Friday, April 11, 2014

Local Art Seen: Heroes and Villains at the Zeitgeist Atrium

Uncle Jim Will Fight For Your Freedom, by Tara Stone
Where does one begin? Last night I slipped into town for the opening of "Hero/Villain/Savior/Scoundrel: Images of Jim Carlson & Don Ness" at the Zeitgeist. I believe it was the first joint show between the Duluth Art Institute and the Zeitgeist and the vibrant energy ricocheted in every direction. I'm not sure where the seed idea for this show germinated but it was mid-January when Annie Dugan began putting out feelers to see how many artists would be interested in contributing. The response was rich and varied.

Joe Kander's cartoons garnered media attention in advance of the show, the most popular image being an illustration of Don Ness and Jim Carlson as boxers. Ness is baring his chest, spreading his shirt front as Carlson looks on, standing with a flag with a marijuana emblem on it, an amused or confused expression on his face.

Kander, it turns out, is a local ophthalmologist by trade, and also a professional wrestler who has frequently performed in Japan. The latter experience is what led him to have Mayor Ness dressed in a Hulk Hogan costume. Another of Kander's numerous pieces was titled Raiders of the Last Place On Earth, an obvious take-off on the popular Harrison Ford film.

If there were to be a Best In Show, one would be hard-pressed to give it, though Tara Stone's two portraits would be on the short list. Uncle Jim Will Fight for Your Freedom is an oil painting on metal leaf.

It's practically a given that Adam Swanson's paintings will impress you. His treatment of the mayor and rival demonstrated a sensitive, non-judgmental approach that viewed them as human beings, not caricatures or symbols. The portrait of Carlson is probably the best in existence anywhere. The painting of Mayor Ness shows him as just a guy with a glass of beer in his hand. Swanson, whose trademark symbols include penguins and wind turbines, said, "I decided to not put a wind turbine in the background."

At the opposite end of the spectrum there were a pair of pictures that I contributed featuring the mayor and Jim Carlson as Batdon and The Joker. Oil pastels and colored pencils.

Bridget Riversmiths Zoetrope (left) of was another treat. She designed a set of images which enabled you to visually observe Mayor Ness morph into Jim Carlson. Other artists worthy of mention include Dann Matthews, Whitney Saurer, Tyler Scouton, Jack Bratrud and more. The show will be on display through May 10.

"Hero/Villain" touched a nerve for a lot of people inasmuch as the high profile nature of the battle between city hall and Last Place. I listened in on one discussion between some women who noted how they felt safer walking to the show last night than any time in recent memory. One said she always had a hard time trying to decide which side of the street to walk on because of the kind of people loitering there in front of Last Place or across in front of the casino. The passing of Carlson's business made a palpable difference in terms of the uneasiness caused by being harassed if you were a woman.

The city is safer now.

As we head into the weekend, don't forget tonight's two major openings at The PROVE and at Trepanier Hall. Wendy Savage-Blue's Landscapes of Northern Minnesota will be at the latter, 5-7 p.m.  The origin of birds opening is from 7-11. See you there.

No comments: