Sunday, September 14, 2014

Local Art Seen: Out and About in the Twin Ports

Greetings from the Zeitgeist Atrium
"Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." ~Soren Kierkegaard

I frequently compare time spent painting in my studio to visiting a therapist. Making art is good therapy and I'm sure there are many others who see creative expression as a therapeutic endeavor. But the Kierkegaard insight above also touches something else I've experienced when painting. With so many directions to go, how does one decide? Large canvas or small? Canvas surface, wood or paper? Monochrome or multi-layered rainbow extravaganza? Explore new mediums, textures and subject matter, or work in the familiar circles that sharpen your strengths? Anxiety is indeed the dizziness of freedom.

Perhaps this is why young people coming of age especially feel such a weight upon them. When there are so many directions one can go, such freedom may not be liberating. In more primitive cultures you often knew from birth what you would be when you grow up and where you would live. Your father was a cobbler, farmer or royalty, and this would be your place as well.

Sean P. Connaughty's early explorations blending art and biology.
So it is with a sense of amazement that one can see so many varieties of creative expression here in the Twin Ports over the course of a few evenings. At least this is how I felt this morning as I pulled my thoughts together to share a few of the works I spied Thursday and Friday at the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) and other venues.

The DAI reception was everything expected and more. Sean P. Connaughty's works filled the Steffl Gallery. Connaughty, a U of MN art teacher, captured headlines when his Ark of the Anthropocene sank last weekend a day after its launch. The artist is undeterred however and will find a more permanent home in a lake nearer to the Twin Cities with less boat traffic turbulence. the Ark is his largest but not first such project and the various iterations which preceded it were displayed throughout the balcony are of the Depot's Great Hall.

Fatih Benzer... simply stunning.
The Morrison Gallery featured an exhibition titled Signs and Wonders, with ceramic works by Jim Klueg and paintings by Fatih Benzer. Benzer is a UMD art professor who is originally from Turkey. The complex paintings were quite stunning, numerous. Benzer described the thematic nature of their contents as a collision of cultures, the one where he was raised and the other where he now resides.

Klueg's ceramic pieces stood on pedestals throughout the gallery, but with such an enormous quantity of visitors to the opening it proved difficult to really take it all in. The work will remain installed till November 2, so I encourage any and all to take a little time from their busy lives to visit these galleries in the Depot.

Detail of a Benzer piece. 
Klueg's ceramic work offers a smile.
In the Corridor Gallery you'll find a restropective of Sean Austin's paintings and prints. Austin is a lifelong artist now in his twilight. A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus he has apparently much loved based on the manner in which those who know him spoke of him. "My interest in art has been the force that has sustained me since childhood," he stated in his artist statement. "I delight in trying to create my own universe."

Finally, the Sophronia Project had been assembled for another public event. A future blog entry will feature an interview with Joellyn Rock who has been central to this inspired project along with Kathy McTavish.

The only thing missing Thursday evening was the cheerful countenance of DAI Director Annie Dugan who was evidently in the hospital. Many of us were asked and able to send her greetings through that magical device called the Smart Phone.

During Friday evening's Downtown Duluth Walkabout I found myself face-to-face with artwork in the Zeitgeist Atrium, Pizza Luce, Washington Galleries and the PROVE.

Earl Austin in the Corridor Gallery, DAI
Eris Vafias at Pizza Luce
Space and time do not permit me from sharing everything here, so you will have to get out and about and check out what's happening where it's happening.

Plan your lunch hour meetings in places where you can also get a pit of art with the meal. Esther Piszczek's Zentangle-inspired work is at Beaner's this month. Kris Nelson's Chairs are at Red Mug. And my own "Influences" show is at Benchmark Tattoo. No, they do not serve food, but it's across the street from Sara's Table (Chester Park Cafe) and you can eat there before poking your head in across the way.

One more must-see exhibit is the Gene Ritchie Monohan display at The Red Herring Lounge on First Street. The paintings are on loan from personal collections of the Monohan family. More about this in a future blog post.

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

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EdNote: Ennyman's Territory was today listed as one of 5 blogs to follow by The Duluth Experience

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