Saturday, October 24, 2020

"Isn't It A Pity." Harrison's Words More Relevant Than Ever

On Thursday evening one of the members of our Toastmasters group gave a speech titled "We All Have Something To Say."  She began by talking about the breakdown of community discourse and the barriers that separate us. One of these is our increasing social anxiety, but there are other kinds of barriers to connectedness as well. 

The statement that especially jumped out for me--besides the shocking statistics she shared--was this one. When our inner thoughts are bottled up inside us, we live a diminished existence.

This is a recurring theme in many George Harrisons songs: love, meaning and connection. Within You Without You from Sgt. Pepper speaks of this in a sense, as does "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The White Album. Even "Blue Jay Way" from Magical Mystery Tour speaks with solemnity about being lost, alienated, in a fog.

Isn't It a Pity doesn't appear on a Beatles album.  Rather, we find it on Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass after the Beatles' breakup. The surprising thing is that it was written in 1966, the year Revolver was recorded in released. 

As nearly every Beatles fan knows, the agreement John Lennon and Paul McCartney made with George was to limit the number of Harrison songs on each album. Many people, therefore, were surprised at how prolific George became after the breakup of the Fab Four. 

I'm fairly certain that I was not the only one who kept buying albums by all four of the Beatles after they split. All Things Must Pass was George's offering in November 1970. I snapped it up and found it rewarding from the first time. The album was produced by Phil Spector, who also took the thousand-plus hours of studio mish mash and crafted Let It Be for the Beatles. (Paul didn't like what Sector produced, and remastered it in 2009. Beatles fans, however, were grateful that SOMEONE stepped up to the plate and finished this project. I still remember the first time I listed to it that fall.)

One of the great features of All Things Must Pass are the jam session recordings on sides five and six. Clapton and other musician friends really rock it out, knock it out of the park. 

Isn't It a Pity is essentially two stanzas with the first one repeated again as the third. It initially sets the tone, gets amplified in verse two, then serves as an echo of itself as verse three. Here are the lyrics, carried forward by an swelling and ebbing undercurrent of lament.

Isn't it a pity
Isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Now isn't it a pity

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we're all the same
And because of all your tears
Your eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds us
Now, isn't it a pity

Isn't it a pity, 
Now, isn't is a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Now, isn't it a pity 

The pity here isn't just that we cause each other pain. It's that we cause our own pain, but don't see it. And as a result we also miss the beauty that surrounds us.

What is it that causes this cycle of suffering? Forgetting to give back, he sings. 

Our own self-centeredness leaves us isolated. Perhaps its our personal feeling of self-importance that causes us to have a sense of entitlement, so we don't really appreciate what others do for us. We wanted (expected) more so that instead of gratitude we feel disappointment. As a result of our sense of self-importance, we generate our own isolation.

Here are three versions of the song. The first is George Harrison's original, remastered. The second is Eric Clapton. The last is Nina Simone.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDrLTW_sesI

Eric Clapton (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKu4U0YQBRo

Nina Simone
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLn3FT9BsRs

* * * *

Are we building walls or building bridges? Eleanor Rigby comes to mind. "Ah, look at all the lonely people."

And this one from Bob Dylan's "Fourth Time Around": "Everyone must give something back for something they get."

* * * *

The other problem Harrison pinpoints is the notion of we/they. "Not too many people can see we're all the same," he sings. 

Our culture has become increasingly splintered along many fault lines. We see this not just in political spheres, but also gender, race, religion and more. We've lost sight of our essential and fundamental humanity, the "essence" that we share in common. A quest for meaning. A hunger for hope. A creative urge. Personality. Bone, flesh, blood. A need for affirmation.

We're really all the same. How have we lost sight of this?

Friday, October 23, 2020

Harnessing the Wind Can Be Harrowing for Birds

Last night's presidential debate included a brief exchange regarding wind power and energy issues. President Trump, overstating with his usual hyperbole as he often seems to do, said, "Wind energy will kill all the birds." 

Joe Biden made fun of this, as if it were ludicrous. (OK, yes, the statement as it stands is ludicrous.)

Having read quite a bit about wind energy, and having worked at a company that served that industry, I was well aware of the issue the president was referring to. Wind turbines not only kill birds, the companies that run these wind turbines get fined big bucks when they're equipment kills endangered species.

I remember a number of years back when a North Dakota company was fined a million dollars because its turbine (or turbine blades) killed some species of golden eagle or falcon. The following headlines appeared when I did a Google search. 

Wind Power Co. to Pay $2.5 Million for Killing Golden Eagles, Other Protected Birds


The Endangered Species Act And Wind Power: A Rule, Or More Of A Guideline?


Wind Turbine Company Heavily Fined for Killing Birds at Wind Farm in Wyoming


To put things in perspective, all kinds of human activity endangers birds. According to the Clean Grid Alliance, cats kill more than 10% of the birds. (This is why we do not have a bird feeder. Our barn cat Chirps is a very effective hunter, ever on the prowl for the unwary chickadee. (His eye is on the sparrow as well.) 

More than half of all birds killed by humans die by flying into windows and buildings. 14% die by power lines, 7% by pesticide and 9% by cars. I remember how my dad would occasionally have to remove a bird from the grill of our car after that one hour drive to my grandparents house. (I also remember the Burma Shave signs on that route.)


The Audubon Society counters with this article: Will Wind Turbines Ever Be Safe for Birds?

It may be Green Energy, but currently the turbines kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds each year in North America alone. 


Actually, though, when I look at those numbers, it seems quite low. If there are 50,000 wind turbines in the U.S., that means (according to the above numbers) that each turbine kills between 3 and 8 birds a year. If it were three, then this would be one every four month. I think the windows on my house--and a small house at that--kill about three birds a year.


It's the bald eagles and golden eagles that Audubon Society cares about most, though. 


For more on this topic check out:

Ten Myths About Wind Energy and Birds

Wind Energy and Birds

(Above link goes to documents from the Clean Grid Alliance)


Top of page: "For the Birds"--painting by the author, 24"x 24" 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Election 2020: A Rude Awakening is Coming. Will It Be for Trump's or Biden’s Supporters?

Yesterday my Medium feed (recommended articles) included a story titled A Rude Awakening is Coming for Trump and His Supporters.  Now generally I do not have time to read everything that gets sent to me in this fashion. Nevertheless, some things do catch my eye. The article essentially outlined all the reasons this author believes a Biden/Harris landslide is coming. More interesting to me, however, was reading the comments that followed. 

The 5 minute read explains why Trump and his zealous followers will soon be facing the biggest disillusionment of their lives. 

After reading half the comments, I thought it might be fun to play off the title of Frank Lucacovic's essay because the confidence on both sides seems to be so strong that it will indeed be a rude awakening for one team or the other when this thing is over.

Here are some of the comments, extracted from over 130 attached to the original piece. You can read the whole article here first if you prefer, or start with these excerpts. Or skip these excerpts and read the growing river of responses there if you like.

What's interesting to me is hearing people on both sides talk about this election as if it won't even be close. That may be the biggest surprise for some. My own personal fear is that whoever wins, the results will be disputed.

13 SELECT COMMENTS

1.

I appreciate your confidence but you may have overlooked two key factors. Many Trump supporters are either shy in their political opinions, or outright lie to pollsters for fun. This factor will decide many of the swing states that Democrats think are in the bag.


2.

Your wishful thinking lost me in sentence two - which contains two parts pure opinion and one fact.

For the coming Biden landslide you describe to be true, we'd be on the verge of a 1984-style Reagan win. Not even close - Reagan had momentum, near hysteria - he could draw 10k to small towns in blue states. Biden can't draw his entire family to an event.

Like recent past, this will be a tight election decided by one or two states.

The early voting numbers seem to be muxh stronger with Republicans than Democrats, so I think you may be surprised there.

Proclaiming victory 2 weeks before the election is just not smart. But, please, go ahead.


3.

As a mere observer from the other side of the pond, I find this piece and the comments on it a bit depressing - because so predictable and emotive. A word like 'evil' should be weighed very carefully and to dismiss all your President's followers as 'ignorant and selfish' shows a huge contempt for those who think and feel otherwise. And no, I'm not a Trump fan!


4.

Much as I dislike Trump and all he stands for, right now, after Giuliani's latest revelations regarding the contents of Hunter Biden's hard drive, I wouldn't put a cent on Biden winning. Neither he nor his family deserve to be near the White House any more than the Trumps do. US politics is one giant swamp.


5.

Biden is corrupt, senile and a patsy for the elites who lost control when Trump came in and messed up their swamp.

The biden family along with many politicians on both sides are deeply fincanced by foreign interests and I don't think americans want to go back on the plantation.

There is no energy in Biden or the so-called democratic platform that is consistently veering further left and offering nothing but hate and fearmongering.

Remember what the talking points were in 16? WW3 is coming and NATO will fall apart, bla. bla.. and now NATO is stronger than ever, North Korea and Islamic State are pacified. There are peace deals being made with Israel and Arab nations. China has lost its grip. US is energy independent. Pedofile rings and human trafficking being unraveled like never before.

The screeching leftists have the microphone and are supported by mainstream media and big corrupt money. But they don't stand a chance against the calm and thoughtfull people who still are the majority and will decide the vote.


6.

I wonder if this was written before or after the bombshell news about Hunter Biden's laptop and the implications of corruption it portrays for Joe Biden.


7.

Trump is going to win ... in a landslide. The Biden-Harris ticket is the weakest in the history of presidential elections. See you in two weeks.


8.

Frank I pray you are correct but I fear you are placing too much faith in polling numbers. Almost all political polling in the past 50 years has leaned heavily on telephone polling. We have reached a time where the overwhelming number of households no longer own a home phone and even among those with a home phone it is there for emergencies and rarely if ever gets answered for fear of telemarketers. A good number of those who just use cell phones also don't answer if they don't know who it is or they will let it go to voice mail and return the call if it is someone they actually do know. Additionally, one of the strongest parts of Trump's base is white males without a college degree. From the research I have done, it is a demographic almost impossible to quantify in polling data and they will come out heavily for Trump.


9.

This article, and others in mainstream media, is truly remarkable. EVERYTHING TRUMP DOES IS WRONG AND EVERYTHING BIDEN DOES IN RIGHT!! Remarkable indeed. Biden does not even have to campaign and he will win. In other words, the media elites who graduated from Ivy league schools and other universities are so much smarter than the average American, they will effectively pick the president for the people and tell them which box to tick. The strategy? Constantly report negative news on the guy they don't like, suppress and hide the bad news about the guy they like. Do this constantly, day in day out for 3-years, and then say the voters chose. By the way, any voter of public figure who strays from that narrative should be cancelled. That is the cesspool of pathology that palms itself of for American journalism as they lecture China and Russia about freedom of the press and propaganda. I haven't even dealt with the world's number one propaganda and indoctrination machine-Hollywood.


10.

You realize Clinton was up more vs Biden in swing states last election and Trump won. You also realize nbc and wsj polls in 2016 also had clinton at +11 in same first half of October time period. Common sense says just look at turn out and parades for Trump.


11.

It’s stunning how many people still feel that the spoiled man-child currently sitting in the Oval Office is acceptable to be the leader of this nation. Really? He’s an incompetent embarrassment, a narcissist and a liar. Only the wealthy seeking tax breaks and those who would aspire to be like him will vote for him. It’s frightening to think anyone admires him enough to see him continue his plunder of this country. They have truly set their bar very low. The dumbing down of America & celebrity worship is directly responsible for this debacle.


12.

Sure Biden is going to win, you can see the support in his rallies.

Also, he thinks he's running for senate:

“that’s why I’m running as a Democrat for the Senate” (min 25:20).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouqhEQCjoI


13.

I've spent time reading articles from both sides. What I've noticed is that both sides are anticipating a landslide victory. Both sides believe that if they do lose the election, it will be because of fraud and corruption.

Emotions are running sky high on both sides and both sides believe the other side to be morally flawed at best, and an enemy to be defeated and cast aside at worst.

What should be very concerning to us as the American people is that we are being set up to be even more divided after the election than before - regardless of the outcome.

To quote Abraham Lincoln who quoted Jesus, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

As we allow ourselves to become more divided, the house begins to collapse from the inside out.



* * * * 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Remembering Robert Frost

I first became aware of Robert Frost when he recited a poem at the John F. Kennedy inauguration in 1961. As I was only eight, I remember it more because my mom made a big deal of it at the time, not because it really stood out on its own. Since that time I'd always assumed he was our National Poet Laureate until now when I did a little fact-checking. He was actually Poet Laureate of the State of Vermont, hence my tendency to associate him with the artist Andrew Wyeth, another famed New Englander in the arts.

Wikipedia begins its account of Robert Frost in this manner:

Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in the United States. Known for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech, Frost frequently wrote about settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes.

The photos on this page were taken by Gary Firstenburg while visiting the Northeast. The yellow trees readily remind one of Frost's The Road Not Taken.

We had five inches of snowfall last night, which also brought to mind Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



Except the image below: Photos courtesy Gary Firstenberg



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Anheuser-Busch Does It Again -- Truly Fun Commercial for the 2020 NFL Season

It's apparent that times are strange. The mask thing is just one facet of our 2020 life experience, accompanied by markers on the floor spaced six feet apart in every public space. Strangest of all, IMHO, are the cardboard fans for baseball and football, accompanied by fake crowd noise. 

What I keep thinking is, when will Hollywood make films about events in 2020 in which the characters put on masks when they go to the store? (If this has already happened let me know in the comments.) 

Scott Adams, earlier than anyone else, had Dilbert and his co-workers masked, a cutting edge on the wave one might expect to be coming. That was at least a couple months ago, and still we see no masks on Dagwood and Blondie, Zits characters, the Lockhorns, Pickles or Rex Morgan.

So it was tremendously fun to catch the new Bud Light spot this past week during my few minutes watching the Browns get shanked by Pittsburgh. I have not been watching much football this year, so maybe this was not the debut weekend for it, but it was absolute fun. There will be a link below if you haven't seen it. 

The two minute spot opens with a brief long shot showing a professional sports stadium, then cuts to the camera facing the stands, crowded with cardboard cutouts as stand-ins for fans. One of the cardboard cutouts, our hero, spots a cardboard cutout of a beer vendor. (At this point it is a world of Flat Stanleys.) He proceeds to stand and slide out to make his way there for a Bud Light. Unfortunately, there is no beer left in the beer basket.

Our hero decides to go explore. Maybe he can find a beer elsewhere under the stands. Lucky he. A forklift loaded with cases of Bud Light. As he approaches the forklift, a worker says, "Hey! Can I help you?" 

Our hero, with his usual chagrined expression, quickly hurries off. As he leaves the stadium he sees a Bud Light delivery truck parked across the street. Unfortunately, he doesn't look both ways when crossing the street (a challenge without a real neck) so that he is struck by a car. Our flat hero is flattened against the windshield of a bus. The bus driver flips him aside with the flick of a windshield wiper.

His expression never changing--a cross between bemused nobody-in-particular and hapless hero--he ends up on the street, walked on, staring skyward. Shortly after he ends up in a dumpster where suddenly, there on the side of a building, he finds inspiration once again by a giant ad for Bud Light. 

After a quick interlude in the back of a garbage truck he ends up on his feet again and continues his quest. I won't spoil the ending. To see the actual spot here's the hotlink: Cardboard Cutout Seeks to Quench His Thirst

Kudos to the ad agency that invented this story, a tall tale perfectly suited for our maddening postmodern times. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

MASKERPIECE Show Features More Than 30 Masks by Local Artists -- Bid 'Em Up for a Good Cause: The Encore Performing Arts Center

Kudos to Kris Nelson for inviting local artists and curating the MASKERPIECE Mask Auction fund raiser for Cloquet's Encore Performing Arts Center. 

The bidding will starts today and will run through October 26. You can also stop by the theater, M-F, 9-4, to bid in person.

My "Bugs" motif mask is just one of more than 30 masks to bid on. The idea probably came from a feeling of being a little bugged at all the miscellaneous inconveniences associated with having to wear masks. 

Kris Nelson made a video which you can watch here

More importantly, here is where you will find the event itself

If you click on the DISCUSSION tab, you will find all the masks in all their regal splendor with info about the artists and what each mask is titled. Many of them are quite astonishing.

Even if you don't need a new mask (hopefully you are washing yours now and then) all money raised from this auction is going to a good cause: The County Seat Theater.

* * * *

Scratching Below the Surface of Mary Bue's Latest Album: The World Is Your Lover

Have you ever tried to write an original tune? OK, maybe you can, but can you keep writing them month after month, year after year? And not just original, but something that connects with listeners and sticks with them?

Writing music, creating it out of nothing, is much like looking at a blank sheet of paper and combining batches of words into a poem or story or novel. It's done every day, but not always effectively.

I've spent a lot of years contemplating the variety of expressions Bob Dylan's muse has expressed itself through him as a conduit. In a similar manner, artists like Mary Bue likewise seem to capture something original and evocative--maybe even magical--in their songwriting. 

Her latest album--I believe this is her sixth--is titled The World Is Your Lover, and the tracks are rich with emotion and energy.  

In a story titled Transcendental Bue a Minneapolis Star Tribune music critic subtitled the story, Mary Bue’s journey from Duluth to Minneapolis, New Mexico and India culminated in her best album yet, “The World Is Your Lover.”

Her best? I thought her last -- Holy Bones --was pretty good. Now I have to compare so I can decide whether I agree or not.

* * * *

I like the album cover and overall design. On the album itself (if you have the vinyl) there's a photo of Mary Bue embracing the globe. Upon seeing this visual I couldn't help but think of Woody Allen in Sleeper and the scene involving the Orb. Whether this is an intentional play on imagery or not I wouldn't know. It is certainly intriguing.

* * * *

The opening track on the album, titled "Sh*t Storm," is one powerful song. The closest thing I can compare it to is John Lennon's "Cold Turkey." Both songs have a story, but end in a turbulent whirlwind instrumental that replicates the feel. In Lennon's case it captures the feelings associated with heroin withdrawal. In Bue's, it's the apocalyptic whirl of our time in history. 

I walked for miles
On this parched earth
Once flowed with lava
Then a river birthed
And now the snow
Falls on the sage
When that shit storm comes
The earth’s gotta rage

I had a vision
The Great Lakes were drained
Superior Desert
Was her new name
Eagles cry
Barn owls shriek 
When that shut storm comes
It’s not gonna be good

Chorus:
Oh my god
Have you forsaken me?
All the gods
Are laughing now
As the earth starts cracking
And her bones start snapping
And the walls come crashing down

Oh my love 
He’s a brutal force
You can hear him coming 
On his big black horse
And he’s got friends
High and low
But when that shit storm comes
They all gotta go

I pray to Ganesha 
To tear down the walls
I pray in Chimayo
Protect those I love
I bow to the East
I bow to the west 
When that shit storm comes
Nobody’s gonna be left
Copyright 2020 Mary Bue

You can listen to this song and Purchase Album Here:
https://marybue.bandcamp.com/album/the-world-is-your-lover

* * * *

I've been itching to write about Mary Bue's latest album since last month and today is as good a time as any. Why? Because this coming Friday night there will be a livestream show from the Hook & Ladder Theater with special guests Turn Turn Turn and Alan Sparhawk. Here are the details:

MARY BUE CELEBRATES NEW ALBUM WITH FULL-BAND LIVESTREAM
with special guests Turn Turn Turn & Low's Alan Sparhawk!

THE WORLD IS YOUR LOVER RELEASE SHOW
Friday, October 23, 8 pm CDT
Livestream from Hook & Ladder Theater
Tickets: $15 | Pre-Sale Tickets: $10 (through Oct. 16)
Ticket holders can watch the show live or any time over next week.

* * * *
Related Links

EdNote: There is some language on a couple songs that some people will find offensive, though no more so than a majority of cable television series offerings.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Visit with Artist Susanna Gaunt on Her New Show at the DAI: Integument

The Armory Annex has been a beehive of creative energy over the years. The former Perkins Restaurant became the property of the Historic Armory Board in order to have an office with proximity to the Armory during its two decades of renovation and resurrection. A local forging community took up resident there and a number of artist studio spaces were created. 

One of these spaces belongs to Susanna Gaunt whose new show Inegument will go on display this week at the Duluth Art Institute this fall in the George Morrison Gallery. I myself have been busy with a mural project at the Armory, frequently going in and out of the Annex this summer and fall. throughout this time I have watch Ms. Gaunt's dedication to this array of new three-dimensional work. After a number of visits, I felt a desire to learn more and share here.

EN: When did you become serious about making art? Was there a trigger moment or just a gradual dawning?

Susanna Gaunt: I have been making art in some form all my life. Even when distracted by other life events, such as having kids or moving from one city to another, I found I naturally came back to making. Perhaps when I realized this – that I just have to make art – I became more serious. There have been pauses, again due to life events, but also because of shifts in confidence and fears. Being serious was affirmed most recently during my time as a BFA student at UMD. The experience opened my eyes to not only new techniques but also ways of thinking about art, and an art career. Since then (2017), I’ve allowed art to be my career: applying for grants, having a studio space and continuing to put myself out there.

EN: Your work is a departure from traditional drawing and painting. How did this form of expression evolve?

SG:
Though I drew a lot as a kid and through my first undergraduate degree, my primary medium for over twenty years was photography. I dabbled in commercial photography as a means to pay the bills, but turned to teaching as a back up to exhibiting photographic projects. As the projects evolved, I began to want more than just a 2-dimensional photograph on the wall. I started to push the presentation of my series, taking the photo out of the frame and suspending it in multiples, or turning it into an object hidden in a faux book. This was about when our family landed in Duluth and I decided to go back to UMD for a studio art degree. I wanted to learn as many new mediums as possible. In my final years, which included a mixed-media class and the senior exhibit, I found myself transitioning to installation work – a new way to present my art.

EN: What’s the most gratifying aspect of your work?

SG: I love the sense of accomplishment when I push through creative challenges to new discoveries, whether it is with the layout of an individual piece of work, or the hanging of an entire exhibit in a new space. There are a lot of logistics to figure out with installation art: How will the work live in the space aesthetically? Or what kind of walls does the gallery have and will they hold my 20lb drawer? This can often be daunting, but when all the parts come together and the presentation materials become part of the work - that is quite satisfying.

EN: You’ve not only been in juried shows here, but in shows around the country. There are so many components in your displays. Seems complicated having shows in other places. Care to comment on this?

SG:
This is definitely one of the more problematic aspects of installation art – not only does the work tend to be larger, it also requires a complicated install process that often includes adapting and re-adapting the work on site. Since I’ve only been truly doing installation art since 2017, I’ve limited my geography with this style of work. The art that I’ve exhibited beyond Minnesota (and Superior, WI) has been my traditional photographs or prints, or at least been smaller in size and therefore easier to send. I have not yet solved the equation of sending my current work or traveling to be present for the installation process on site. Down the road, options may include traveling farther to a site or providing detailed instructions with shipped work. At this point, I am still nervous about the pieces getting damaged in shipping or handling.

EN: The title of your upcoming show is Integument, which is defined as “a tough outer protective layer, especially that of an animal or plant.” How does integument relate to this show?

SG:
For me, integument is a great way to tie in both the idea of layers and my interest in biology. I have used layers as an aesthetic tool for the past several years because it provides multiple avenues into the artwork. Layers of meaning. Layers of content. Layers of design. 

In this work, most of the pieces allude to skin, as a covering or the thin layer between two sides (inside and outside, for instance). With biology, I think a lot about processes that occur in nature and integument can be a physical sign of these transitions when you think about skin shed, or hair lost. One of my favorite things to find is the exoskeleton of an insect on a tree or beside a river. There is so much present in that moment of discovery – proof of the existence of a being that was once encased in this layer. It is a proof of time passing, of aging - something all organisms experience, for better or worse. For me, it is also proof of the wonder of nature that something can look both so delicate and transparent while maintaining the perfect shape of the subject that discarded it.

EN: In the DAI description of your upcoming show you are quoted as saying you work “is often enhanced with the use of layers that conceal enough to raise questions and reveal enough to suggest answers.” What are some of the questions you are alluding to here?

SG:
My first undergraduate degree was in philosophy so I am cursed with asking questions without answers. What is the meaning of life!? Over the years, curiosity and wonder have become important components in my explorations in and outside of the studio. The curiosity encourages those questions while the wonder offers some answers or at least provides some comfort in not knowing. I find it's important to allow for multiple meanings in the art I make because there is plenty of complexity in the world and in life, This is why I gravitate towards using layers. For example, a translucent layer that only partially conceals what’s beneath it can spark the viewer’s curiosity and pull them in closer. Then, a more intimate view can reveal clues to the details within the work or even the idea behind the work.

I read a lot of natural history books as part of my research. Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a favorite. She observes and shares everyday moments that happen in her small geographical area. Her skill at writing evokes wonder in me and I strive to offer that with my artwork when I can. In the end, it's about finding meaning and I steer towards discovering the wonder in the small details and moments by simply asking “what will I observe today?” It forces me to consider my relationship with the natural world and the artmaking transfers that reflection into action.

Show details:
Integument
Susanna Gaunt
Duluth Art Institute
Morrison Gallery
506 W Michigan St in Duluth
October 20 – December 31, 2020
In person: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 3pm

Online:
www.duluthartinstitute.org
www.susannagaunt.com
Smartify app for iPhone and Android

Events:
Artist talk: November 18, 6pm on @duluthart on IGTV
Livestream: At noon on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month (October, November and December); Susanna will answer questions and work on her growing piece, “Disperse.” Subscribe to DAI’s YouTube channel to attend.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How Engaged Are Your Employees? The 12 Questions Gallup Researchers Ask

For years I have referenced data from the Gallup organization for insights on various topics. What I like about Gallup  Polls is that they stake a claim on getting the most diverse viewpoints from the broadest field of data. They have the resources to do this because they do it well and have become trusted for it, unlike many news polls that pretend to do so. 

When companies measure ROI, they are measuring results after the fact. When they measure enployee engagement, they will impact future ROI because, as 20 years of Gallup research has shown, engaged employees are more efficient and more productive than their disengaged peers.

When employees are engaged there is less turnover, less absenteeism, more profitability. This not only aligns with common sense, it has all been extensively documented. This Gallup report was assembled by analyzing data from 100,000 teams. Sort of blows your mind when you consider the scope of this project.

Wherever your company is at, employee engagement can be improved by knowing what the real needs of employees are. According to Gallup, there are just three kinds of needs and 12 questions to ask. First there are personal, individual needs. Then there are teamwork needs, and finally growth needs. Here are the 12 questions. Yes or no.

Q01.  I know what is expected of me at work.
Q02.  I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
Q03.  At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
Q04.  In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
Q05.  My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
Q06.  There is someone at work who encourages my development.
Q07.  At work, my opinions seem to count.
Q08.  The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
Q09.  My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
Q10.  I have a best friend at work.
Q11.  In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
Q12.  This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.


Note the character of the questions. There are work environments where managers believe people do not need encouragement. There are work environments where you have to practically fight to get the tools and materials to do your job. I once worked in a culture where you had to go through a gatekeeper in order to get a pen to write with. 


The one about a best friend is interesting. Are we linked in with the company beyond the paycheck? Do your workers feel themselves part of a bigger family?

HERE IS A LINK TO WHERE YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE REPORT.

This is exceedingly useful information. Work cultures can be measured, and they can be improved. This report can guide managers and leaders on what areas to focus on, what really matters for your employees.

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Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Thursday, October 15, 2020

To Write with a Broken Pencil is Pointless

Throwback Thursday

Over the course of a lifetime I've found it handy to keep a handful of pithy sayings in the back pocket of one's mind. You never know when they might come in handy.

Here are a few that I've found myself repeating over the years, primarily because they are a little less common than "it is what it is" which I also use a bit too frequently.

"Everything is easy for the one who doesn't have to do it."

This one is readily available for any number of situations, especially in the world of work. People often give advice to others and wonder why it isn't immediately jumped on and appreciated. Well, that's because everything is easy for the one who doesn't have to do it. Whether it's meeting deadlines, managing multiple projects, overcoming addictions, or saving for retirement, everything's easy for the one who doesn't have to do it.

This doesn't mean we can't ever give advice, but we ought be sensitive when we're dishing it out. As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”

"The butler who folds his hands spills no tea." 


This one is fun because it takes a moment to process. Bosses generally do not like mistakes, though generally they readily admit that mistakes come with the territory when you're attempting to accomplish things. A batter who fails to get on base six of ten times is considered great. Strikeouts are part of going up and taking your swings. 

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." 


My mom frequently recited this and I know why. She's from Scots heritage and this statement's origin is Sir Walter Scott from one of his novels. With a handful of words it says plenty.

Life is complicated enough without trying to cover our tracks and be deceptive. Sooner or later, it's going to get you. How many times we read stories about people caught embezzling or evading paying taxes.

If you need to arm yourself with some new quip material, there are plenty of websites devoted to collecting these kinds of pearls. Here are a few from a website called Quips, Quotes & Pithy Sayings, which apparently no longer exists.

Experience enables you to recognize a mistake every time you repeat it.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully.

America is one of the few places you can say what you speak without thinking.

Unless you have never been tempted, don't pass judgment on someone who has yielded.

Don't mistake activity for achievement.

Or you can simply quote lines from Dylan, like I do. I used to rely on this one:

"Meantime life goes on all around you."

 But for 2020 my new go to is:

"People are crazy, times are strange."

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Photo at top of page is Lena, my 5 month old granddaughter.