Thursday, April 30, 2015

Items of Note: Things To See and Do in the Twin Ports Arts Scene

Blood Moon by Karen Nease
Well, let's start with the fact that it is Homegrown here in Duluth. No one calls it the Homegrown Music Festival anymore, just Homegrown, because the locals all know what that means. If you're a nightowl, you've got no end of options though I am not going to elaborate here. The one band I'd really like to see plays at midnight, so I won't be there. La dee da. For a complete schedule visit the Homegrown Music Festival website.

Thursday (Tonight!)
Karen Owsley Nease is conducting an artist talk tonight about her show titled Found Horizons, hosted by the Duluth Art Institute in the George Morrison Gallery at 5:30 p.m. I took a sneak peak a few days ago and it's a dynamic exhibition of new work to which she has dedicated immense number of hours for more than a year.

Mark your calendars for May 14, 5 - 7 PM to make sure you attend the full DAI reception for the new shows in all three galleries including the Poetics of Evolution in the Steffl Gallery featuring work by Carolyn Halliday and the iPhone images of Duluth-based designer Cody Paulson in the hallway gallery. Paulson's collection is called Port City Supply Co. It's all in the eye.

Click to enlarge.
Todd Eckart and His Band on the Playlist, Karen Sunderman host. Ms. Sunderman will also host the Poetry Showcase at Red Mug Coffeehouse during Duluth Dylan Fest on Tuesday, May 19. And Eckart will be performing later that week at the Acoustic Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan. Do you have your tickets yet? The poetry event is free; the concert is a fund-raiser foe the Armory Arts and Music Center.

Ruby the Dogumentary at the Red Mug. Seating is limited so you may want to be there early. This one of a kind event will be a live screening with both the producer (Marc Percansky) and the star (Ruby the dog) at the Red Mug Coffeehouse.

Looking Ahead
As noted earlier, on Thursday May 14 there are two major openings slated. The DAI Gallery Reception at the Depot will go from 5 - 7 p.m. and that same evening there will be an Opening Reception for the Cheng-Khee Chee retrospective at the Tweed from 6-8 p.m. That would be another especially good evening to get marked on your calendars.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Hope to see you on the scene.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Scott Warmuth Sheds Light On Some of the Games Dylan Plays

"Art is anything you can get away with." ~Marshall McLuhan

I find it interesting that nearly everyone who hears the above quote attributes it to Andy Wahol. Evidently he must have gotten away with it, for no one recalls him ever giving credit to the original source.

In recent years Dylan has been accused of borrowing without giving credit. Many of his fans defend him, assuring us that he is an artist above the rabble of such accusations. Sean Wilentz defends him in his Bob Dylan in America, but there are others who just refuse to let it go. One of these seems to be Scott Warmuth who has now made a very visual presentation on Pinterest detailing the extent of Dylan's original source material.

At this point I am curious where the lines are to be drawn regarding a borrowed turn of phrase and true plagiarism. Here are a couple examples from my own fiction.

Thirty years ago I wrote a story based on a New Testament incident from the book of Acts in which I was trying to decide how to describe a character. I looked in a variety of books to see how faces are described, much like a high school art student might imitate a Picasso or a Matisse. From one of the stories in Outline of Great Books edited by Sir J.A. Hammerton, I lifted a phrase describing someone's eyes. Even though I'd done this but once, it seemed improper for some reason, for instead of describing what I'd observed myself or imagined, I took something I had not created and later felt guilty about it.

And yet, in a different way I never felt guilty about another kind of borrowing I've done. Sometimes when I am writing I am also watching movies on my iMac. And occasionally, not often but I've done this, I take portions of lines from the film and work them into my story. I like word games, and it just seems like the words are there, or a set of words, they just flick off my fingertips into the seams of my blog entry or story and they fee like they belong.

In one of my stories titled "A Poem About Truth" I copied word for word the first paragraph of a 600 page book about General Erwin Rommel. After flipping a sentence into it, I used it as a springboard to create something entirely other. It was a game.

In another very short story titled Harry Gold I assembled complete sentences from a variety of sources -- Under the Volcano, a Hemingway story and several others -- to form a narrative that is essentially, if only briefly, an entertainment. When sharing it here in 2011 I observed, "I think it interesting how a sentence, placed in a new context connotes new meanings through the reconfigured relationship." (I now wish I could find my documentation of where all those sentences originated.)

Unmasked and Not So Anonymous

But Warmuth's portrait of Dylan is on a totally other scale. For more than ten years Warmuth has been gathering data to make his case. An article in the New Haven Review cohesively lays it out in an article titled Bob Charlatan: Deconstructing Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One.

Perhaps capitalizing on the growing visual nature of internet content, Warmuth has assembled a Pinterest site with boards devoted to his quest to shed light on Dylan's borrowings and make them not so anonymous. One of the boards is titled A Bob Dylan Bookshelf. It's an extensive collection of sources that demonstrates am impressive degree of research on Warmuth's part. Authors in this collection include George Orwell, Michael Crichton, Willa Cather, William Burroughs, Alec Wilder, H.G. Wells, Carl Sandberg, Jim Bouton, Ovid, Homer, Joyce Carol Oates, Jack London, and on and on and on.

A second Pinterest board is titled A Tempest Commonplace, in which Warmuth gathers findings that may have influenced the songs on Dylan's last album of original work. The author/musician/disc jockey acknowledges the assistance of collaborators on this board.

Warmuth's third Pinterest board is not directly related to Dylan, and yet there is a connection. The board is titled The Wonder Pack of the Universe, and it consists of Svengali decks. Like Dylan, who once stated that if he could go back in time to any moment in history it would be to see Houdini's escape when he was dropped into the East River, Warmuth is evidently fascinated by magic.

The fourth Pinterest board managed by Warmuth explores Dylan's use of the works of Robert Louis Stevenson in Chronicles: Volume One, beginning with Stevenson's short story "The Story of a Lie."

What surprises me most is how unsurprising this seems. Dylan has always clothed himself in fictions, from the early days when he made up stories about his roots on through the charades of Hollywood and the Rolling Thunder Revue. And even if the man himself were a fiction (and some say Shakespeare was) this Minnesota-born storyteller has given a lot of people something very real through his music, songs and performances. And it's been good. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sean Wilentz's Bob Dylan In America: Revisited

You may or may not have noticed that Sean Wilentz is the one who wrote the liner notes for Bootleg Series Volume 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964. He's actually an established historian who teaches American history at Princeton where he has taught since 1979. Utilizing the skills he cultivated to unearth the trivialities of history and analyze, dissect and divulge their value, Wilentz brings to readers and avid Dylan fans many riches. In a certain way Dylan does not, however, appear to be the object of the author's lens. Instead, Dylan becomes the lens through which we see America in a new light. This is Wilentz's contribution, and why this book is a worthy addition to your Dylan library. (You do have a Dylan library, right?)

This is actually the second time I've read Bob Dylan in America, this time listening to an audio book during my morning commute. This second time through proved even more rewarding than the first at times. Wilentz reads the book himself, which is satisfactory for this volume. At certain places he includes audio clips from various concerts, studio takes or other source which serve as delightful embellishments to reinforce or illustrate what he had written.

Some books (movies, too) are interesting but do not hold up to a second read. Even though it had been just a year since I read it, my first impression as he went through the introduction was that this was going to be a good read yet again.

Bruce Handy in a New York Times Book Review has written, "Among those who write regularly about Dylan, Wilentz possesses the rare virtues of modesty, nuance, and lucidity, and for that he should be celebrated and treasured....Wilentz is very, very good on the actual music. In fact, the centerpiece of his book is a vivid look at the Blonde on Blonde sessions, during which the musicians teased and groped their way toward the album's 'thin, wild mercury sound,' in Dylan's famous description."

And what makes the book a treasure is knowing that Wilentz has had access to material few others could have possibly come into contact with. In writing about Blonde on Blonde, he shares things he has found on the original session tapes, for example. Unlike some of his early studio records which often took only one take, this Dylan masterpiece was not produced effortlessly. Thus, what Wilentz brings to the table are a whole set of stories and anecdotes to add to the Dylan legend.

Wilentz by trade is a historian, and this is partly what is on display, his skills as a historian. In chapter one he takes a deep dive into Aaron Copland, followed by a chapter on the Beats. These two chapters set a context for the emergence of Dylan in Greenwich Village in the early 60's, The Gaslight Cafe and Cafe Wha? and the people who formed that scene.

The scope of the book runs from his early transformations to later struggles to his 21st century albums, film (Masked and Anonymous) and art, and even includes insights about his 2013 CD Christmas in the Heart. Did you know that 13 of the 15 songs Dylan covered were recorded by Bing Crosby as well? Perhaps this album was a foreshadowing of his current album of Sinatra covers, Shadows in the Night.

Wilentz takes readers into unexpected terrain when he reviews the life of Blind Willie McTell, a song Wilentz seems to believe should not have been left off Infidels, and the backstory on Delia, which second time around becomes tedious.

What the author seems to be making a case for toward the end of the book is that the accusations of plagiarism that emerged in Sylan's latest albums were not necessarily the vulgar kind, but rather that Dylan himself is a historian, a researcher, and a genius who inhales America's -- and the world's -- musical and literary past so that it enters his very bloodstream. And when he exhales it is somehow his own.

What is creativity but the spark that combines existing things into new forms that did not exist before.

One of the reviewers gave us these comments:
The author doesn't dwell on the early 60's to a great extent because so much has already been written about this particular time. Wilentz then looks at Dylan selectively up through and into the 90's after his, arguably, fallow period, and how he looked for inspiration in early forms of folk music and country blues. Using individual songs, ("Delia", "Lone Pilgrim" for example), Wilentz paints a good overview of Dylan during this period with his chosen examples of Dylan's work. The author concludes with his critical look at "Love And Theft" at the turn of the century, and ends with Dylan's "Christmas In The Heart' album in 2009-which created quite strong opinions on both Dylan and his current work.

Wayne Randall Morrison wrote this review:
Brilliant! Really, the only word for this book. It covers several different phases of Dylans career, but the main focus is on his more recent output. You will especially love it if you are REALLY fascinated by Dylan's output since "Love and Theft", which I believe to be one of the best albums of the last 25 years.

In short, as noted at the beginning, it's a worthy addition to your collection. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Local Art Seen: Homegrown Chicken Illustrators Primp @ The PRØVE

Today is the opening of the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival, but Friday evening's Homegrown Illustration Show was the appetizer, and it was sheer entertainment. Eighteen artists produced illustrations featuring various local heroes of the Homegrown music experience. In addition to the main show there were also sections of the gallery dedicated to art clubs from Harbor City School and Duluth East. It wasn't long after the doors opened that the space with filled with friends of the PRØVE and others checking it out.

Many of the paintings had whimsical titles that corresponded with the nature of the show. Others chose straightforward titles like, well, the name of the musician. Here is a list of contributing artists and their works.

Chris Monroe, Starfire
Adam Swanson, Chicken Ness
Alexis Le Blanc, #Wheres Dizzo
Skad Radioh, Hung
Amber Beck, Adam Guggemos
Sarah Riley, Melissa La Tour
Chris Monroe, Sparhawk
Sonnen and Klaus, Brian Ring
Jami Rosenthal, Matt Mobley
Emily Michog, Heiko
Quinn & Regan, Tyler Scouton
Carla Hamilton, Chow Haul
Devon O'Shaughnessy, Trampled by Chickens
Emma Rustan, Dave Hoops
Chelsey Beveiter, Charlie Parr
Lucy Tennis Anderson, Greg Conley
Liindsey Graskey, Choke Chicken

Here are examples of works represented at the event.

For details on this year's Homegrown Music Fest, visit 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Which is the Best Blues Guitar: Fender Stratocaster or the Gibson Les Paul

Looks like a Strat to me
I have never been a regular guitar play (I did enjoy playing riffs on a bass, but never learned chords on anything but a piano) so I don't really understand why various famous players choose the weapons they employ. I know that the Fender Stratocaster is one of the more popular used by many rock stars, but that others made other choices. For this reason I decided, out of curiosity, to ask Google why Stratocasters were so popular. One response was a link to this really interesting Eric Clapton Speaks: Best Blues Guitar, Gibson or Stratocaster. The article itself was insightful, but the 66 comments were especially illuminating. Here are a few of these.

1. The reason Clapton suddenly went to the Fender Stratocaster in one word Hendrix, because until Hendrix died of a drug overdose Clapton could not be seen with a Strat for to do so would be to be compared, Eric Clapton has freely admitted Jimi Hendrix was the best player of the era. They are a great guitar the Strat the low deck is very comfortable, pickups so versatile, it is just that every man and his dog plays one or a copy of one, how do you stand out if you have only average talent?

2. Absolutely. Strats are very thin sounding guitar. If you are into great tone you would never look at a strat. Personally I believe Hendrix played a strat to look like a freak. Taking a guitar that was developed in conjunction with the surf music of the time, and then not using a left handed model. That’s shear stupidity in it’s own right because you can’t reach the upper frets. His best blues tone was always on the Flying V, again another freak guitar. I played a strat for a time because when I was born meant that I grew up in the 80s and everyone had a strat pretty much. I thought Gibsons were old hat. Then I bought a Gibson Les Paul. That led to me owning about 50 Gibsons. I switched to Hamer, Musicman, Patrick Eggle, PRS and others. I just bought a Carvin SH445. It has an alder body with a maple neck and top with an ebony fretboard and proper upper fret access. It makes anything from Gibson or Fender pale by comparison. It’s the best guitar I’ve played and/or owned. A LOT of the reason for the Strat’s popularity is because they’re a relatively cheap guitar, even as a copy they’re cheaper than a Gibson copy. AND because Hendrix played one. His influence was massive. Fender realised this when they paid Eric Crapton (sic) $100k to exclusively play Fenders. I believe his decision to go that way was as a direct result of Jimi Hendrix. He will never admit it but to me it’s obvious.

3. Gibsons stay in tune better and they have great necks/action. The quality of tone of them compared to a Strat is subjective and not worth debating. I think the true advantage of the Strat is its versatility. A good player can get almost any tone from a Strat. And he can play it all night long because it doesn’t weigh 10 lbs.. Plus, aesthetically, the Strat’s curves are reminiscent of a playboy centerfold. The lines of an LP look like a soccer mom with cankles.

I own and love both guitars, but 90% of the time when my hand reaches for one of them it’s the Strat. That guitar just allows more of my individuality and articulation to come through than does a Gibson. This is perhaps why more of rock’s greatest legends play Strats.

4.  I’ve owned everything under the sun. LPs, strats, PRS, Yamaha, Epi, Ibanez Jem, etc. After all these years and having the experience of owning many guitars, I have had the opportunity to understand what I want in a guitar, by being able to pick out my favourite aspects of each one. Here’s what I learned.

Reading all this made me curious about some other guitar players of the era. What did Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead play, for example. Here's a site that cites his choices over the years. If you're curious about the guitars the Beatles selected, Wikipedia spells it out here.

Personally I really loved the sound of the guitars on Blue Cheer's Vincibus Eruptum and the Doors' "When the Music's Over". Based on this website, Robby Krieger of The Doors favored the Gibson models.

Dylan's guitar selections over the years are documented at
It's not surprising that when he went electric he chose a Stratocaster, the guitar of choice by Buddy Holly, who he saw and heard at the Duluth Armory a few days before "the day the music died."

For a page of Stratocaster images, click here.

What a difference a decision can make. Do you have a favorite guitar?

Photo credit: Bill Pagel, San Francisco November 8, 1979

Local Art Seen: Earth Day Weekend Gallery Hop

Today in the Twin Ports is the Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop, which includes a shuttle for those desirous to avoid parking hassles. I was able to make it to several locations last night and desired to share some of what I saw in order to encourage others to get out today to experience it first hand.

My first stop was Phantom Galleries Superior, where Maria Sippola and Adetomiwa Gbadebo shared the space John Heino and I filled in our 2011 Red Interactive show.  The pop-up gallery is housed in the New York Building on the 1400 block of Tower Avenue in Superior. If you should visit today (10:00 a.m. - 5: p.m.) you will be greeted by an immense energy. Gbadebo's dynamic color explosions fill the wall spaces, with fascinating ceramic and sculptural works by Sippola standing on pedestals throughout the hall.

Sippola has been an art student at UWS. "A Modest Assortment of Interjections" is her Graduate Exhibit.

Yoruba artist Adetomiwa Gbadebo hails from Nigeria and lives both in the Twin Cities and Africa. I asked about his influences, seeing similarities to Basquiat in his work. He stated that Julian Schnabel has been an influence, especially as regards the scale of his pieces. The artist told me that one of his paintings is 52 feet long, but was not on display here.

On his website he describes himself in this manner:

Born Prince Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo in Abeokuta, Nigeria; Prince Gbadebo uses his Yoruba heritage and experiences to create his pieces based on emotions and the journey that life stitches; as well as embody a spiritual trance while he creates. As multiple beginning ideas develop in his conscious and unconscious mind, they tend to evolve into much more with the guidance of his Yoruba ancestors, Orisha’s and Philosophies. He also pushes to teach humanity to truly see what they are choosing not to, question all conscious solutions given; while selflessly aiming for positive progression for all alike and different. Yoruba spirituality and cultural music as well as activist and Afrobeat founder/musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti also has a huge influence on why he creates fierce and strong works of art today.

Prince Gbadebo states “I create art for my future, my family’s future, my ethnic future, Nigeria’s future and for those around the world; who need inspiration and hope to deal with humanities prosperities and discords. I create to challenge peoples’ previously unquestioned intellect. I want my people as well as those foreign to my existence, be reminded of where they have come from (their existence as human beings) and where they need to go, for a sustained equilibrium of life”.

Humbly he states, “I am just a Yoruba man and mortal; a vessel sharing his philosophies and journeys with others, for a better enlightened future for humanity; socially, morally, economically and spiritually”.

Phantom Galleries will also be open Sunday as well, from Noon till 3:00 p.m.

Across the bridge it was good to connect again with Linda Powless whose work is on display in the Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin Gallery at Trepanier Hall. The title of her show is "Journey" and the variety of pieces were assembled to display the lessons she has learned along the way in her life experience.

From here I slid over to PROVE Gallery for the whimsical Homegrown Illustration Show in which regional artists were assigned (or selected?) local bands and persona to paint or draw. The presentation was fun, with decorative "frames" painted on the wall around each piece.  (These I will share in a separate post later this weekend)

A new show at Lizzard's Gallery has been installed, titled Feathered and Aquatic Creatures Abound. In addition to the new work you will find works by a variety of local favorites including Patricia Canelake, Adam Swanson, Aaron Kloss and Scott Murphy.

For a list of galleries open today for the gallery hop visit their Facebook Page.  Now in its 25th year.

Adam Swanson
Patricia Canelake
Linda Powless shares her Journey

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Writing and Risk

Write books only if you are going to say in them the things you would never dare confide to anyone. – E. M. Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born

This past month I finished reading (or listening to) the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2. At one point he talks about encouraging his brother Orion to include all the dark parts of his life story when writing his autobiography, sort of like the advice from E.M. Cioran above. Twain, however, acknowledged that he himself would not dare to include such material in his own autobiography, inasmuch as his aim would be to put himself into a much more favorable light with his readers.

So what's the correct way to write about one's life? There's plenty to be ashamed of in most lives. Do we leave that material on the cutting room floor for the proverbial trash bin? These are certainly not the parts we highlight when meeting people for the first time, and it seems a curious bit of advice to be telling strangers (in a book) about things you don't even share with friends.

I've always carried the notion that our lives are something akin to a retail store with three aspects. The storefront is designed to invite people in. It projects something of an image to people passing by on the sidewalk. The image should correspond to the contents inside the store, of course. You wouldn't put women's clothing in the storefront of a shoe store.

The store itself also has a back room, or downstairs, where inventory and other items are stored. It's an "employees only" space, and is often a bit cluttered, occasionally a mess even. It's not a perfect metaphor, but I've found it useful.

Nevertheless, there's another way to approach the matter. When you study paintings by the Dutch masters, it's the contrast between darkness and light that makes the images pop, makes the story so vivid,

Earlier this week I interviewed the author of a memoir who told the story of what it was like to grow up in a home where his mother was a hoarder.  It's Eddy Gilmore's explicit candor that gives the book its shock value, and makes the emancipation he has achieved all the more powerful.

Naturally it isn't just the authors of books who have to wrestle with where to draw the line as far as what to disclose and what to set aside. We see it continually here in social media where people bare their souls in discussions that may well be better left "off the record." Here's a web forum where this very matter is being dissected: How truthful and honest should we be?

A word that comes to mind for me at this point is circumspect. It means "wary and unwilling to take risks." People who have been burned will not respond well to someone prodding them to "be vulnerable and expand your world."

At the end of the day it's a matter of finding balance. If we spend a lifetime concealing who we really are and what we really feel, it can put us in a fairly lonely place. The deepest and most rewarding friendships are built on trust, and it's in that context we can take those risks and drop the barriers that isolate us from one another. In that context we can experience the deep healing of ontological affirmation.

Just a seed from the mind farm. What do you think?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Upcoming Twin Ports Arts Happenings of Note for Your Calendars

Tonight at the DAI
Plenty to see and do this weekend.

The Duluth Art Institute is hosting a multimedia performance of George Morrison images accompanied by original jazz guitar compositions by Briand Morrison. It's a free event that will begin at 6:00 p.m. Karen Sunderman of the Playlist states, "Briand Morrison is a brilliant jazz guitarist. The Playlist caught up with him in Grand Portage as he prepared this show. Take a peek and stop by the performance at the Duluth Art Institute. Thank you for bringing him to town!" Sounds like you'll want to doublecheck your plans and see if you fit this in.

Two events recommended. Journey with Linda Powless at the Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin Gallery in Trepanier Hall (the former Y at 202 West 2nd Street.) Linda describes her show with these words:
"Come view a collection of pots, clay sculpture and other pieces of work that have defined a journey of self discovery." Kathy McTavish will provide musical accompaniment with Sheila Packa reciting some poetry as well. Event runs from 5 - 7:30 p.m.

And earlier this week I already mentioned The Homegrown Illustration Show at the Prove, which you will not want to miss.

The Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop is an annual event that has traditionally taken place on the Saturday that coincides most closely with Earth Day. Since Earth Day was yesterday (if you didn't notice, Google gave us clues all day) so the event is Saturday, this year featuring nine Twin Ports galleries and art spaces. You can read brief overviews of each in today's DNT or go directly to their web space here.  A shuttle will be conveying folks around from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. but if you can't make it, each and all of these art spaces will welcome you back any time for the rest of your life. Nevertheless, this is a good tradition and usually their puttin' on the dog as they say, so it is an extra special time to see what the local gallery scene is about.

One of the highlights of the Gallery Hop takes place at UMD where the Department of Art & Design is opening its doors to the public for its Annual Student Exhibition at the Tweed Museum.

Art & Design's Annual Student Exhibition runs April 7 - April 30, 2015 at the Tweed Museum of Art but on Saturday there's an Open Studio event that includes classroom tours, demonstrations, hands-on activities, live music, and an affordable art sale of student work. The studios are located in Anderson Hall, Montague Hall, and the Humanities Building at 1201 Ordean Court on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.

Visiting the Open Studio last year brought back all kinds of fond memories from my experiences as an art student at Ohio University. You don't have to have been an art major, however, to have your heart stirred.

Linda Powless piece from Journey
The Open Studio event is a joint effort created by UMD student groups, including the Art Guild, Photo Alliance, Media Arts Club, Mud Guild, Impressive Collective, Art Education Club, Art History Symposium, and the Student Design Organization. Students will display creative work and demo various art processes such as stone lithography printmaking and screen-printing, ceramics wheel throwing, welding, and digital art techniques including video game creation. The public is invited to take part in a photo booth, art education activities, video game tournaments, interactive painting, piñatas and more. Student work from all art and design areas will be on display, including the senior portfolios of the UMD Graphic Design majors. Affordable art, ceramics, posters, cards, and food will be available for purchase, in addition to Open Studio T-shirts. The Open Studio event promises to be a fun and interactive day, perfect for all ages and families!

After touring the Art & Design studios, the public is welcome to attend the Annual Student Exhibition Reception, which will be held at the Tweed Museum from 4 - 6 p.m. The exhibition reception will feature live music, refreshments, and an awards ceremony at 5 p.m. to announce the exhibition prizes and honor UMD Art & Design scholarship students.

As if this isn't enough,there will be a rooftop barn dance in Bohannon Plaza, featuring local musicians and dance callers, Four Mile Portage, from 6 – 8 p.m. The invitation concludes, "Bring a creative spirit, wear your dancing shoes, and join us on April 25 at the UMD Department of Art & Design, where we have fun down to a fine art!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interview with Eddy Gilmore, Author of The Emancipation of a Buried Man

We used to drive past a house where over a period of time plastic trash bags were accumulating around the house. The collection grew and grew till it nearly filled the front and stretched beyond the house toward the back of the property. Eventually the city must have dealt with it, because it's no longer there. We didn't have a word for it, but now it's quite familiar because of the "reality show" about hoarding.

Eddy Gilmore's book is about what it's like to be raised in such a home, except the television depictions only faintly resemble a real hoarding environment, much like the features of Duluth "resemble" a big city until you see Chicago or New York.

Eddy Gilmore's The Emancipation of a Buried Man is a remarkable story well told. The memoir captures vividly the almost inconceivable realities he grew up with, but also tells how he escaped the long-term psychological issues such a life could have fostered and how he created a normal home life for his own children.  Since you can read reviews of the book at, this blog post features my interview with the author.

EN: Your book brings valuable insight into a life that is quite uncommon. When did you realize the extent to how different your family was from other families? What triggered this insight?

Eddy Gilmore: This question is far more difficult for me to answer than one might expect. Here is a feeble attempt at an adequate response. I’ll be surprised if I don’t answer this differently a year from now. My processing of these events is forever in flux and subject to new insights. I’m thankful for this.

Seeds of emptiness were planted in me at an early, undefinable age. These seeds, when exposed to the necessary elements of germination, behaved somewhat like the magic beans from Jack and the Beanstalk. They erupted into my life unexpectedly. While standing atop these thriving perches, I was able to gain a clearer view of the land. Otherwise I was too mired within the chaos to establish a proper reference point.

One scene from the book comes to mind as being particularly poignant, and yet filled me with gratitude and hope. The moment of embarking upon my first camping trip with a happy and intact family was probably the most meaningful event of my childhood. A dad at the helm of a minivan with a loving mother next to him was a unique and precious site to behold. I allowed the peaceful atmosphere to seep into my very bones. I drank it in and savored it. A feeling of safety, like that of a baby bird high up in a nest with its mother, washed over me. I thought of Andy, sitting alongside and oblivious to these new positive feelings within me, as a kind of brother while pretending this was my very own stable family.

Such moments shone a spotlight into my dysfunctional family life, while simultaneously filling me with hope of a brighter future. I am grateful for these experiences that materialized into my life as if by magic, which thankfully were few and far between. While these moments carried me to ethereal heights of near-ecstasy, the return to reality always came in the form of a crash landing.

EN: What prompted you to write a book about your experience?

EG: I am a storyteller. Twenty years have elapsed since the events described in the second part of the book, my “emancipation,” and I have planned on sharing these stories of epic adventure and self-discovery right from the get-go. I kept a detailed journal as I experienced illumination on a daily basis. At the time, I had no plans on discussing a past that I preferred to forget. It took two decades, along with a painful job-loss, for me to see that my history of being lost among piles of debris and squalor was indispensable to the telling of this tale. I needed to share these painful experiences from the past in order to adequately paint a picture of the great heights that were ascended during my escape into a life of freedom, adventure, love, and gratitude. I truly was liberated from crushing loneliness, shame, and fear.

Ultimately, the loss of my job provided the impetus needed to complete this goal that otherwise might have laid dormant forever. The pain of losing my job, and the crocodile tears that were shed, enabled me to find my voice as a writer.

My column for the local newspaper was due several days after experiencing this blow. I was shaken to my very core. There was nothing to write about but the all-consuming shock of being laid off. I was angry, hurt, and at rock-bottom. While writing about this experience, I allowed myself to feel these emotions and to really hurt inside. I had the sensation of these powerful feelings flowing out from my heart, down through my arms, and could even sense them pouring out of my fingertips as I birthed them into tangible words. My writing became more vivid and evocative. I sought to replicate this sensation whenever I wrote, and thus learned to write with more feeling and passion. Having time on my hands, I finally spilled these stories into a completed book. But….it was the pain, more than anything, that enabled me to explore a past that I previously ignored or ran away from. Additionally, I had an overwhelming sense that this story was the only thing of real value that I was able to offer to the world.

By the end of it, I found myself extremely grateful for my childhood. These experiences helped shape me into someone that takes almost nothing for granted. This is a quality that very few people possess.

EN: Were you concerned about hurting anyone by the story you tell here? How have people close to you reacted?

EG: Yes, I was. Perhaps this is one reason it took me twenty years to actually have the maturity and wisdom required to coalesce these thoughts out of the chaos and into a coherent story. Ultimately I decided that the burden should not be on me to keep silent. I have spent my entire adult life waiting to share these amazing stories. Worrying about hurting feelings would have ruined the book, so I set those worries aside.

In order to prevent a complete derailing of the project, I chose not to send an advance manuscript to my parents. This was liberating. I wrote my story without fetters of any kind. There were absolutely no restraints. My feeling is that anyone else is free to write their own account.

I have received significant support from my parents throughout this project. My dad absolutely loved reading the book. This was a great relief to me, because I paint a rather complex picture of his unusual character. Mom’s response has been more nuanced. Early on she told me to, “Have fun with it,” and not worry. Her support has continued unabated, though she has yet to read the entire book. She read the first chapter, which can be viewed for free on Amazon, and it brought her to tears. I’m not sure when, or if, she will be ready to read it in its entirety. This is cause for some anxiety in me, but at the end of the day I feel like this is perhaps her last opportunity to change her reality.

EN: Tell us about your current family (as a married man with children)... What steps have you taken to give your children a more normal life?

EG: I am married to a beautiful and creative woman. She was my first girlfriend, and I still feel like I hit an impossible hole-in-one with her. Like me, she is hopelessly impractical. Shawna is an artist, and I am a writer. Sometimes I wonder why one of us couldn’t be a Type A sort of person who can always be depended upon to bring home a healthy income.

We are fortunate to have twin children, a boy and a girl. They experience all of life together, and are in fourth grade. My hope is that they will never know the kind of loneliness that I experienced, and that they never take for granted the wonderful gift they have in being intricately woven into our loving, intact family.

While I want them to enjoy a more normal life than I experienced as a child, one of my fears is that it will be too normal. I want them to experience “differentness” in all its rawness and unpredictability. When they reach their teen years, I hope they can look the boring status quo directly into its bland, sterile face, shake their fists at it, and say, “HELL NO!”

I often feel that my efforts in this area miss the mark, but the accumulation of them should pay off in the end. For example, we eschew anything that hints at suburbanization, and enjoy living in a walkable area of Duluth, Minnesota. We raise chickens in the city, and attempt to choose the bike over the car whenever possible. The loss of my job is also an opportunity to live a life outside the staleness of routine and safety, as our family’s economic activity has been brought entirely into the home. It remains to be seen whether or not we will succeed in this, but I am thankful for the opportunity to spare my kids both a “normal” life and a dysfunctional one.

EN: What are the key takeaways people will receive from reading your book?

EG: Everyone will be affected in different ways, which delights me. Some will find encouragement in my having come to terms with a difficult past. Others in my transformation. Perhaps a few aimless college students will find the courage needed to take a break from school. This would bring me great joy! I think the average reader will find my account of growing up amidst squalor fascinating, as a sort of oddity, and then will be spurred on to a more adventurous existence as they see the transformation that can occur by fleeing the status quo. I don’t see how they could not be challenged to devote even a small amount of additional time to exploring the outdoors, embracing solitude, and more regularly choosing books over television and Facebook.

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For more about the author, visit

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Visit with Magic Marc Regarding His Northland Debut of Ruby the Dogumentary at the Red Mug

I met Magic Marc Percansky through his role as MC/producer/host of Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan at Sacred Heart, the kickoff event for the 2014 Duluth Dylan Fest. We made a fast connection and have since remained in touch. This year once again Magic Marc is co-producing what will now be a culminating show called An Acoustic Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan, with musician from far and near, in an unplugged show on the eve of Dylan's 74th birthday.

On Saturday May 2, several weeks before this event, Percansky will be here in the Twin Ports to show one of his newest creations, Ruby the Dogumentary. The "dogumentary" will be shown at Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior, an event slated for 7-10 p.m. that Saturday evening.

I caught up with Marc and gathered some details on this and other projects he is involved with.

EN: Will you be there yourself?

MP: I am calling this the unofficial early kickoff to Dylan Fest 2015 as I am also co-producing along with The Armory Arts & Music Center the big finale "Acoustic Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan" concert event at Sacred Heart Music Center on May 23rd that rumor has it you will be singing in? I have to show up to see if that is true! I am really looking forward to every aspect of this concert and am confident it will be one of the best of the year in the Twin Ports area! Nelson T. French with Gene LaFond, Billy Hallquist and myself along with all the great artists involved have banded together as a team to be sure that it is presented exactly the way we all want it done. We may tear the roof off the place and still be celebrating Mr. D's 74th birthday in style right at Midnight! It is something that your readers and music lovers will not want to miss! So get your tickets before they are gone! By the way thank you for the great art for our poster image!

Now to answer your question. Yes, I will be there myself along with Ruby. She will walk down the Red (Mug) Carpet and be looking for treats wherever she can find them! We will also have with us the editor of the film, Michael Johnson along with possibly a few of the cast members as well from the Twin Cities. We are turning this into a day vacation getaway to visit the one and only Red Mug Coffeehouse! I visited there last year and went home with a red mug that I have been drinking out of ever since! I love the place and the food is delicious as well! This was the ideal place for me to show this film for its North Country debut and it all made perfect sense in timing with the upcoming Duluth Dylan Festival. Suzanne Johnson was so accommodating and open-minded in making this happen and one of the nicest ladies I have had the good fortune to meet! I thank her for making the event possible and promoting it along with me!

EN: Everyone agrees with you about both the Red Mug and Suzanne. How long have you been promoting Ruby the Doberman Mascot?

MP: I have been promoting Ruby The Doberman Mascot since September 7th of last year. I have only had a handful of appearances since as I have been busy with other projects but each time I have had great response! Our next big gig will be June 20th at the Parktacluar Parade in St. Louis Park, Minnesota which is where I was born and raised. At this screening we will run 2 short promotional films about it and also another surprise for the lucky people in attendance before we show Ruby The Dogumentary.

EN: Where did the idea for the Mascot come from?

MP: I have only been a Mascot a couple of times before this as far as I can remember. I may have been one of the first Jewish Easter Bunny's around! I did that in 1992 at a shopping mall in Roseville, Minnesota. My mom thought I had lost my mind and that I would suffocate to death in it! She still does and hopes I find a fill-in to take my place. Anyhow I had so much fun doing that! I ran around the mall and somehow would usually end up at Victoria's Secret! It was probably the only time that more photos were taken of me than those models! Everyone loves the Easter Bunny! I was thinking of being Santa Claus next but luckily stopped there.

Fast forward to 2013 and I appeared as The Grey Chicken for a CD release party at an art gallery called Even Break in Minneapolis that I was working with at the time. Naturally that evolved into my attempt at becoming my dog as a Mascot and I just went with it full force! I can copy all of her moves while doing some magic tricks. I actually love being inside a costume! It brings out your true inner soul and personality without the focus being on one's outward appearance. If on any certain day I get tired of seeing myself, then I can hide in there and everything works out fine. Everybody is your best friend! Kids and adults both love seeing it and it never grows old even in these new modern times we live in. We all have some kind of another persona that we take on or portray to others and this is one way to show that. This could be why everyone still loves dressing up on Halloween and looks so good.

EN: Have you always been a dog person? Tell me about your first dog?

Ruby's sixth birthday
MP: I have never not been a dog person but not to this extreme and level. My family had lots of Toy Poodles growing up and even an Afghan Hound at one point. Actually I had 2 Siamese cats. They lived for nearly 20 years, never left the house nor visited a veterinarian even once. Boy were they lucky. I was working on a screenplay with my girlfriend at the time back in 1989 called "The Hermit And The Cat" but it never materialized. I loved them too but not exactly like the love I have for Ruby. This is something different being she is my first dog that I can call my own in my adult years. Life seems to be getting harder for me and more of a struggle these days as I am sure we can all relate to the process of aging. Personal, financial problems, ailing family members and health issues as we get older. We are all continually handed things each and every day that we didn't ask for and there is no choice but to deal with them the best we can. At the end of the day, Ruby is there for comfort unlike anything else in the world. Ask any dog owner and they may agree! Some people have even said I am obsessed with her. That is okay, I really don't mind, I am not harming anybody. Who's to say you can't get inspiration from a dog as well as a human being? She is one of my heroes.

EN: What is your Dogumentary about?

MP: Ruby The Dogumentary is about many things and each viewer may get something different out of it. I sort of see it as my life through Ruby's eyes or maybe it is Ruby's life through my eyes. First of all it is a real and true portrait of my first 49 years on earth. I didn't intend it to be that way when filming it but I guess you could say it is autobiographical in nature.The events and experiences of your life always lead you up to where you are today. It would work as a swan song if I was to drop off the face of the earth tomorrow. It is very direct and honest and I stand proudly by everything that is in it. Secondly it is a portrayal of my dog, Ruby. I wanted to capture her whole life in it, too. This explains why it needed to be the 2 hour length that it is. Even after the credits roll one of the most important themes of the movie arrives and all I will say is there will not be a sequel. We worked on it for nearly 4 years and almost a year in editing while filming additional scenes at the same time as we were writing its screenplay. I co-wrote it along with Michael Johnson who then pieced together nearly 10 hours of raw footage. It was such a large project that it had to have 2 filmmakers to bring it full circle and get it done up to both of our standards.

Although it centers on the Doberman Pinscher breed, all dog owners should find something they like about it and that they can relate to as well. It covers just about every kind of dog trait that I could think of. I don't think we left anything out. On the other hand you don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy certain elements of it either and it can stand on its own as an independent film. It has songs written especially for it by Minneapolis singer/songwriter John Charles and also features some of the greatest dog poems and quotes of all time. I think I may have found the oldest one from 1870! It is at times funny and humorous and at other times very serious. It deals with the real life running out of time factor. My dog's life as well as my own mortality. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there. On the other hand it also deals with capturing a moment of true blissfulness! This is my medicine! If there is something in this world that makes you happy that you love and care about which brings you true joy, then please hang on to that feeling and don't let it go! Whatever it is! Show no shame in it! Shout it out and sing about it to the world if you can! We are all in this together and we need to spread the healing power of love around these days more often than we are doing while we still struggle to survive. Whether it is about a dog, a human being or anything else under the sun. That is what I set out to do with this movie and I think we accomplished that.

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EdNote: Mark your calendars. May 2, 7-10 p.m. at The Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior.

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