Saturday, December 31, 2016

8 Anticipated DAI Activities and Events in First Quarter 2017

Aune piece from DAI 4North Show
There were a lot of great arts events and activities in the Twin Ports again this past year. With the addition of the Red Herring and the opening of Gallery 3 West there are more venues than ever to see work by local artists. The AICHO expansion in Duluth's Lincoln Park/West End space continues, and rumor has it that an important gallery may be opening in the developing Downtown arts corridor that has been designaed the HART District -- that is, the Historic Arts and Theater District, which stretches from the Depot to Fitgers and eventually to the renovated Armory. At the heart of the HART will be the renovated NorShor Theater which is slated to open by late this coming year.

With 2017 approaching I planned to share some of the cool things to look forward to in the Twin Ports, but because the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) schedule this winter was so rich I've decided instead to draw attention to some highlights here.

Before delving into the activities I thought it might be good to give a shout out to the DAI Staff whose energy and enthusiasm has produced such a thrilling program for fans of the arts. Executive Director Annie Dugan is so in her element, passionate about the power of art in all of its forms. She exudes such a good energy. Duluth is lucky to have her. Development and Comms Director Dana Mattice makes a great sidekick on the team, playing many important roles within the team. It's actually impressive how much they accomplish with such a small staff that include Education Director Amy Varsek. Two new program directors were also added this year, Amber White and Catherine Meier, of whom I hope to share more in a future blog post sometime.

Big round of applause, please.

So, here are items of note to consider being a part of this winter.

Artist Reading Group
With so many interesting reading groups in the Twin Ports, it should surprise no one that an arts-themed reading group would spring up. The first meeting is slated for January 30 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss The View From the Studio Door by Ted Orland. What does it mean to be an artist in a community? How can artists express their beliefs and ideas through their art to make a cohesive statement and communicate to others? The meeting will take place at the DAI Galleries upstairs in the Depot.

Saturday Morning Art Films
Evidently the return of a DAI-sponsored winter film series is imminent. This year's films feature specific artists and arts movements, beginning Feb. 25 with Frida, followed by Pollock on March 4. After each screening, once again hosted at the Zinema, there is a discussion. In the past this has been a great opportunity to expand your horizons as artists or to learn more about the issues and people in the arts, whether you have a background or not. The shows start each Saturday at 10 a.m.

Artist Statement Workshop
Every field has its "rules" if you may. Professors write paper and get citations, but need to follow the procedures for submission, etc. In the business world, one must learn proper presentation skills and how to write proposals. Professional writers get published only after they've learned protocols on how to query editors and publishers, who the query should be addressed to and what it should contain. And so it is with artists who are serious about their craft. For hobbyists it may not matter, but professional artists seeking consideration for show in the Tweed, the DAI Galleries or Minneapolis venues, it is quite helpful to understand the Artist Statement. For this this reason the DAI is hosting Artist Statement Workshops Tuesday January 31 and Monday April 10. Both events are 5:30-7:30 p.m.

4North Programs
The 4North Exhibition that has been on display since November has included a number of free public events. Here are three more in January:
* 4North Artist Talk on Jan. 11, 5 PM, Free @ Duluth Art Institute Galleries. The 4North artists give a talk about their process and inspiration. See the exhibit and meet the artists.
* Being a Beast on Jan. 14, 1- 4 PM, Free @Lincoln Center for Arts Education. Ann Klefstad will lead participants through the artmaking process through an animal’s eye. Participants will receive reading material before the class and practice drawing, creation, and discussion during the three-hour workshop.
* Kirsten Aune Studio Demonstration on Jan. 28, 10 AM - 12 Noon, Free @The Magic Smelt Parade Shop on 1st Street. Kirsten Aune uses a unique painting technique to create large-scale quilts and wearable elements. See her studio and process in this free artist demo.

Elizabeth Kuth's work is rooted in timeless mystery and the primal sense of life.
DAI Member Show
Close up from swirling Martin DeWitt piece.
Every member has an opportunity to contribute a piece to the 2017 Annual Membership Exhibition which takes place each year in the Great Hall. Bring your work to the DAI this week.
Reception: January 26, 5 - 7 PM
On View: January 26 - February 24, 2017
@ Depot Great Hall - 506 W Michigan St.
The annual membership show is an energetic snapshot of the visual arts of our region. It captures professionals at the height of their career along with emerging talent and youthful voices. Everyone is encouraged to contribute to this eclectic display of talent. Are you a member? You do not have to be an artist to support the arts. Join us.

Empty Bowl 2017
Experienced potters are invited to the first Make It! Empty Bowl Open Studio this Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The first Make It! Empty Bowl Throw-a-Thon will be Saturday, January 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This invite is to all potters of any level, to come out and start the 2017 bowl-making. This is a great fund-raising event for the hungry. On Tuesday evenings in February there will be lessons in bowl-making for novices and the rest of us. (There is a $35 fee for materials and instruction, but a free ticket to the Empty Bowl event, which includes a bowl!)

Elizabeth Kuth and Carla Hamilton Exhibitions
I can't say enough about this pair of artists. Looking forward to seeing what is new from each of these women. Elizabeth Kuth's show is called Rooted Expression. Carla Hamilton's is titled Gezielt (Targeted). Much more to say about each. Opening reception will be February 23.

Emerging Photographers Exhibition
The same evening there will be an exhibit from emerging photographers in conjunction with the UMD Photography Department.

* * * *

INSTRUCTIONS TO ARTISTS who are contributing to the Member Show
Check to make sure your membership is valid. If not, please renew or join Tuesday. You are then invited to drop-off ONE artwork to DAI Offices (4th floor of the Depot, 506 W Michigan St.) between Jan. 3 - 6 from 9 AM to 5 PM. Artwork must have been created in 2016, be less than 36" x 36” framed and no more than 30 lbs., and be ready to hang or display. When you drop it off, DAI staff will capture your name, the title of the piece, the media, and the sale price or insurance value. When pricing work please keep in mind that 40% of any sale goes to the DAI. Please call 218-733-7560 with any questions.

* * * *
Meantime, art goes on all around you... but especially in the Twin Ports. Drive safe tonight and have a great 2017. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Year In Review: Interviews of 2016, Part II

As the year rushes to a conclusion, there's a lot of looking back at the year that was, a year with weddings, births, political drama and significant losses. The weddings we attended were good, and though we mourn losses funerals can be "good" in a sense, too, as we remember a special person's virtues and contributions.

The list of celebrities who passed this year included many familiar names, including my father's favorite golfer Arnold Palmer and the first American to circumnavigate the earth in outer space, John Glenn. In the music realm David Bowie passed away early this year followed by Prince. Muhammed Ali will always be remembered being "the Greatest" during boxing's glory days. George Kennedy will always be remembered as the guy who stuffed eggs into Paul Newman's mouth in Cool Hand Luke. And Fidel Castro will always be remembered for... well, for being Fidel Castro. In November we lost The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and this week said good-bye to both Princess Leia and her mother.

As the year ends, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is flirting with new highs and many rich got richer. And although no one can predict what the year to come will bring, this year's crystal balls are more cloudy than ever with the new regime coming to Washington.

In the meantime, here are a few more interviews from the year winding down.

Another Visit with the Versatile Violinist Scarlet Rivera

Rolling Like Thunder with Gene LaFond 

A.J. Atwater, one foot planted here and the other there.
AJ Atwater Talks About Her Upcoming Event: 400 Paintings 

Esther Piszczek's Patterned Peace 

Martin DeWitt Revisited: Tribute to the Ayotzinapa 43 and His New Show at the Zeitgeist

Duluth Quantum Computing Project: Kathy McTavish's Latest Adventure

Artist Monica Ares Talks About Her Upcoming Show at the Washington Studios Gallery

Getting the Lowdown on Marc Gartman: An Interview

Sherry Karver: Art and Life in the City

Sherry Karver, capturing the spirit of the city. 

Triumph Over Terror: A Chaplain Shares Ground Zero Stories from the Aftermath of 9-11

Brian Barber was quite visible in 2016.
Ten Minutes with Duluth Illustrator-Animator-Designer Brian Barber

Catching Up with Artist Carla Hamilton

A Brief Visit with Sculptor David Asher Everett

A Quick Peek at What's New with Paris Painter AmyLee

Karen McTavish: Pushing the Boundaries of Quilting (Top artist interview of 2016)

A Visit with Ann Klefstad on Themes Related to the DAI's 4North

Boomchucks Drummer Brad Nelson Talks About Life, Music and Duluth Dylan Fest

A Rewarding Visit with Influential Writer/Entrepreneur Charles Chu, Including 4 Tips for Bloggers

A Visit with Tracy Maurer, Author of 100+ Books and Still Going Strong

Martin DeWitt injected his own form of energy into the local arts in 2016.

A Visit With Judge Mark Munger To Talk About The Writing Life

David Leaver Shares His Views On Dylan and the Nobel Prize from "Across the Pond"

Professor Craig Grau Shares Insights About Dylan, Duluth and Scarlet Town

Five Minutes with Jane Austen Fan and eBook Author Madeline Courtney

Thank you to all who have been following Ennyman's Territory, and especially for those who have shared it with their own friends or followers. The very best to you in 2017 as you follow your dreams, schemes and life themes. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Year In Review: Interviews of 2016, Part I

A hovering environmental statement by artist Kim Abeles
What a year! And it flew so fast. When I pulled together the interviews that have been shared here this year I had two thoughts. First, it seemed like some of these interviews were just yesterday. I can't believe how long ago they were. Second, I noticed that there were more interviews with authors and musicians this year. Interviews the past seven years were predominantly, though not always, visual artists.

I enjoy hearing creative people in all walks of life discussing their passions. It's been a privilege getting to know each one a little more fully (even though it's only been a surface scratch) and having a way to share their work with other.

Thank you to each of you who shared yourself and thus contributed to making this a more interesting blog to follow than it might otherwise have been. Have a very special New Years Eve and a meaningful year of fulfilling dreams in 2017.

Heidi Bakk-Hansen reminded us that the past is still relevant today.
Five Minutes with Screenwriter Matthew Dressel 

Local Art Scene: Spotlight on Jonathan Thunder 

Local Art Seen: The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth 

David Pichaske Talks About Poetry, Culture and His Insightful Dylan Study: Song of the North Country 

Interview with Author Jamie Hoang of Blue Sun, Yellow Sky 

A.I. is no longer future. It is now.
A Visit with Calum Chace on his new book The Economic Singularity 

The Creative Expressiveness of Etsy Boutique Owner Christina Iverson

Steve Addabbo Talks About Personal Highlights in the Music Business 

A Visit with Cheryl Prasker, Percussionist in the Rolling Thunder Reunion 

A Visit with Lonnie Knight, Opening Act for the Rolling Thunder Reunion

Ten Minutes With L.A. Artist Kim Abeles at the Intersection of Problem Solving and Curiosity

Five Minutes of Insight from Twin Ports Social Media Marketing Maven Molly Solberg

Still more to share. Tomorrow is another day. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Notes from a 2001 Press Conference: Dylan, Rome and 11 Journalists

If you've not yet watched Bob Dylan 1990-2006, The Never Ending Narrative, it's a must for all Dylan fans. Though not authorized by Dylan himself, his management or his record company, it's a perty durn good overview of the Never Ending Tour and the series of events that put his career on the trajectory that led to this year's Nobel Prize.

One of the surprise features is a  candid interview in Rome in July 2001, less than two months before the release of Love and Theft. Throughout he's quite natural and candid, humorous and at ease with the whole tango. What follows are some of my notes from the occasion, beginning with Bob seeming to give the nod, "Let's start. It's time to start."

The first question is about how the look of the band has evolved with Bob and his band dressed something akin to cowboys and playboys in suits with hats and mustaches. Is this planned or did it just happen this way?

"Well, we're kind of dressed like people where we're from," Bob explains, then begins searching for words. "It's not a fashionable statement of any kind. I'm not aware that it is."

A woman asks how he celebrated his sixtieth birthday.

"Just in the usual way. Blew out some candles." To the follow up he adds, "Yes, just with family."

"Are you younger than that now?" asks another man.

"Sure hope so," Bob replies as others in the room laugh. "Yeah, that's the song." More laughter. "That's correct. You got that right." Laughs keep rolling.

To a question about winning awards and prizes. "Yeah, I know. I'm winning a lot of stuff. It's funny, isn't it." This last is a statement, not really a question. And then he's asked a follow up about how he'd feel winning the Nobel Prize.

"I dunno," he replied. "Who would that put me in the company of?"

"Hemingway... Steinbeck."

"I'm not sure I really belong in that category."

Another journalist comments on his being a legend, and how does this affect him.

"95% of the time it doesn't affect my life whatsoever," Dylan replies. "The other part, well, we who get involved with fame, we just have to learn to deal with it any kind of way we can."

One is struck by the manner or way he answers his interrogators.

"What kind of strategies do you use?"

"I don't have any strategies for it," he replies. "I just try to be as polite as possible."

"Do you sometimes wonder 'Why me?'"

In a dry, matter-of-fact tone: "Not at this point. I know what it is I've done to be so famous."

* * * *
A little further on...

"I didn't really choose what I am doing. It chose me." Maybe he could have done something different -- scientist, engineer, doctor -- but he ended up in this line of work even though "I don't look up to entertainers at all..."

* * * *
A woman journalist asks a question related to a line from a song. "I've been in trouble ever since I put my suitcase down. Is this still how it is?"

Bob's reaction: "Is that the only line you remember? Do you want to know what was in the suitcase? Or where I set it down?"


Another asks, "Do you have fun?"

"What is fun? Do I kick a football?"

Lots of laughter

"I'm here. Is there any choice?"

* * * *
Do you keep in touch with George Harrison?

"I do. I do do that."

* * * *

The press conference shows a very welcoming side of Bob Dylan, comfortable with himself and this kind of engagement with the press. He's generous with his time and in good spirits.

On September 8 he again met with journalists in Italy, three days before the release of Love and Theft in the U.S., which coincided with the hijacking of four airplanes and the havoc that event generated. This second interview was transcribed by Dave Flynn and submitted to Karl Erik at Expecting Rain as "The Rome Interview." Perhaps it should be called the Rome Interview II. It's also quite interesting. Unlike mine here, it is complete. Read it to the end. You'll enjoy the last two lines.

If you don't already own it, find The Never Ending Narrative which covers Dylan's career from Oh Mercy to Modern Times. The press conference can be found in the section marked EXTRAS.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. It really was a major year for Dylan fans. The mural in Minneapolis and his 75th birthday were pretty special, but there's really nothing quite like a Nobel Prize. Congratulations, Mr. Dylan. The very best to you in 2017.

Five Minutes with Jane Austen Fan and eBook Author Madeline Courtney

When I attended my first writer's conference more than 30 years ago there were 50,000 books being published annually. Few, if any of us, had any inkling of how different the publishing landscape would be in the 21st century. Today with publishing-on-demand and eBooks thrown into the mix more than a million books are being written per year on every conceivable topic, many of them spawned by favorite writers from the past. One of these is Jane Austen, with seemingly countless variations on this theme from Mr. Darcy's Mail Order Bride to Dearest Bloodiest Elizabeth: The Confession of Mr. Darcy, Vampire.

One of Austen's mesmerized fans is Madeline Courtney who has written her own Austen-inspired novel called Abhorrence and Affection. Having self-published a few eBooks of my own I thought I'd check in with another emerging author utilizing the form. A description of the book reads, "Inspired by Jane Austen.... with a sensual twist."

EN: When did you make a decision that you were serious about becoming a writer?

Madeline Courtney: Would you believe it if I said I made the decision when I was in the sixth grade? I've been writing my whole life (my friend's and I would write "books" together in grade school). In the sixth grade, I really decided to look into it seriously because my teacher read a small little blurb of something I was writing and loved it (or so she said). I loved seeing the way she reacted. I knew then that I had a talent I wanted to share with the world.

EN: What are some of the things you have done to develop your writing skills?

MC: READING. I think the best way to grow and learn as a writer is to READ. Anything. Everything. Jane Austen. V.C Andrews. Stephen King. It's just like being taught from the best.

EN: What is it that fascinates you about Jane Austen?

MC: What fascinates me about Jane is that she was so... rebellious in a way that only a woman from the late 1700s to early 1800s could be. The laws of society were very strict back then, and yet she still fought them. I imagine today she would seem a very proper woman... but back then she was wild and untamed.

EN: Do you have a favorite character in Pride & Prejudice and why?

MC: DARCY. Why? You mean other than the fact that he is without a doubt the most handsome gentleman known to existence? Probably because the first time I read the novel I spent half the book hating him and thinking he was this big asshole... when really he's just shy and sensitive. It's amazing character development really.

EN: In what ways is your novel Abhorrence and Affection a takeoff on Austen? In what ways is it different?

MC: Austen characters are mentioned in Abhorrence and Affection. The novel takes place not far from Longburn. The Bennets are family "friends" of the main character's family. The Benedicts are all caught up with the same gossip of Pride and Prejudice.. They also attend the famous ball that takes place at Netherfield Park. It takes place in the same time period and same universe as Pride and Prejudice... just through different eyes with different circumstances.

EN: What is the hardest part of writing novels?

MC: The hardest part of writing novels... probably the dreaded Writer's Block. I'm prone to it. It's like, I know what I want to write. I know what genre I want to write. I know the characters... but I black out when it comes to plots. Does that make sense? It takes a very special idea to actually make it on the page and be completed -- at least for me, anyway.

Abhorrence and Affection can be found here on Amazon and Kindle.
For a limited time only $0.99.

* * * *
What are you writing today?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mr. Tambourine Man: Dylan Splashes Transcendant Imagery and Widens Our Imaginations

Let's start with this. As anyone who has ever been to a writers conference or who has read books on writing knows, the big no-no in writing is cliches. Using cliches ranks up there with the "to be" verb as the premiere badge of laziness, the ultimate sin for writers. To create alternative ways of saying things, however, requires imagination, a form of mental labor that the average writer discovers evades because it ain't all that easy to produce fresh and new ways of saying things in place of that which rolls easy off the tongue.

I begin here because when we hear a Dylan song, we frequently overlook what he's achieved in his lyrics. This year Mr. Dylan received a Nobel Prize "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

Someone asks, "Can you give me an example?"

Listen to these lyrics, written and composed in early 1964.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Who ever wrote songs like this? When Dylan began his songwriting journey he did some emulation, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie perhaps being foremost among his influences. At a certain point in time his themes moved in other directions. And in a following chapter, imagination and the muse melded to produce something so original it has never been duplicated. How could it be? In later interviews Dylan himself stated he would not be able to replicate that which emerged at this period in his life.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Stop the presses! Let's examine this one statement here... "But for the sky there are no fences facin'" What is this? It's a total refab on the most mundane cliche, "The sky's the limit." The sky's the limit means, there is no limit. Dylan makes a poetic departure from the cliche and rephrases it in a scintillating new way... a meteoric metaphor leaving vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme, perfectly at home in the context of these images of abandon. Except for the sky, there are no other fences. An spectacular image, and vantage point.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus signs
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Yes, let me live so in the now that I have no intention of even knowing that now is all there is.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you
Copyright © 1964, 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1993 by Special Rider Music

It's but one of hundred of songs produced during a period in which many were experimenting, and many more were watching and listening to the this literary magician whose songs awakened something deep that had been slumbering in a generation becoming aware that there was something more to life than the emptiness of material gain.

"Mr. Tambourine Man" lit a flame in many a heart. For many it was never snuffed.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky... Remembering who you are, a spirit longing to be free.

Music at the Museum Concert Series Coming to Karpeles

2016 is the year I discovered what the Karpeles Manuscript Museum is all about. The first surprise was that it is free (except for the quarter or quarters you plug into the meter because you have to park on the street.) The second surprise was that this is one of a dozen such Karpeles Manuscript Libraries around the country, in cities from New York to Charleston to Texas and Santa Barbera, and all manner of places in between. The third surprise is that the Karpeles Manuscript Library is purportedly the largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents in the world. And finally, biggest surprise of all, the founder graduated from Denfeld High School here in West Duluth.

Original documents that make history real.
The building that houses the exhibitions in Duluth was designed in 1912 by premiere architect Frank German, who also designed the former YWCA that now houses the American Indian Community Housing Organization whose many arts functions I have written about these past several years. The building was designed for the Church of Christ Scientist in the days before microphones came into existence. Thus, one of its key features is fabulous acoustics.

For this reason it is an ideal location for concerts. Beginning January 8 the First Sunday Chamber Series will begin, with concerts through May on the first Sunday of each month. The concerts begin at 3 p.m. and for parking you may use the Gitchee Gammi Club parking lot just below the alley. Enter through the side door.

Two other events will be taking place before this, though. On January 3 a new manuscript exhibit will be installed featuring documents related to the history of medicine. This will be a fairly comprehensive overview of medical breakthroughs and understanding. I suspect that local schools will be making visits, and if you are a homeschooling parent I would recommend Karpeles as a destination, both for this and all other exhibits that pass this way.

The History of Medicine will be featuring the following:
Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood
Lister on germs and the emergence of hygiene
Robert Koch's discovery of infection
Ben Franklin on hospitals
Dorothea Dix on insanity
Mesmer's work on hypnotism

Other documents include:
Louis Pasteur's treatment for rabies
Albert Schweitzer's investigation of leprosy
Document(s) related to Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross
Pauling and Funk's discovery of vitamins
The development of peniciilin
Christian Barnard on heart disease
Treve's work on "Elephant Man"
Pavy's work on diabetes
The history of the Mayo Clinic
Sabin and mass vaccination
and Crick's work on DNA

British minister expelled, but "He is to be treated with kindness and attention."

Personally, I think this sounds like a pretty impressive exhibit. If you are looking for an excuse besides the exhibit itself to come check things out, there will be a Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire Benefit Concert on January 6 from 6 - 11 p.m. featuring experimental and atmospheric music.

Karpeles is located across the street from St. Luke's Hospital on First Street in Duluth. If you're unable to make a concert, consider dropping in during your lunch hour sometime. I can assure you that it will be worth your while.

EdNote: The examples on this page are from the current exhibit will we be departing this week. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

One of the features of the traditional Christmas story is the how an "angel of the Lord" came and announced to the shepherds the "good news of great joy which will come to all people, for to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

This story appears in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke in in the New Testament of the Bible. Because of our tendency to take all this for granted I thought it might be interesting to share a couple features of the story that you might not be aware of, to picture it better.

First off, the author Luke was a physician, so his version of the Christ story is peppered with many details not found elsewhere. He was writing a historical account, and for this reason Chapter 2 begins with a decree by Caesar Augustus, which did actually occur in history, requiring that census be taken. Mary and Joseph, despite her being nine months pregnant, had to leave Nazareth and make their way to Bethlehem because the manner in which King Herod carried out the census for Israel. Each person was to be registered in their own city.

What's interesting is that Bethlehem wasn't just any city. The city there had tremendous historical significance. According to Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:

That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.' This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for Temple-sacrifices and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover - that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.

Modern day shepherd in Romania.*
So these were not ordinary shepherds  watching just any old flocks of sheep. These were shepherds who took care of the flocks that were raised for temple sacrifices for the purpose of making peace with God.

And what does the angel of the Lord say? "This will be a sign for you: a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger."

So the story, for the shepherds, begins with a treasure hunt! These guys are not given much to go on and must run down into town and start a search. Fortunately, Bethlehem was not the size of New York City -- or Jerusalem -- and they were successful. For all I know there was only one inn, and because of the census it was full.

The marvels here are two-fold. The presence of the shepherds who raised sacrificial sheep for the Temple were the first to recognize the future One who would become a sacrificial lamb for humanity. And two, the humility of this birth. If this was the King of Kings, why was the babe born in a cattle stall? You'd think a Messiah would be born in a palace... but no.

The marvel of the story is that God became one of us. Helpless, human, common. When the shepherds found the newborn babe, they told Mary what the angel had said and that after the angel gave the instructions, a whole host of angels appeared. All heaven must have been leaning over the rim of that town to see this amazing event.

These were my thoughts last night as I considered this day and its meaning.

Photo credit: friend of Darwinek. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Scattered Scraps and Storylines Across a Range of Topics

As I was reviewing my blog analytics during the Tony Bennett 90th Birthday Bash, I was surprised at how many blog posts had been started but not taken anywhere. Here are a handful of beginnings and partially formed ideas that lay dormant after conception.

F. Scott Fitzgerald stated, "The cleverly expressed opposite of any generally accepted idea is worth a fortune to somebody." 30 years ago an article in Writer's Digest suggested that you can make money by paying attention to the current prevailing opinions and writing about it, taking the contrarian point of view. When I saw the Fitzgerald quote in a book about blogging, I wondered if this kind of thing would produce writing that is insincere and journalists who were only in it for the money.

Then again, if you are writing things that everyone is already saying, what new thing are you bringing to the story? Who will publish what you write they already have the same thing in the drawer?

Hammond's Folly
On March 19 I was intending to write a blog post about famous follies. That is, events that were considered boondoggles when they first happened, which later turned out astonishingly good. The reason for the March 19 date is that it was the anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan's first album by Columbia Records. Only 5,000 albums were sold, which is a long way from Platinum. Internally, the signing of Dylan was nicknamed "Hammond's Folly."

The blog post I envisioned would begin with other such events that were made fun of, chief of which is Seward's Folly, A.K.A. The Alaska Purchase in which the U.S. of A. acquired Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867. The purchase added 586,412 square miles of new territory to the United States. Critics called it "Seward's Folly."

What Is Useful and What Is Not?
The aim of this blog post was to take the concept of void and apply it to Sundays and vacations. Eastern mysticism talks about the usefulness of emptiness. Lao Tzu, I believe, uses a bowl to illustrate the concept. It is the empty space that makes the bowl useful. If it were solid, then it would have no value as a bowl.

From the Judeo-Christian perspective a similar concept is set forth in the notion of the Sabbath. Sometimes we think that by working seven days a week we can accomplish more, but the way we are wired (persons created in the image of God) it turn out that the "void day" is essential to our health and well-being.

Boomer, Do You Know Who You Are?
15 years ago I outlined a book concept called Boomer, Do You Know Who You Are? In theory I wanted to underscore five positive values that emerged during the Sixties that were abandoned by many in our generation as they matured. This project never got off the ground, but I've often thought about the ideals of that time. So it surprised me when I came across a forum in which Millennials were making some rather blistering remarks about how Baby Boomers screwed up the world. Here's an article from The Atlantic with a similar premise, this one being focused on the economic damage our generation has perpetrated.

American Pie Revisited: Now We Know What It's All About
I remember reading a lengthy article dissecting the mystical meanings behind the lyrics of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. My impression is that the essay was a somewhat satirical example of our deep dive analysis of the Dylan's lyrics and Beatles' songs. And, of course, American Pie was another of these deliriously obscure but meaningful tales that just begged to be analyzed.

Last year, Don McLean's handwritten lyrics to American Pie fetched $1.2 million, so the song once again grabbed the spotlight. In this Washington Post article Don McLean reveals the meaning of the song.

As most people know, the "day the music died" was when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed into an Iowa cornfield during their 1959 Winter Dance Tour, which I have previously written about here. The impact was far more significant than many realize. This week I have been listening to an audio recording of The Letters of John Lennon. It is exceptionally insightful on so many levels. One of his letters is to Waylon Jennings, who should have been on that plane but lost his seat to Ritchie Valens in a coin toss. In this letter Lennon states how powerful Buddy Holly was as an innovator. When Buddy Holly and his Crickets came to England, no one had heard sounds like that. Ever. John tells Waylon that the name Beatles came from the Crickets. "We were insects."

Lennon also noted that Buddy Holly showed that it was O.K. to wear glasses. "Think about it. I was Buddy Holly."

A couple days before his death, Dylan had his encounter with this legendary performer here in the Duluth Armory, and felt a spark, seemed to make a connection that inspired him, ignited his passion to continue making music. Across the pond, John Lennon had also been inspired and transformed.

* * * *
Merry Christmas to all... and if you're planning to leave Santa with hot chocolate and cookies, you can follow his whereabouts on the NORAD Santa Tracker

Friday, December 23, 2016

Elizabeth Kuth Artist Talk Provides Deeper Understanding of Abstract Expressionism

Wednesday evening Elizabeth Kuth gave an "artist talk" about her abstract paintings currently on display at Studio 3 West, one of the newest gallery spaces in Downtown Duluth. The paintings discussed were from her 2014-2016 series titled "Ritual Forms."

Drew Digby welcomed everyone and made a few introductory remarks about the space. In addition to showcasing artists' work, Studio 3 West will be used for helping artists to develop in their careers. He then introduced Elizabeth Kuth, whose work I have found inspiring since I first discovered it.

Ms. Kuth began by sharing that after her parents died she committed to devoting her next ten years to her work as an artist. She also listened to women artists and focused on mentoring women. At one time her life was about doing, but at this time in her life she needed to listen and pay attention more.

* * * *

EK described her approach to painting. It is something akin to automatic painting in which things emerge as she paints. Some of the themes include women being victimized and encounters with nature.*

For EK painting is about paint. Identifying with it. Another key concept, she said, is overcoming the fear of destroying something good.

In her work EK gives a lot of attention to form. Some of her earlier paintings were displayed on the west wall of the gallery space and showed a lot of color interplay. In her more current work she downplays color and uses values instead so that form could dominate. Having become overwhelmed with form and color she moved toward a reductionism, cutting out the expressive use of color.

A little further in her talk she addressed issues like how a viewer enters a picture and interacts with it. She also addressed the various kinds and features of forms – circular, tubular, curvular, edges – as well as the manner in which thickness and texture of the surface produces different effects. Ultimately, she noted that destruction is as much a part of the process as creation. For artists who get paralyzed by the fear of messing something up if they make one more mark, this is a liberating secret.

Her early work incorporated a greater infusion of color.

After discussing her process she invited us to contribute to the conversation about the various pieces.

Touched by the Medium

Ms. Kuth says she paints from the gut. The process of painting, for her, is a very primal activity. "I learn about myself as I paint," she said. It's a very determined process for finding out more about yourself.

The respondents discussed various features of the work, including the sense of movement in a painting, and the feeling of being immersed in a piece.

A highlight of the chat came at this point when EK shared that a special feature of abstract expression is that by not finishing a piece off -- by this I mean completing all the details so as to give perfect definition of the objects in a paint, such as "This is a horse" and "This is a dog with her pups" -- the viewer is able to engage it and finish it by making their own interpretations. New contemporary work frequently keeps imagery obscure. Mystery is part of the engagement. Viewing the work is a form of surrender.

* * * *
Many of the exhibitions in local galleries include artist talks. It can be a rewarding way to learn more about our local artists as well as how and why they do what they do. In addition to art openings, which are celebratory in nature and draw crowds, you may want to add artist talks to your art appreciation regimen. They are usually more intimate affairs and highly informative. Life is for learning.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Immerse yourself. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016 at Ennyman's Territory

The artists in front of their work.
While walking past a magazine stand this week I saw a headline in one of the publications that read, "Top Ten Stories of 2016." Naturally it made me curious about the stories on my own blog here, so Tuesday night during NBC's Tony Bennett Tribute Concert I reviewed the data on all my 2016 blog stories and identified the Top Ten in terms of generating engagement and visitors.

I then decided that I should share them David Letterman style, from least to best. That Dylan blog posts have been my most consistent performers does not surprise me. I've had a front row seat to a lot of Dylan-themed activity here in Duluth these past many years. Rather, what surprised me was the strength of two local stories that nearly eclipsed all of the Dylan stories and blog posts. I love surprises like this.

One other consequence of this exercise. It now makes me curious about the top posts of previous years. What year did my Dylan posts surpass everything else? And what other stories have shaken things up and around a bit over the years?

Here, then, are the top blog posts of 2016 at Ennyman's Territory...

10. Bob Dylan: Content Marketing King

9. Something Is Happening Here, Do You Know What It Is, Dylan Fans?

8. Weighing In On Bootleg #12: The Cutting Edge

7. Handwritten Lyrics to Dylan's Desolation Row: Sneak Preview of the May William Pagel Exhibit at Karpeles

Official Dylan Fest Poster And Schedule Now Published

5. Love Minus Zero/No Limit Is A Beautiful Equation

4. The Law of Unintended Consequences as Illustrated by the Story of U.S. Steel in Duluth

3. Hibbing Project Gathering Momentum

2. Karen McTavish: Pushing the Boundaries of Quilting

And this year's #1 Story:

1. Dylan Mural Makes Monumental Impact In Minneapolis

If you're in the neighborhood of Hennepin and 6th, here's a great photo op for Dylan fans and friends.

Meantime, life goes on... Make the most of it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Optimism Challenge

They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
--Desolation Row, Bob Dylan

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Is your glass half empty or half full?

Optimism is an interesting phenomenon. Every now and then I hear motivational speakers whose words truly fire one up. You feel confident enough to wrestle a bull bare-handed. Other times, these messengers of hope strike me as peddlers with dubious motives at best. "Make a fortune flipping houses!"

Life involves risk, but can our tendency toward optimism deceive us into taking unnecessary and imprudent risks? How can we know whether our optimism is healthy or unfounded?

Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have produced some very interesting books. One that I read recently again for the second time is Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions.  Here's another. The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain, by Tali Sharot.

As I look back over my life I see numerous occasions where optimism has served me well. For example, your odds of finding a job in a tough economy increase significantly when you feel confident. On the other hand, I've also seen and experienced instances of foolishness caused by an exuberance stirred by unchecked optimism.

In The Optimism Bias author Tali Sharot's premise is that we're actually wired in the direction of optimism. You might say that our brains are wired to see the world through rose-colored glasses (hence the cover art here.) A cognitive neuroscientist, her 2012 TED Talk carry's this descriptor: Are we born to be optimistic, rather than realistic? Tali Sharot shares new research that suggests our brains are wired to look on the bright side — and how that can be both dangerous and beneficial.

* * * *
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." ~Sir Winston Churchill

This is an interesting statement. Mr. Churchill's observation is that optimism and pessimism exist apart from circumstances. That is, whatever the circumstances, people can be disposed toward hope or despair. In other words, optimism is an internal disposition, much like Little Orphan Annie who's continuous refrain was, "The sun will come out tomorrow."

* * * *
So, how can a person tell whether their optimism is founded or unfounded? Here's an example of how optimism can deceive:

Many years ago I worked for a company that manufactured a specialized technology. In an effort to increase sales they would frequently develop new products in areas that were not in precise alignment with what they produced. On one occasion they invented a machine that would purportedly make it easier for people in the industry to use the products they made. The machine, however, was expensive so they needed to forecast how many would sell in order to meet demand.

Sales forecasting is something that all companies deal with, lest they be stuck with inventory or perhaps create demand that they cannot fulfill.

When it came time to make a decision regarding the quantity of machines to produce, the president called a meeting of all the marketing and sales staff and grilled them as regards how many machines we each believed would sell. One said 500, another said 1000, etc. Then, he pulled out little pieces of paper which he handed to everyone in the room so we could write the number they really believed would sell. I wrote the number 200, because the lowest number given was 400. I figured it was a new technology and might be more difficult to sell than they realized.

There was one person in the room who had not been as wildly enthusiastic as some of the others. (I'll call him Pete.) This was, in part, because he had had experience as the kind of person we were planning to sell these machines to. When all the votes were in, the president read off the predictions. Pete had written the numeral four.

The decision was made to make the machines, but to err on the side of smaller quantities. When all was said and done, that first year the company indeed only sold four. And in all four cases the customers became frustrated with the contraptions and returned them.

Why was my "conservative" guess of 200 so wildly optimistic? Because of another defect in our social interactions: the influence of peer pressure. If my number was too low I might offend the super-optimists at the table. It takes a very strong person to stand their ground when they are out of alignment. As my brother once said, "Sometimes it's hard to be the smartest person in the room." In this case, that was Pete. He saw clearly the challenges ahead, and probably the deficiencies of the machine.

Much more could be said, but I'll close with this. It takes restraint to temper one's enthusiasm for an idea, or manage expectations when leading a team. The world we live in is out of balance. When emotion gets stirred in, our perceptions can also become distorted. Therefore, to find Aristotle's Golden Mean between optimism and realism is the Optimism Challenge.

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