Sunday, October 20, 2019

PBS Pledge Drive Inspires George Harrison Guitar Art


Anyone who has listened to public radio for any length of time is well aware of their periodic pledge drives. Over the course of many years of listening to KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited while painting in my studio on Saturday nights, there were many of these programs where the late John Bushey, the show's host, would be live on the air commenting on rare Dylan outtakes that he'd saved just for these occasions. (Miriam Hanson is our current host holding the torch for this popular Northland radio program.)

"Here Comes The Sun"
THIS PAST WEEK I learned that Susan Krochalk, a local artist who has routinely contributed her talent and art to a number of our annual Duluth Dylan Fest art shows, did this really cool George Harrison-themed guitar. She was crowdsourcing on social media, asking advice on the kind of finish to use over the surface. 

As soon as I saw it I wanted to share it here. I asked what her what motivation was for producing this beautiful creative work. She shared her story here:

My motivation for this piece was a call for art for the upcoming WDSE show celebrating 55 years of public television in the Twin Ports. So (that would be) any art inspired by PBS programming. In spring of 2018 we were watching the "Concert for George" during the PBS pledge drive. We loved it so much that we became sustaining members of the station at that time. I originally bought the guitar thinking I would create a Bob Dylan piece, however while listening to the George Harrison cd (the pledge drive gift along with concert dvd) I felt inspired to do this instead.

Glad you did, Susan. It's very, very nice.

Related Links
George Harrison & Friends: The 1971 Concert for Bangladesh
George Harrison's "Taxman" Has Lessons for Us All
My Dinner With George
And finally, one of many renditions of While My Guitar Gently Weeps that you can find on YouTube, this one featuring Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney at the Concert for George.

What's your favorite George Harrison song?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Correcting the Narrative on Mary Todd Lincoln: An Interview with Historian Kerry Ellard

I've always been a fan of history, and one of my favorite eras of interest is the period from the Mexican War to the Civil War. And one of the central characters of that period would most certainly have been Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president. As an artist I have painted numerous portrait of the man and read many books. Even so, my mental portrait of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, has been more a caricature than a true reflection of the woman.

So it was with great interest that I began reading several chapters of Kerry Ellard's book on Medium about this prominent and forgotten first lady.

Kerry Ellard is an independent historian and tutor who lives in Massachusetts. She has held positions in the legal field and in government. Her work has been published in the Abraham
Lincoln Association’s newsletter and The Manuscripts Society’s quarterly journal. After earning degrees in communication and political science from Boston University, she graduated from Boston College Law School in 2014.

EN: Can you briefly summarize what your book about Mary Todd Lincoln is about?

Kerry Ellard: The book is about the last years of Mary Todd Lincoln’s life, 1880-1882, a period which has not been closely studied by previous biographers. After being released from an insane asylum in 1876, she moved abroad for several years and lived in seclusion. She returned in 1880 and became a recluse at her sister’s house in Springfield, Illinois. In 1881, a series of startling events, including her estranged son’s appointment as Secretary of War under President Garfield and the latter's subsequent assassination, drew her back into the world.

This project began with a study of the contemporary press coverage of her battle for a pension increase later that year, recently made feasible by historical newspaper sites, which I blogged about on my Medium page. The pension campaign was successful, but this is usually attributed to a larger movement to compensate Garfield’s widow. Congress was in a generous mood, the story goes, and there was no resistance. I argue that there was strong resistance, and of a disturbing kind.

EN: What prompted you to write this story"

"Blue Lincoln" by Ed Newman
KE: I found some newspaper articles (now widely accessible due to historical newspaper websites that arose out of the genealogy craze) that made some shocking claims, which I had never seen addressed. I dismissed them as gossip or sensationalizing, but they stayed at the back of my mind. Eventually, I tried to dig in a little deeper, because something just seemed off. And I found enough to convince me that there was something going on. I had several research ideas going, but I picked this one since it hadn’t gotten much coverage and allowed me to look at her life from a new angle. That was what I ended up putting on Medium—I just needed to publish something, instead of having it bouncing around in my mind.

Then I moved on to other parts of her life, and began studying the evolution of journalism in the 1800s. I realized what a revealing shift had taken place from the 1860s to the 1880s, in every aspect of American culture, and how that affected the conversation in 1881. It revealed a lot about how people behave generally—how quickly they forget, and how little they pay attention. Also, a shift in values and language generally—by 1881, the economy and big business dominate everything.

We have this huge myth around Mary Lincoln’s reputation and what she was associated with. But the discussion in 1881 seemed to indicate little familiarity with her. The press was at its most colorful while she was First Lady, but at that time, journalism was not in any way intended to be or understood as “objective” or even serious—it was the era of the partisan press and the personal press. The press coverage was therefore exaggerated, but not in the sense we think of. It was calculated, symbolic, playful, etc. and this was obvious to readers.

The shift toward objectivity was in progress by the 1870s, though it didn’t really work that way until World War I. Everyone looking back seemed to take the 1860s coverage literally, which it clearly was not meant to be. So things were way out of proportion. The popular narrative did exist in some form, namely among the elite figures in the press and political circles of the war, many of whom had contrived it. But they were largely gone, and context was lost.

There was an echo chamber going on among the ones who were left, but the press was now really national, and different people were in charge. Their story lost coherency once it escaped the bubble—one of my points is that it is a weird story that is unnatural to anyone not raised with it, but we’re all raised with it. I have to expand on what I mean by this, but mainly it is the idea that “well, unfortunately, Mary Lincoln alienated people and paid the price.”

But in 1881, most young people were like, “Wait, this is Abraham Lincoln’s widow—why are we discussing her personality? Maybe she is as alienating as people say, but I don’t get why this ever came up. We owed it to Abraham Lincoln to do the right thing without ever thinking any further. This whole thing makes me cringe.”

Personally, I suspect that this was the feeling of most Americans back in 1865, but certain press figures insisted otherwise—that she was just so appalling to the public at large that she was unworthy of sympathy. Given all that was going on in the Reconstruction Era, and all the “second chances” being extended, this strong claim strikes me as implausible. Why this happened is a complex issue that I’m still processing, but she was essentially at war with a portion of the Republican Party—there is a lot to say on this issue, and I may need to rewrite some of it for clarity. A lot of the dynamics are relevant to today, because they are just dynamics common to human society, and we should acknowledge them to avoid making the same mistakes.

EN: What was the real Mary Todd Lincoln like?

KE: This is still a difficult question to answer, and I have spent a few years doing some deep research and really trying to process it. I probably have learned more than I realize, but it is so hard to characterize someone in a way that does justice to them, especially someone who seems outside the norm. Plus, she burned all of her correspondence and did not leave behind a diary, etc. I think I understand her a lot more after having really immersed myself in her times, to the extent that I can through old newspapers and correspondence, and having studied her contemporaries. Particularly her friends and/or allies.

We spend too much time trying to characterize her in a top-down, superficial manner—she was a bold, intense, eccentric person, and so the assumptions about categories don’t hold all that well—the era had a surprising amount of leeway for transgressive types. But she wasn’t really transgressive in the way people think—a woman out of her sphere, or whatever. She stayed in her sphere, despite having many close friends who didn’t play by those rules. She embraced her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife, which actually was quite an exciting role with many opportunities, especially while he was President. Her personality was very concrete and personal, and she needed to organize her life around others—she had the skills to strike out on her own, and the courage to do so, but that lifestyle wasn’t for her. The problem, of course, was that she lost her husband, and then she lost Tad, and Robert couldn't really serve as a proxy for various reasons. What was she to do now?

Within her sphere, she was exceptional. She was a heavy hitter, an unapologetic eccentric, a brilliant woman with a skill for spotting talent, and who wanted to win above all. I realized something was up with the whole “she was alienating and frivolous” thing when I looked at her friends. While in many ways concrete and materialistic, she instinctively recognized power and talent and sincerity — the real great people, and knew how to win them over. (She was married to Abraham Lincoln!) “Game recognizes game.”

She had a lot of detractors, but they were kind of lame most of the time. They were, in the parlance of the time, “croakers.” They flood the record with their loud opinions, but they don’t hold that much power. When it comes to dealing with a Dan Sickles, for example, people still decry him daily, but he never missed a beat. Dan Sickles is one of her more questionable friends, but both Lincolns saw that you wanted him on your side in a conflict, and won him over from the Democrats. So many others kept insisting that Sickles was “finished” in 1858, that no one associated with him, that he was a pariah. Sure…

More significant would be her friendship with Charles Sumner, who *during Reconstruction* held up Senate proceedings until he won her a pension. Charles Sumner didn’t waste time on people who were not worth it. He was a polarizing guy, but all the denunciation in the world never held him back.

She had tons of friends in high places, and it adds up to quite an endorsement. They were anything but frivolous people—flamboyant, extravagant, extreme, yes, but people who got stuff done. It was an era of big personalities, which is another thing that has made her hard to understand. Within the circles she ran, her eccentric individuality was not that big of a deal. Her skill in dealing with difficult, eccentric people is evident. But that breed died out after the war, so she looks especially out of place. Many of Lincoln’s close associates now look out of place—historians often ask why he chose such bad company. I think a safer assumption is that they were good company, and we’re not using the right criteria to judge them. Related to this is that this was the era of the spoils system—it was not supposed to be an impersonal meritocracy. Mary Lincoln lived and breathed influence politics and coalition building, and she was good at it. As that began to go out of style, and eventually became totally alien to our thought of government, her sense of entitlement on certain things appears shocking. But it made sense at the time, for the most part.

She was an eccentric person (to the point of mental illness, but there was a lot of tolerance of this in some circles—William T. Sherman is generally understood to have been bipolar, and several of the other generals and leaders displayed instability we would now consider obviously disqualifying) with some weird beliefs about money and reciprocation, but the belief that she was entitled to great consideration as Lincoln’s widow was not that hard to understand.

Had things been handled better, we’d have more in her own words. I believe she was an extremely interesting, exceptional person, who had great insight in some areas and great stories to share, and I’m sorry that we don’t know more. I’m especially sorry we don’t have her comments on Lincoln himself.

EN: I’ve always believed that no one should have to bury their children. She suffered much in that regard, seeing three of her sons buried, and on top of that being present when her husband was assassinated. Of what did the rest of her life consist?

KE: That statement--that it is essentially unnatural for a parent to have to bury a child--would have been weird in the 1800s.

EN: Good point.  

KE: Even in 1891, Robert’s son died of an infection—before antibiotics, it was just so easy for it to happen. Of course, everyone would agree with the sentiment that it is a nightmare, but you were almost as likely to bury a child as not. There was a lot of cultural preparation for that possibility, but many parents of course took it just as hard as today.

Still, the Lincolns seemed unusually blindsided. They didn’t have many kids, and this seems to have been planned---preferring to invest a lot in each child, with a high quality of life, which seems very risky at that time but which was gaining popularity. Things were definitely improving on the child mortality front, and life was becoming more recognizable to modern people—the Lincolns were a middle class family. Avoiding the problems associated with constant pregnancy and childbirth probably played a role.

One of their kids died at aged 4, which was common, but the other two died beyond the diseases of infancy stage, so I think that made it surprising to them. But they were both completely crushed. It was so tragic by any standard, but Mary Lincoln really could not exist in a resigned, transcendent state—her religious beliefs were never solid. She was really just done for after Tad died—it was unrecoverable. Had he lived, I think much could have been different, and probably also had Willie lived but Tad died. But she kept going, mentally unraveling and reclusive, out of society, but constantly sightseeing, which was a lifelong passion.

She wandered, and she was not well, but she did not give up, and she had plenty of friends. She just generally kept herself secluded, which was very bad for her mental state. The timing of events in her life is what makes it most stunning to me—like the events are bad, but the cruelty lay in the timing. She finally begins to be triumphant in Washington, and Willie gets sick right when they hold the ball, and while some in the press are savaging them for it (this has been misinterpreted as a universal view), and Congress is going after them, but the Union finally gets a victory, Willie sickens and dies.

CLICK TO ENLARGE
It darkened every remaining hour in the White House. Then, just as the war ends and Lincoln is finally relaxing, finally about to take vacation, he gets assassinated and her life is turned upside down. Then, just as she finally gets her pension and returns to America from Europe sounding so much better, with Tad having reached adulthood and a new granddaughter waiting for her, Tad out of nowhere sickens and dies. I think he died the day she received her first pension payment! It was like every time she got up, she took another blow.

She herself said Tad’s death was the final blow more than once, but there is a narrative pushed that she was really dead starting at the point Lincoln was shot—that she was never herself after that, totally nonfunctional. I mean, she was very affected by it, for sure, but I think it is disrespectful to say she spent the next seventeen years of her life essentially dead, with no agency, like it didn’t count. That’s a long time.

She struggled to engage for six more years, until Tad’s death, and still struggled to keep some sense of identity after that. Her spark came back after her institutionalization for a bit, and she made herself felt until the last year of her life. She was in bad shape, but she was “there.” She could take care of herself in the literal sense, but needed someone to support her and redirect her, and that was not an easy job. There was no one who could have done it—it was simply terrible luck that she had no one to lean on. And remarriage was not something she considered. Then you had the fact that Abraham Lincoln was unavoidable—he was mentioned 24/7, so there was no moving on even if she could. And the disastrous political situation of the time, which must have had its effect on her. It’s just really overwhelming to contemplate how things would have differed had Lincoln lived. I’m not sure he would have magically smoothed out Reconstruction, but his family would have been better off for sure. And it would have been harder to get away with doing nonsense in his name. He had a real skill for keeping people’s eyes on the ball, at least. What a senseless loss.

My book is about what the rest of her life consisted of, and there was variety in it. But it is hard to sum it up, other than she refused to be written off or degraded by a group of loud critics who were only posturing, not commenting in good faith, and I admire that. A life boldly lived is a good example in itself.

EN: I saw your tweet on the book Lincoln in the Bardo. What is it about George Saunders’ book that spoke to you or moved you?

KE: He perfectly depicts the contradictions inherent in the life of Lincoln and the Civil War generally, and the various lessons those contradictions hint at. He lets these competing voices speak for themselves, and they are representative of universal human personalities—the book takes place in 1862, but you can instantly recognize them in people you know today. Their failings, observations, admirable qualities, etc. are recognizable patterns in human nature. It shows how messy things are, but manages to do it in a way that is somehow still amusing and hopeful, or at least constructive. He really hits all the key contrasts and dilemmas, and does it so naturally and quickly. I rarely meet anyone who liked the book, unfortunately. Part of that is the style, but I would argue that the style is connected to the content—it is supposed to be jarring, the opposite of neat and easy to follow. People don’t like that, which is unsurprising. But that’s what reality is like. Juxtaposition and mixing up styles can convey a lot. As I’ve gotten older and read more widely, I’ve become more comfortable with that sort of style—it no longer seems unnatural. I particularly like the impressionistic, collage style that Saunders used. In a line or two, he tells the whole character’s significance, like Billy Joel does in "Piano Man" or Everlast does in "What It's Like." It’s a powerful effect.

* * * *

Thank you, Kerry, for all these new insights.

For more Mary Todd Lincoln stories, follow Kerry Ellard on Medium: https://medium.com/@kerry62189

Friday, October 18, 2019

Things I Learned from My Visit with Darryl "King Rick" Farmer, Leader of the Black Panthers of Milwaukee

King Rick
I first learned about Darryl Farmer (a.k.a. King Rick) and the Black Panthers of Milwaukee through Paul Lemenager, a producer with Dogsnose Media, which I wrote about here. Their team had produced a show titled No Justice, No Peace: The Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee which was accepted into the Catalyst Content Festival. What struck me was his statement that No Justice, No Peace was one of the most interesting projects he'd worked on his entire life.

King Rick and his bodyguard Quodo came to Duluth last week to attend Catalyst, whereupon we made arrangements to meet. On Friday the three of us met at the hotel where they were staying. What follows are notes stimulated by our exchange. First off what really struck me was the feeling I had that in our core we were just three guys sharing life experiences. 

* * * *
The original Black Panther Party was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. It was a movement of high impact, though relatively short lived. When we say "Black Panthers" it forms an image in many peoples' minds, usually associated with violence.

This is not surprising when you look at the 150 years of violence perpetrated against Blacks since the end of the Civil War, not only in the Jim Crowe South. In researching for this meeting I learned that Huey Newton was raised in Ouachita Parish, Louisina where there had been 37 lynchings from 1877 to 1950. Hence, the motivation to take action against injustice.

Black Panthers of Milwuakee Facebook header.
Black Panther chapters formed in numerous cities in the late 60s. King Rick said, "I was born, bred and educated at the table of a Panther in Milwaukee."

One day, when he was in Head Start at age five, an Open Housing March took place in Milwaukee. As the march went past his school, he left class to go participate.

He described himself as an inquisitive youth, waking up to issues around age 10. He was also growing up physically, and played basketball in high school. "Our school won the state championship," he said. He later went on to play pro basketball overseas for a spell. His career was in education, teaching French while also coaching a successful high school basketball program.

King Rick
King Rick talked about political prisoners who were unjustly sent away--Geronimo Pratt, Dhoruba Bin Wahad (Richard Moore) and others. Then he briefly outlined the history of the Black Panthers in Milwaukee. After the Black Panthers disbanded in the early 1980s it went underground. "In 1990 Commander Mike McGee Sr. decided to bring back the Black Panther militia. I was his bodyguard."

The non-violent Milwaukee Panthers whom King Rick leads are community-minded activists. “If anyone is a detriment to the community we will hold you accountable.”

He stated that Milwaukee is the most segregated city in America, and the worst place to raise black children. "It’s a modern Tammany Hall." King Rick sees Mayor Tom Barrett as Boss Tweed. “We’re not a hate group. We’re just against these things.”

He described the manner in which the group exposes injustice. “Everything we do is strategic. We plan ahead of time, but don’t tell when we’ll show up.” Stealth is a part of the modus operandi. And even though they are opposed to violence they will use it if necessary to protect their families. "The complete village is our family."

There's another side of the Black Panthers that is equally important.

"We do a lot of community activities, neighborhood clean-ups and giveaways," he said. "For example, we do an annual Mother’s Day giveaway for 5 moms who lost kids to violence. We do a book bag giveaway. At Thanksgiving we give away 100 new coats, hats, gloves and turkeys. On December 28, Kwanzaa, we give gifts to 5 kids who lost parents through violence."

As you can see the community activities help people while also raising awareness regarding serious issues. There are at least 15 chapters of the Black Panthers across the country and it continues to expand, he said, because the work is not done.

King Rick's bodyguard Quodo
Quodo, King Rick’s bodyguard, was also on hand. He’s served two tours of duty overseas, Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Quodo shared details about these experiences which included service in the  3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, support for helicopters.

Today the Panthers are active on social media, on YouTube and Facebook. They also have a website. “Social media is a blessing and a curse,” Farmer said.

King Rick still believes in democracy and the power of the people. “When people (in power) are afraid of change, we can vote them out of office.”

“When we challenge people we don’t let them know we’re coming. The element of surprise is important to us.”

I asked what they see as the biggest current issues. "Donald Trump and education are one and two. Oppressive beliefs is a close third."

The next thing King Rick said was something I'd heard three decades ago from a friend. “The laws and attitudes of America were never designed to protect the people it oppresses. The original police force was formed to catch slaves.” We have a heinous history, he noted, adding,  “It’s only going to change if we make it change.”

Currently the Black Panthers of Milwaukee holds weekly meetings. One recent issue they dealt with had to do with a man who killed the mother of a family of four. "We persuaded him to turn himself in."

For King Rick the work he is doing comes from a sense of calling that is rooted in his ancestry. Speaking truth to power is a non-violent political tactic that takes courage and resolve. The purpose of confrontation is illumination.

Next year the Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee. In light of the times we live in, I suspect it won't be just another political event. The Black Panthers of Milwaukee will be there.

Related Links
No Justice, No Peace Trailer
About the Black Panther Party
Getting Ready for Catalyst

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fund Raising Event for the Medal Of Honor Row: Five Medal of Honor Recipients and Their Medals On Display for One Night Only

John Basilone
When I was in high school our Bridgewater-Raritan football stadium was called The John Basilone Memorial Field. I didn't know who John Basilone was, nor did I have a great curiosity to find out other than that he was probably a relative of the John Basilone who was in our Class of '70. I'm ashamed to say that it was three decades later that I learned from a co-worker here in Minnesota what a hero he had been.

Here's how Wikipedia describes him:
John Basilone was a United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who was killed in action during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle for Henderson Field in the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Navy Cross posthumously for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both of these decorations in World War II.

* * * *
It's amazing how little we know about the people who walk and live among us.

This coming month, the St. Louis County Historical Society and its Veterans Memorial Hall program have invited the public to  their 15th Annual Veterans Remembrance Dinner. The event will be Friday, November 15 with its theme, "Such Good Men…Forged Under Fire."

The keynote speaker that evening is Four-Star General Richard "Butch" Neal, USMC (Ret.), who will present a tribute to area Medal of Honor recipients whose leadership lessons have been demonstrated through acts of valor. These five are Oscar F. Nelson, Donald E. Rudolph, Michael Colalillo, Henry A. Courtney, Jr., and Dale E. Wayrynen. Their Medals of Honor will be displayed for the evening together here at the Depot in Duluth for the first time and for one night only.

Details of the dinner can be found here. Proceeds from the event will help support the Veterans Memorial Hall Program of the St. Louis County Historical Society. As part of the dinner festivities, local artist Tim Cortes will unveil his original artwork honoring the five recipients, and the Mike Colalillo Scholarship will be awarded.

Tickets are $35.00 and may be purchased at the office of Veterans Memorial Hall at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot), or be reserved by calling 218-733-7586.

Preceding the dinner, General Neal will teach on the subject of "Lessons in Leadership: Forged Under Fire" from 2-4 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Depot Theater at the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center, 506 W. Michigan St. It's co-hosted by the Northland Human Resources Association and Veterans Memorial Hall, which is a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society, the latter said in a news release. (It's only $15 and you can register here.)

Neal was promoted to assistant commandant of the Marine Corps shortly before his retirement in 1998. Since retiring, he has been a senior fellow for the National Defense University. His seminar is based on the contents of his book, "What Now, Lieutenant?: Leadership Forged From Events in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Beyond."

Here's more info about the day's events:
CLICK TO ENLARGE
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Related Links
Register for the Seminar
Dinner Reservations Here
St. Louis County Historical Society on Facebook

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Local Art Seen: Sue Rauschenfels' Birches at the Zeitgeist Cafe

The wonderful world of color. "Between the Trees"
Monday evening was the opening for Sue Rauschenfels' For the Love of Trees art exhibition at the Zeitgeist Cafe. I missed, due to another commitment, but was able to drop in this afternoon for space in time. In addition to sharing some of the paintings I saw, I desired to share a couple of impressions I had regarding this particular show.

As any Northlander knows, we have an abundance of birch trees here in the Northland. And having a population rich in artists, it's not surprising that trees would be featured in many of our local artists' paintings. So it is that Sue Rauschenfels can be numbered among the tree-interpreters.

"Daylight"
"Birches On Parade"
Having followed her work for some time, I was unaware of just how many paintings of trees she has produced. What's intriguing, though, is the variety of approaches displayed as she addresses her subject.

Some of the paintings brought to mind two significant artists from that significant period preceding the modernist era. I'm thinking here of J.M.W. Turner and Paul Cezanne.

In earlier times artists were more representational. That is, the aim was reproduction of what the eye sees. But in the late 1800s forward we find an increasing love and appreciation for what was happening on the canvas, apart from the object of the painter's attention itself.

"Stand Tall"
"Stand Tall" (detail)
"Into the Woods"
Take for example some of the backgrounds and skies in some of the British artist J.M.W. Turner's works.

I'm also reminded of Cezanne in many of Rauschenfels paintings. Many of her paintings feel precise and others feel slightly unbound. So, too, there is a richness in the colors, and a muted quality in others. Note the greens and blues of Cezanne's landscapes and see how Rauschenfels sees with a similar pallet, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

I don't know if every artist feels this way, but coming up with titles can certainly be fun. Titles can also be revealing, and the occasionally whimsical nature of Rauschenfels' titles is certainly an added delight.

* * * * 
"Dawn"
* * * *
"Summer Sky"
* * * *
"Just Breathe"
* * * * 
Vivid colors that careen off Kandinsky and Chagall, muted like a Che watercolor.
* * * * 

Related Links
The Goin' Postal Fall Art Show 2019 (next week) will also feature some of Rauschenfels' work as part of North End Days in Superior.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Local Art Seen: Rabbett Before Horses Strickland at AICHO

Friday evening was an opening reception for a impressive two-man show featuring work by Ojibwe Birchbark & Quillwork Artist Pat Kruse and Rabbett Before Horses Strickland. Both artists were present with a strong turnout from the community including friends and fans of their work. This blog post will feature Strickland's work with Pat Krise in the near future.

Rabbett Strickland is a Native American painter of the Red Cliff and Bad River bands of Lake Superior Ojibwe near Bayfield. He was born in San Francisco, but in his early twenties came to the Midwest, the origin of his people. Over the course of many years he's produced a striking body of images, many quite massive in scale.

His work has been influenced by European Renaissance and Baroque masters, including Botticelli, Michelangelo, Titian, Velasquez, Rubens and Leonardo, as well as by Ojibwe mythology. He has been featured in the American Indian Review, San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Fe Trend Magazine, Tea Party Magazine, and in the TV series Native Report.


"Getting Nibi"
The central character in his paintings is Nanabozho, the mythological Ojibwe archetype trickster figure and culture hero.  Strickland tells stories through the various images of Nanabozho, lamenting the loss of the wolf, creating butterflies or doing the Shut Eye Dance. One of his most impressive works, not on display here, is a 9' x 18' painting now in the possession of the Tweed titled "The Right to Consciousness."

Here are some images from Friday night at AICHO. Go see this show in person if able. Trepanier Hall is at 202 West Second Street, the former YWCA.


"Getting Nibi" (detail)
* * * *
"Young Nanbozho"
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* * * *
"Sudden Gust of Wind"
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"Nanabozho Dances with the Crane"

Related Links

Konnie LeMay story in Indian Country Today.
Collection of Rabbett Strrickland images on Pinterest.
You can also follow the artist on Facebook here.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The End Is Near: Catalyst Content Festival 2019 In Duluth--By the Numbers

It's been quite a week. Today's agenda is a bit shorter, culminating in the Red Carpet Awards Gala beginning at three. (It wouldn't be Hollywood without a red carpet, right?) Will we see any Ruby Slippers? Judy Garland was from near here, so it wouldn't be totally out of place.

I was feeling a bit laid back this morning and decided to assemble some numbers for my Medium blog post today. The catalyst for that idea came from an interview I had with Darryl "King Rick" Farmer of the Black Panthers of Milwaukee, who was featured in a documentary by Dogsnose Productions.

After posting that it seemed worthwhile to share some of the Catalyst numbers to accompany the photos I've been taking. I've always been fascinated by numbers, with one of my favorite features from Harper's magazine over the years being the Harper's Index.

Number of seasons experienced in Duluth this week: 3
This particular list does not include things like number of volunteers who participated, or even how many people were here, but I'm certain some of that will emerge once all the tallying has taken place.

Catalyst
By the Numbers

Number of people who watched movies in the Zinema
theaters: A lot.
4--Number of times the letter A appears in the title sponsors name. (Abrams Artist Agency)
5--Number of days in the Catalyst Story Institute & Content Festival.
14--Number of years the Festival has been in existence.
800--Number of entries into the competition. (Actually more than that.)
25--Number of countries from which entries came.
23--Number of panels and presentations.
113--Number of stories, shows, scripts.
6--Number of Documentaries
4--Number of Animated Stories
6--Number of Reality shows
32--Number of Dramas
33--Number of Comedies
6--Number of Podcasts
13--Number of Comedy Scripts
13--Number of Drama Scripts
98--Number of Executives, Panelists and Speakers listed in the Festival Program.
7--Number of these whose picture was not in the program.
29--Number of Sponsors listed in the Festival Program, the top five being Abrams Artist Agency, The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, HBO, SAG-AFTRA and the Television Academy.
87--Number of times I heard someone comment on the weather. (No, I made that up.)

The Zeitgeist, where I served as a volunteer Saturday, was continuously buzzing with staff, content creators, execs and attendees. I saw no evidence that our snow had any dampening effect on enthusiasm.

* * * *
Jaki has been a trooper coordinating volunteers.
* * * *
Ingeborg Von Agassiz entertained patrons in the cafe.
* * * *
One of the panel discussions that took place in the Teatro Zuccone
* * * *
* * * * 
Creators drew attention to their work with colorful handbills and promo items.
* * * *
Service with a smile from Jessie and the other Zeitgeist staff made the long days easier.
Special thanks to Tony Cuneo for all he does in support of the local arts scene.
* * * * 
Volunteer Carolyn Nelson Kavajecz is no rookie when it comes to hospitality.
* * * * 
Samuel T Weston, head wizard and film maker. Glahon &the Knaves of Industry.
* * * *

Kudos to all the Creators who had work accepted and shared, or had an opportunity to meet industry players.

Related Links
Catalyst Panel on Reading the Room (Networking for Success)
Catalyst Day Three
A Few Eye Opening Numbers That May Surprise You

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Day Three: Waxing Poetic @ Catalyst

Friday afternoon I had an opportunity to be a volunteer again for the Catalyst Festival that is taking place this week October 9-13. Friday was my second day at Fitger's, having attended the panel discussion Reading the Room yesterday. Today I was a greeter, smiling and helping direct people to the sessions there, standing by a chair on the stairs, pointing them away from a door and encouraging them to climb another half flight.

"When you reach the top make a right."

I had my pen and notepad with. Being a writer, it's something I'm seldom without. Between sessions, when there were occasional lapses of activity, I scratched a few notes on my pad, penned a few haiku, captured poetic phrases and described the scene that lay before me, which was essentially walls, rails, stairs and the pattern of tiles on the floor.

The stairs especially noodled my imagination. I waltzed down various dead end streets in my mind--wondering what kind of wood the beams were, what color stain was used--but also found a connection between our role as volunteers and these stairs the people had been climbing all day. Here's what emerged.

THE STAIRS
(A Metaphor for the Volunteers)

Stained and polished 
awaiting to fulfill their function
uncomplaining
stepped on all day long 
while helping others ascend.
"We're here to take you higher."

Catalyst Swag Bag for VIPs
Let me add that the "we're stepped on all day long" only refers to the stairs, not us volunteers. In reality, the volunteers have been having a very special experience. Neuroscience has now revealed that when we smile at one another and make eye contact, we get a dopamine rush. So, all afternoon Friday it was like one of those IV bags of fluid they put you on in the hospital dispensing timed release morphine droplets. Not exactly that, but you get the picture. That poem, in too rough draft condition to share here, was titled The Dopamine Effect.

* * * *

At one point a creator and an executive were talking animatedly and I overheard these words: "You need a story. You need an amazing story." Which served as a catalyst for the following poem.

Sound Advice
(FOR CREATORS)

Step it up.
Then step it up another notch.
Take that first idea and amp it.
Zap it!
Make it move.
   Make it come alive.

Strike it with lightning!
   Now teach it to dance.
Add a dose of romance
    and maybe…
The magic will happen.

     * * * *

If you get a chance to volunteer this weekend, the festival could use your help. And there might be magic for you, too.

TO VOLUNTEER visit CatalystContent.org/Volunteer