Utah, one of my favorite places. It's a great little historic mining town and they have a really good festival. That's my art fair tour for 2012.

EN: What are the hours and what else is happening in terms of special music or entertainment?

JH: The PPAF is Saturday and Sunday 10-5 each day. Not sure what is happening in terms of music and entertainment, I can't see it listed anywhere. Their Facebook page says there will be live music, puppet theater, storytelling and food. It is a great way to spend a few hours. I assume every one has been, but that may not be the case. If you haven't, go. It's a beautiful setting.

EN: How did you become interested in photography and who have been your biggest influences as an artist?

JH: I became interested in photography because it suited my disposition. I picked up a friend’s camera one day about twenty years ago and made an image of a scene in the rain and realized just how transformative a medium photography could be and that was the beginning. I started checking out a lot of photography books from my college library on great 20th century photographers like Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Minor White, Ernst Haas, Lee Friedlander, etc. Minor White was the first great influence as far as another photographer. He was photographing spirit.

EN: What are you up to now? What do you do for a living?

JH: Since I moved to Shakopee last fall I have tried to get active in the Twin Cities art scene. I've been in one group show at Altered Aesthetics and have other plans in the works, including being in group shows with Duluthians at Cult Status gallery in Minneapolis next month and at Wing Young Huie's The Third Place gallery in the Fall. I've found a few artists here in Shakopee and have been part of an effort to start an arts group. I've been making a lot of photographs of my new hometown.

I also traveled to New Orleans earlier this year with my wife Lisa and came back with enough material to self-publish a book 'A Brief Encounter With New Orleans' which will be available at the Park Point Art Festival.

EdNote: Thanks, Jason. And to everyone... For more information on the Park Point Art Fair this weekend, visit their website at . Hope to see you there.

Photos courtesy Jason Huntzinger. Click images to enlarge.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blog 2000: An Interview with Myself

With the summer solstice nearly here, another milestone was reached today.

Photo by Andrew Perfetti
Ennyman: Today is your 2000 daily blog entry. That’s quite a streak you have going. How does it feel?
EN: Actually, I think there are about a half dozen days I didn’t blog. Maybe once a year or so (I started five years ago) I would skip a day in order to relieve the pressure to keep it going, in case there was a day I didn’t have anything to say or didn’t have internet access. There were a few days I posted twice, though, I don't know if that means anything other than I don't want to feel boxed by a law that demands one entry a day, no more and no less.

Enny: Still, it must take a certain amount of discipline to blog daily like that for over five years.
EN: Actually, I started a dream diary in seventh grade that I kept up daily till I finished high school. After college I started journal writing. As I’d been journal writing daily for thirty years as a way to start my day, I suppose starting each day with a blog entry is similar form of discipline.

Enny: What differentiates your blog from the gazillion other blogs out there in the internet universe?
EN: I started the blog out of curiosity. I wanted to see what blogging actually was all about. After researching hosting platforms I favored Google Blogger to Microsoft’s Wordpress due to ease of use. Then I had to make decisions about content. I initially decided to transcribe thoughts from my thirty years of journal writing and add illustrations to set my blog apart. Most writers are not artists and vice versa, I felt at the time. Before long I discarded the use of my journals as a startpoint because I found blogging such a natural thing to do I didn’t need the crutch to lean on.

Enny: How has the blog evolved since you started it?
EN: Initially I wrote about anything and everything, whatever I was thinking about that morning when I woke up. My interests are fairly broad so the subject matter was all over the place. Eventually, because I had produced so many pictures to illustrate my blog a few friends said I should have an art show. This led to my becoming more serious about my art. (I had been an art major in college.) It also led to the narrowing of focus to being more about the arts and especially the local arts scene rather just about me.

Enny: You don't seem to mind talking about yourself sometimes though. I mean, you're interviewing yourself here this morning.
EN: And I interviewed myself once before as well, but generally I attempt to approach my subject matter as a journalist would, in a somewhat objective way that gives readers some kind of take-away at the end, including this silly exercise here today.

Enny: Any suggestions that would help others who are getting started as bloggers?
EN: Be patient. Be consistent. Keep at it. Have something worth saying and continually care about those you are writing for. I gotten to know many interesting people through this experience. 

Enny: I see that you make references to Dylan a lot. In what ways has Dylan influenced your life?
EN: I wrote about this during Dylan days. If I find the link I will post it.

Enny: What other kinds of music do you listen to? It’s not all Dylan, is it?
EN: Hardly. Bluegrass, jazz, classical… Arlo, Miles, classic rock like the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Joe Cocker… and some new age stuff. But yes, a lot of Dylan.

Enny: Over the years you’ve done a lot of movie reviews as well. What are some of your favorite films of all time?
EN: That’s such a hard question. So many great films. Here are a few I have watched five times or more… Groundhog Day, Zelig, A River Runs Through It, No Country For Old Men, Educating Rita, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick's Paths of Glory, Beetlejuice, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, It's a Wonderful Life, The Mission, The Truman Show, Vanilla Sky...

Enny: What about authors… Who have been your biggest influences?
EN: Jorge Luis Borges, Hemingway and Andre Gide. 

Enny: How much of your blog content is true and how much is fiction?
EN: To some extent this interview is probably fiction. I am projecting an image of myself that is the ying side of my yang, or the visible fruit and leafy part of a tree which has an equally complex roots system. But it is what it is.

Enny: Is it a challenge working full time and trying to be a blogger and artist? 
EN: It would be more challenging to not be working full time. At least I have the money to buy art supplies and a work space, among other things. I think if I had more time I would read more, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Enny: Do you have any regrets?
EN: Yes. There are things I've said that I wish I'd never said and people I have hurt that I wish I didn't hurt. And decisions I made that I wish I didn't make. But we start anew every day and do the best we can. That's what I like about the movie Groundhog Day. Today's another day. Maybe I can do it better this time.

Thanks to all who have encouraged me on this blog journey over the years. It meant a lot to me every time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Art Thots Stimulated by Recent Readings

"Thus the figural distortion of German expressionist painters is not dismissed as an inept attempt at verisimilitude and, therefore, as defective or pseudo art, but as an intelligible and well-precedented artistic response – a revolt – against realism for the sake of securing a widely and antecedently acknowledged artistic value, namely expressivity.

"It is an expectation of artists that they be concerned to make original contributions to the tradition within which they work. These contributions can range along the creative scale from slight variations in established genres to wholesale revolutions. ... However, as in conversation, the contribution must also have some relevance to what has gone before – otherwise there simply is no conversation."

Noel Carroll, Art In Three Dimensions 

Thoughts in response...
1. This is why teaching art history is important.
2. This is what made Dylan a significant songwriter when he emerged in the 60’s. He had immersed himself in the history of folk music; its roots, its themes, its modes of expression. He was also aware of the cultural situation of his time. He wasn’t just writing love songs. He was responding to the “great conversation.”
3. No philosopher worth his or her salt would skip the study of classic philosophy before undertaking the development of a contemporary voice.
4. Yet in art, we often want to suggest it is just a matter of being creative and learning techniques. To some extent this can be said to be so, but to make significant art, to be a serious artist, one needs to understand historical context, and be aware of what has already been done, is being done in our time… not so we can drop a few names but so we can understand how our “voice” and vision fits into the grand scheme of things.

"From the start, the strongest and most bitter energies of the book were directed against the idea that art should serve a political cause, an idea that Auden had alternately embraced and rejected since 1932."

Edward Mendelson, Preface to W.H. Auden’s The Prolific and the Devourer

In response...
1. Auden embraced the idea of art for art's sake, yet also took the opposing position at times. When we look at an author or artist's life work we get a better picture of the man or woman than were we to just grab a few quotes from a volume of essays written at a specific moment of time.
2. The human soul is not fixed, but ever in flux. Personality has its recurring themes that remain the same, like fingerprints, but we are not the same.
3. I agree with Auden, yet at times Auden did not agree with Auden.

Of these things much more could be said, and I must start my day. What are you reading and thinking about?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Whole Book of Rube Goldberg Schemes

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house. ~Joe Ryan

This past week was our annual Friends of the Library Book Sale, one of my favorite events based on how often I try to make it. The last day of the sale is bag day where you acquire as many books as you can fit into a shopping bag all for a fixed price. It used to be a dollar, but this year four dollars, which is still a bargain. The thing that amazes me is how many classics and great books are still left on the last day.

Another feature of making this an annual trek is that you can trace your life interests based on what kinds of books you bring home. Having grown up in close proximity to New York, I often reflect that my bio could be written based on which parts of the City I visited in the various eras of my youth, from Yankee Stadium to Central Park to Greenwich Village to Soho to Madison Avenue.

So it is with the bags of books I bring home. There was a time when I would scarf up classic literature and other times it would be history and biography. Friday I went for the art books, though I also found a number of Life magazines from 1971 or so that slid easily into the side of the bag. And I also brought home this small jewel of a book The Best of Rube Goldberg.

Click to enlarge so you can read text.
Reuben "Rube" Goldberg was an American cartoonist as well as author, and inventor. His cartoons are what made him famous, and rich. The cartoons were essentially depictions of ultra-complicated ways to do simple things. His first was appeared in 1914 and by 1928 he was pulling in $125,000 a year. He also wrote articles and stories for magazines and even travelled some with a vaudeville act. These were the days before television and the Roaring Twenties to boot. Later in life he did political cartoons and even won a Pulitzer Prize for one depicting the dilemma of atomic power. Post-World War II he also devoted himself to being a serious sculptor.

Growing up I often heard the expression "that's another Rube Goldberg scheme." Everyone knew what it meant because his cartoons had been absorbed into pop culture. Games like Mouse Trap and Crazy Clock (1964 and 1965) capitalized on this notion of comical contraptions designed to achieve a simple end, further cementing Goldberg's influence. Years later our daughter built a huge and hugely complicated Rube Goldberg sequence in our basement, which should have been filmed or documented and was probably photographed.

Goldberg was a contemporary of another cartoonist who made it big in pop culture in the pre-TV era, Robert Ripley, whom I interviewed here at Ennyman's Territory in 2008.

A Simple Fly Swatter
If you like quirky stories, here's a link to my Featured eBook of the Day: Newmanesque, free for members of Amazon Prime.

Have a very special day.

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