Monday, September 9, 2019

Local Art Seen: Karen Savage-Blue @ The Pine Knot

"Deer Woman" -- Karen Savage Blue
This past Thursday three venues in Cloquet and Carlton had their doors open for an art crawl. The Encore Theater, Magnolia Salon and the Pine Knot held receptions and it was nice to see the turnout. This blog post is about new work by Karen Savage Blue.

Ann Markusen, who came to UMD in 2000, introduced the artist. Markusen, who has been writing about art and placemaking, was at that time doing a study of Native artists, whose thriving arts scene was pretty much under the media radar. She was doing analysis of why Native artists are not getting the support other artists receive.

She shared a book she co-authored called Native Artists, which you can download here from (Free) (You can find more of Ms. Markusen's work at

After briefly addressing the challenges of being an artist, she introduced Karen Savage Blue, a Native artist from the Fond du Lac Reservation. She worked as a teacher for year (K-12 students) and now teaches art full time at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

She began her talk by sharing her process. "As an artist I have to determine what I'm going to spend my time on." She described how she enjoy's being alone in front of her paintings for hours in her studio on Big Lake.

She likes working in series. In 2014 she produced a series of 365 landscape paintings, one each day for an entire year. She was inspired by the film Julie & Julia about a blogger who is challenged to cook all the recipes in Julia Childs' first book.

For her project she would take a walk each day and shoot photos, making one selection each day to paint. On day 90 she was tempted to believe she'd done enough, but pressed on to the finish.

A lesson she's learned from this discipline is that an artist can do art daily no matter what is going on around them. "If you've got it in you, you can pull it out of you."

For each series, Savage-Blue sets rules. For this set, to create paintings depicting people in nature. And, though this presented new challenges for her, "No looking at other people's work to see how they solve this problem." For the seven paintings now on exhibit at the Pine Knot, she invented novel imagery with delightful solutions to the problems posed in each. The exhibit also includes a series of landscape paintings and some earlier, playful figuratives.

The creative solutions were truly original, each one having its own narrative. For this series of seven paintings she invented new kinds of imagery with innovative solutions to the problems set within each.

"Journey to the Other Side"
One of the paintings, titled Journey to the Other Side, was a response to the Parkland shootings. It shows four parents who come together and realize their children are gone. In the painting are 17 "energy spheres," one for each of the children whose lives were taken. The painting shows the parents coming to terms with these departing souls, some of which are ascending toward a sphere of light t the top of the painting.

Each of the paintings has a story. The artist elaborated briefly on her painting titled Deer Woman, which was done as a companion piece to one of Jonathan Thunder's paintings in a similar vein. As a fan of Thunder's work, I may have been the only one in the room who immediately recognized the echo.

Another painting features rabbits walking on their hind legs, titled Zorro Meets Dirty Bird. We all know who Zorro is, or so we think, but who is Dirty Bird? Dirty Bird is the nickname people in the Central Hillside Native community have given to one of the men there who has lived like something of a derelict. What's interesting is that this character, aware of his demeaning nickname, has re-named himself, calling himself Dusty Eagle. Of course, what is a dusty eagle? It's a dirty bird.
"Zorro Meets Dirty Bird"
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Ms. Savage Blue shared stories about her work and her approach to making art.
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Photo shows scale of her new work.
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"My Sister's Garden"
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The paintings of Karen Savage Blue will be on display here at the Pine Knot offices in Cloquet through the end of September. These and other paintings by the artist are available for purchase.

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Join Phil Fitzpatrick, Penny Perry and Friends at the Zeitgeist Atrium for their book launch reception, poetry reading and the music of Woodblind.
The book is Hawks on High: Every Day Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season

Zeitgeist Atrium
5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Ryan Frane will be playing during the reception and art show (5-6), and Woodblind will play from 7-9 after the poetry reading. Books can be purchased at Hawk Ridge, at Zenith Bookstore, as well as directly from the author and the artist.
Related: Interviews with Phil Fitzpatrick and Penny Perry.

Pints & Pottery--A fundraiser at Ursa Minor for the DAI Ceramic Studio.
Tuesday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.   DETAILS & TICKET INFORMATION HERE

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